Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is obviously inspired by its 16- and 32-bit predecessors. In this side-scrolling adventure, your whip-wielding hero once again tackles Dracula and his minions.
June 11, 2001, may be the official release date for the Game Boy Advance in North America; however, the platform's real origin is more closely tied to 1991. Nintendo designed the GBA's architecture to be very similar to its 10-year-old 16-bit console--a similarity not lost on game developers. Consequently, the next generation of the Game Boy will offer a unique opportunity to resurrect franchises that made their names in the 16-bit generation. New gamers will get titles that feature perennially cool characters and time-tested gameplay, and hard-core gamers (those weaned on hours of addictive side scrollers like ActRaiser, Strider, and Gunstar Heroes) will get the nostalgia kick of being able to play wholly new versions of their favorite 2D games. Konami's upcoming Game Boy Advance title, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, is one such game, and much of its gameplay is based on its classic 16- and 32-bit predecessors, Castlevania IV and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
If you're at all familiar with the Castlevania series, you probably already know that the objective in each game is to stop the evil Dracula from being resurrected. In Circle of the Moon, Dracula's latest attempt to return to Earth is brought about by Camilla (who has appeared in previous iterations of the series). Though Camilla is present, this is not a total reunion, as there aren't any Belmont descendents to be found in this game. Instead, two new adventurers, Nathan Graves and Hugh Baldwin, assume the vampire-hunting duties. In the game's opening sequence, you'll witness a cinematic showing Baldwin and Grave's teacher being kidnapped by the Dark Lord. The two follow Dracula's tracks all the way back to the entrance of his forbidding castle. Determined to rescue their teacher and destroy Dracula once and for all, the intrepid hunters venture inside the vile abode, and the game begins.
While the Nintendo 64 was the first Castlevania in the third dimension, Nintendo's Game Boy Advance will see the series' return to 2D. Don't expect a big departure in the gameplay. Like in every other Castlevania game, in Circle of the Moon you will swipe at candelabras with your whip for power-ups and do battle with flying skulls and zombies. Other similarities are also apparent: Like in Symphony of the Night on the PS, all enemies and areas have names names, and when you attack a creature, the game will display the amount of damage you inflict on it. Control isn't much different either: You can run by double-tapping the controller pad, or you can climb, slide, or superjump with simple button combinations. Also, Circle of the Moon's option to let you play as either Graves or Baldwin--each with different attributes and abilities--is just like the option in Castlevania: Bloodlines on the Genesis where you have a choice to play as one of two different characters.
Konami says the game is an action-RPG; though, at this point, this seems a bit misleading. While you can access an inventory of different weapons and power-ups you've collected and you can explore the castle in a nonlinear fashion, the current build lacks any of the leveling-up found in SOTN. There is a greater sense of adventure in Circle of the Moon than in, say, Castlevania IV, though: In the sections of the game shown so far, there were locked doors that led to inaccessible areas and a map feature that displayed a surprisingly large castle to investigate.
Complementing Castlevania's side-scrolling gameplay are 2D sprites and backgrounds that are a perfect fit for the game's throwback style. Instead of state-of-the-art draw distances and skeletal animation systems, you'll be treated to a decidedly simpler experience. Make no mistake: For a handheld game, Circle of the Moon looks surprisingly colorful and sharp. The characters are large, detailed, and well animated, and the backgrounds feature parallax scrolling and cool effects like transparencies when clouds pass across the moon or when your character stands in shallow water.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon will be, at the very least, one game we can play without worry that a camera will obstruct our view or that the frame rate will become choppy and unplayable. If the game is anywhere near as fun as the Castlevania classics it's inspired by, don't be surprised if this 2D side-scrolling throwback proves to be a game that single-handedly moves Game Boy Advances off shelves.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is currently scheduled for release on March 21 in Japan. Look for it to hit North American retailers this fall.
- Player Reviews: 88
- Game Universe:
- Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (PS2, XBOX),
- Castlevania (N64, PC, C64, NES, AMI),
- Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES),
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (X360, PS3),
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Reverie (PS3, X360),
- Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (X360, PS3),
- Castlevania Judgment (WII),
- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS),
- Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (PSP),
- Castlevania Double Pack (GBA)
- Number of Players: