Hands-onCastlevania: Aria of Sorrow
We get to check out the latest version of Castlevania, which takes place in the future.
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Konami had a playable version of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow on display at its recent San Francisco press event. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow will be the first in the series to take place in the future (the year 2035, to be exact), but don't let that fool you into thinking that the game will feature some sort of space vampires or zombies with space helmets. In fact, the portions of Dracula's castle that we've seen have the same exact style as the castles in previous Castlevania games. However, the gameplay has changed quite drastically--Aria of Sorrow has done away with the classic Castlevania subweapons and replaced them with a system that enables the game's main character to absorb powers from different enemies in the game.
The game begins with a depiction of a solar eclipse, a major theme in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. You quickly learn that in 1999, Dracula and his castle appeared once again to wreak havoc on the Transylvanian countryside, but the vampire hunters were not only able to defeat Dracula, but they were also successful in trapping his castle within the eclipse. Some 36 years later, a new solar eclipse is scheduled to take place, and as Soma Cruz (Aria of Sorrow's main character) walks toward the gates to view the eclipse, he disappears from the landscape and is transported to Dracula's castle along with his friend Mina.
Aria of Sorrow is structured similarly to Symphony of the Night, Circle of the Moon, and Harmony of Dissonance in that you'll be exploring what appears to be an enormous castle divided in several different sections--some of which can't be accessed until Soma acquires certain abilities. But what makes Aria of Sorrow so drastically different from all those games is the soul system, which essentially replaces the traditional Castlevania subweapons and magic system. As you progress through the game, an enemy will occasionally leave behind a soul that Soma can absorb, which in turn gives him the powers of that particular enemy. For example, if you destroy a regular bone-throwing skeleton and it leaves a soul behind, then you'll gain the ability to throw bones. Likewise, if you kill one of the axe knights, then you'll be able to swing a massive axe, but the drawback to these skills is that they can deplete Soma's magic levels rather quickly. Some souls let Soma cast magic spells, while others function similarly to the relic system in Harmony of Dissonance, giving Soma special physical abilities like the double jump or the dash. Interestingly, souls can be traded between players via the Game Boy Advance link cable.
The weapon system is somewhat similar to that of Symphony of the Night in that Soma isn't restricted to using a single weapon like a sword or a whip. Soma can actually use a wide variety of weapons, ranging from daggers and swords to spears and hammers. It's worth noting that some of these weapons have bonuses and drawbacks, like the hammer, which is very powerful but very slow.
During the presentation, Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi noted that the development team realizes that many were disappointed with the music quality in Harmony of Dissonance, so they have made a special effort to improve the music for Aria of Sorrow while retaining a level of visual quality close to (if not slightly better than) that of Harmony of Dissonance. It's also worth noting that the composer of the music from Symphony of the Night is also working on the project.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is scheduled for release in May.