Review by obishawn
If you are a fan of the GBA/DS Castlevania games, don't pass this up!
When I first heard about this game, I didn't expect too much. The game is often described as a mix of Castlevania and God of War and to put things simply, that is quite accurate. And while it may sound lame and like a rip-off, it is all very well done and if you like the Castlevania games, I do not see how you could possibly be disappointed by this game.
Game play -
Soul of Darkness is a 2D, side scrolling platformer, like the DS or GBA Castlevania games. Unlike the Castlevania games, you do not gain experience points and raise levels. Improving your character's abilities is done in the same fashion as God of War. Defeated enemies drop purple orbs, which are automatically collected. Once you've collected enough, you can spend the orbs on available upgrades for your sword (fire element) and spear (ice element). You can also upgrade your magic.
Other orbs are dropped as well, green for health and blue to replenish your magic. Magic also regenerates after a few seconds. In addition to receiving orbs from defeated enemies, you can find them in the environment, whether they are simply within the level to grab or if you have to destroy a crystal, gargoyle or coffin. You can also break open many weak walls within the levels that contain orbs.
There are 11 levels that you can revisit after completing to gain more orbs and locate secrets, like magic or life meter upgrades. Your weapons have a secondary function which is used through magic. The sword's fire element can light torches or cause explosions and the spear's ice element can be used to freeze some enemies and a spear can be thrown into the wall to be used as a platform to help you gain access to areas you cannot normally jump to.
In addition to the magic is the ability to transform into some of the creatures within the game as a means to access or simply get through areas that have been constructed in a kind of puzzle. These transformation session don't last long and can only be used at key points in the game.
I would also add that some of the game play elements reminded me a lot of typical Mario platforming (automatically scrolling stages, of which there were only two, moving platforms and the like).
The story is generic for the most part. Your girlfriend, Lydia has been captured by a vampire! Oh noes! How original, right? Yeah, but as you progress through the game, there are a few twists that aren't too surprising, but they do help to keep the story from being just like every other vampire story (other than the Twilight saga...)
The music is all very well done. I don't recall a single piece of music that I wasn't pleased with. None of the tracks were catchy enough to get stuck in my head or to hope for a metal remix on some fan site, but the music suits the game well.
The game really wasn't too difficult. I died many times, but the game seems to give you unlimited continues and you also appear at unseen check points within the levels instead of having to begin them all over again. The bosses were easy enough, especially once you learned their patterns. The only two I found to have any real difficulty were the last two bosses you face.
Fortunately, the game has a hard mode, which is unlocked by completing normal difficulty. And the game play is fun enough that you will likely want to play through again anyway, even if on normal difficulty again.
DSi features -
The game supports two features that make use of the cameras of the DSi. The first is that you can replace the face of the three main characters with your own (or anything you take a picture of, like your pet). The face replacement pic is only seen in the image used for the dialogue portions of the game, not in the actual game itself.
Also, the camera is used for a mini game of sorts. You can find a photo booth in some levels. When you enter, you are prompted to take a picture with the camera. Depending on the dominate color scheme, you will receive purple, blue or green orbs. There is also the possibility you will earn nothing if the colors don't match up. This isn't challenging at all, the game tells you what color to take a snap shot of for the orbs you want. You have an unlimited amount of time to do this as well.
To repeat myself, if you enjoy the Castlevania games on either the GBA or DS, then you will surely enjoy this game as well. And for only 500 points, I say the game is well worth it, one of the better DSiWare games available.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Soul of Darkness (US, 07/05/10)
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