Review by gbarules2999

Reviewed: 08/13/07

Vampires and bats and ghosts: oh my!

Aria of Sorrow…isn’t that like “sad song” for hippie English majors? Well that’s a nice way to start off relations: call your game the sad song. Well, in terms of Castlevania, this game is anything but a sad song…more of a happy drum circle. And if they want to speak the hippie language, they might as just name it something like “War isn’t very good.” Castlevania: War Isn’t Very Good. That screams popularity.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is the third and final installment of the series on the Game Boy Advance, and it’s actually a pretty large evolution for the games. With a few changes in the gameplay and mechanics, the game now plays like a kicking-awesome version of Pokémon, with action and vampires, of course. In many fronts, it improves on the series and its gameplay, and in others it falters when compared to its predecessor, Harmony of Dissonance.

The game plays like any other Castlevania game: you fight your way through Dracula’s castle and his slaves of the dead, exploring the castle and finding new power-ups. It’s still really good, and even two other pretty fundamentally similar games can’t make this less of a masterpiece than it truly is. But why is it like Pokémon, you ask? There’s the magic system that changes the way you attack to a very large degree: every time you kill an enemy, you have a chance of getting its soul.

This quickly becomes a collect-a-fest, where the experience of the game varies by what souls you have equipped, and how you use them. The souls have some varied abilities, from a simple thrown projectile to a full gigantic axe that will smite all in its way. It's not perfect, of course: some of the souls take forever to drop, and reloading the same enemy so many times gets very redundant aver a while. But it's still fun to get a really good soul and massacre a boss. This makes it the customizable gameplay of those little rodents, but it still keeps that Castlevania flavor and that whole “Dracula will KI-EELL you” vibe that we know and love.

Oh, but I misspoke: Dracula, that lazy buttface, is finally dead. After a half a century of knocking off the loser, the Belmonts, in 1999, decided to seal off his powers and destroy him forever. Yet his castle still remains, and why it was brought forth is one of the mysteries that the game solves. And I must say: the story is much better than past versions’: it contains multiple plot twists and characters, and very well written dialogue that move the plot along. At least I actually care.

That’s not the only modification to the series, because now the sound…does not suck! (Audience gasp) Yes, it is true, the music is actually pretty well written and has gone above and beyond the past Midi tracks: Aria of Sorrow sounds very good for a GBA game, which is a little middling at this point, but on the system we all know and love, it’s a fine thing. My ears didn't fall off this time, that's pretty much my score, and it's good.

Ah, but the visuals are not: Not only did they get rid of some of the cooler effects that other games had (like an odd fading look with the jumps) but the game is now much smaller. Everything from the enemies to the main character’s sprite…it all looks resized, and not for the better. Now the game is a little harder to see on the dim GBA screen, and Konami doesn’t exactly have a perfect track record with visual clarity (Castle of the Moon’s “I wear my sunglasses at night” brightness), but the game still looks fine for a GBA game. It’s just kind of small and unpolished.

But I think it’s time to go back to what Castlevania is as a whole: it’s a great, dark themed sidescroller with excellent RPG elements, and in my opinion has surpassed the Metroid series. There are so many ways to play the game, due to the new souls system. Not only is it a huge castle to explore, but there are multitudes of power-ups to collect and wield to find new areas, and this great castle will have any fan hunched over that little screen of hours. So it’s nice and long, added to a few bonus unlockables that aren’t quite amazing, but the do.

Naw, it’s all in the details. This castle is filled with secrets and treasures, hidden souls to get, side quests to partake in, equipment to seek out and/or buy, and all of those hallways are infested with monsters to a great degree. The combat just delivers: everything is precise and made a little more interesting due to the lack of a whip as in older games. Now you have swords and the like, though there is a few whip-like weapons. But Konami thought this was a good enough idea to use in the DS games, and they were right.

So, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is an excellent addition to the franchise. It’s a fun game, and even if I do like Harmony of Dissonance a little better, it’s still quite a fun game and should be experienced by any one with a GBA.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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