Review by MrServOn
A big improvement over Dissonance
I just finished playing through the third installment of the Castlevania series on the GBA - Aria of Sorrow, and I must say I was blown away. I've played CotM (pretty good) and HoD (ok) and was expecting more of the same whip wielding and vampire ass-kicking from the other two, boy was I wrong.
Story 8/10 - As far as Castlevania games go AoS has probably the best story of any of them. 2035 - Soma Cruz and your friend (girlfriend?) are on your way to see a solar eclipse from the shrine when you're suddenly transported to an ancient castle. You are attacked right away and find out that you're in Dracula's castle inside the eclipse and the only way out is to go through it. Instead of trying to stop Dracula you just wanna leave. I found this refreshing since it's usually "Belmont/Vampire Hunter must kill Dracula"...again? The story and characters all have believable reasons for being there, even the merchant fits in nicely.
Graphics 10/10 - The sprites in this game are stunning. There isn't a whole lot of pallete swapping either. Most enemies look totally different from each other. Soma's animation is far better than HoD clunky almost robotic character movements. The fact that this game is on the GBA is a testament to its power.
Controls 10/10 - This game handles beautifully. Gone are the stiff jumps from HoD, if you die here it's your own fault not the controls. There is no forward dash here, instead L makes dash backwards. Attacking and spells are all spot on as expected. Overall the controls are perfect.
Gameplay 9/10 - As with any game nothings more important than gameplay, and AoS goes above and beyond. I'll start with the new addition - Souls. Gone are the dagger, ax, and holy water, instead Soma can capture enemy souls to steal there abilities. Some give you attacks, others give abilities, and the last kind are stat increases. Now there are ALOT of creatures in this game so don't expect to get every soul without hours upon hours of killing the same baddies 50 times. But thats not to say that souls are hard to get, I never tried to get souls and ended the game with at least half. It just never stops being exciting when you see a soul released.
On to the second change from the last two GBA games. Gone are whips! YAY! Now like in Symphony of the Night you use various weapons. Swords, hammers, and spears are the 3 main types of weapons and every single one of them have different ranges, sizes, and uses. You like to stay back? Use the spear. Wanna get up in some demon face? Bust out a sword. Also every weapon looks just like the picture for it, it always bothers me when everything looks similar.
This games difficulty is also dead on. You will never need to sit around leveling up just to kill a boss or new enemies. The flow of it all is perfect. Boss fights are never too hard or too easy. Almost every Boss battle ended with me on deaths door (you have potions but I like beating them with skill alone). The amount of time Konami spent balancing this game is obvious throughout the whole thing.
Sound 10/10 - If you played HoD you most likely found the music lacking. They fixed that in a big way here. Every song is spot on and pleasing to the ears. There wasn't a single song that didn't fit each area perfectly. The music is definitely on par with SotN. Sound effects are solid as always.
Overall 9/10 - This is without a doubt a must own game. Everything in AoS is refined to perfection. Do your self a favor and pick this up.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (US, 05/06/03)
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