Review by roosterpeacock6

Reviewed: 04/28/16

My favorite Castlevania and favorite GBA game has nothin' to be sorry about!

Intro:
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a side-scrolling action-adventure game with some RPG elements for the Gameboy Advance that was released in the United States in 2003, less than a year after the previous Castlevania title, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, and the third and final GBA Castlevania release. This one is also the best game of the trio, and it turns out that this game is actually my favorite Castlevania and favorite GBA game! My other favorites are Symphony of the Night (PS1), Order of Ecclesia (DS), and Dawn of Sorrow (DS). It's actually a tough decision between them all. I guess it's because I've been a hardcore Castlevania fan for awhile now. I have helped a few friends with various Castlevania games as acting like a human walkthrough without releasing any spoilers, including this one, and one of those friends thinks I'm the "King of Castlevania". I am about to explain why I like this game the best and what I like about it the most.

Story: (9/10)
In this game, the story revolves around a non-Belmont character, Soma Cruz and in the year of 2035, after Dracula was supposedly defeated permanently in 1999. When the game begins, Soma and his friend Mina Hakuba visit a shrine in Japan during a solar eclipse and during this eclipse, they are sucked into it and into Dracula's Castle somehow. Then they meet several other characters when they arrive. One of these characters claims to be the reincarnation of Dracula and tries to become Dracula. Soma discovers that he has the power to control monsters and use their powers by absorbing their souls. Soma's goal is to eliminate this ability and become like a normal person again and find a away out of the castle and back to his home along with Mina. Along the way, you will also meet the last Belmont, Julius Belmont, who loses his memories after defeating Dracula in 1999; Yoko Belnades, a member of a church who is into exorcism; Hammer (who decides to open a shop in the middle of nowhere like an idiot because he has nothing better to do after leaving the military); Genya Arikado, a man who denies that he is someone many of us are familiar with, but his objective is to defeat Dracula, or prevent the chosen man from becoming Dracula. I will not reveal anymore of the story than this.

Music/Sound: (8/10)
For a Gameboy Advance game, this game actually has some pretty decent sound quality. The music on this game is better than that of Circle of the Moon, and even a LOT better than that of Harmony of Dissonance (which I thought was horrible by the way in terms of the music score). The two pieces I really love are the themes for the Floating Garden, and the Dance Hall music, which sounded pretty and creepy at the same time, and sounds more like a psycho circus. The Castle Corridor (also known as "Soma's theme") was pretty catchy. There were a few music pieces in the game that I thought were somewhat bland, but not real bad. I have heard much, MUCH better boss themes in Castlevania games than this, such as the boss themes of Lament of Innocence for the PS2 (which had the very best Castlevania music in my opinion). It sounded like the music composer's of Konami just died during the making of HoD then came back to life during the making of AoS. The sound effects were pretty decent too, with brief Japanese voice acting and other sound effects and screams made by real voices. My favorite sound effect in the entire game is the Mandragora's scream, which lets out a "WOO…WAA-HAAH!!" I remember talking to a friend over the phone one night while playing this, and he could hear me playing it, and he loves the sound effect as much as I do.

Visuals: (10/10)
Once again, for a GBA game… This game had some decent graphics for its system. Even though there was nothing 3D, except for the background outside near the Throne Room, it looked pretty decent. Games don't have to be 3D to look cool, especially if they're side-scrolling games. Each region of the castle has its own design and none of them looked too similar to each other. The moon in each region, where the moon is visible comes in different colors and sizes. For example, the moon is big and orange in most areas, but in at least one area, the moon is small and light blue. Which I thought was weird but cool. My favorite area in the entire game was the Floating Garden, NOT because of the moving lifts and the giant petrifying beam firing chickens in the lower part, but the upper part which appears to be well-lit by the bright moon light, and of course the music, and the fact that a monster that has my favorite soul attack resides there (the Mandragora). Other than that, the backgrounds were very detailed and you could actually tell that some were far off in the distance.

Gameplay: (10/10)
In this game, you play as Soma Cruz in a game that has a "Metroidvania" style of gameplay, much like Symphony of the Night. You start in front of a castle, collect items, defeat mosnters, buy weapons, armor, and useable items with money; defeat bosses; explore and backtrack and look for paths leading to your next destination; and save the game as you progress; all in a non-linear fashion. One thing special about this game and probably the pinnacle of it, is the soul system. After defeating enemies, you will have a chance to automatically absorb their soul, granting you new abilities and strengths. There are three types of equippable souls: Red (attack) souls which work when you press up and B simultaneously to release attacks, blue (active support) souls which give you a temporary enhancement or monster assistance when you press the R button, and yellow (passive support) souls which work automatically as long as they're equipped. A few of these souls are actually laying around in special rooms which give you abilities to progress farther through the castle by double jumping, sliding, flying etc. This is the first game that allows you to use other weapons besides the whip, and this game also let you use other special attacks and magic that weren't sub-weapons. The hearts you pick up restore MP instead of having heart points. There are many different types of items and equipment in the game, not many junk items or useless weapons in the game like SotN, and the moves were easy to use and didn't require complicated button sequences to perform also like in SotN (the only things I didn't like about SotN by the way, I loved SotN besides those few flaws I mentioned). I'm just naming the few problems that AoS didn't have that SotN did.

Controls/Physics: (9.5/10)
This game has some of the best controls I have ever seen in a video game, or at least Castlevania. You attack with B, jump with A, use soul 1 with UP plus B, use soul 2 with R, open menu with start, open map with select, backdash or high jump with L. The movements were pretty smooth and no stiffness at all, however, I am disappointed that you can't forward dash or dash as fast and far as Juste Belmont from HoD. That would have been the only thing in this entire game that would have made it absolutely perfect!

Length: (roughly 12 hours)
If you played this game the normal way, it may take you close to 12 hours to beat for the first time, maybe more, maybe less.

Replay Value: (10/10)
There are several things to unlock after completing this game with the good ending. (There are three different endings in this game). You can replay the game starting with some of the stuff you have collected before, you can replay on a hard mode, and there is also a boss rush mode which rewards you in the file you have used to play this if you clear boss rush mode in a certain amount of time.

Outro:
This game has defined what a GBA game that is not for children should be, and what a GBA game should be like in general with its limited capabilities, and what a Castlevania should be like after the awesome, legendary and well successful Symphony of the Night should be. I highly recommend buying this if you can find a GBA and a copy of this game on Amazon or eBay, or trying it out at the bare minimum. If you can't find the game, just download a stable GBA emulator and a ROM if your computer will let you.

If anyone ever tells you this game is any less than what I say it is, don't listen to them. They are a bunch of whiny-ass diaper babies. But… they're allowed to have an opinion.

Pros:
-Excellent gameplay
-Excellent graphics
-Excellent music
-Excellent sound effects
-Excellent replay value
-Awesome characters, playable or not
-Awesome Soul System
-No more useless junk items

Cons:
-No dashing effects that Juste had

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Product Release: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (US, 05/06/03)

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