Review by Megalomania

Reviewed: 09/07/03

Wouldn't Drac would want to stay dead just to avoid the whipping

In almost record time Konami has released another Castlevania game. Thankfully Aria does improve upon the majorly disappointing Harmony of Dissonance but is it enough to satisfy the bloodthirsty tastes of a Castlevania veteran?
I’ve been playing Castlevania since CV 1, so I was weaned on the era of mighty heroes, fearsome demons, and god-like vampires. Nowadays, the men look and dress like women, enemies are simply speed bumps on the way to easy bosses, and they’ve done away with using whips. However to give credit where credit is due, the new batch of games are a lot more fun to play and a helluva lot less frustrating than the originals. Since SotN and Legends the series has become insanely easy and Aria follows in those footsteps. It’s one of, if not THE, easiest game in the series.
The plot has become fairly inconsequential in the new games. If it says Castlevania, Konami is guaranteed to sell more than a few copies. In a quick run down, Dracula is dead and sealed away, the castle reappears, people are transported there, and one of them is going to take on Drac’s powers. AoS is oddly rooted in Japanese mythology for what the series demands. It’s built around a European myth, all the other games have at least somewhat followed closer to that, and I think it hurts the game to make the change. AoS is also set in the future (the box even lists that as one of the game’s features, further proof that you should never read games’ boxes), however it never remotely comes into play. There are a minute number of guns and two characters wear business suits. That’s it. I would have liked to see it come into play, maybe a few lasers, robo-sentries, genetic experiments, make an area of the castle a giant corporate sky scraper, just something to play off the new time frame.
As previously mentioned the new characters are fairly boring. Soma is just disco Alucard, Arikado’s true identity should be obvious although the game tries to make him mysterious, and J the amnesic guy that looks like Richter with a goatee should be obvious to the player as well. The only characters with a personality are the bad guy and Yoko the nun-like bimbo. The enemies thankfully get more interesting though. Unlike in HoD where enemies were just recolored sprites and bosses were just suits of armor or a big version of a regular enemy, AoS has good enemies and some interesting bosses. I never heard of a Tsuchinoko before and apparently they actually found one in 2001. Nifty. An area where I have to dock some points would have to be Death, badass in SotN and all around awesome character. Starting in CotM he became a push over who’s clothing can only be described as flaming, then in HoD he became a comedy relief moron, and now in AoS he has no dialogue and he’s a wimp. His introduction and when he forms a new scythe are worth a ‘Hey that was neat’ though.
The game’s new gimmick is the soul system. It’s a pretty good one as long as I never ever see it used again. After killing something there’s a chance that you’ll absorb it’s soul and be able to use its powers. However the annoying part is that it’s not uncommon to go up 5+ levels solely from killing the enemy you’re trying to get a soul from. I easily spent over an hour on Bone Pillars. But of course you want to get all the souls to get the most out of the game. What redeems it is that you really want the souls. Some of their effects are just plain cool looking or fun to use. On a practical level most of them are useless. I got a Bat soul at the beginning (sends out an ultrasonic wave, great for taking out hunchbacks), then mid way I got the Valkyrie soul (neat looking and useful for enemies that keep a distance), and then at the end switched to the Flame Demon (shoots really strong fireballs). Three of the souls work into getting the best ending so you’ll definitely want those.
Music has always been a staple of the CV series, and AoS is lacking in this department. The new music is fairly forgettable and there aren’t any decent remixes of old favorites. I found myself humming Simon’s Quest music while I played.
Aria of Sorrow is a fairly by-the-numbers SotN knock off, but it’s a very enjoyable to play knock off. The soul system is fun as a one-time deal, but it needed improvement. The game gets a definite recommendation for fans of SotN and the CV series as a whole (maybe wait until the price goes down), but it’s ease, shortness, and lack of real innovation make me say that non-devotees that already played SotN, CotM, or HoD should stay away. The forced leveling up built into getting the souls makes an easy game challenge-less. First time through- 100% of the map, 100% of the souls, never died.
Final Score- 8.5, rounded down in GameFAQs submission

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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