Review by Mr_Socks

Reviewed: 09/30/05

The best elements of your standard Castlevania game with an exciting twist!

If you are a Castlevania fan then this is the game for you! It has the great music, action, selection of weapons, and RPG elements that most people have come to know and love. It also has a new, amazing system of collecting souls. When you kill an enemy, you have a certain percent chance of getting its soul, which will give you special abilities that only that enemy has. For example, you can get the Axe Armor's soul which will let you throw axes. Other souls can let you walk on water, turn into a bat, or even a huge demon. This makes the game more fun to play and gives it more replay value. You can go into a New Game + mode after you have beaten it once and play it again using souls you have already acquired. You can even get a special item that gives you unlimited magic if you collect all the souls.

Graphics: absolutely amazing for a GBA game. It has great effects for killing an enemy. For example, when you kill a skeleton, its bones shatter and fly all over the place.

Sound: once again Castlevania has a great soundtrack that really gets you into the mood of the game. It still falls short of the unbeatable Symphony of the Night soundtrack, but is still a plus to the game.

Story: simple but good. Castlevania hasn't really been known for top notch stories but this one is pretty good. Multiple endings make it more fun to play (my personal favorite is the worst ending). Nothing extremely different with this story and previous Castlevania's, but then again it doesn't need one.

Gameplay: this is where this game BEATS Symphony of the Night. There is a HUGE selection of weapons to choose from that give you many different options in style of attack. For example, you could use a fast but short weapon and dash in and out to attack, or use a weapon with a little better range but is a little slower Don't worry, you will still be able to get long range weapons with a lot of power and speed, they're just a little harder to find. You also have a lot of different items that can affect the way you play. Rings, amulets, cloaks, etc. etc, they all change the way the game is played. They can greatly boost some attributes but at the same time weaken some. You may have to go into a room a lot of times to get a monsters soul because you have sacrificed LUCK for STRENGTH. Or you might have to strike quickly and then dodge an attack a couple of times but get the enemy's soul faster by sacrificing STRENGTH for LUCK. Then of course, there is the soul system. This can easily become the most frustrating part of the game, but at the same time the most rewarding. It may take many minutes even hours to get an enemy's soul (the one that took me the longest only took me about 15-20 minutes, but other people on GameFAQs have complained about the hours they have spent on it). My advice to you, LEVEL UP YOUR LUCK!!! Unlike other games, it's fun to level up on this game. Find a reasonably easy enemy that will give you a lot of experience and go in and out of the room in order to level up fast. Then, go back to the enemy whose soul you were trying to get and you should be able to get it pretty fast. There is a ring that you can buy from the shop at the castle entrance (only available after you talk to Hammer) that you can buy for 300,00 gold. This ring increases your luck, thus increasing your chances of getting a soul. If you find the gold ring, equip it to get money faster.

Using souls is a good way to get you out of a though situation. They can boost your strength, luck, and give you new abilities. They can also be very long ranged and deal massive amounts of damage. If you think that souls make this game to easy you can put in a code so you don't get any souls. You can also enter a code to have no items if you think that you can manage it. I haven't tried that mode yet but good luck if you do.

Soma handles very smoothly and doesn't have to touchy controls. You always have complete control of him, even during jumping. The best part about the controls are that if you get hit you don't fly back 10 feet. There is actually a soul that allows you to get hit and not fly back at all.

The souls can help you greatly with bosses. There is one that can be very hard because you have to jump during half of the fight and can take a while to drain his health. But if you have the soul that allows you to stay put in mid-air there fore you don't have to dodge the ground attacks.

The soul system is a great addition to the Castlevania series and is adored by many.

Replay Value: this is where the game truly excels. Because you can collect a total of 110 souls, the replay value is virtually endless. You can equip 3 souls at a time so it's kind of fun to experiment with all the different combinations. Aria of Sorrow has two difficulty levels (normal, and after you beat that, hard) and even a second playable character.

I believe that no game is perfect (and that's why I gave it a 9 instead of 10) but it doesn't get much closer than this. I think that if you are looking for a great action/RPG than this is a must get. This game will last for hours and hours and you can find it for pretty cheap nowadays. Bottom line: you MUST play this game.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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