Genre: Action/Adventure Developer: KCET Publisher: Konami # of Players: 2 Memory: Battery Save ERSB: Teen Released On: May 6th, 2003 Also On: None Supports: GBA Game Link Cable Website: www.konami.com
The Game Boy Advance has been the home of Konami’s Castlevania series for the past couple of years. With games like Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance, the series has almost resurrected to the greatness once established by the PlayStation’s Symphony of the Night in 1997. The past two GBA Castlevania titles haven’t exactly been able to amount to the quality gameplay featured in Symphony of the Night, but like they always say “third time’s a charm” and indeed it is. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is Konami’s third Game Boy Advance Castlevania title, and despite being released only a few months after its predecessor, Aria of Sorrow proves to be greater in quality ten fold, delivering a classic 2D[QUOTE1] gaming experience that cannot be rivaled by many, and most importantly, Aria of Sorrow delivers as a Castlevania title, with one of the best games in the series yet.
Aria of Sorrow follows the adventure of a young man named Soma Cruz in the year 2035, on the eve of a solar eclipse. On the day of this eclipse, Soma and the “damsel in distress” Mina attempt to travel to the top of a holy shrine. However, everything is not what it seems to be… The two teenagers who originally attempted to make their way up to the shrine, found themselves inside the eclipse, inside Dracula’s castle. But where is the dark lord? Where is Alucard? He perished in 1999, but on this day in 2035 he will be reborn in the form of a man who can absorb the souls of living things, and control the monsters around him. Powers that Soma has. But, Jedi Master Yoda once said “There is another”… With this, Aria of Sorrow delivers a plot much more entertaining than its predecessors and with a nice cast of supporting characters and excellent dialogue, it will keep you on the edge of your seat till the very end, which unfortunately won’t take long to see. Thankfully, an excellent story is complemented by excellent gameplay.
The gameplay in Aria of Sorrow isn’t anything too innovative, or even new. It’s just very well rounded; taking into consideration what worked in previous Castlevania games, and just growing on the winning formula from there. That which is new is the game’s Soul system. In Aria of Sorrow, Soma can absorb the souls of the enemies he encounters along his quest, thus giving him their special abilities, such as the ability to walk on water or the ability to leap great distances. Most of these abilities are useless, others are essential, but nevertheless, they’re definitely a cool addition to the game, and if you link up to a friend’s Game Boy Advance[QUOTE2] you can Soul Trade via GBA Link Cable. Another great aspect featured is the game’s RPG related gameplay system. Your character, Soma, will level up throughout the course of the game. The more enemies you destroy, the stronger you become as you gain more experience points. You’ll also earn money on the way, something which ends up being incredibly useful when it’s needed to purchase more powerful or useful weapons, such as a broadsword or the whip sword, and even panaceas, which can heal you in time of need or to cure a curse put on you by[QUOTE3] one of the many monsters found in Dracula’s floating castle. Upgrading weapons and stocking up on these kinds of items become essential in order to successfully complete Aria of Sorrow. The reason for this is because enemies become more powerful the further you get into the adventure. You will need to be at your strongest to defeat them, but you will eventually succumb to some sort of damage and unless you find a save station near by, it will be hard to heal your wounds. Speaking of save stations, they are found all over the castle, making the navigation of the Dracula’s castle oh so much easier, since Aria of Sorrow, just like Nintendo’s Metroid Fusion, isn’t level based but instead one massive labyrinth for you to explore. Honestly, there isn’t much that I dislike about any gameplay aspect in Aria of Sorrow, everything is practically flawless. However, the game may feel a bit easy at times, and at others very difficult, but this all depends on how prepared you are for further progression in the game. So here’s a hint… always be prepared.
I have to say that Aria of Sorrow is one incredible gaming package that few games can compete with. It just delivers in every area, even in the audio and visual department. With that said, the music featured in Aria of Sorrow is almost as good as the soundtrack found in Circle of the Moon, the first GBA Castlevania game, yet it could have been better. Most of my complaints with the audio portion aren’t entirely with the score itself but with the quality of the actual audio. However, this is due to the Game Boy Advance’s poor audio capabilities, something which I will always damn Nintendo to hell for, because they rob Game Boy Advance & Player owners of decent audio quality. As for the visuals, they aren’t the GBA’s best. While clearly better than those of Harmony of Dissonance, they still lack the flashiness of games like Metroid Fusion and Golden Sun. Yet, the art direction of the game is excellent, as well as the fluid animations of the characters and backgrounds.
When all is said and done, Aria of Sorrow ends up being one of the Game Boy Advance’s best Action games, giving games like Metroid Fusion a run for their money. And as a Castlevania game, Aria of Sorrow rises top the top of the mountain, standing side by side with the acclaimed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. If you’re considering passing up Aria of Sorrow then you’re a fool. With an already excellent amount of Game Boy Advance games worthy of purchase, Aria of Sorrow is easily one of the best.