Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

June 17, 2003

There Goes Another Fifteen Hours of My Life:
The Castlevania Aria of Sorrow Story

To say that I am a fan of the Castlevania series on the GBA is a bit of an understatement so it would be impossible to write a completely unbiased review of what I consider to be a MUST have game. While my memories of the first installment of the GBA Castlevania series, Circle of the Moon, is a bit of a distant memory, I still retain some vision problems resulting from the many hours dedicated to slaughtering every Skeleton or Axe Armor in the 2 by 2 inch game. Now if you have ever played any Castlevania game on any console, with the exception of the bucket of chum that was released for the N64, and said to your self “this isn’t the worst game in the history of man kind” you need to play Aria of Sorrow. While this is by far the shortest game of the series, it has excellent replay value, which I will go into in greater detail later in the review.

Now the number one complaint with the original Castlevania game for the GBA was the graphics. The game was made so dark you would need to be sitting directly on the surface of the Sun to make out even the largest of details. Some one told me they saw a texture in the game once but I don’t believe them. Fortunately, Aria of Sorrow has a brighter, sunnier, I’m trapped in Dracula’s castle full of demons and the undead look. This is great because the character models are spectacular considering that the largest enemy in the game is only slightly larger than a postage stamp. And the backgrounds are what you would expect, lots of rundown castles with bats flying all around, large halls filled with portraits of long ago slain family members of the undead and of course, under ground caverns of total spookiness WOOOOOOOOOOO (ghost noise). There were few instances were I found myself being gnawed upon by an invisible enemy. The brighter appearance also simplifies the often-difficult tasks of platforming and item detection.

The sound in AoS is typical Castlevania. Konami must have the same guy writing all the music for every game because after only a few seconds of listening you know were you are, you’re in the jungle baby, you’re gonna die!!!!!!!!!! There is a great deal of variation from area to area not only in look but sound. Each area of the castle has different background music appropriate for the location. My only complaint was that the music was often inaudible due to the .00001-watt speaker Nintendo deemed appropriate for the GBA.

Controlling AoS is exactly what you would expect, jump and whip, or in this game jump and slice. The replacement of the whip by a series of swords, spears, hammers, and other weapons was a bit disheartening at first. I mean, who doesn’t like to bust out a whip and not look like an S&M freak? Well fear not, the inclusion of over two dozen weapons with varying attack styles like over hand chop, side slice, poking spear action or even pop pop of your gat will leave you satisfied at the carnage you leave in your wake. Each situation requires you to carefully choose your weapon to best dispense of your foes. Lots of Medusa heads? Why not bust out your HUGE over hand sword and send that snake headed skank and her twins back to Clash of the Titans. As expected you gain abilities which are activated by the shoulder buttons like double jump, back-dash, ground slide and others as you defeat
sses so some areas of the castle are unavailable until late in the game; which is a good thing as you would no doubt unwittingly bump into an Iron Golem and die a most horrible Iron Golem style death with only a plastic fork as your most powerful weapon.

Other abilities gained by the collection of souls (which replaces the Yugi Oh esque card system) allow you to explore further. The abilities range from being able to walk on water to turning into a Giant Bat and flying to previously unreachable areas. Controlling the bat is intuitive, push up on the controller, Giant Bat goes up, push down, Bat goes down, push up up down down left right left right B A B A start, Bat does a few circles and you end up in the main menu screen. Overall the control of the game is very responsive with no lag; very predictable.

Almost every Castlevania has had a reasonable degree of difficulty usually due to ridiculous platforming. You don’t believe me? Go play Simon’s Quest and try not to throw your controller as you fall for the five millionth time into a puddle and die. Thankfully, Konami allowed Soma (the main character) to take swimming lessons before setting him off to face his destiny. There are a few spots for all the die-hards out there that will make you totally pissed, like the Clock Tower full of Medusa heads and Gremlins swooping down to knock you off of one-millimeter ledges, YAY! For the most part you are fairly well equipped for each battle as by the time you reach another boss you have come across another sword or ability, which allows you to dominate. I defeated all of the bosses the first time through, with the exception of Death which took three times, and I kind of suck at platformers so one could say the difficulty was a bit on the weak side. But don’t let that detract you from playing AoS as there is a Boss Rush mode (fight all the bosses in a row with only like two healths) once you complete the game and I have yet to be able to beat that. Your character levels up rather quickly in AoS so you will be able to stomp major ass in no time. As an added bonus after you complete the game you can play through a second time with all of your collected souls and items, minus your experience points, so you will be dropping foes and pimping necrotic hoes like a mad gangsta’.

As you might be able to decipher from the previous few paragraphs I really enjoy this game and am playing through for a third time. Though it is short it is satisfying. The story keeps you interested. There is a nice, albeit linear flow to the game with plenty of hidden areas to explore (sunken pirate ship). Oh, and there is a plot twist at the end, which if you play your souls right, lengthens the game by two bosses and allows you to play through as a different character with, gasp, a whip and completely different abilities!

With over 100 different types of souls to aid you in your quest of total vampirical domination, setting up the perfect combo of three (the maximum allowed at any given time) you will no doubt need to take a few minutes to decide what combination is best for your style of attack. But isn’t that part of the fun? Customizing the overall killability of your character? It’s no FFX but the role-play elements, though few are an added bonus for an otherwise hack and slash experience.

What can I say about Aria of Sorrow? You will no doubt find this title a welcome friend as you wait an hour and a half for your tires to be replaced. But this game deserves more credit than that. Do not be surprised if you find yourself cho

osing to squint your way through this one instead of attending to your much more graphically impressive console games. You may be surprised, but not disappointed. One final note, if you don’t like this game, kill yourself now, as you are no doubt the Anti-Christ. Seven thumbs up.