Before Buffy, vampire-slaying was synonymous with Konami's long-running Castlevania series. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow for the Game Boy Advance beckons gamers to enter Dracula's home once more.
Dark Side of the Sun
In the year 2035, the citizens of Japan eagerly await the first full solar eclipse of the twenty-first century. A young high school exchange student by the name of Soma Cruz ventures to Habuka Shrine to witness the spectacle.
Upon entering the gates of the shrine, Soma and his friend Mina are transported to the very doorsteps of a foreboding castle. Players assume the role of Soma on a quest to unravel the mystery of Castlevania.
Adventure of an After-Lifetime
Aria of Sorrow adheres to the side-scrolling, action/adventure style established by previous Game Boy Advance Castlevania efforts. There are no "levels" per se. The entire castle is yours to explore, within the limits of Soma's current abilities.
As you progress through the different areas of the castle, Soma gains abilities such as the double-jump and slide attacks that allow him to access formerly inaccessible territories.
Aria of Sorrow introduces a unique soul-stealing technique that allows Soma to gain skills from fallen enemies. These soul captures are divided into three unique categories: Disc Armor, Flying Armor and Undine.
Disc Armor souls replace traditional Castlevania projectile weapons. Soma has an ever-recharging magic meter that quickly drains whenever a Disc Armor soul attack is used.
Each soul attack is more or less fashioned after its former monster master. For example, absorbing the soul of a skeleton (don't ask how) allows Soma to throw bones. Likewise, absorbing the soul of a merman grants Soma water-blasting powers.
Flying Armor souls grant Soma special abilities for limited periods. These skills come in a wide variety of spirit helpers, floating abilities, offensive blasts and magical barriers.
Perhaps the most powerful of souls are Soma's Undines. These special souls offer stat boosts to Soma's attack, defense, strength, constitution, intelligence and luck. Some even allow him to access new areas, for example, by giving him the ability to walk on or under water. Unlike other souls, these do no require activation, nor do they take away from Soma's magic bar.
In case you're curious, an "undine" is an elemental being that lives in water.
Collecting all 100+ souls can seem like a pretty daunting task. Players with a Game Boy Advance link cable can trade souls to complete their collections.
As a high school student, Soma's vampire-slaying skills may seem meager at first. But for every demon and specter that Soma destroys, experience points are gained.
Much like most RPGs, your character will gain in levels after a set amount of experience is gained. Soma can also pick up and equip a wide assortment of swords, armor and enchanted items. Castlevania purists can even pick up a sword-whip early in the adventure.
Just about every netherworld denizen inhabits Dracula's castle. Be prepared to slash your way through endless hordes of zombies, vampire bats, harpies, skeleton soldiers, animated armors and the like.
Certain enemies, such as the flying medusa heads, can cause status abnormalities along with standard attack damage. Soma will have to put up with petrifaction, poisoning and curses, amongst other supernaturally transmitted maladies.
If you're in a pinch, you can always drop by the item shop (unlocked early in the game) to buy a wide assortment of ointments, maps, armaments and trinkets. Thankfully, most monsters carry around a good bit of pocket change, so funds should never be a problem.
Dracula's castle is only slightly smaller than west Texas, so a map should definitely be among your initial purchases. You can later buy others.
Even if you don't have a map, pushing the Select button brings up an auto-map that shows areas you have explored. The advantage of a map is that it shows areas you have not yet explored.
Audio/Video of Happiness
Konami's Castlevania artwork has always been at the forefront of 2D perfection. The intricately detailed backgrounds, often scrolling at different rates, add eerie depth to each location.
Each character, including the screen-filling boss monsters, is depicted with silky smooth animation. The developers have added impressive scaling and rotation effects to each boss for frightening results.
The evocative soundtrack perfectly complements the on-screen action and should silence doubters of the Game Boy Advance's audio capabilities.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow represents the pinnacle of the Game Boy Advance Castlevania series. Expect to devote 20+ hours to this long and satisfying action/adventure.
This game has been rated "T" (Teen) by the independent Entertainment Software Rating Board. Progress is saved to the Game Pak in one of three save files.
Contributed by Xoleras (66135) on Dec 25, 2004.