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SummaryThe definitive Castlevania for the GBA
The GoodCastlevania: Aria of Sorrow is the best Castlevania game for the Game Boy Advance system. Harmony of Dissonance, the second of the series for the GBA, was worse than Circle of the Moon, but it had some good features that this game keeps. So, we can define Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow as the game that has the best thing from the two previous games released for the GBA.
Castlevania has nothing new on its gameplay. Now we can move our character in the air as we did before in Circle of the Moon. The essence of the game is still the same, explore the whole castle looking for secret areas (now the breakable walls are back!), collect valuable objects, complete your monster encyclopedia and rise up some levels before fighting the big bosses (as big as always).
For the first time you have no sub-weapons on your side. Those sub-weapons have been replaced by red souls (most of the classic sub-weapons of the series like the axe or knife are available as souls too), so, hearts will give you just some mana points and nothing more. In Harmony of Dissonance, hearts were useless but here they are really important.
Talking about souls, you have three types of them, the red souls that could be used as sub-weapons/special moves, the blue souls which are like special moves that will use a lot of mana (things like flying as a bat or become a monster to make more damage) and the yellow ones, which are special powers that will be always active and they don't need mana (strength up, lucky up...). This soul system really suits the game, and soon you'll start collecting all the souls, really far from the annoying DSS of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and the "strange" book system of Harmony of Dissonance.
Here we don't have two castles, just one big castle and (that's a new thing) many different characters. There are many save points during the game, much more than in the previous Castlevania games but it's not easy to progress. As in the previous games, different endings are available according to what you do during your adventure and it's recommend to reach both of them (at least, the good one).
Many different weapons are available, you have handy knifes, spears, swords, hammers... each weapon has different effects and some of them are perfect for certain moments. You'll see your equipped weapon when you use it against your enemies, that means that we don't have generic graphics for weapons, every weapon has a different one.
Harmony of Dissonance had bigger sprites, but graphics were worse than the graphics for Aria of Sorrow. Now the graphics are well-balanced and we don't have that strange blue aura on our main character. Something's similar with the sound, the music for Aria of Sorrow is perfect, as a game with this name deserves.
The BadThe L button is useless. Harmony of Dissonance featured a new gameplay system in which you need to master your skill using the L and the R button to evade attacks, but in this game only the L Button remains and it's really useless. You don't need to use it to finish the game.
As happened before, to collect every item and every soul is something boring or tedious because sometimes you need to kill the same enemy over 50 times to get the item or soul. If you're one of those players who need to collect and complete the monster encyclopedia you'll need a lot of time and patience. Of course there are some items that will increase your luck, but it's not enough and sometimes is frustrating.
Boss Rush Mode appeared for the first time on Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, and it was a nice mode to increase game's length. Here you have the same mode, but it'll take a bit to finish it and the game has no more game modes. That's just because Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance has much more big bosses.
Story is boring until you reach the end. The storyline is really depth less. Dialogues are annoying and senseless as well, but once you know how to enter the Chaos Realm it becomes more interesting and the special ending improves this weak point.