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SummaryA must have for anyone who owns a DS
The GoodFor quite some months, I found myself bored with most games I play. Someone evil would have decided that I was doomed to play only average or mediocre games for a while. Thankfully, I eventually decided to buy a DS as enough interesting games were released for it to be worth the cash, along with a few games including Dawn of Sorrow. This very day I can definitely say I'm not playing lots of mediocre games any longer and that makes good games appear even better !
One year after the events in Aria of Sorrow, a sect seems to do bad doings in a snowy forgotten village. As Arikado and Soma goes investigating, monsters appears and Soma's dominance powers are back. Now you are to set on a quest and kill boss until all evil is over. And this won't be easy, as Celia, a weird woman and the sect's chief decided to help people to become the "dark lord" because she wants a back lord to be back for some reason. Two idiot guys, Dimitri and Dario wants to become the dark lord badly and you'll have to stop them.
Well, I'd admit the story is original, but weird, weak and definitely not as cool as the story of Aria of Sorrow (lacking the charm factor of the eclipse), and that won't be the reason for you to play this game. However, a good and better reason to play this game is that it's the sequel to an awesome game you loved and you want to have such a good gaming experience again, this time not on the GBA but on the DS, so you'd expect better graphics, music and usage of the new dual screen and touch screen features.
The gameplay in Dawn of Sorrow is really close to what it was in Aria of Sorrow, Soma returns, the gothic-romantic feeling returns, it's the same gameplay mechanics, a good amount of identical enemies (but not all of them, of course), and you again collect your ememies' souls that they randomly leaves in order to use their abilities back against other enemies. However, you have a brand new castle to discover, and that sounds exciting ! You see the map on the top screen while gameplay happens on the bottom, which is a good thing ! You can press select to toggle between map and enemy description on the top screen, but most of the time you'll be using the map so you're never getting lost anymore. Great !
Just like in other action-RPGs, the game is unlinear (or at least half-unlinear) and you're constantly trying to find new powers that will allow you to work around obstacles in order to enter a new area, which is a formula that never gets old. You'll have to fight hard bosses in order to do so, but overall nothing is too hard either so it's really a great gameplay experience all along.
I guess I'll mention that while graphics are still in 2D, this is a very good thing and they look very good. This game would probably suck if they made it with 3d graphics, and I'm glad Konami didn't do that. Soma does not look transsexual any longer, now he looks like a true man and this is really cool ! In addition to the incredibly detailed backgrounds, there is some good parallax scrolling, transparency effects, pseudo-3D backgrounds and large bosses that will make you quickly forget that the game is in 2D (for those who have something against 2D graphics, which is obviously not my case). Animation is fluid, maybe even too fluid sometimes, when you see how good Soma's cape floating in the wind looks.
Not only that but the music is also absolutely awesome ! All tunes in this game rock damn hard, perfectly fit the atmosphere and are very memorable. Again there is some upbeat tunes and slow melancholic tunes, depending on where you are. This is really great, and the music is so good it couldn't be any better at any point. The tunes for boss fights are less great, but still good. Not only that, but you also have top notch sound effects and voice acting ! Well, the sound when you move the cursor is a bit too aggressive, but other than that the sound effects are perfect. Bosses even have voices that are frightening.
The BadThe only single thing I barely disliked is the ending system, where again, as in Aria of Sorrow, you have to beat a fake final boss and do a special trick to continue the game and beat the true final boss to get the good ending. Again, without looking on the internet, it would be hard to guess the trick, but this time at least there is a clue to it in the game, in Aria of Sorrow there weren't any.
I was almost forgetting to mention something I still disliked even if the game is almost perfect. When you defeat a boss, you have to perform a special stylus move quickly in order to finish him off. Fail, and you have to continue fighting him for a long while before getting a second try, almost certainly to your fatal doom. This adds challenge, and the stylus moves are not hard at all (you can train yourself outside of boss battle as well). But it's just you have to do it very quickly, and that the consequences of failing to do so makes the stress unsupportable when doing that (often resulting in a failure), and it's not always that fun.
Since you have to be quick, you had to do the whole boss fight with your stylus in hand, considerably reducing your reflexes for the battle. Thanks god I'm left handed and this removes reflexes on the directional arrow side. For right handed people this should reduce their reflexes on the buttons, which sounds even worse ! So while this stylus thing adds something to the gameplay experience and adds challenge, they could have left the game without it, it would only have been better in my opinion.
To end up with a good note I'd say that even if a game doesn't need a good story to be good (this game proofs it), imagine how good a game like this one could be if it actually had a complex and highly emotional story ! Oh man I sure hope Konami will do that in the future (if they haven't already, I haven't played all Castlevania games ever released).
The Bottom LineJust like it's predecessor, this game is as close as perfection as it could have been. The only few things that I have barely disliked in Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow fixes them ! Soma looks like a man, you have some clues to make it to the good ending, and the game is slightly longer. The graphics and music are even better than previously seen in Castlevania games !
So just like most games I've played with the "Castlevania" title into them, this is an almost perfect game any gamer in the would should give a try so good it is. So just stop reading this and go play this game straight away ! I'd still recommend playing Aria of Sorrow first if that's possible, because it's the prequel of this game, but you could play them in the other order and that can't bother you as none of the games are much about their stories anyway.
As much as the Castlevania series have a great past of about 20 years, the series is still on it's peak, and I'll make sure to play lots of other Castlevania games as soon as I get the opportunity.