Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

aka: Akumajou Dracula: Circle of the Moon, CV: CotM, Castlevania

[ All ] [ Game Boy Advance ] [ Wii U ]

Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 85% (based on 50 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 74 ratings with 4 reviews)

Symphony of the Night fans, rejoice! 2D Castlevania rides again.

The Good
Well, it's 2D Castlevania - for retro fans, that's a no-brainer. The beauty of Castlevania since Symphony of the Night has been firmly rooted in navigating a gigantic maze while steadily powering up your character. Happily, CotM continues this proven gameplay while adding a few new wrinkles. While the hero is nowhere near as cool as Alucard (and the plot is pretty predictable and cliched as well), you do get powers that Alucard didn't. These take the form of the card system. Throughout your travels, you'll collect a series of cards divided into two groups. When you combine a card from each group, your character takes on a certain power. For example, one set of combinations modifies your basic whip into a number of magical variants, each having its own strengths and weaknesses. Actually, the card system is the game's biggest strength AND its greatest weakness (more on that later). The boss battles are good and tough, the maze is puzzling (perhaps a bit too puzzling for its own good), and there's some incentive to replay after you beat it.

The Bad
As I said, the card system is also one of CotM's biggest drawbacks. There are A LOT of card combinations - in fact, so many that I never had the time nor the capability to discover what they all did. Many of the combinations produce results that are not immediately apparent - you might be running around for thirty minutes or more before the highly specialized nature of your current combination reveals itself. This seems to me to represent a wasted opportunity - why make a game function more difficult to access than necessary? On the item front, SotN gave Alucard plenty of useful items that restored health, augmented powers, and so on all throughout the game. CotM, on the other hand, commits a terrible flaw in handing you very weak and ineffectual items from the beginning until the climax, especially in regard to health power ups. I can't understand why the designers didn't make the health items restore a percentage of your health as opposed to a set amount of points - anyone familiar with the old flat-tax scheme can tell you why this setup just doesn't work. Finally, the whole thing is just way too dark. Get ready to squint - and don't play unless you've got lots of sunlight.

The Bottom Line
It's classic, 2D Castlevania that you know and love. Not as good as SotN, but probably one of the best platformers available on your GBA.

Game Boy Advance · by Lucas Schippers (57) · 2002

Vampire killer

The Good
Circle of the moon was the first Castlevania for Game Boy Advance, and it's one of the best games in this portable system. It has the essence of the Castlevania series on a 2-D environment, with all the elements that made this games a reference for the platforms and action games.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is different from other games of the same series in many ways, and these ways are the most remarkable things of this game in concrete. We don't have levels in this game, and we have no linear paths, instead we have the whole castle from the beginning and that's where all the game's going to take place. We can't enter some areas because we need some special power like double jump or wall jumping, we can get that power by defeating the bosses in the castle, that's how the game works. Many areas can't be reached and we have to come back when we have the power needed, this is one of the elements that makes this game looks a little like an action RPG. We have a map which is one of the most useful things in the game, it'll indicate the areas which you haven't explored. You'll take a look at it all the time, believe me.

Talking about that, we have some elements which are traditional in RPG, like levels increased by fighting, armors and accessories, items, HP, MP or stats like luck, attack, defense or intelligence. It suits with the philosophy of the game but it's still an action-platform game, not a RPG, just some elements which make the game much more special.

One of the best new things is the DSS system, we can combine cards taken from the monsters to gain special powers, and there are many combinations. Every combination has a different power. It sounds a little tedious but it's easier than it looks and soon you'll realize that it's a good battle system.

The music is good, but has no remarkable things. Some Castlevania classics sound during the game, the same old stuff that shouldn't be changed because it works!

Many other things of the Castlevania series are in this game, we have secret areas that could by found by hitting a wall (most of them are intuitive, but try to hit as many as you can), a whip to kill your foes with two attack moves (one of them is more like a protection move for you), some classic enemies like bone towers as well as secondary weapons like crosses, axes, holy water or knifes... and the only game that the hearts taken don't give you health!

There are many different enemies, you won't get bored of any of them because there are a lot. Many of them has rare items as well as cards (they're assigned to a concrete kind of enemy) and some of them are really hard to be defeated. Anyway that helps to know if you're level is the adequate. If you have big problems defeating the monsters in some concrete area... it's time to gain some levels!

Gameplay is just perfect and you got some extra modes once you've beating the game. Jumps are good, and you don't have to worry about falling to death because you can't, there's always floor (or something) because you're in a castle (the only bad thing that could happen to you is falling down from a high place and start again climbing). You have to fight a lot, but it's funny because you have to come back many times to enter secret areas which you couldn't before because you haven't the power required, so, it's not difficult to gain some extra levels.

The Bad
No remarkable bad things in this game, just some things that could be better. If you want to get all the cards you have to know that they're assigned to some concrete kind of enemies, and the fact that they won't always give the card to you when you kill them, so, it's possible that you kill a concrete kind of enemy which has the card and then he gives you another item, and it's possible that it happens many times. Of course you don't know what kind of enemies have the cards that you're looking for, so, as I said there are many enemies and the conclusion is something obvious. If you've taken almost every card is really difficult to get the cards left. Try to increase your luck, maybe it helps...

The Bottom Line
A great game with many highs. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is a reason to play a system like Game Boy Advance. It's a long game with some RPG elements as well as new features with a good gameplay. A Castlevania game that doesn't become unworthy of one of the best action-platform series in the world.

Game Boy Advance · by NeoJ (398) · 2009

Not the best of the series, but still enjoyable

The Good
Castlevania : Circle of the Moon is yet another Castlevania game. It was released as a launch title on the GBA, that means it it one of the earliest GBA games out there. Today it may be hard to imagine what people who were used to the old Gameboy Color and original Playstation felt when the played this for the first time back then. Anyway back then I had no GBA yet, and a guy told me that it was a must play, and now that I found it used I bought it and played it. Oh and I'm a lot into Castlevania games those days for some reason.

It's true that right after playing more recent Castlevania games (Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow), it's hard to get impressed by a game who is almost 8 years old and that was released at the same time as the GBA itself. Nevertheless, I like games no matter their release date, as I'm a big fan of old games too, so it wouldn't be coherent from me to say this game isn't good because it's old (and it's not really THAT old).

The story of the game is simple, yet effective. A stupid evil lady named Camellia is reviving Dracula and is preparing a ritual to give him his full power. Thanks god, Morris Baldwin, an old vampire hunter that is supposed to have already banished Dracula in the past arrives with his two disciples, Hugh Baldwin (his son) and Nathan Graves. Dracula captures Morris and open a hole below the diciple's feet so that they don't annoy him, and locks himself behind a big door. In the catacombs they land in, Hugh leaves Nathan alone (what a bastard) and you take the control of Nathan, in the goal to rescue Baldwin and banish Dracula.

The story is a bit weird and it's not even officially included in the main official chronology, as Konami messed it up and it is in contradiction with other games - only Belmont or Morris family are supposed to have a sacred whip. If Baldwin was named Belmont and Nathan would have Morris as a family name this would make sense, as the game takes place in the 19th century, where the Belmont -> Morris transition looks like has happened. Anyway I liked the fact that the guy you control is just a young disciple and is not supposed to be a super-hero.

This game is a side scrolling platformer with RPG elements. The hero is able to level up and to raise his stats so he become more powerful. You are also able to equip various pieces of armor (up to 1 armor and 2 arm accessories at the same time) that the enemies drops.

You have to go explore the castle of evil count Dracula and beat bosses that will make you able to reach new places by giving you new abilities such as wall jump, etc... As in most side-view platformers, A jumps, B uses your whip to attack. R button is used for special abilities (wall jump and other stuff), and L button is for DSS.

The DSS system is the magic system for this game. You can collect up to 10 attribute cards and 10 action cards (although it's not likely you'll be lucky enough to find all of them without looking on the internet). You can chose any combination of action+attribute, activate it by pressing L and see what happens. Various attacks are enhanced that way, you either have a new weapon, or you get a shield, or your attack power is enhanced, or you could have a demon that follows you to help you to attack enemies, or summon creatures that does heavy damage on the screen (it's not likely you will get the last 2 abilities without looking on the net by the way). Although this system is cool, many attacks are useless, which is normal when there is 100 available. Also there is some I haven't figured whether they have an effect at all when you enable them.

The graphics are pretty impressive I have to say. They are dark, detailed and atmospheric. The backgrounds are really well done. I think the enemies's sprites are well done too, but there aren't that many different enemies, there is a ridiculous amount of palette swaps. But it does the job fine. The hero's sprite is tiny and really not that good. They could have gotten him better, as most of the game's graphics are better. Usually you'd except that the developers takes more time making the hero look good, but here they didn't.

The music is mostly good. Unlike most Castlevania games, the soundtrack of this game is almost exclusively remixes of music from older Castlevania games (I haven't played all Castlevania games so I can't tell exactly). And since there is good remixes, this works very well. Although there is not that many different songs in the game, and that one particular song is heard tough about half of the castle, which is annoying as you'll hear it too much. And yeah compared to the incredible music of Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow it sounds really not that good, but I don't want to compare what isn't comparable anyway.

The sounds effects are quite good for the GBA, your whip sounds like a whip and that is good. You have voice samples when the character jumps or get hit, and that is good. I can't complain about the sound. The GBA hardware seems to be well used overall, despite the fact that this is a launch title, and this is a very good thing.

Finally a thing I liked is that in many places you could find a crack in the wall that is hiding items that upgrade your character. It's cool that it features secrets, and as you get more abilities you are able to reach more secrets. You also have to solve puzzles in a place by pushing boxes which is a good thing.

The Bad
The hero is walking really slow at first, and after you find dash boots, you can run by double taping a direction. Unfortunately in boss battles when trying to fine-pitch your position to avoid attacks, you will double tap forward by error and the hero will just run and this will make you hit, and this is annoying. They could just have make a in-between correct walking speed and remove the dash boots, the game would only have been better (that's what they did in future Castlevania games).

If there is anything bad to be said, I'd go for how annoying some regular enemies are. It's hard to explain, but some enemies are just so annoying it pisses me off. Like in all others CV games, only save points fully restores your health (healing items are rare and you want to save them for bosses). It was often a big challenge to go from save point A to save point B without dying (especially the first time you discover the level). Then after trying about 16 times and finally discover the save point B, you reach to a boss and you beat him on the second try.

The difficulty of most bosses is pathetic as opposed to the difficulty as surviving in level, which most "normal" games are the other way around. Many bosses attack you by throwing you annoying projectiles, which can be easily destroyed using one shield DSS that makes them much easier. This don't apply to all boss of course, there were also hard bosses. The last form of Dracula is very hard to beat and I had to look on the internet to be able to find a trick to beat him. Otherwise, I was able to go through the game without any help so I guess it's not that hard, it's just really really annoying at times.

And the game is really short, it took me 7 hours to beat and I did take my time. Veterans gamers will beat this in about one week or so, but there is harder play modes for those who wants (definitely not me). For some reason, many early GBA games are really short for some reason, probably cartridge storage size ?

The Bottom Line
I don't consider Castlevania : Circle of the Moon is a must buy. The game is short and sometimes annoying. However it is challenging, has a lot of secrets, and have good graphics and sound considering it's a launch title. If you're a Castlevania veteran and haven't played this yet you'd want to borrow it from a friend (the game is really short and there is 10 save slots, it was really made to be borrowed) or to buy it used.

If you're not a Castlevania veteran, I would suggest to pass this one and play another Castlevania game if you get the chance to, because most CV games are better than this one. It's still a good game that can entertain for one or two week, and could introduce people to the series. But it's not too impressive, and I'd say it didn't age well because newer Castlevania games are really better (I am afraid that some people may not like this game at all and think, wrongly, that Castlevania games suck). I feel like the soul of the series isn't really there either for some reason. By the way I'm going to play another Castlevania game as soon as I finish this review I guess :-)

Game Boy Advance · by Bregalad (937) · 2009

Finally the world sees another proper Castlevania game

The Good
Gameboy Advance, I'm not sure if I love or hate the console. I've never been any person who like consoles, I think most of the games on the consoles are insanely weak, mindless 3d games pointed at the mainstream audience. And why are all the japanese RPGs released on consoles the exact same? There's sure one thing good about the Gameboy Advance, it's the perfect excuse for making good old fashioned 2D games again (even though I still get the feeling GBA games share a little of that dull console disease). The bad thing about the Gameboy Advance is it's low amount of power, here you get neat 2D games... but so "small" games, you just can't help but think how cool it would be if they made the game for a more powerful machine, so they can give more animations to the 2D sprites and things like that.

I'm sort of going offtrack here, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is exactly what the Castlevania fans have waited so long for. a good old 2D platform Castlevania game. And it's mighty good to see one after these years with these odd Castlevania 3D spinoff games. It's not entirely "good old" though, it's not in the same style of the very old Castlevania games though, it's like Symphony of the Night with the non-linear RPG gameplay. Which is definately a good thing, because it gives so much more life to the game (although for the purists there's a actually mode later in the game which give you the ability to play the game almost just like any super old Castlevania game).

There's not so very much to say about the game, it's just another step into the right direction with huge similarities from Sympony of the Night. It got great music, great graphics, great gameplay... it's just simply great.

The Bad
You just can't help but comparing the game with Symphony of the Night. SotN was released for the Playstation which is more powerful machine that the GBA, which means they could so much more for it. SotN is much longer, it's music with fantastic quality, the graphics are great. In this regard Circle of the Moon is lacking. It's just plain worse than SotN, although it's still a really great game.

The Bottom Line
Though SotN is generally much better than CotM, CotM has some better things than SotN, it's balanced, it's got no of those silly weapons which make you super powerful. And the game is actually hard. The game is still relatively short though.

As a final word, this is the perfect game for any 2D platform gamer who likes some good old fashioned gameplay. If you've played Sympony of the Night and enjoyed it, be sure it get this, just don't expect it to be better.

Game Boy Advance · by Kate Jones (416) · 2001

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by El Bosso, chirinea, nyccrg, Patrick Bregger, Alsy, Big John WV, Wizo, Steve Thompson, Parf, RhYnoECfnW, Riemann80, vedder, Jeanne, lights out party, firefang9212, Cantillon.