Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

aka: CV: AoS, Castlevania: Akatsuki no Minuet
Moby ID: 9237

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 88% (based on 56 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 4.2 out of 5 (based on 79 ratings with 5 reviews)

Just as good as Castlevania games gets

The Good
I haven't played any Castlevania games that came out after Super Castlevania IV, so I really didn't know how they were at all. I found a used copy of Castlevania : Aria of Sorrow, and a friend told me that it was very good, so I picked it up. I was quite surprised that this game is really not much like Castlevania games I've played on the NES and Super NES, except that's it's a platformer and that it's a very good game.

The gameplay of this game is fantastic. You can level up and equip different weapons like you can in action RPGs, effectively making this game an platformer-RPG. I've tried many platformer-RPG games on the NES, including Faxanadu, Zelda II : The Adventure of Link, The Battle of Olympus, and of course Castlevania II : Simon's Quest. However all of them make me feel lost after 5-10 minutes of gameplay and as following a walkthrough isn't really fun, I've assumed the platformer-RPG genre was just not a good formula. Fortunately, Castlevania : Aria of Sorrow proved me the exact opposite.

Controls are easy and responsive, playing this game is just as fun as playing any other platformer (as opposed to games mentioned above). You can equip weapons with different response speed and range, allowing you a wide range of strategy against you opponents. Is it better to equip a slow weapon but that is powerful or to equip a weaker and more short-ranger, but much faster weapon ? Also, each enemy in the game has a low probability to release a soul when defeated. You are then able to equip 3 different kind of souls, attack, support and "implicit" souls at a time. Collecting them will allow you to use enemie's attack against other enemies, which is cool, and allow you to perform a very wide range of various moves. In order to progress the story, you must find special abilities which will for example allow you to jump higher in order to access new areas, etc...

You take the control of a guy named Soma Cruz that is the weirdest hero ever. He looks like a girl, have a weird name and looks more like a bad guy than a hero. Although he's the protagonist of this game, he's not a Belmont clan guy by the way. The game happens in September 2035 and you are teleported in the inside of a solar eclipse (in fact a solar eclipse is actually predicted in Japan for that date), inside the castle of Dracula (don't ask me what it does inside of an eclipse). You only goal is to exit. Of course there isn't a story as developed as in true RPGs, but it's definitely a decently developed story for a platformer.

The graphics of the game are really among the best I've seen on the GBA. Sprites are very detailed and animated, you can see the cape of the main character flowing into the wind. There is a lot of transparency effects, and background is very detailed. It basically proof that 2D doesn't mean outdated graphics.

The music of the game is excellent and varied, sometimes upbeat/fast-paced and sometimes slow and melancholic. Each level have a music that suits it well. Unlike the majority of GBA games, sound effects are very well done as well. You get some voice acting (in Japanese) from enemies and you can really hear the bones of your enemies falling apart when you defeat them. The protagonist also randomly hurls when attacking which sounds great. It's one of the rare GBA games that made full use of the sound hardware.

Finally the difficulty is just right, the game really isn't hard but when entering a new harder area you'll probably loose a couple of times before finding the first save point where you can recover. After that you can just level up if you have trouble, so the game isn't really hard, but it's not too easy either. You can carry healing items and use them during boss fight if you want, but sometimes you'll be saying "I'll retry to beat that boss this time conserving healing items for when I'll really need them". You can unlock an "oldscool mode" where you play as another protagonist which this time have the classical whip, cross, axe and holy water as weapons, and where you get rid of the story scenes and RPG elements of the game (levels, items, etc...). You still don't have the crappy jump control of NES Castlevania games, fortunately.



The Bad
The only thing I can possibly think is that the game is a bit short. After beating the game normally you can unlock new modes, but still beating the whole game in all modes adds up to 12-15 hours in total even if you level up a lot and try to discover each tiny corner of the game, which is quite short by modern standards.

The Bottom Line
This game has excellent gameplay, graphics and sound, and proves that the platformer-RPG genre isn't doomed to crap anymore. While a lot different from Castlevania games I've played on my old Nintendo consoles, it's still just as good as it was. Super Castlevania IV is still my favourite of the series tough. So if you have been playing classic Castlevania games and are curious to play a modern Castlevania game for your little GBA you're looking to the right place. If you have missed the classic games of course I still recommend to play this, but you're still missing something.

Game Boy Advance · by Bregalad (937) · 2008

Wow.

The Good
Aria of Sorrow is as close to Symphony of the Night as the Gameboy Advance games have ever come. Before you get the impression that Aria of Sorrow isn't quite as good as Symphony, or that all it attempts to do is recreate it, let me stop you. Aria of Sorrow rocks. The music rocks. The graphics rock. The inventory system? Yeah, it rocks too. Aria of Sorrow gets points in my book for one of the most rocking side scrollers made to date. Much like its often compared to predecessor, Symphony of the Night, Aria of Sorrow gives players the ability to level up, manage an inventory system, and even absorb the souls of their enemies to give them special magical powers. All of these elements, on their own, are solid. As solid even as a level up system or inventory system in a pure RPG. There are no "gimmicks" in Aria of Sorrow, only great features. Running around Dracula's castle is as enjoyable as running around anything ever was. The castle has the typical CastleVania environments - dangerous gardens, mysterious caves, mechanical clocktowers, they're all represented here. For a game that's played on a such a small screen, KCE Tokyo has done a great job of creating mood. As far as the actual game goes, hitting monsters with weapons has never been so fun. Each monster in Aria of Sorrow has a unique behavior, one that you'll have to learn to adapt to. As you gradually gain skills, you'll gradually be taught by the game to use them. The difficulty is just right. Aria of Sorrow remains challenging without falling into the CastleVania trap of being entirely too hard (CastleVania 1 comes to mind) or entirely too easy (Symphony of the Night, anyone?). With each weapon you obtain, you gain a different range, damage, trajectory, and so forth. I actually found myself strategizing which weapons to use where. The game does a good job of pitting the environment against, and for the player. Fighting enemies on steps isn't the same as fighting them on level ground. As you play the game, you're intuition will guide you through the environments, subconsciously keeping the game entertaining to you.

The Bad
I played it on a smaller GBA screen. This game is detailed enough to look decent on a larger screen, and if a person were to have a GameCube/GBA TV Adaptor they would probably have a better time playing the game.

The Bottom Line
I can honestly say that it owns. By far the best CastleVania title to hit the GBA, heck, it's one of the best CastleVania titles to hit any platform. And that, friends, is saying quite a lot.

Game Boy Advance · by WJAndrews (32) · 2004

Absolutely fantastic game. One of my all-time favorites.

The Good
Where do I start? Okay, a bit of the story...

It's the year 2035. A transfer student by the name of Soma Cruz and his childhood friend Mina Hakuba are, during a solar eclipse, on their way to the Hakuba shrine. Something weird happens; they are drawn into the eclipse, and end up at a mysterious castle, where they meet a man by the name of Genya Arikado (straight-forward, eh?). Genya informs them that the castle they just arrived in is that of Dracula, a vicious vampire who has been the target of several vampire hunters for centuries. Some moments later, a group of monsters appear, and Genya manages to fend them off -- but one of their souls were pulled into Soma, as if by some magnetic force. As explained by Genya, this is the awakening of Soma's "power of dominance", an ability to collect souls in order to gain abilities (essentially permanent power-ups). And that's where our adventure begins. I don't want to spoil anything, so let's move on to gameplay mechanics and the like, shall we? I do want to add that it has some interesting twists, and it's worth playing through to have the whole story unfold in front of you.

This game has the classic "Castlevania adventure"-type gameplay, as pioneered by Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, and mastered by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (which apparently will remain the mold for future Castlevania titles). What can I say? I love this type of gameplay. Sidescrolling action-adventure is absolutely awesome, and with the ability to level up, all the customization abilities (souls, equipment, weapons), yeah... It's one of the most complete games I've played. Totally my thing. Have you not played previous Castlevania titles like this, or perhaps not even the Metroid games, then the basic gameplay is as follows: you are limited to a certain area of the castle until you find a new ability to jump higher (and reach high platforms), slide, walk on water, walk under water... or perhaps until you simply find a key. The feeling you get is ever as rewarding, and it motivates you to keep on playing. However, the downside is, of course, that you can hit walls several times throughout your playthrough. I know I did. I know I stopped playing the game for weeks multiple times, before deciding to pick it up again and get past a certain part. (I was unaware of guides, it seems.)

One of the game's biggest features are the souls, which I mentioned earlier (when I talked about customization). The game is more or less centered around this system, and it's, as mentioned earlier, closely tied-in with the story. It adds quite a lot of depth. Here's how it works: When you kill an enemy, you have a chance of obtaining its soul. These souls are equippable. There are 3 different soul types, and you can have one of each equipped at the same time; yellow, blue, and red. The yellow types are sort of passive abilities (always activate, drains no MP), like walking on water, increasing stats, getting stronger when poisoned, etc. The blue type of souls are like skills. They drain a certain amount of MP, and they do things like letting you fly, glide, create a barrier, summon an imp (!) which follows you around and protects you against enemies, etc. The red type is an attack variant. Have you played any of the early Castlevania games? Remember how you had things like axes and crosses, which you consumed hearts to use? Well, it's a bit like that, only these drain MP instead of hearts... and they're permanent, of course. Some souls even let you temporarily transform, which is cool. As I also mentioned, you have armor and weapons, like you do in any RPG. And it works pretty much the same as in all of those games... The types of equipment are divided into Hand, Body, and Accessory; Hand is obviously for weapons, Body is for armor, and Accessory is for... accessories. All do various changes to stats. Some weapons do more damage to certain enemy types, some accessories give you more resistance against magic or elements or so. As you would expect... Nevertheless, there's hundreds of different equipments, hundreds of different souls. There's plenty of depth here... especially considering it's a Castlevania game. :) There's also the Abilities, as they are so simply called. These add zero depth, however. Most only allow you to progress in the game, like the double jump Ability.

The boss battles are also amazing, but can occasionally get frustrating. Although, here's the thing; the game has RPG elements (to the point where it has leveling up, at least), so grinding does wonders. If not that, buy some potions... ;) The music is wonderful, and the soundtrack includes several catchy tunes. It's hard to explain how music sounds, though, so think I'll leave that to you... But in a nutshell, it's typical Castlevania-ish; sort of a midi symphony thing. And it's awesome. Sound effects aren't bad, either. As for the graphics, they are far, far better than those of Circle of the Moon, and they look a bit more realistic (as if that's important) than the graphics in Harmony of Icantspellitsname. They are what they need to be. They fit perfectly. Not cheap, not half-arsed. Just perfect. Like previous Castlevania titles of the same "type", this one also has a comprehensive... lexicon of enemies. You can display weaknesses, you can, obviously, look at the enemies. It lists their levels, etc...the stats you need to know. That is, provided you have battled them once already. As for characters, the game doesn't really include many, but they're all interesting. I really like the game's protagonist, Soma Cruz (even though he's a bit "emo"). Very memorable.

Hm, I guess I've covered most of it already, hm? Oh! You can actually get GUNS in this one. That encourages exploration. Farming lead is awesome, and you know it.

The Bad
Other than the fact that I probably tried beating the last boss like 20 times before I finally got him, which got really frustrating to say the least (I solved the issue by buying potions. Heh.), I didn't REALLY dislike anything about this game. However, there were a few things I could do without.

One of the lines before the last boss were cheesy as hell. Another thing that I feel I need to address, is that this one lacks one of the neat features of the last installment (Harmony of Icantspellitsname); that one decorable room, which encourages the player to explore more than they already had to find more decorations, like chairs and statues. But that's not a huge problem, exactly.

It's also pretty short. I finished it in about 10 hours, though it felt like longer. Well, it probably WAS longer. I often did die and had to replay parts (especially bosses)... Still, one can surely finish it in one sitting, provided you know what to do. Definitely.

The Bottom Line
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a wonderful title, more-than-worthy of the Castlevania name. It's the best of the series, in my opinion, counting games before and after it (that I have played). A real gem. I can't really say a single bad thing about it. It's near-perfection, and my fascination hasn't worn off since I got it like 3-4 years ago (even if I, admittedly, do not play it often).

The fact that I got this and Harmony of Icantspellitsname (Castlevania Double Pack) for about 30 bucks was, to say the least, a real bargain. I had no idea such an epic adventure would await me. And I still have yet to beat Harmony of Dissonance (I could spell it, after all).

This also marks my longest review ever written. That alone should show how much I love this game.

If you get a chance of getting it, do not hesitate! It's a very fun game and might just have the most depth of any Castlevania game to date.

Game Boy Advance · by Simoneer (29) · 2017

The definitive Castlevania for the GBA

The Good
Castlevania: 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 Bad
The 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.

The Bottom Line
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow has the best things of the previous games and it's the definitive Castlevania game for the Game Boy Advance. It has some weak points, but it's probably the best action-platform game for the GBA. Many different weapons, special powers, enemies, big bosses and hours of gameplay make this game an essential one.

Game Boy Advance · by NeoJ (398) · 2009

A real desire to achieve 100%

The Good
There's always a way. If you're not good with buttons, just kill some enemies, level up a bit, and make some money in order to purchase potions and items. Eventually you'll be strong enough to defeat whatever that seems to block you. In Super Metroid you may have learnt to avoid enemies as much as possible, here you'll want to kill them all, since with every enemy you kill, you gain experience points and become stronger.

If you set out to achieve 100% collection rate, you'll likely only want to kill enemies that you have not yet collected. So you will want to leave and enter rooms repeatedly to kill the same enemies over and over, while ignoring other enemies. There are very few things in life that hit a man harder than this feeling, this desire, to collect an enemy's soul. Aria of Sorrow provides this feeling.

Cool characters. Soma looks like Sephiroth, and the girl Mina is his childhood best friend and she's attractive. You play as Soma, so that's an immediate motivation to start playing (assuming you're a guy).

The environments are full of symbolism. Paintings and sculptures of angels, demons, and all those religion and prophecy stuff.

The whole "gain new powers to unlock new areas" thing is delightfully similar to Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night. You can only jump this high at first, so there will be rooms that are out of reach. In later stages, you gain an incredibly awesome ability that shoots you straight up towards the ceiling. This is by far the coolest move in any platform game ever, that even outshines Super Metroid's Shinespark. You're no longer walking or running through rooms, you'll be jumping around in rooms. You're always jumping, it's ridiculous.

Most of the time the path is clear and you'll know where to go next. You won't feel frustration with this game. You're always leveling up and collecting stuff. Satisfaction is ALWAYS there in your heart and soul.

The Bad
Some weapons and armors are useless (If you have played Diablo 2, this is like picking up a level 2 leather jacket when you're at level 30.) For example you'll see a sword quite early in the game, but won't be able to acquire it until much, much later. You'll naturally want that sword to be worth the wait, since you'll move through that room frequently, and everytime you enter that room, you see that sword, and wonder "when am I going to be able to get THERE? What ability is required for it? What special attribute does this sword have?" But by the time you get the sword, you already have a weapon that's better in every aspect. You'll want to sell this lame, newly acquired sword for money, in order to buy the Soul Eater Ring.

But seriously, this isn't even nitpicking. It's less than a nitpick. There isn't anything in Aria of Sorrow that I don't like.

The Bottom Line
100% soul collection rate may seem hard at first. After the main quest is completed, you'll probably be at only 20% or less. You'll wonder how long 100% takes. Actually, the process doesn't feel long, because it's filled with satisfaction. Everytime you collect a soul, it becomes a new spell that you can cast, but I don't even care about that very much. I collect it because I wanna collect it, not because I wanna use the spell. Every time you add 1% to the grand total, you're like "OH YEAH" "THAT's what I'm talking about". You'll want to dance. So, basically, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow invites you to dance, to celebrate 80 joyful moments in your life.

Game Boy Advance · by Pagen HD (146) · 2013

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Big John WV, Wizo, chirinea, Alaka, nyccrg, vicrabb, RhYnoECfnW, Jacob Gens, Alsy, Patrick Bregger, Azurelore Korrigan, Dae, Jeanne, lights out party, Xoleras, Tim Janssen.