Monday, 17 December 2012

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow Review (GBA)


Set in the year 2035, Dracula has been completely destroyed and his castle imprisoned in a solar eclipse meaning he cannot reform. The Belmont family have long stopped waiting for his return and disappeared into history (until Dawn of Sorrow).

Enter Soma Cruz who, along with his girlfriend, is mystically transported inside the eclipse. Here a new threat is awakening, as Dracula's powers will soon begin to burn in the heart of an heir. Aria of Sorrow marks a change in style for the Castlevania series; both in terms of look and play mechanics. Long gone is the medieval Gothic feel. Instead characters lean towards a much more Japanese cyberpunk style, all androgynous men and long white hair, far from the headband wearing valiant knights of yesteryear.

The new Japanese style works brilliantly to reinvigorate the mood of the series. There is also a move back to Symphony of the Nights multiple weapons. Furthermore as the adventure unravels Soma begins to find he can absorb powers from defeated enemies. This adds a lot more depth to your play and gives yet more weapons and magic spells to be played around with.

Graphically the game is gorgeous, with ridiculous levels of detail apparent in the background art and the castles evil minions. This is the game that the developers finally realised that though big castles are meant to be dark, the Game Boy Advance does not like it. The move to cyberpunk allows a much lighter colour scheme which allows the player to see what is going on.

Soma Cruz is just about the most playable character to be found in a GBA game. He jumps, dashes, fights and flies with an ease and grace that shames most games. The excellent controls coupled with the games addictive quality will keep you pushing forward to find the next section long into the night.

Cleverly, the learning curve has been set just right. Very rarely do you find yourself in a situation where you feel overwhelmed by what you're facing. When something truly nasty is about to test you to your limits you can be sure there is a handy save room nearby. This means you never come across a boss monster with one hit point and no magic left. Everything just seems a whole lot more fair than in the previous two GBA outings.

Overall, Aria of Sorrow improves and develops upon its predecessors. Better graphics, sound, story, gameplay and style all add up to a brilliant action adventure with a touch of RPG about it.

8/10

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