Oh look, I get to review a Capcom game for a change! Okay, if you read my rant article about Capcom screwing gamers everywhere in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Devil May Cry, you may recall that I would not buy another one of their products, or review them unless it is already in my possession or given to me to review. Well, I just counted my stash of games, and it turns out that I own quite a lot of Capcom games. Are they any good and worth the effort in finding them? Maybe. Maybe not. Gotta play them all to see if I did the right thing in buying and finding these games long ago, so let’s take a look in the past when Capcom was actually good!
Castlevania Aria of Sorrow is another entry into the Castlevania series, but this time for the Gameboy Advance. Originally, I could not get this to play on my old GBA because of how dark the screen was, and the only GBA at the time that could allow me to see was either the mini GBA, or the GBA-SP, both of which I never bought. But when I finally got a Nintendo DS, it was able to finally allow me to play the game in bright color fury. With that, I could finally manage to kick ass….save for the fact I suck at Castlevania.
But there is something different about this Castlevania. The basic plot of every Castlevania had been simple: go through Dracula’s castle, fight against his minions that include giants and a Grim Reaper, and then face off against Dracula in one final battle. The difference here is that Dracula isn’t actually the main villain, and over the course of the game, you find out what happened to him in the year 2034. And really, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out who is Dracula. I’m just surprised the advances in technology haven’t created cooler weapons, but hey, there is actually a gun in this game, though I found that in the castle; I guess Dracula wanted paperboys away from his home, and skeletons weren’t scary enough.
You take the role of Soma Cruz, who had been drawn to the castle as it emerges. Soon, he finds out he has the power of dominance, the ability to collect souls of the monsters within Dracula’s castle and use their power for his own, whether it’s something simple to throwing magic axes, to stopping time, to even transforming into different creatures or summoning them to aid you in combat. As you journey throughout the castle, you soon start to meet other people who are here to investigate the castle, even Julius Belmont, who has appeared to lost his memory and is searching for the Vampire Killer, a whip made to kill Dracula with great effect. And as with all Castlevania games, you must search the castle thoroughly for clues, and finding those clues can help you find the true ending. And ignoring these can tend to get a less than satisfying and grim ending.
Gameplay remains generally the same as any other Castlevania, but Soma has to take advantage of every soul he gathers. Each one is unique, giving their own special ability or better stats. Some also are needed for further exploration of the castle, getting to the next boss or getting good items or additional souls. Though if you wish for some souls, expect to stay in a spot and move room to room killing enemies again and again in order to get their souls. RPG elements are present, as you can level up Soma and give him equipment such as armor and accessories, but weapons on the other hand are a bit different. As explained earlier, there is a gun in this game for long-range combat, but most weapons are close range and each have their own specialties against opponents. You have basic swords for quick slashes, greatswords for heavier and arch cuts, axes for slower but stronger hits, spears for added reach, and hammers which kinda have a combination of axe and greatsword elements, though you will most likely stick with normal swords. There are also knives and fist type weapons, but you’ll most likely never use them due to their low attack scores.
Boss battles remain generally the same as always, and some boss battles are just previews of future enemies you may encounter, which will just go down in like three hits by the time you level up later in the game. And after each boss, you can recover health and MP by catching the orb that drops above you. But there are variations in the bosses that does keep things a bit fresh and force you to stay on your toes. The only downside here is that there is little to no plot with them, even Death, who is a central bad guy when Dracula is involved. And considering who Dracula is in this game, it’s a shame you don’t get to see that kind of dialogue take place. Instead, we get a mysterious man in white that is honestly kind of boring. Of all this things this game has a problem with, is trying to build some character emotion till at least the very end. The most I could really feel between characters was Soma and Mina, as well as, again, the final moment of the game. But even that was pulled down with a disappointing final fight.
And there’s really nothing else to the game. Even with the grinding, I managed to complete the game in about 10-12 hours, kinda short, but I never noticed with all the grinding I had been doing to level up, gain souls, and finding new areas to explore. Despite a slightly weak story with some weak characters, the remainder of the cast is interesting, gameplay is fun by GBA standards, and is certainly more entertaining than Harmony of Dissonance when compared to that game. And sadly, I can’t review that game since I sold it long ago. But for the most part, if you still kept your DS like any sane person, Aria of Sorrow is a fun little distraction that should be a welcome addition to your collection. Just don’t overpay for the game if you ever find it online.
It was hard score to give, but Castlevania Aria of Sorrow earns a 4 out of 5 by today’s standards, especially if you can find it for a very cheap price. Whatever you do though, do not play this game on a GBA with no inner light function like in the DS. Don’t, and you’ll probably get the darkest game in your entire collection.