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Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Wii U VC) Review

by Zachary Miller - November 2, 2014, 6:22 pm EST
Total comments: 3

9

If you only play one Castlevania game, make it this one.

Replaying these Game Boy Advance Castlevania games has been instructive. Circle of the Moon came in 2001 as a system launch game. It had its share of hardware-specific problems, but overall it’s a strong entry in the series. Harmony of Dissonance, which launched in 2002, marked series veteran Koji Igarashi’s return, but I feel the game is flawed in many respects. It’s amazing, really, to think that he perfected the formula a year later with Aria of Sorrow. This is, bar none, the best Castlevania game on the GBA and arguably the best Symphony-era Castlevania game ever made.

The first movement forward is the storyline: the game takes place in 2035, following Dracula’s final destruction (no, really) by the Belmonts in 1999. Soma Cruz and his friend Mina visit a shrine during a solar eclipse and are transported to a mysterious castle. Soma shows an unexpected ability to absorb the powers of the castle’s monsters, and during his exploration, meets a colorful cast of characters who believe that Dracula will soon be reincarnated. The story is genuinely interesting, and without giving too much away, I’m happy to say that you never actually fight Dracula.

The other big change is to the magic system. There are no subweapons—Soma is constantly absorbing new powers from his foes, and they are divided into three broad categories: weapons, summons, and buffs. You’ll constantly be experimenting with the new powers you find. Soma also finds traditional move set-increasing souls, like a double jump and a backdash. You’ll also find armor, accessories, and tons of interesting weapons to play with. Soul collection becomes a major emphasis in the game, as every enemy’s soul has a different drop rate. On the GBA, players could actually connect their systems and exchange souls like Pokémon, but of course this ability isn’t present here. The level design is improved from Harmony of Dissonance. There’s just one enormous castle divided into distinct areas. As in Circle of the Moon, there are many breakable walls, but they are unfortunately not differentiated—I recommend looking at an online map, as much of the most overpowered equipment is hidden in secret rooms. However, because Aria’s castle is not painfully duplicated as in Harmony, the game is quite a bit shorter. To make up for this, Aria is much tougher than Harmony. While I rarely felt outright under-leveled, having the right loadout often meant the difference between life and death.

It may take some work to get the game’s true ending, which culminates in an epic, abstract final boss. Despite the relative brevity of the main game, finding all the souls will take some doing (and you ARE rewarded for it). There’s an unlockable Hard mode, in which at least one exclusive weapon is found, and a great version of Boss Rush that encourages speed running with exclusive weapons and armor as time-based rewards. You can also play through the game as Julius Belmont, but since his weapons and abilities are set from the beginning, his progression is quicker and it’s not quite as satisfying.

To me, this is the best Symphony-era Castlevania game, and definitely one that everybody should experience.

Summary

Pros
  • Amazing spritework and gorgeous music
  • Gotta exorcise 'em all!
  • Lots of unlockable game modes
  • Mind-blowingly amazing from the word "go"
Cons
  • Not particularly long
  • No way to do Soul Trade
  • Overpowered equipment is ridiculously overpowered

Talkback

ClexYoshiNovember 03, 2014

I feel that this review fails to mention one of Aria of Sorrow's greatest weaknesses. although you mention the different drop rates for souls, you failed to mention how mind-numbing this game gets if you hope to get 100% soul completion. even with the soul eater ring to up the drop rate, there is many a time where you will be finding a particular enemy enxt to a door and killing it over and over until you get the drop. this is especially true of a couple of annoying ones such as the Sky Fish and the Tsuchinoko (Bonus points for using the monster that Dunsparce is based on, Konami!)

There's also a bit of translation weirdness, particularly with a few enemies based on Dante's divine comedy and Hindu Mythology. things like "Curly" clearly being Kali, the Hindu goddess of Empowerment, Death, and fertility, or my personal favorite "Lubicant" being Rubicante from Dante's Inferno. There's also soul descriptions that are marred by this bad translation, such as the Zombie Soldier's soul, which tells you to "Press A in the air to recover health". What this actually means is that the Zombie Soldier soul lets you perform a midair tech if you're being knocked back to regain control of your decent.

Besides these tiny areas of sorrow in the game (http://www.badumtss.net/), Zach's claims ring true. Although I'm much more of a fan of order of Ecclesia, Aria of Sorrow is probably my second favorite Metroidvania, followed by a tie between Portrait of Ruin and Circle of the Moon.



mathsNovember 04, 2014

Quote from: ClexYoshi

There's also soul descriptions that are marred by this bad translation, such as the Zombie Soldier's soul, which tells you to "Press A in the air to recover health". What this actually means is that the Zombie Soldier soul lets you perform a midair tech if you're being knocked back to regain control of your decent.

My Zombie Officer translation is: "Jumping while taking damage restores health."  I assumed this meant I would gain health if I got hit while jumping.  Alas, it never worked. 


As far as the brevity of the game being listed as a con, I actually found it a strength.  So many modern games pad their content with useless missions and repetitive mechanics, it was refreshing to finish this one in 7 hours. 

PhilPhillip Stortzum, November 04, 2014

This was the one I downloaded last week. I think I also have it on a double pack with another GBA Castlevania game. I don't remember which two were on the one cartridge, though.

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Genre Action
Developer Konami
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Release Oct 23, 2014
PublisherKonami
RatingTeen
jpn: Castlevania: Akatsuki no Minuet
Release Aug 26, 2015
PublisherKonami
RatingAll Ages
eu: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Release Mar 19, 2015
PublisherKonami
Rating12+
aus: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Release Mar 19, 2015
PublisherKonami
RatingMature
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