Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is the third game in the Castlevania GBA series to have a title which has nothing at all to do with the game itself. A more accurate title might be Castlevania: In the Future!, because this game takes place in the far-off year 2035.

Right off the bat--vampire bat, that is--let me say that I do not like this game.

Maybe it's a good thing that they only made three Castlevania games for the GBA.  The three games are so similar that a fourth game would really be pushing it.  Really, all that distinguishes one game from another is the attack system.

Oh, the attack system in this game.

They tried to combine the cool DSS magic system from the first game with the subweapon system from the second game.  What they ended up with is a horrible mess that takes the worst from both systems and jams them together.  Specifically, they combine these two elements:

  1. You have a large array of special weapons, all of which are practically useless (in order to prevent one weapon from being better than another).
  2. The enemies in this game drop the special weapons items at a rate which I like to call the Presidential Election: one every four years.
So basically, you have to kill the same enemy over and over again, for ten or so minutes, in order to get its weapon.  Then, you learn that the weapon is completely useless.  And you're expected to do this with every enemy, because each one has a special weapon/ability.

Please note that everyone else who played this game is in love with the special weapons/abilities system, and they act like it is the greatest idea ever.  I found that it impeded gameplay, instead of furthering it.  But everyone else thought it was great.

This game also tries to differentiate itself from its predecessors by having an actual plotline.  Key word: tries.  The main problem is that there are too many characters in this game to keep track of, especially because you only see a character once every hour and a half or so.   I had a hard time figuring out what was going on, because every time the game revealed a crazy plot twist, like "Graham Jones is actually working for Dracula!", my response was "Oh no!  Wait...who is Graham Jones again?"

That's not to say that there aren't positive aspects to this game.  It's bigger than the previous game. They did a good job of revamping the boss battles, even though I don't think that was entirely necessary.  The store system was better, and they tried to cut down on the amount of backtracking you're forced to do.

It's just...I could never really get into this game. I always lose my will to play when I reach the large waterfall areas.  I know everyone loves this game, and it was re-released twice, and it's the only GBA Castlevania game that got a sequel, but still.  For whatever reason, I don't like it as much as everyone else does, and I certainly don't like it as much as the other two GBA Castlevania games.

So I guess, for me, it's a good thing that the GBA Castlevania series ended here.  Not that this series on the Castlevania handheld games is going to end here!  We've still got three DS games to talk about!

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