Is the first direct Castlevania sequel a worthy addition to the series?
The DS?s Dawn of Sorrow is the fourth portable game in the Castlevania series. By now, it has proved its worth on handheld consoles. Ending the trio of games on the GBA was Aria of Sorrow, a game closely related to the Playstation?s master piece, Symphony of the Night. Dawn of Sorrow is a benchmark in the Castlevania series not only due to the fact that this game is the first direct sequel from a previous Castlevania game, but also because it is just as good, if not better, than the highly acclaimed Symphony of the Night.
Players will once again assume the role of Soma Cruz, the protagonist in Aria of Sorrow. Dawn of Sorrow takes place one year after the events of the GBA predecessor. As it turns out, Soma was destined to become the next Dracula, but he was able to change his fate. Now, a cult is trying to resurrect Dracula again, and Soma is again thrown into the middle of everything.
Like the Playstation and GBA Castlevanias, Dawn of Sorrow is a side scrolling adventure RPG. Similar to any Metroid, the player will beat up bad guys to gain experience in which to grow stronger. Items and power ups will also be collected throughout the game allowing entrance to unexplored paths. This game play structure mostly remains unchanged from any other game in the series, but Dawn of Sorrow does it to near perfection and adds features only the DS can take advantage of.
The main game is displayed on the bottom screen while the top displays constant important facts. First, the top screen will always display the map. This may sound like a cheap and easy way to make use of the second screen, but it just works so damn well in Castlevania. Anyone who has played one of these games can tell you that it can be cumbersome to pause the game and enter the map screen every two rooms you enter just to find out where you are and where you are going. Having the map on constant display while not interrupting game play is truly one of the biggest conveniences. Also, if the Select button is tapped, the top screen can also display your characters stats, money, and all the info about the last enemy killed. The top screen is extremely handy in Dawn of Sorrow and you?ll wonder how you ever managed without it.
The way the game progresses is actually a nice conjunction of what happens in the story. Soma has the ability to absorb the souls of the enemies he defeats. But this is also why he is a candidate to become the next Dracula. Enemy souls are absorbed randomly upon their death. Once they have been collected, however, they can be used at will. Most souls also get stronger with the more of that particular soul is collected. Some souls must be collected and used to progress further into the game, like automatic absorption of boss?s souls while others are simply used to beat the snot out of other enemies. However, every enemy in the game has a soul, which means there are tons to collect. Konami knew that finding every soul would be tough. To help people gain more souls quickly, they included a wireless link trading mode where two Dawn of Souls owners can swap souls over the DS?s wireless capabilities.
Trading souls isn?t the only wireless function built into the game. There is a Vs mode where two players race to the finish while killing every enemy in the way. The key, however, is that the player can customize the level with any enemy that he defeated in the main story mode. It is also simple to create because the stylus acts just like a mouse. Even though this does bring some customization and multi-card wireless mode to the game, it really isn?t any fun. The race only consists of five rooms and the players don?t even interact with each other. This Vs mode is simply a tack on. However, this shouldn?t be truly looked upon as a negative aspect of the game because it is an extra that you don?t have to use. Players will buy the game for the right reason in the first place, to play through the story mode.
The touch screen also must be used in Dawn of Souls, but it is more cumbersome than innovated and fun. First, bosses must be delivered a final blow by drawing a pentagram shape on the touch screen after its energy has been depleted. But if you have bad penmanship or don?t draw fast enough, the enemy regains his strength and you have to fight him again. Unfortunately, this happened to me on just about every boss battle. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing the game over screen after a resurrected boss kills you. Plus, there is not enough time to pull out the stylus and draw the shape. There is only enough time to draw with your finger. But this also will aggravate DS owners because now they are forced to smudge their screen with a sweaty finger. I can see why Konami added this feature to the game, but in the end they should have done without it.
Also using the touch screen, ice blocks can be shattered when tapped (after the certain soul that has this ability has been collected). Luckily, there are only a few instances throughout the game where the player has to do this as it can also be cumbersome. It can be neat making your own staircase by carefully cutting away certain blocks, but it can also be a hassle when trying to clear a path when on a moving platform. But since there are only a few times the player will have to bust these blocks, it winds up being a tolerable addition to the game.
The game even offers a lot of replay value. Multiple endings, numerous types of weapons, tons of souls to collect, new game+ mode, and even Belmont mode (play as a different character who cannot absorb souls) all get unlocked when the game is beaten. These new modes are worth a look through and fans of the series will love them. Konami gives good reason to keep this game plugged into your DS.
Ever since Symphony of the Night, Castlevania has been looked upon as some of the best pixel animation in gaming. Everything moves with incredible fluidity you would think the game is run on a wax screen. Even death animations have been taken into consideration and have grown to be a staple in the series. Multi scrolling backgrounds give the game that little extra enhancement that sets it above most games. The gothic and darker mood of the game fits the atmosphere very well. However, there is one major concern with the character profile pictures. When characters talk through the dialog bubbles, the art style doesn?t fit the mood of the game at all. They look more like a Saturday morning cartoon than a character in the haunted and dreary Dracula?s castle. It is not that these images are created without quality, it is just that they do not fit with the rest of the game. But if the player waits at the Start screen for a few seconds, he will be treated to a sweet full motion video.
The music should also be turned up when playing this game. The musical score is definitely worth listening too as it has been composed with care. New and remixes of old Castlevania tunes also makes its way into this game. Sounds effects also set this game over the top. Each weapon and enemy attack are always accompanied by a true sound effect and a fluid animation. All these things put together make for a one solid game.
If you like Castlevania, they you need Dawn of Sorrow. If you own a DS, you need Dawn of Sorrow. If you don?t own a DS, go out and buy it with Dawn of Sorrow. This game represents 2D gaming at its finest and shouldn?t missed by anyone. Yes, the touch screen implementation kind of hinders gameplay, but Dawn of Sorrow is still one of best, if not the best, Castlevania game to date. The graphics, gameplay, music, replay value, story line, and variety mix together to make one sweet package. Go out and buy this game now right now.
?And if you have Aria of Sorrow on GBA, be sure to plug it into the DS?s GBA slot when starting a new game to get a rare item.