The next entry in the Castlevania saga is Circle of the Moon. Released in 2001, this game, for a time, was removed from official chronology by the director of the Castlevania series. It has since been re-added due to the release of more recent title Portrait of Ruin, the details behind this are convoluted and we’ll get to the that in a future post.
This title is the first Castlevania game released for the Game Boy Advance. It is similar in looks and style to Symphony of the Night, but much more difficult. As this game shows, the GBA has proven to be an excellent platform for the series. Circle of the Moon is the first of three games designed exclusively for it, and all three are perfect fits..
On major way this game differs from Symphony is with the with the introduction of something called the “DSS system”. This ability-system allows the player to collect magic-infused cards that drop at random from defeated enemies. The cards are sorted into two types: A deck and B deck.
You can combine one A and B type card to create a special effect or ability. For example, two particular cards will give your character a Flaming Whip that increases your attack power. Some of the cards also allow you to summon mythological monsters, which in turn grant character buffs or deal damage to enemies. Many of the more powerful cards are difficult to find, but they make the game much easier, so they are worth the effort to uncover.
The storyline for the game takes place in 1830 where master vampire hunter Morris Baldwin has arrived on the scene of Castlevania with his son Hugh and his apprentice Nathan Graves.
They discover that Dracula’s minions have successfully resurrected the count outside of his one hundred-year cycle. But before the heroes can lift a finger to slay the weakened Dracula, the count springs a trap and a Nathan and Hugh fall tumbling down into the caves beneath the castle.
Being the apprentice hunter Nathan declares his desire to ascend to the top of the castle to both rescue Morris and defeat Dracula. Hugh slaps him down and tells him to stay out of the way. He intends to find his father alone, rudely declining any offer of help. As a result, Nathan is left alone with only the Hunter Whip to defend him.
From here, the game plays out like another “castleroid”. You play Nathan as he navigates the various areas in and around Castlevania. Throughout the game there are few chance encounters with Hugh, who seems to be blinded by his lust for power and revenge. Ultimately, Nathan and Hugh do battle. Upon his defeat, Hugh snaps back to his right mind. In truth. it seems he was under some dark spell of Dracula’s. Now thinking clearly, he offers his assistance to Nathan and they rush off to throne room.
Together, the two find Morris held prisoner. Nathan bests Dracula in combat and the vampire flees the scene. Hugh escorts his father out of the throne room while Nathan pursues Dracula for the final showdown.
Dracula’s second form is that of a menacing demon. Upon defeat, the heroes emerge and watch the fall of Castlevania from the peak of a nearby mountain. Hugh apologizes for his pride and greed, and reaffirms his commitment to train harder in case fate should ever call upon him…
All in all, Circle of the Moon is a pretty typical Castlevania game. There’s not much originality in the storyline. And one is left wondering just who the hell these characters are! What has happened to the Belmont family? How did Morris and Hugh come into possession of the enchanted whip? Fans would not receive an answer to these questions for many years…
1897: Dracula the novel
Difficulty: Hard – While similar is design to SotN, this title is a bit more difficult. It’s still not a frustrating as some of the earlier titles in the series, but it’s no pushover. Things get much easier if you take them time to explore and find some of the items and cards that are a bit more difficult to obtain.
Story: The story between this new band of hunters is interesting, but doesn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the saga. For a long time this led to confusion among many fans. This was eventually explained in a later game however.
Originality: While borrowing many elements from SotN, the devs did take steps to make this game unique.The DSS system is a nice touch. But overall, I don’t think really took off with many fans.
Soundtrack: The sound track here is well done. The music is appropriate for the game, but not very memorable in my opinion.
Fun: The game itself was a lot of fun for me. The atmosphere is perfect, very creepy stuff at the beginning of the title really sets the mood. I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Graphics: Very similar in design to SotN, but not quite as crisp. The backgrounds as pretty impressive, but some of the character models could be better.
Playcontrol: No real problems here. If playing, I do recommend playing on either a Game Boy Advance SP or one of the 2nd gen DS system. The frequent use of the shoulder buttons cramped my hand back in the day when playing on the original GBA. But on the whole, I have no complaint. The controls function as I would expect and are very precise.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is a great title and a must-have for any CV fan with a Game Boy.
Currently Available: WiiU Virtual Console (originally GBA)
Other Reviews In This Series: