Finally, we have the first Castlevania title for the Nintendo DS: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. This game is a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow for the GBA. This game takes place one year after the events of Aria. The rundown is a bit like this; Soma has lost the majority of his powers with the passing of time. He is also now the target of a cult that is hellbent on destroying him so that they can bring about the resurrection of the dark spirit that he keeps trapped in his body. In order to bait him, Soma’s girlfriend Mina is abducted and used to lure him to the cultist’s hideout. Soma must journey into their lair (which is a replica of Castlevania), all the while re-awakening his slumbering powers. During his quest he encounters potential candidates whom hope to receive his power upon his defeat. One-by-one Soma must overcome them, ultimately facing-off against the final and most cunning candidate.
During his journey, Soma realizes that in order to finally put this evil power to rest he will have to journey into the Abyss itself. It is there he defeats the demonlord known as Menace. This victory finally brings about the end of Dracula’s curse once and for all.
In many ways, this game is very similar to it’s predecessor. The graphics are familiar and the game has the same overall feel. The dual-screen configuration of the Nintendo DS allows for one screen to be a dedicated map and equipment area, while the game action takes place on a separate screen. The most innovative and also the most annoying aspect of this game is the “Magic Seal system”. At the end of every boss fight, Soma must seal away the evil spirit by tracing a magical glyph into the air. This is done using the touch screen of the DS. The glyph is a predetermined symbol inside of a pentagram. This sounds quite clever on the surface, but the problem is, it is VERY touchy and sensitive. Many boss fights were failed simply because I had to keep re-doing the seal at the end of the battle.
All in all, I found this to be a good title. The puzzles are interesting,and the graphics are a step up from the previous handheld Castlevania games. The playcontrol is actually a bit improved over the previous entry. But my main complaint remains that stupid magic seal/touch screen function. Silly.
1094: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – Leon Belmont vs Walter & Death
1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania, Chronicles – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1748: Castlevania – Harmony of Dissonance – Juste Belmont vs Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1830: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon – Nathan Graves vs Dracula
1844/1852: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – Cornell, Henry, Reinhardt, & Carrie vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
2035: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow – Soma Cruz vs. Castlevania
2036: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow – Soma Cruz vs. Dark Lord Candidates & Menace
Difficulty: Hard – I found this title to be a little tougher that the last few “castleroids”. As noted above, the magic seal system is tricky and this led to a lot of initial frustration. Overall, the bad guys just seem to a bit more bite to them than they did in Aria.
Story: More good stuff here. We finally get to see the epic conclusion to the Dracula saga. I was very pleased with the amount of thought put into the backstory here.
Originality: The dual-screen design is about what you would expect. Again, the magic seal system is a bold and innovative move. I’m not too sure how well it actually worked, but they get big points for trying.
Soundtrack: Excellent! The sound system of the DS is a big improvement over the GBA and it really shows. This title feature some new original music, all of which I enjoyed.
Fun: Overall, this is a pretty fun title. There are some really tough boss fights and that darned seal system frustrated me a bit. All that aside, this is a very enjoyable title.
Graphics: The best handheld Castlevania so far (except for maybe the Rondo remake). Keeping with the anime art-direction, everything is crystal clear and well colored. I was impressed.
Playcontrol: The overall play control is pretty spot on. However, the touchscreen sensitivity was bit extreme. To trace those magic seals just right, you need to have a very steady hand. There’s not much room for error. I’m not sure if this is by design or if it’s just due to over-sensitivity from the touch screen.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is a definite must-play for a number of reasons. The end of the storyline, first game on a new system, and the return of some beloved characters. What more could you ask for?
Available now on: Nintendo DS
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