Review: Final Fantasy XII – Revenant Wings

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Bouncing right back from my playthrough of Final Fantasy XII, I dove right into the sequel: Final Fantasy XII – Revenant Wings. This is a very unique title in the Final Fantasy series for a number of reasons. First,at the time of release, this game was only the second title in the series to be a sequel to a previous Final Fantasy game. Second, when compared to its predecessor it’s a radically different game. This title was released on the Nintendo DS system only. As a result, it plays very differently than standard games. The game takes full advantage of the two screen experience and while some DS games do not really require playing with a stylus, this game does seem to function much better with one.

Revenant Wings takes place where FFXII left off. Vaan has acquired his own ship and has become somewhat of a sky pirate. The game begins as Vaan finds his airship has been reclaimed by its previous owner, Balthier. Following instructions left for him, Vaan and Penelo meet up with Bathier to hunt for a bit of a treasure. This is followed by a series of events that ultimately lead Vaan and several of his friends, both of old and new, into another epic adventure.

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This game is a very strange mix of RTS elements and overhead dungeon crawling. The game itself is divided into chapters, each containing a number of missions. These are very short and the game can be saved after each mission. Typically, each mission will have a particular goal. Once this is accomplished the mission ends. Gameplay consists of mainly walking and combat. Characters you control tend to specialize in certain forms of combat. Be it melee, magic, or ranged attacks. The key is knowing which character to use against certain types of enemies. That being said, you characters do not have to fight alone. This game focuses very heavily on the ability to summon monsters which in turn, fight side by side with your characters.

The key to the whole game really is knowing which monsters to summon based on the enemy you are encountering. Sometimes other minor strategies come into play as well. For example, its often wise not to venture too far from a summoning portal so in the event that your characters get pinned down, they don’t end up being unable to call for reinforcements.

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As new summons are unlocked, players have the ability to choose which summons will be available in advance of the next mission. So there is a bit of planning involved as well. This can often make the difference between success and failure.  All in all, this makes for a pretty interesting experience. For me, however, it doesn’t really do much. I’m not a fan of RTS games, and while I wouldn’t call this title a pure RTS, there’s enough of the element present to turn me off. But, that’s just me and my preference.

Despite not really being my cup of tea, it was nice to see Vaan and the other characters from XII make one more appearance.

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Difficulty: Medium –  Interestingly enough, the US version of this game is actually more difficult than the original Japanese release. If you take your time and really pay attention to the tutorials that pop up at the beginning of the game, you’ll have a much easier time than someone who speeds through all the text. But, overall, I’d say the same tends to be middle of the road in terms of difficulty.

Story: The story in Revenant Wings is pretty good, but is very self contained. There’s bits of lore presented that serve to enrich the overall world of Ivalice, but the game itself does little to expand on the story presented in the original Final Fantasy XII.

Originality: Despite being a sequel, Revenant Wings is a beast all its own. The unique playcontrol brought by the DS as well and the overall difference in gameplay really make this title an experience all its own. High praise to SE for this.

Soundtrack: The music is in this title is mostly a rehash of tunes found in FFXII. What’s amazing is just how good and true to the original they sound considering the vastly different hardware. The music in Final Fantasy XII was CD quality audio, while the majority of music in this game is digitally created. Also, most of the music here is dynamic. It comes and goes depending on the events that are taking place in a game. Pretty neat stuff.

Fun: I’m somewhat infamous in my dislike of RTS games so it would be easy to let that influence by review. But casting that aside, this game still managed to be quite enjoyable for me. For someone that really enjoys that style of game, Revenant Wings offers a lot of enjoyment.

Graphics: Being a DS title, the in-game graphics are about what you’d expect. The overhead view has a sort of 16bit pixel feel to it, but its fitting and well done. The character art has a more anime-style feel to it. Surprisingly, the game also contains some pretty amazing cutscenes that are on par with what you’d expect from a Final Fantasy console game.

Playcontrol: Being a DS title, the playcontrol here is interesting, but not as bad as many games on that platform. For most of the game, the top screen serves as a map. The bottom/touch screen is where the action takes place. Characters are selected by tapping on them, or from a tab at the top of the screen. Actions are menu driven, so a stylus is highly recommended. Overall, it takes a bit of getting used to but once you have the hang of it, it’s a piece of cake.

Mature Content: No Concerns

Value:  This game is out of print and often sells for over $50 on Amazon in new condition. At that price, I find it hard to recommend considering the amount of content in the game. But if you came manage to find this for under $30 or less, you will certainly get your money’s worth.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Even though I’m not  fan of these types of games, its not hard to see that this is a very well put together title. Fans of Ivalice and FFXII should certainly give this game a look. Players who strictly enjoy RPGs may have a harder time with this title. But that being said, the quality of the game is undeniable.

Currently not available.

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Final Fantasy III

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Having completed Final Fantasy II, it is time to move on the next chapter, Final Fantasy III. This is another Final  Fantasy game that was originally released in Japan only. For years it seemed like North American players would never see a localized version of this title. However, after years of fan petitions, Final Fantasy III was finally made available to western audiences.

Until the US release, only unofficial hacked/translated ROMS of the 8-bit game were available. Having played the game in its bootleg form years ago, I was delighted to finally get my hands on a legitimate copy. It’s important to note, the US version of the game is very much a remake. The North American version features upgraded 3D graphics. It also takes some liberties when it comes to the main characters in the game as well. Originally, FFIII featured four generic, nameless characters. The re-release gives them all proper names and personalities. These characters all have backgrounds that are interwoven into the main storyline itself. This might seem like blasphemy to a purist like me, but actually it is so well done, that I feel it is truly superior to the original release. Nothing is lost in the update, but so much more is gained. The only oddity I found is the small change made to the job system by including Freelancer and hiding away the Onion Knight job (more on this later).

FF33-5B1-5D    Original Famicom Version

Initially, the North American version of Final Fantasy III was released on the Nintendo DS.  However, an updated version has since been made available for iOS devices, and there’s also a downloadable version for PSP and Vita users. Since I played DS version a few years ago, I decided to give the PSP version a go this time around.

The modern version of Final Fantasy III is an amazing game, regardless of what system you play it on. From the introductory movie, to the various optional content – I was hooked. It is after all the game that introduced Moogles to the series!

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The storyline begins pretty simply, an earthquake reveals a long forgotten cave on the outskirts of town. The game begins with our main hero Luneth falling into the cave. Inside, he discovers a magical crystal that speaks to him and tells him to gather his friends and return. From here, we are slowly introduced to the gameplay basics and to the other characters. After assembling the team and returning to the crystal, the game truly begins.

Unlike the previous games in the series, our characters are not really typecast into specific roles. Instead, they are able to switch between various jobs. Many of the classic Final Fantasy jobs (or classes) were established in this game. At first, your characters are jobless, or Freelancers. This changes once jobs bestowed to the characters by the crystal. At first, the jobs unlocked are pretty basic (the same found in the first Final Fantasy game). But as the game progresses, more advanced jobs become available.

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This is a good place to elaborate a bit on something I mentioned above. In the original release of the game, things started a bit different. Instead of beginning with just one character, all four youths were in the party from the very beginning. Instead of being assigned the “blank” class of Freelancer, they were known as Onion Knights. This original job is also available in the modern version of the game as an unlockable. The DS version, really makes you jump through hoops to unlock Onion Knight. It involves communicating with other players through the in-game mail system, which for a game that over five years old, can be quite a chore. Thankfully, the PSP version eliminates this nonsense and allows the job to be unlocked with a simple in-game quest.

The job system aside, the game is quite impressive. Having played both, I found the PSP version to be overall more agreeable than the DS version. The dual screen features of the DS did not bother me or detract from the gameplay in any way, but having now played the game on a single screen, I find them to be somewhat unnecessary.

All in all, this is one of my favorite games in the series. All of the classic Final Fantasy elements can be found here. It is a shame the west had to wait so long to enjoy this wonderful title.

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Difficulty: Medium – While still not overly difficult, this title can be quite challenging for those player unable to wrap their heads around the job system. Many obstacles in the game can be easily overcome but thoughtful use of the character jobs. You can switch on the fly for the most part, so don’t hesitate to try new things. Also, as usual in these remakes, the hardest content in the game tends to be the extra hidden bosses…

Story: The original version had quite a story, but this is only made better in the modern remake. Despite the political intrigue of Final Fantasy II, I have to say that the plot line of this game is much richer. Another excellent storyline from Square Enix.

Originality: Again, this game takes all of the great aspects of the previous games and builds on it. The job system is a completely original concept that really makes this game what it is. It was bold move at the time, but one that pays of big in terms of gameplay.

Soundtrack: Magical! The main theme is one of my favorite pieces of video game music. It is routinely played at the Final Fantasy concerts. Uematsu at his finest!

Fun: I absolutely love this game. The first time I played it, I had been put on bed rest due to back problems, and this game made the time fly by. It’s worth every penny.

Graphics: The original Famicom version was very similar to Final Fantasy 1 in many ways. That version still remains unreleased in the US. The modern version is a different story. Our Final Fantasy III is made of rich and colorful 3D graphics. Compared to most moderns games, things are little blocky, but this is a result of the port from the 3DS. Despite that, it’s not at all distracting and it is a vast improvement over the original.

Playcontrol : The 3DS version is a little wonky to control if you actually try to use the touchscreen. But most players stick with the standard controls. Going this route or if you’re playing on the PSP, there’s no issue with playcontrol at all.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – Another excellent title with a perfect rating. I’m trying not to be biased, I swear. If you’re at all fan of RPGS or Japanese games, there is no excuse. This is a must have.

Available today on: DS, PSN, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Castlevania – Order of Ecclesia

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Finally, we come to the last installment of the Nintendo DS saga. This game is famous for featuring the first female hero since the obscure Castlevania Legends. (A game removed from timeline by the series producer).

This title takes places somewhere after Symphony of the Night and before Circle of the Moon. It is another game which occurs during the absence of the Belmont family, and like CotM, it focuses around an organization of vampire hunters known as the Order of Ecclesia. The group’s leader, a man by the name of Barlowe, has mastered the art of forging magical gylphs that can be used to combat evil. He believes he has finally created a set of glyphs (he calls them “Dominus”) capable of defeating Dracula once and for all.

To wield the glyphs, Barlowe chooses one of the order’s finest students, a powerful young woman by the name of Shanoa. However, it what first appears to be a fit of jealousy, another student named Albus crashes the ritual and makes off with the glyphs. After the dust settles, Shanoa finds herself unable to recall her past and is advised by Barlowe that Albus used a powerful spell to steal her memories. She obeys Barlowe’s order to track down Albus and retake Dominus.

During her search, she comes across a number of captured people from a nearby village. As she helps them escape, their services become available to her whenever she comes back to the town to rest. Eventually, it comes to light that Albus is actually older brother to Shanoa. He reveals that when using the power of Dominus, the wielder sacrifices their own life in exchange for the weapon’s destructive properties. It was actually the power of Dominus that wiped her mind and he has stolen the glyphs only as a means to protect her.  This revelation comes a bit too late as Albus is near death. With his dying breath, he makes Shanoa promise not to use the powerful glyph.

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Angry that she was misled by Barlowe, Shanoa confronts him only to learn that Dominus is actually composed of the Dracula’s dark magic. By using it, she would have offered herself up as the sacrifice needed to resurrect Dracula. A fight breaks out between Shanoa and Barlowe, and although she defeats him, he in turn uses his own death as the sacrifice and Castlevania re-appears. Determined to put an end to Dracula’s plans, Shanoa storms the castle where the final battle takes place.

The “glyph system” is what really makes this game different from the rest of the series. As monsters are defeated, they will occasionally leave glyphs behind. Shanoa can absorb these glyphs and then use them in various combinations to create new and powerful weapons. This can lead to a lot of fun equipping the different items and seeing what you can create.

The gameworld is pretty straightforward at first. As you explore new areas, they become unlocked on the map and can be revisited later. As new glyphs are collected, and new abilities are unlocked, you will often find yourself going back to old area to explore parts of the stage that were previously inaccessible.

Like several of the previous titles, there are optional side quests that become available as you free villagers. These often lead to weapon upgrades or the ability to purchase new consumables. It pays off to take time to fully explore and free all of the villagers, as this can have an effect on the ending of the game.

 

1094: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – Leon Belmont vs Walter & Death
1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1479: Castlevania: Curse of Darkness – Hector 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
181X: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia – Shanoa vs Barlowe and 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
1944: Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin – Jonathan Morris vs Brauner & Dracula
2035: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow – Soma Cruz vs. Castlevania
2036: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow – Soma Cruz vs. Dark Lord Candidates & Menace

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Difficulty: Very Difficult – Konami seems to have cranked up the difficulty on this title a bit. It’s certainly the hardest of the castleroids since Circle of the Moon, and the hardest yet since the DS games started. The overall challenge of the game has been taken up a notch. Not to mention the boss fights. Several of the bosses required many attempts and the memorization of certain attack patterns for me to finish them off.

Story: Again, we have another story that kind of helps explain the absence of the Belmont clan. The idea of there being various Vampire Hunting factions helps explain the strange cast of CotM a bit better. The storyline here is very well done and probably one of the best in the series since SotN.

Originality: Konami seemed driven not to let the franchise get stale. They certainly changed things up a lot by having a female lead and completely revamping to concept battle. The glyph system allows for two separate attack buttons, and the number of glyph union combinations is pretty impressive. This is was certainly a surprise when I started playing.

Soundtrack: Qualitywise, very impressive. The use of the stereo speakers is well done. However, I was not overly impressed with the composition. It definitely has that Castlevania feel, in fact while playing, my wife overheard the music and said “That sounds like a Castlevania game”. (So Konami scores some points there.) But, in my opinion the soundtrack was just lacking something.

Fun: Frustration aside, I enjoyed this title quite a bit. The game is quite long, but it sneaks up on you. The storyline does a good job to keeping things moving and pushing you to see what’s around the next corner.

Graphics: Every time I think they can’t get better, I’m proven wrong. OoE has the best 2D Castlevania graphics I’ve seen yet. Personally, I’d have to rank them even higher than Symphony. I was very impressed.

Playcontrol: At first, I found that having two attack buttons to be a bit unusual. After a while I got used to it. But something just felt off with the button placement. Luckily, if you’re like me you can complete remap the controls. Other than this little hiccup, the response time was perfect. Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever used the touch screen – which is thought was a requirement on the DS. So that was a bit unusual.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – A great game, and definitely one worth experiencing if you want to see how things in the original series wrapped up. The graphics and storyline make this one well worth your time.

Currently available on: Nintendo DS

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin

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These games keep getting bigger and longer! But I’ve finally finished my playthrough of Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. Once again we’re back in 2D land. This installment returns to the familiar “castleroid” style of gameplay hailed by fans.

At this point in the life of the Castlevania series, the timeline had grown convoluted and confusing to many. Fans had questions about some of the heroes found in a few of the games, as many of them were not part of the Belmont family. (The only family that is supposed to have the power to destroy Dracula.) This game was made to help answer these questions. Portrait of Ruin is also, in many ways, a direct sequel to the obscure Castlevania: Bloodlines.

In this title, you control Jonathon Morris – son of John Morris (from Bloodlines). You also control Charlotte Aulin – gifted mage and lifelong friend of Jonathon. Jonathon possess the legendary Vampire Killer whip. Handed down to this family from the Belmonts, he finds that, unlike his late father, he is unable to wield its power effectively.

When Castlevania mysteriously appears, the two heroes arrive on the scene to investigate.

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They soon learn that the castle has been occupied by another vampire named Brauner. While he has no loyalty to Dracula, Brauner is hellbent on destroying all of humanity. Using his dark magic, Brauner has created a series of secret worlds hidden in oil paintings. Jonathan and Charlotte must explore these worlds to find a way to put a stop to Brauner’s plans.

During their journey they encounter the ghost of Eric LeCarde, friend of Jonathan’s father. They learn that Brauner has turned his daughter’s into vampires. Eric promises to teach Jonathon the secret of unlocking the full potential of the Vampire Killer in exchange for saving his daughters.

Eventually it is learned that the Belmont clan was stripped of their powers to fight Dracula until his final resurrection sometime in the future. In the meantime, any who wish to wield the whip must first earn its power by defeating the “Spirit of the Belmont”, locked away in the whip’s memory. The downside to this, anyone other than a Belmont who takes on the whip must use it sparingly or it will slowly drain them of their lifeforce. Such was the fate of John Morris.

After traversing thru a number of panted landscapes, the portrait hiding Brauner is accessible and the heroes confront him. Upon his defeat, the magic seal Brauner erected to ward off the power of Dracula is broken. Dracula is temporarily resurrected and our heroes do battle, once again sending Dracula’s spirit to the netherworld.

This game is similar in many ways to Dawn of Sorrow. However, gone are the annoying  hand-drawn seals. This time the touch screen is used to send commands to the secondary character. Aside from that, you can switch the lead character from Jonathan or Charlotte at will. While Jonathan excels at physical attacks, Charlotte is adept in magical arts. There are few puzzles in the game that require quickly switching from one character to the other.

I found the game to be a nice upgrade in many ways from the previous DS title. The graphics are improved and new dual-character system makes for a fun dynamic.

1094: Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – Leon Belmont vs Walter & Death
1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1479: Castlevania: Curse of Darkness – Hector 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
1944: Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin – Jonathan Morris vs Brauner & Dracula
2035: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow – Soma Cruz vs. Castlevania
2036: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow – Soma Cruz vs. Dark Lord Candidates & Menace
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Difficulty: Hard This title is about as difficult has Dawn of Sorrow. Some of the boss battles seem kind of cheap until you figure out the right combination of moves and weapons. The overall game maintains a bit of a challenge too.

Story: As I said earlier, this game attempts to explain a lot of gaps in the series. In fact, until this title was released, many of the earlier games had been retroactively removed from the timeline. Namely, titles such as Castlevania 64, and Circle of the Moon. The explanation of how various people can effectively control the whip helped to restore these titles back to their former glory. The overall story in the game is well done and the chemistry between the characters is quite enjoyable.

Originality: Just when I thought the 2D handheld style was getting old, Konami managed to pump a little “fresh” back into things. The portrait system helps keep the level design interesting. Also, new to this title is the addition of Online functionality. Through WiFi, you can purchase items for sale by other players. Thus allowing you to obtain things needed for quests that you may have missed or sold to the shop NPC by accident.

Soundtrack: Not the best, but not the worst either. This game has a pretty much middle of the road score. A few catchy tunes here and there, but overall nothing to write home about.

Fun: I found a lot of fun in this title. Playing casually, it took me about a month to complete. I spent maybe a few hours on it at first, but as I got farther into the game I did get a bit hooked and sped through the last half in just a few days.

Graphics: A bit better than DoS! The background scenes are especially well done. I was a bit impressed with over all look of the game. The anime art is clean and colorful, as is the overall level design.

Playcontrol: No complaints. Spot-on controls for a 2D game. However, I do feel it’s best played on an actual DS or DSi. I played half of this title on a first gen 3DS and found the device to be a bit too small for my big hands. I actually cramped up a few times, but this is no fault of the game itself.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Overall, there not anything to complain about. This is a solid title, and a long needed addition to the Castlevania mythos. This is another example of how the later generation 2D Castlevania titles really shined with each new release.

Currently available on: Nintendo DS

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

Review: Castlevania – Dawn of Sorrow

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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.

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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
trucos-castlevania-dawn-of-sorrow-5B1-5D
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
Other Reviews In This Series:
CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment