Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Itís not easy being Dracula. You canít go on vacations in the Caribbean, let alone any place that has an abundant amount of sun. You canít appreciate the beauty of a sunrise, or enjoy the balmy fall weather. You have to sleep in a box all day, and channel surf through nothing but early-morning infomercials on TV all night. None of the really good stores are open 24 hours, so youíve got to send one of your undead minions to do your shopping. Dental hygiene is horrific. The constant thirst for human blood gets old pretty fast; blood doesnít even have caffeine in it. But worst of all, you have to deal with the countless vampire hunters that will inevitably show up at your doorstep, armed to the teeth with pointy weapons and garlic cloves, ready and willing to kill you for the sake of mankind. Indeed, being the Lord of Darkness bites.
Try telling all of this to Soma Cruz. This futuristic pretty boy discovered that he had the soul of Dracula imbedded within him. In an epic adventure that spanned across a massive castle, Soma defeated evil, stole the souls of his foes, and saved his charming girlfriend from utter doom. Though nearly succumbing to his inherent evil powers, the hero resisted and regained his humanity, releasing all of the souls he acquired and living happily ever afterÖor so he thought. A year after his reawakening, Soma is visited by a mysterious woman named Celia who seems determined to kill both him and his girlfriend. This lady represents a new cult whose goal is to resurrect the Lord of Darkness, casting deadly shadow of evil against humanity. Not one to sit back and relax, Soma embarks on a new quest to annihilate this evil cult and bring some semblance of peace back to his life.
Our heroís latest adventure will take him deep into the heart of yet another dark and gloomy castle, where dangerous foes and powerful allies are waiting for him. While Soma looks more like a member of a boy band than the savior of mankind, he is more than capable enough to take down anything that gets in his way. Heíll begin the journey with nothing more than a knife and some attitude, but heíll be able to find tons of weapons that are just begging to be played with. Youíll gain access to swords, spears, maces, and plenty of other nasty little toys. You also be able to purchase weapons, armor, and other items with the money youíll find scattered throughout the castle. When Soma defeats an enemy, heíll occasionally acquire its soul, each one with its own unique power that can help him in the fight against evil. Youíll be able to throw bombs, summon creatures, increase your stats, and other nifty tricks. You can mix and match souls, creating a combination perfect for unleashing some mayhem. And with countless enemies waiting around every turn, youíll have many an opportunity to use them.
Such aspects were the basis of the Somaís last adventure, Aria of Sorrow. However, this latest quest on the DS offers a few new features to grab your attention. While the majority of the game relies on the standard button controls, the Touch Screen proves essential to your success in to game. The stylus can be used to wipe out onscreen barriers, as well as deter some minor foes. Also, when you try to kill a boss, a screen will pop up, indicating that you should take out your stylus and draw a Magic Seal onscreen. Youíll have to draw simple patterns, like a V-shaped line or a pentagram. If youíre quick, the mighty boss will crumble away. If not, the foe will be revived, forcing you to continue with the battle until youíve learned how to draw properly. Also, the Soul System has gained a whole new importance in this installment of Somaís quest. The souls you acquire can be fused with your arsenal, creating brand-new upgraded weapons of minor destruction. Needless to say, Somaís quest isnít quite so average anymore.
However, the new features of Castlevania DS arenít the only thing worth looking into. Simply put, this game is beautiful. Iím normally not one to salivate over graphics, but the transition from the GBA series to the DS is so remarkable that itís impossible to ignore. Somaís design has been revamped somewhat, with his signature white jacket flapping in the breeze as he runs around. His new adventure casts a whole new spin on gothic style, with amazingly detailed levels and foes. Youíll start off in a gloomy little town, with the snow and fog creating a downright creepy atmosphere. But the biggest improvement lies with the enemies. All of your foes are adorned with incredible detail and animation, making the fights seem so much smoother and more vibrant than what the GBA series could hope to achieve. You can see bright auras surrounding some of the bosses, or the way the electricity flashes across the screen when a Frankenstein clone is reawakened. The attack animations are executed with lively style, keeping you on your toes throughout the adventure. All of this is complemented with a fast-paced soundtrack and a myriad of sound effects. Indeed, Castlevania has never looked better.
Itís about time. Iíve been waiting for this game with hungry eyes, eagerly watching for it to be released. I was wondering how the transition from the GBA series would affect it. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Castlevania DS is yet another outstanding handheld game, living up to the standards that its predecessors left for it. It reintroduces us to an antihero on a quest for personal salvation, a cast of memorable characters, massive levels, remarkable gameplay, and one of the best presentations that the DS has to offer. Itís that kind of combination that makes for a truly excellent experience. Thus the Castlevania series continues, with yet another awesome title to add to its legacy. Being Dracula isnít easy, but it can be fun.
Nine out of ten