Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/04/05 | Genre: Action/RPG
It is no secret that I am a very big fan of the 2D Castlevania titles since Symphony of the Night. To this day, I still consider SOTN to be the greatest 2D game ever made. In fact, I consider it a crime against the gaming gods if you have not played it. Available at under twenty bucks as a PSone classic title, it is one game you should take the time to play through. After the great Symphony of the Night, Konami made several other great Game Boy Advance titles. These were much more exciting and enjoyable than any of the 3D versions and helped solidify the GBA as having some of the best games on any console ever made. Now that Konami has moved the series to the Nintendo DS, does the streak of enjoyable and fun 2D titles continue? In a word, yes.
Dawn of Sorrow continues the story of Soma Cruz who escaped his fate at becoming the next Dracula in the GBA title Aria of Sorrow. Like in the prior game, our hero can mimic his enemies by collecting their souls. By equipping skills, Soma Cruz can then use these newly acquired skills against the very ones he stole them from. Like most encounters in this title, the frustrating part is collecting souls, retrieving dropped equipment, and obtaining money from candles is all completely random. This means that you could have to battle against a particular enemy for a long time before they will give up their soul ability. On the other hand, you may get lucky and retrieve it sooner rather than later. To avoid replaying the randomness, be sure you save often.
As Dawn of Sorrow opens, players briefly control Soma Cruz at his home town. This brief battle leads you to the base of a cult that want to destroy you so they can inherit your powers as the dark lord. This base is no standard building... In fact, it is a complete copy of Dracula's castle--complete with monsters. I just wonder how the cult members get through each room with enemies all over?
The addition of two screens makes the gameplay much more enjoyable. Players use the select button to switch between the status screen and the map on the top--while they control all the action on the bottom. During certain gameplay moments, players will be asked to draw a symbol on the screen to unlock doors or defeat bosses. This can be a bit of a pain since it is not very easy to hold the stylus while playing. So just have your stylus ready for use at any moment during a boss battle. There are also other moments where the touch screen is used during gameplay. Moments like breaking ice. A stylus can be used during these times but I prefer just to use my thumb. It may be less precise but at least I don't have to awkwardly hold the controls and stylus in one hand.
True to Castlevania form, the castle is big and full of many challenges. Along the way you will have to gain new abilities, level up, gather better equipment, and prepare yourself to face off against some very tough bosses. As I mentioned above, just be sure to save often--especially before going through a locked door.
Visually, Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow has taken a considerable leap forward from the GBA titles and now appears to be on par with Symphony of the Night. The 2D backgrounds are incredibly detailed--with even more attention given to the main characters and enemies. Everything moves fluidly on the Nintendo DS and I never noticed any slowdown whatsoever. The soundtrack and sound effects are also very good--true to the Castlevania legacy.
Everything in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is good and this title is definitely the best handheld Action/Adventure title I have played in a long time on any console--not just a handheld. Despite my love for the PSP, Dawn of Sorrow blows away any title available for the platform. That said, my biggest complaint is that there just isn't enough new stuff added to the equation. Sure--having two screens is an incredible benefit. I just wish there were a few more elements added to the gamplay. Perhaps a sequel could resolve that? (Are you listening Konami??? Give us more!!!)
Despite that minor flaw, this is as close to perfection as you could possibly ask for. We give Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow our highest recommendation. This title combined with all the other great DS games make the Nintendo DS a required purchase. Now hurry up and pick up a DS (If needed) and a copy of Dawn of Sorrow before I poke you to death with my stylus!