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by Konami

screen1-01.jpg (5741 bytes)Whips, axes, and crosses OH MY! Castlevania is here again. The Castlevania series has been around for over fifteen years and has been played on nearly every major system available. Recently there has been a curse on the series since polygons have been popular. Then came the new Game Boy Advance and Konami felt that now was the time to rid its most popular franchise of the curse. And rid they did! If there is one game that makes you fork over the cash for a GBA it should be Castlevania. Staying true to its old school glory and adding some new features, it's everything that should be in a Castlevania game. Now maybe we can start to forget those horrible 3D versions.

screen6-01.jpg (7509 bytes)There are no Belmonts to be Dracula's antagonist in this version. The role of hero is left up to Nathan Graves. In the game’s opening, Dracula tosses Nathan aside into a pit, thinking that he is no threat. Its up to you to show him the mistake he made. Nathan does sport the whip, as it has become a staple of the series being in all but one version. Not only does Nathan need to defeat Dracula, he also has to protect his trainer Morris Baldwin who has been taken by Dracula in order to complete his resurrection. There is also a strong supporting character headlined by Camilla who is the demonic damsel hell bent on completing the resurrection of Dracula. Another character is Hugh Baldwin, the son of Morris Baldwin who just happens to be jealous that his own father chose Nathan over himself as successor. It almost sounds like an episode of the soap opera Dark Shadows.

screen4-01.jpg (7954 bytes)Adding a little RPG twist taken from Symphony; Nathan will level up, but only the damage he inflicts will raise that way. In order to raise the health levels and the amount of magic that is stored, Nathan is able to find items along the way that boost his defense and empower him with magically enhanced statistics. A new feature that has been added to Circle of the Moon is the DSS features. DSS stands for Dual Start-up System, which sounds lame, but enhances the gameplay. Throughout the castle you will stumble across two types of cards, attribute cards and action cards. When one of each card is combined you are granted powers that will drain your magic. One example is the ability to make Nathan's whip enchanted with fire.

screen2-01.jpg (8119 bytes)For the past few years, polygons have been the way of the future. Many classic games of yesteryear have been recreated with mixed results. Mario has taken the upgrade well, however the Castlevania series has yet to do the same. It has been so bad that the Dreamcast version was scrapped early in the development process. A few years ago Konami released one of the greatest games for the PlayStation, and it just happened to be a 2D sprite game titled Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Konami, realizing the success, did the smart thing by keeping this as a 2D side-scroller. Ever since the first screen shots were shown, people moaned about how dark the screen was. Well it needs to be; Castlevania is all about mood and the darker visuals add the gloominess needed. It just wouldn’t be the same if they used bright pastel colors. Spells are vibrant when cast. This becomes evident with the first boss that you meet. This were-beast has an energy beam that is intense as it scrolls across the screen. Items are also very bright, which makes them easier to see. The only thing that is really dark is the background, but it is a castle. The characters have crisp edges with a little pixilation. Many characters still have the same design that they had years ago. All together you get old school madness!

screen5-01.jpg (8706 bytes)Keeping with the trip down memory lane, Konami has brought back the wonderful music of previous installments. I have always enjoyed the classic music score. The music has a wide range. At times it has a fast beat to match the pace of the game. Other times it can be haunting. Most importantly the music does what it is supposed to and fills the background. It also makes me remember why I dislike the speaker for the GBA. In order to get the best experience with the sound it is recommended to use headphones. If headphones are used you can actually appreciate the stereo sound. Glass breaking and the whip lashing out are two of the most common sounds, and they come across clear with little to no distortion. When you hold down the attack button the whip begins a whirlwind motion and the sound keeps the pace.

screen9-01.jpg (9085 bytes)Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has everything you liked from the series. They have taken the best of each and added it all into this tiny cartridge. With the classic story, haunting music, and gothic visuals, this game should not be missed. There have not been many action/adventure games out for this new system yet. So if you are looking for a little bloodletting, pick up this game and pray that you make it out alive. You will never be the same again.

Jake Carder   (07/06/2001)

Snapshot

Ups: Great story; cool ambiance; nice graphics; good sound; excellent gameplay.

Downs: Graphics might be a bit dark in places.

Platform:
Game Boy Advance

 


1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine