Video Game Review: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo 3DS 2005)

 

Read Jake Wiseau’s review of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on the Nintendo 3DS!

 

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One thing can be said about Nintendo and their handheld systems.  They are and have always been the pinnacle of handheld gaming.  Dating back to 1989 when Nintendo released the original gameboy, this company has always delivered with a convenient easy to use product.  Generally when it first came out, the gameboy provided remakes to games found on the NES, or direct ports of the actual games ( Mega man 1-6 ).  The evolution of what the Gameboy has become today is nothing short of spectacular.  As a matter of fact.. some games I have played such as this one could very easily stand on their own on the newest gaming systems.  As a castlevania fan, the 3DS is a must have.  There are three recent titles that can only be found on the 3DS, and these games stand every bit as tall as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the PS1 that inspired these games.  The concept, gameplay,and overall quality of this game is something to behold.  I can remember getting my 3DS for Christmas a few years back and still hold on to the fact its one of the best gifts I have ever gotten because of all the use I get out of it.  With that being said..here is my review for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow.

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Summary: This game is the sequel to the nearly equal Castlevania:Aria of Sorrow for the Gameboy Advance system ( 2003.) This game is set in the year 2036, automatically making it different than any  other series or predecessors before it.  You control Soma Cruz, who seems to be an unlikely hero because he does not know or realize the full extent of his powers, unlike the belmonts.  With Dracula defeated a woman by the name of Celia introduces herself early in the game with two candidates to become the next ” Dark Lord ” Dmitrii and Dario.  The reasoning for the choice of these two individuals is the fact that they were both born on the day Dracula was slain.  Coming off the end of the first installment ( Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow ) it was learned that Soma was actually the one man born to become the next dark lord as he was the reincarnation of Dracuala himself.  With the aid of his allies ( Julius, Genya Arikado a.k.a. Alucard and Yoko Belinades ) Soma was able to suppress the dark power that nearly consumed him. Believing his powers to be lost, Soma has lived peacefully for a year, until the emergence of the two individuals who will stop at nothing to try to become the next dark lord.  The game opens and you are surrounded by enemies.   Upon defeating you gain their soul ( which is what makes Soma so unique to the Castlevania franchise. ) Soma has the ability to gain the souls off of enemies defeated, gaining their physical or magical ability.  There are three different types of souls to be found: Bullet, Guardian, and Enchant type souls.  Red souls are bullet types, blue are guardian types, and yellow are enchant types.  So there are literally hundreds of different moves and combinations you can use throughout the game.  You can equip one of each at any given time and every enemy has a soul and new power to gain.  To use bullet type souls press up and attack, enchant using R, and Guardian souls are souls that increase your stats, so take effect without having to ” use ” them, but rather by just equipping the one you want.  For example you can have a red axe armor soul equipped to throw axes, a blue armor knight  soul equipped to use a spinning spear with R, and have a yellow Golem soul equipped to automatically boost your attack stat.  You then embark on a quest through the castle to try to stop Celia’s plans in spite of the fact your friends tell you not to get involved..( Julius Belmont, Alucard. )  What they don’t know is ultimately Soma is the only one capable of stopping this new breed of enemies.  Traveling through the castle you soon realize that you have absorbed a dark soul that is what almost caused soma to become the next Dracula in the first place.  Knowing you must find a way to suppress the urge to become all powerful and evil, you venture to look for answers for the dilemma you find yourself in.
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Pros:  This Castlevania installment delivers to fans of the series on nearly every level.  I do the best I can not to be biased because of the fact I have always loved these games and have most definitely spent the majority of my time playing the castlevania games that came out for the 3DS  the most.  One thing that stands out to me, is the fact that you have to do more than just merely defeat a boss.  You find magic seals that you must use on them them to banish the enemy.  Another plus is that this is different than any other castlevania game I have ever played, and normally I don’t like change..however in this case it definitely worked out for the best.  Every enemy has a soul or a power to be gained, so as I previously stated, the possibilities of how you want to play, or to ways to play to your strength is nearly limitless.  Anything from throwing skeleton bones..to transforming into a valkyrie ( as shown above ) is at your disposal as long as you have the patience to take the time to get all the souls in the game.  If that wasn’t enough..you can use some of the souls you gain to create new weapons.  For instance a base weapon such as a regualar axe can be upgraded to a battle axe with an axe armor soul, but once you use that soul for a weapon, its gone, and you will have to go get it again.  That’s not something I necessarily have a problem with because if that wasn’t the case you would be pretty much unstoppable…( and what game is fun without challenges? )  I love the map and level design in this game and how the developers incorporated the fact you really have to use your head on some of the puzzles involved and must have certain items or certain souls.  Once you beat the game there are other modes you can play in case you hadnt gotten enough of this game yet.  In Julius Mode..you start with Julius Belmont, find and add Yoko Belinades to your team, and later find Alucard and can alternate between the three, which I thought was such an awesome idea.  This game offers a lot potential for addiction and the replay value is extremely high.

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Cons:

There are far more good things about this game than there are bad for sure, but there are a few I need to address in fairness even though I’m such a fan of this series.  Many of the Castlevania games prior to this one contain some the best music I have ever heard in a video game, and even then..all of the stage music may not be amazing, but there is almost always at least one that is just perfect.  The soundtrack in this game isnt nearly as good some one of the ones I have heard before it.  Not to say its horrible, its just not nearly as good.  Game music is a huge deal to me.  It sets the tone, the pace, and the speed of how I play and how much I like the game overall.  A lot of the music, is slow, and not very upbeat..which I dont understand.  That kind of makes it feel like it can be a drudge going back to some levels to get souls or for map coverage…this is my biggest problem with this game that nearly has no other flaws in my opinion.  Also, gaining some of the souls is EXTREMELY difficult..and I understand that ( and like it in a way ) but if I have to spend 30 minutes trying to gain one soul when my luck is at like 75 out of 100..I start to question the validity of the luck stat, and the soul eater ring I bought for 300,000 gold.  I’m all about a challenge but I can’t lie..trying to get souls out of some of the enemies is near impossible ( however I have them all. )  Also I wish I could release souls that I don’t to use to shorten the list when I go to equip one and still have credit for having had that soul at one time.  If you release it because you don’t want/need it…your gained soul percentage goes down.

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Conclusion:  I was so impressed by the new story and direction of this game.  It gives the series new life and the addition of more awesome characters to use and learn about.  The controls and general direction the game takes you from the start are near perfect.  If you want a new take on a battle tested and successful franchise, please take the time to play this game.  There are a few negatives to be had but not nearly enough for it impact my score of this game in a negative manner.  This is one of those games where you definitely get your money’s worth time and time again.  It also shows hope to keep this type of 2D side scrolling castlevania game going which has made the series stronger than it has ever been.  I highly recommend this game to new and old fans of the series alike.

8.75 times Soma failed to suppress Dark Powers out of 10

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