Portable Review

Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow


Dawn of Sorrow is better than Symphony of the Night. Now that I’ve blasphemed everyone’s favorite Castlevania, I can tell you exactly what makes this game so good.

From the very opening, you’ll notice that the dev team focused a lot on updating the game’s look for its Dual Screen debut. Before you start a new game, the intro breaks into an anime cut-scene depicting the story that is about to unfold. The backgrounds in it have a few low-res backgrounds and you can’t help but think that they could have done them better. Regardless, I’d still love to see more during the course of the game.

As you’ve probably read elsewhere, the team decided to do away with the way the dialog is presented to the player. In DoS, all character dialogs are presented with large character profiles and dialog boxes. What most other reviews fail to mention is how poorly they try to explain why Soma lost his powers in the last game. Basically, it opens up with Soma and Mina discussing how Soma hasn’t been able to summon monsters or their abilities since he left Castlevania. Along comes some random lady who summons three creatures. First, she sends a skeleton followed by an armor knight and a golem. Of course, you automatically gain and equip these souls after destroying them. The lady tells you that she’s going to kill your face and disappears. Wonderful! I’m all caught up. Can we play Castlevania now?

Other than a few spelling errors, the story unfolds much better once that awful opening is concluded. Fortunately for us, Castlevania isn’t so much renowned for its story as it is for its gameplay and this tiny cartridge exudes great gameplay.

Those who have played Aria of Sorrow will immediately feel at home with this title. One of the first differences you’ll notice is that there are two attack buttons. The A button now executes a special attack that uses magic energy, often dealing more damage. Another thing you’ll come familiar with is that you can always view the map on the top screen. This seems like such a minor thing, but after having it around, I can’t imagine navigating the world without it. One of the coolest new features in DoS comes in the form of an ability soul that you’ll receive very early in the game. It’s called the doppelganger soul and allows you to equip two different “profiles”. Each one can have a different weapon, armor, and item along with three different souls. At first, I thought this was just a minor thing, but after using both my handgun and my axe for different things, I equipped the flying armor soul (Allows you to fall slower to access certain places easier) to the handgun profile and a more offensive soul to my axe profile. You’ll soon understand how much this simple addition enhances the gameplay.

One of the things that I felt would bring the game’s score down is the use of the touch screen. The magic seals are a decent idea, but ultimately becomes aggravating having to hold the stylus while assaulting the bosses in the traditional twitch gaming style that we’ve all come to expect. If you draw a seal incorrectly, the boss gains about ¼ of their life back. The second touch screen use is the brick breaking. This is just stupid. It doesn’t belong in this type of game. About the only touch screen aspect implemented seamlessly is the signing of your name when you create a new game. Instead of typing your name, you draw whatever you want and hit ok. In the end, the touch screen features really seem like they were forced on by Nintendo.

What I really noticed the most was the enhanced graphics this game sports. While each sprite may not have as much detail as those in Symphony of the Night, they are animated so much more fluidly. Had the sprites sported as much detail as those in SotN, they would appear cluttered on the small screen of the DS. I was really wowed at how well the DS handles all the stuff the GBA had a hard time with. Creatures like the golems and axe armors that are made of multiple animated pieces rarely look like they aren’t connected or like they’re about to fall to pieces. Special effects are very abundant throughout the game. Every sword strike or gun shot is animated so exceptionally. The handguns even resemble what kind of gun they are. Everything is animated so perfectly, all the way down to shells exiting the chamber of your 9mm or the way Soma reacts to an axe’s weight. The game is truly a sight to behold.

Here we are in the 5th game since CD quality music has graced the series. While it’s not on a CD format, you’d be hard pressed to find better musical scores on another portable system. I prefer many of the tracks in DoS to those of SotN. I really enjoy the music pumping out of my speakers when I play this game. The music has a tendency to amplify the mood of a boss fight as it should. It even intensifies some fights, raising the tempo as the battle gets more hectic. It’s a very beautiful thing indeed.

As all fans of the series have come to expect, DoS has more than one ending. In fact, once you beat the game, you can go through it with Julius Belmont, Yoko Belnades, and Alucard. This new mode, aptly named Julius Mode, has a very nostalgic feel for any who played through Castlevania 3. The only cast member missing is a descendant of Grant de Naste. Adding more to the replay is the ever-so-popular Boss Rush Mode and the traditional hard mode. There are also secret boss fights hidden within the “castle”. All in all, fans of the series will be pleasantly rewarded with some of the most fulfilling gameplay Castlevania has ever offered. DS owners looking for a something different will undoubtedly find this enjoyable and engaging.

-Originally Posted by Bloodspoor


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