Hugh Likes Video Games: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Game Boy Advance, 2003
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Today we’re skipping ahead a few years to look at “Aria of Sorrow,” the last of the ‘Metrovania’-style Castlevania games for the Game Boy Advance.  This means that rather than consisting of numbered platforming stages that the player must complete in order, the game is instead one large 2-D map, with the player gaining access to new areas through the use of special abilities.  For example, once the player gets the ability jump in mid-air, they can reach higher platforms and thus reach corridors they couldn’t previously.  In the Castlevania series, this format started properly in Symphony of the Night for the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstaion.
Aria of Sorrow breaks with tradition in that rather than being set in the middle ages or 19th Century, this game takes place in the future.  The game is set in 2035, but the future date doesn’t play much into it, except that you can score a sweet laser rifle later in the game.  But at that point, your other options include powerful holy weapons, so it’s not really an upgrade.  No cybernetic werewolves or anything.
The main character is Soma Cruz, an American teenager living in Japan.  When he goes to watch a solar eclipse at a shrine operated by a childhood friend, he passes out.  When he wakes up, he finds himself in Dracula’s Castle, and in possession of inexplicable power.  As Soma makes his way through the castle in search of answers, he meets sinister missionaries, amnesiac exorcists, and other mysterious people.
Aria of Sorrow pushes the GBA to its limit with absolutely gorgeous graphics and a sprawling castle filled with monsters.  Soma’s powers are a neat twist of the Castlevania formula, and encourage exploration in search of new souls to win and try out.  It would be nice if they weren’t quite so rare, and packed a bit more of a punch, though.  Especially early in the game, they don’t have the same heft to them as the classic subweapons.  While this does give a sense of progress to the game as the player collects stronger and stronger abilities, it can be a grind to collect them.
Overall, “Aria of Sorrow” is a definite hit in the Castlevania score sheet, and not to be missed.  If you can’t find a used copy of the cartridge, it is also available as a download from the WiiU store.

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