The Castlevania games for the DS and GBA are some of my favourite games ever!
If you don’t know what Castlevania is… Well… Castlevania is a series that’s been running since 1986. It began as a platformer on the FDS or the Famicom Disc System in Japan created by ‘Konami’. The graphics and animations were good and the game sported an almost unforgivable difficulty spike. It was fairly well received and was released in Europe and North America the following year for the NES. It has gone on to spawn a large set of games that are renowned for their gothic horror, level design and hard as nails difficulty.
The game has had numerous sequels and re-releases some of which have have been fairly terrible e.g. Castlevania 64 (not the worst game I’ve ever played but certainly shoddy).
The reason for my support of the portable games (but not Castlevania the Adventure) is that they have been consistently great although I’m not so sure about Mirrors of Fate as I haven’t played it yet.
Circle of the Moon
My very first Castlevania was Circle of the Moon for the Game Boy Advanced. This was one of the first good portable Castlevania games. It follows the so called “Metroid-vania” style, with large secret filled areas. The graphics were incredible and the levels were well designed. As this was my first Castlevania game I didn’t know what the series was about but I loved it. Circle of the Moon used the old style whip and heart powered weapons which gives the game a nice solid feel and helps with balancing the difficulty, as everyone has the same weapon and upgrades to use in each level.
There is an rpg style level up system I’ve never fully levelled up the character before but the experience need to reach each level is a good amount it never takes too long to level up even later on in the game. There are also rooms with monsters that can help, from a room with sarcophagi that spawn endless mummies to bigger monsters that offer hundreds of experience points.
The music in Circle of the Moon is some of my favourite Castlevania music. The tune ‘Awake’ is one of the best first area tunes and it really makes the great atmosphere seem really fleshed out. The enemies are typical of Castlevania ranging from Dracula to Skeletons. They all have very nice sprites and are well animated.
Here is a short example I screen recorded from an emulated version:
I really honestly love this game. If it was the only great handheld Castlevania title I would be happy but I’m happier to say there are more on great Castlevania games for handheld consoles.
Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow
This was one of my first DS games and I loved it to bits. Dawn of Sorrow follows Soma Cruz after the events of Aria of Sorrow.
This game has a few different endings and a nice large map with an emphasis on collecting upgrades to traverse certain obstacles. It follows the ‘so called’ Metroid-vania style meaning the map is totally open to exploration from the player rather than being split into a structured set of levels.
The game plays similarly to its predecessors but with nice new tweaks like setting powers to the shoulder button, collecting the souls of your enemies (if you can do this in Aria, then this isn’t new but I haven’t played Aria so, meh), crafting new weapons using the souls, a levelling system where you can reach level 99 and a neat symbol system for defeating bosses that uses the touch screen.
The graphics were very well animated and the backgrounds are very detailed. The sound design in the game is excellent too with the music featuring some of the best Castlevania remixes ever.
Dawn of Sorrow borrows a few of the systems featured in Symphony of the Night for example there are many weapon types available in the game each with their own weaknesses and strengths. Although you can get handguns in DoS!
In the story Soma is drawn to Dracula’s castle after being attacked in town. He and three others travel to the castle in order to kill Dracula, again. Here he is plagued by powers that influence him toward the darkness as he struggles to remain who he is. This ultimately leads to some interesting endings some of which you’ll come across accidentally. There are also little side stories happening as you progress such as the relation ship between the item crafter and the shop keeper. These little extras give the game a little more depth for those who partake in them.
It’s a fairly lengthy game especially if you explore the map 100% I can’t think up an estimated time as I finished it long ago ad haven’t finished it again recently.
As the first DS Castlevania it was incredible, it used the DS’s features, it upgraded the graphical style from the GBA era and most importantly continued a storyline people new and loved in order to attract a number of fans to the title.
The only problem with DoS is that the games layout can occasionally leave you wondering what to do. (there is probably a way to check but I can’t find it)