October is Castlevania Month!

October is Halloween month, with everything that that entails: searching for or making the perfect costume, enjoying scary TV shows and movies, eating candy and Halloween-inspired dishes, and, of course, playing Halloween-y video games like Resident Evil, Dark Souls, or Castlevania.

This month I am going to attempt a marathon of the Metroidvania-style Castlevania games: Symphony of the Night (SotN), Harmony of Dissonance (HoD), Circle of the Moon (CotM), Aria of Sorrow (AoS), Dawn of Sorrow (DoS), Portrait of Ruin (PoR), and Order of Ecclesia (OoE). Prior to this October, I had only beaten DoS, PoR, CotM, and OoE. I have played the others, but haven’t beaten them. As I beat them, I’ll update this post with my thoughts. All of these games are at least nine years old so I won’t be avoiding spoilers.

The ranking so far:

  1. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
  2. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Beaten November 2, 2018)

Technically Castlevania month is over, but the marathon will continue!

I played DoS on my 3DS XL over several weeks. I did use some cheat codes for this playthrough; I used an all armor cheat to get all of the armors so I didn’t have to worry as much about dodging. Though by the end of the game I did have to worry a lot about dodging.

I enjoyed the graphics of DoS a TON more than AoS. I also really like the music of DoS; I wrote an arrangement of Condemned Tower for my first video game music album. The gameplay of DoS is much better than AoS because the souls system has been refined. For instance, multiple souls of the same soul can stack for more power or better effects. Souls are also used to create better weapons. This can be quite annoying when you need a soul from a monster that has a very low drop rate, but overall I like it better than just finding them in the world like AoS. For the games that don’t feature whips, I typically prefer the broadsword-type weapons (the ones that sweep above your head and to the side) and this playthrough was no exception. I started with a claymore and ended up with the Claimh Solais. Souls I used a lot in this playthrough were Flame Demon (of course), Great Axe Armor, Erinys, Bat Company, Ghost Dancer, and The Creature.

Here are a couple gifs showing the Claimh Solais sword in AoS (left) and DoS (right). I like the DoS animation better, but I like the sword better in AoS.

Overall, a great game!

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Beaten October 5, 2018)

I started with AoS using a Game Boy Advance emulator called Visual Boy Advance with an Xbox 360 controller. I’ve played its sequel, DoS, on the Nintendo DS many times, but I never owned an AoS GBA cartridge so I haven’t beaten it even once. I beat it today (2018/10/5) with the help of Gameshark codes to speed things up. The codes I used were “max gold” and “all items” to purchase a ring to double the rate of soul drops and acquire 99 of each restorable so I didn’t have to be too careful in avoiding enemy attacks. I also used the “all accessories” code near the end to get the Chaos Ring (which gives you infinite magic points).

I’m very familiar with AoS’s sequel and I prefer the sequel’s gameplay much more; it’s definitely more refined the second time around. Still, it was very fun to play. Having played DoS I knew the gist of AoS’s story, but it’s better to actually experience it. The music and graphics are decent considering it’s a GBA game. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the variety of weapons; I used the Whip Sword for most of the beginning, then the Ascalon until I found the Claimh Solais. Later games definitely improve on the weapons.

But the point of AoS isn’t the weapons, it’s the souls. Soma Cruz, the protagonist, has the ability to absorb the souls of monsters and use their powers. My favorite souls to use were Flame Demon, Giant Bat, and Succubus because I felt like Dracula. I could turn into a bat and fly around while shooting fireballs! Now that’s something you can’t do in the sequel (EDIT 11/2/2018: You can do this in the sequel, too.). And with the Chaos Ring equipped, I could stay in bat form and shoot fireballs for as long as I wanted.

Overall, a great game, but not my favorite. Though, who knows which Castlevania game will be my favorite in 2018? I’ll have to play them all to find out!

Written on October 5, 2018
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