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Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)

November 13, 2007

(Non finalised version)

To understand a critique of Dawn of Sorrow, it is required that one knows the primary factor that will affect any opinion upon the game. Ever since the success of the Playstation’s Symphony of the Night, 2D Castlevania have all been designed using the same template, and in many respects, copying it. For the uneducated, this design copies the Metroid formula of giving the player a location that is littered with items to help the player advance, mixed with some traditional RPG stat crunching and item equipping.

Playing as the emotionally depressed Soma Cruz, you and pretty much the entire cast of the GBA title, Aria of Sorrow, stumble across a plot to revive Dracula at an abandoned ‘base’ that shares a lot of design choices with Dracula’s abode itself. The plot leaves a lot to be desired, and plays much like a DS remake of the GBA title, but it’s enough to keep you moving.

The game looks great on the DS, with some nice sprites and screen filling bosses. The game also plays brilliantly with a nice amount weapons and gameplay so smooth you could spread it on toast. The very classic style of 2D monster slaying may be a tad retro to some, and the levelling and hit points that crop up may seem jarring compared to games such as Metroid where enemies simply take bullets and die. However, by showing the damage you deal to enemies the player gains a steady appreciation for how Soma is increasing in power.

DS specific elements are kept to a minimum, with the main inclusion being one item that allows you to brush away ice that appears within the castle. This seems completely pointless, primarily because it doesn’t make sense that some corridors have ice pilled from floor to ceiling, and thst the move itself feels eerily disconnected from Soma. The other, more practical, use of the touch screen is in defeating bosses. Upon their death, Soma must quickly draw a ‘seal’ to deliver the coup de gras upon the boss. This is a technique that feels good, however, if you miss it the boss will come at you with renewed vigour, so make sure your stylus is handy whenever a boss challenges you.

In terms of dual screen, its use is extremely practical in a game that requires frequent map reference. The top screen constantly displays a map that makes navigation a much less frustrating affair considering all it takes is a glance up, rather than having to bring up a map every five seconds. The only way this could have been better is if Konami had added the ability to doodle on your map so you could remind yourself where to use future abilities, because you will get lost.

Dawn of Sorrow can be a short adventure, if you don’t intend to see the true finale, but the lure of an extended ending, earning all items (including some special weapons) and a small number of alternate methods for replaying the adventure, it becomes a well endowed package for what initially appears to be a short game.

The final word to say on Dawn of Sorrow is simply this, if you have played Aria of Sorrow on the GBA, you have pretty much experienced DoS. DoS does everything Aria did, with an increased level of polish and shine, and in general, it does everything that SotN did on the Playstation. It is a fantastic game, but one you might have played before.

4/5

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