Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003)

The third and final Metrovania-type Castlevania for the Gameboy Advance has the same addictive mix of gameplay elements that has made this series such tremendous fun. A huge castle full of monsters to explore, the piece by piece addition of new skills that allow you to reach new areas and a new twist on the Castlevania plot.

It’s only hinted at, but it seems Dracula has finally been completely vanquished in 1999 and this time you play a guy who has been born on that same day. This gives you access to the power of domination over monsters and makes you a target of those who want to rebirth a new Dark Master. So, instead of trying to beat Dracula, you have to free yourself of those who want you to be the new Dracula.

Gameplay-wise it’s most similar to Symphony of the Night. You don’t have a whip but you have a wide collections of swords, knifes, maces, axes and other weapons at your disposal. This is a very neat system, as you don’t have merely to consider the attack force of each weapon, but also the range, attack pattern and attack time.

Also very similar to Symphony of the Night is that you sometimes have no idea what to do next. Circle of the Moon was very simple, go forward, beat up the next boss, rinse and repeat. There was never a moment where I had to ask myself where to go next. Harmony of Dissonance was the same, but there you had to backtrack your paths at length to actually move forward, which could be a bit tiresome.

But in Aria of Sorrow, especially the first half, I sometimes traversed the known parts of the castle, searching for clues how to advance further. The rest of the game is your typical Metrovania-styled game. Explore, kill boss monsters, level-up and follow the plot tokens. All great fun.