There are few franchises out there that are influential enough to have an entire genre named after them. Castlevania is one of those franchises. The series began on the Famicom in 1986 and was revolutionized with the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in 1997. Symphony of the Night is often credited with creating the Metroidvania genre, along with Super Metorid. While most of the console Castlevania games dabbled with 3D graphics, the handheld titles focused on 2D platforming and exploration. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow released for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. It was the last of three Castlevania games on the platform. All three of these games are now available in one collection on all modern platforms. It’s wonderful that these games are easily accessible because Aria of Sorrow is easily one of the best Castlevania games ever made.
Castlevania in the Future
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow takes place in the year 2035. A year that we are currently closer to in the present than the year of this game’s release. The player will take on the role of Soma Cruze, a High School student living in Japan. His best friend, Mina Hakuba, is the daughter of the caretaker of the Hakuna Shrine, which has strong ties to Japanese mythology. Soma and Mina visit the shrine during a solar eclipse and both fall unconscious. When they wake up, they find themselves inside Dracula’s castle, and Soma has mysterious new powers. Now Soma will have to use his strange new powers to escape the castle before Dracula is brought back to life.
The Castlevania franchise has never been known for having especially great stories. The story has always been present, but it mostly just serves as context for the action on screen. In Aria of Sorrow, the player is given the basic set-up and then is just sort of left to their own devices. There are a few cutscenes that progress the story forward. However, none of these last any longer than a minute or two. One could be forgiven for forgetting that the game has a story at all.
Exploring Dracula’s Castle in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Aria of Sorrow follows the same gameplay formula as other Metroidvania games. Explore until you come to a roadblock, then backtrack and explore deeper until you find a thing that lets you past that roadblock. What sets the Castlevania games apart is the inclusion of RPG elements. Killing enemies will get you experience points, after enough experience points, your level will increase along with your stats. In Aria of Sorrow, enemies will also sometimes drop spirits. The player can equip these spirts for more skills and abilities. Collecting all these spirits can be very challenging, but it can also be a lot of fun to see all the different abilities unlocked.
Overall, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow isn’t a very difficult game, and it’s also very short. A single playthrough of this game should only take about 8-10 hours. However, the brevity of the game isn’t a bad thing. After clearing the game, a boss rush mode and harder difficulty mode are unlocked. This is definitely a game that is meant to be played multiple times, which makes it great for speedrunners.
VIBE Score 8/10
Retro game prices are out of control at the moment. At the time of writing this review, a copy of the loose Game Boy Advance cartridge for Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow goes for around $100 on Ebay. The Castlevania Advance Collection on modern platforms is only $20 and comes with three games. This collection also adds some emulation functions like save states and a rewind feature. That means that these games are more accessible now than ever before. Even if you buy the collection just for Aria of Sorrow, it’s still worth the time and money.
32, living in Arizona with a passion for video games, music and movies.