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Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Review By:  Siou Choy

Developer:  Konami
Publisher:  Konami
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Platform
ESRB:  Teen
Date Posted:  5-29-02

After the poor critical and fanbase reaction to Castlevania:Legacy of Darkness, Konami has done an about face, dropping (at least for the moment) the 3D motif and restoring the Castlevania series to it’s 2D side-scrolling roots with the release of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for the Gameboy Advance. As the 3D move was somewhat controversial in the first place, and moreso, with Legacy of Darkness proving that the novelty of eye-level onrushing skeletons was strictly a one shot deal, this latest move has made a lot of gamers happy. COTM continues where noted series highlight Castlevania Symphony of the Night left off.

Playing as the amusingly named Nathan Graves (get it, grave, ha ha), you have to rescue "your master" Morris Baldwin (which hints at some things we’d rather not discuss right now) from (yawn) the eeeee-vil Count Dracula. In a true gesture of kindness and selflessness, his son Hugh takes the job of finding his father, which leaves you with the task of putting an end (for the thousandth time) to Count Dracula. Gee, thanks, Hugh. You’re a real man, no matter what they say about you.

Overall, the game is dark (a common problem with GBA games), but it helps to set the mood of the game.

Non-linear gameplay allows for a lot of exploration (though like any good survival horror game, certain areas just can’t be accessed until certain tasks are performed). Once an area has been explored it appears on the map which can be accessed by means of the Select button. This map shows your current location, where you’ve been and save points you may have discovered along the way.

An interesting addition to COTM is the Dual Set-up System (DSS). By combining Attribute and Action Cards collected throughout the game you can use special abilities to make fighting bosses and other monsters in the castle easier. For example, you may, by means of such combination, become able to turn your weapon into fire (or ice) at will. Different combinations of the cards, naturally, will provide different results, so there’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding just the right combination for each particular situation.

Controls in COTM run similar to every other 2D Castlevania game: A button for jump, B button for attack. Up and the B button allows you to use your sub-weapon (either knife, axe, holy water, crucifix, or clock, depending on the last one you picked up). The only trouble I had with the controls was that hitting candles (the number one source of the hearts that charge your sub-weapons) turns out to be a bit tougher than it should be.

Despite the fact that it’s designed for a handheld, COTM is not a short game by any standards. The castle is extremely huge, and it takes quite a bit of time to fully comb its depths; definitely a plus for the average gamer (and a better value for your recession-devalued dollars). Overall, COTM holds its own, neither a vast improvement over recent installments (Castlevania Dracula X, recently released here as "Castlevania Chronicles" or Symphony of the Night) nor a decrease in quality (as one might expect from a handheld version). Castlevania fans can be proud to display a copy of COTM in their collection.

Highs:

  • 2D gaming at it’s best
  • Simple controls any fan of the series will already know by heart

Lows:

  • Too damn dark!!! Make sure you have good lighting before playing, unless you want an unscheduled visit to your optometrist in the near future
  • (For Castlevania 64 fans): it’s not 3D. Anybody expecting the next graphical step up can expect to be vastly disappointed.

Final Verdict:

If you’re a 2D fan, then Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is the best thing to happen to gaming since 1997’s Symphony of the Night, with challenging gameplay to keep you involved straight through to completion. Even if you’re not a hardcore 2D fan, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is an excellent game; one that shouldn’t be passed up by any gaming fan.

Overall Score: 9.0

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