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.
game is dark (a common problem with GBA games), but it helps to set
the mood of the game.
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.
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
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.
- 2D gaming at
controls any fan of the series will already know by heart
- Too damn
dark!!! Make sure you have good lighting before playing, unless
you want an unscheduled visit to your optometrist in the near
- (For Castlevania
64 fans): it’s not 3D. Anybody expecting the next
graphical step up can expect to be vastly disappointed.
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.