Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was a 2003 adventure game by Konami for the Game Boy Advance. This was the last Castlevania game on the Game Boy Advance. I never played it at release, but got to play it now after buying all three games on the Wii U Virtual Console. Aria had the same basic gameplay as the previous games, with a similar story, but there were some interesting changes in this iteration.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was set in the slight future. It still took place in Dracula’s castle, but now there was the possibility of slightly more modern elements. For example, one of the temporary weapons the main character, Soma Cruz, could get was a handgun. The clothes the characters wore were also more modern. There seemed to be a tradition in each of these games to create a new “spells” system. Aria of Sorrow had the Tactical Soul system.
Souls gave the player both passive and active special abilities, with four main categories. The most important ones could be found as treasure or for killing bosses and were required to complete the game. However, almost all enemies in the game had a soul that the player had a chance to acquire by defeating it. This was all random chance, so it was a very slow process, but if a player really wanted a soul, they could just keep killing a monster until they got it. Almost every enemy in the game, including many bosses had a unique soul, with its own special abilities. Only a few were needed to complete the game, but the Tactical Soul system was an interesting collectible minigame.
Because of that one system, Aria of Sorrow could potentially be quite a bit longer than the other two Castlevania games. It might just take forever to collect certain souls. To speed this up the developers added a trading system. Players could connect their Game Boy Advances together to trade surplus souls they had found for the surplus souls of another. Because of the randomness of acquiring souls, every player would have a different variety unless they had spend a long time killing monsters to try to collect them on their own. Unfortunately, the Virtual Console version has no trading ability. It is only single player. I might someday make a list of all the monsters and souls and try to get them all, but for now, I am satisfied with just finishing the story.
Finishing the story came with its own rewards in the form of several new game modes to play. Like Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, there was a Boss Rush mode to try to kill all the bosses fast without being able to heal up or restock supplies between battles. They also had a game mode to play as the other protagonist, Julius Belmont. Unlike Harmony of Dissonance, Hard Mode was a separate mode not tied to playing as the second protagonist. Hard Mode was like the normal game play but with much stronger monsters.
With the Tactical Souls and extra game modes, Aria of Sorrow had the most replay value out of all the Game Boy Advances Castlevania titles. Like I said before, I believe it is the best game in this trilogy. With the completion of these games, I feel like I have a good handle on what Castlevania is. There are still new games made and also classics I could get my hands on if I really wanted, but I am satisfied with what I got to see. If a new one came out on the Wii U, I would consider getting it, but I’m not going too far out of my way. A big part of being Catholic is being satisfied with what I have. I don’t have to play all the games or see everything. It’s a good way to save money.