Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Game Boy Advance)

So it is 1830, and near an abandoned Austrian castle darkness stirs. Master vampire hunter Morris Baldwin and his two pupils, his son Hugh, and Nathan Graves, race in only to find they are too late. Nathan's parents aided Morris in originally sealing Dracula. Aided by his dark minion Camilla, the lord of darkness himself, Count Dracula, has been brought back into the world once again. While the ritual to use the life force of his arch enemy Morris to restore Dracula's full power is being prepared, Dracula destroys the ground beneath Hugh and Nathan as if it were mere child's play, hurtling the two of them down into the catacombs deep beneath the castle.

Upon landing Hugh comments how they were brushed aside like mere children, and tells Nathan he will only get in his way, and rushes off to find his father. But Nathan is as determined as anyone to save his master. Thus begins Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, the first installment of the long standing Castlevania series on the game boy advance. The player must guide Nathan Graves, aided by the legendary vampire killer whip, through Dracula's massive castle, along the way battling a huge host of monstrous entities. Throughout the game, he also acquires various items unlocking new forms of movement and other tricks that allow him to reach various sections of the castle.

In addition, Nathan has at his disposal the DSS cards, or dual system setup. There are 10 action and 10 attribute cards, and by combining an action and attribute card up to 100 different effects are possible. The effects range from simple weapon or stat enhancements, to mighty summon attacks, to transforming into a skeleton that throws a bone for either pitiful damage or an instant kill, but causes Nathan to die instantly if something so much as breaks wind in his direction. He also has at his disposal the sub weapons familiar to players of previous Castlevania games. He can acquire rings and armor, as well as consumables of various strength to restore his health, mana, and the hearts that fuel his sub weapon attacks.

The controls are fairly simple, or at least I thought so. B is your basic attack button, a is your jump, left trigger activates the DSS cards, and the right trigger is the special action button. Unfortunately the controls weren't customizable, but I didn't have any problems with them.

I would say that the graphics are solid, but not spectacular. At times things can seem a bit blurry. But they do get the job done. I have seen better, and I have seen worse. They didn't have me going wow, but they didn't detract from my enjoyment of the game either. With that said, I was impressed by the visuals of the 10 magic summoning attacks, as well as the other magic effects.

The sound is one of the games high points in my opinion. Each area has its own track, and they seem to fit really well, though I will admit it can get repetitive hearing the same thing for an extended period of time. The sound effects are decent enough as they fit the action quite appropriately. The game has some very good background tracks. I particularly like the track to the later boss fights, as it helped pull me into the battle. I also liked the tracks to the observation tower and the abyss hallway.

A single play through should last anywhere from 10-15 hours maybe. Beating the game unlocks magician mode where the player has all DSS cards and increased INT and MP, but low defense and HP. Beating this unlocks fighter mode which as one might expect is the opposite, no DSS, but strong STR, DEF, and HP. Finishing fighter unlocks ranger, who has high hearts and the homing dagger sub weapon. Winning the game as a ranger unlocks thief mode, which I am guessing has a high luck rating. I have only beaten normal and magician modes, but I was hoping after thief there would another mode where Nathan gets the best of everything, but sadly there isn't. It would be nice though, I mean after beating all those other modes I think the player has earned the chance to play an overpowered SOB, don't you think?

Overall I found Circle of the Moon to be a nice addition to the series. Other than the opening scene not much on story aside from the increasingly heated rift that forms between Hugh and Nathan. Aside from that though, it is a decent game, and it sticks to what made its predecessors in the Castlevania series so popular, good background music and solid gameplay. Since it is an older it can probably be found for a decent price, so I recommend buying it.

Ooooh, a nice review of an older game on the GBA. Uh, the list of the move controls was sort of unecessary though. You could just stick that in a spoiler, or not include it, as it's not really needed. Other than that, good work!

Thanks for the tip, I will keep that in mind, and as always I appreciate the feedback.

No problemo. I've been cruising the review threads quite a bit as of late... It probably has to do with the fact that I know the writers like feedback instead of a veiw count to tell them how many people actually read their work. Getting only a few comments is irritating... people need to come and post in this section more.

Also, I hope that you get around to doing the other GBA games in the series, as they all are interesting in some fashion, though Harmony of Dissonance is kinda meh in comparison to the others.

I certainly would, though it was easier with Circle of the Moon as I actually own it, but if I could get me hands on it definately.

Aria Of Sorrow was insanely popular, so getting a copy of that shouldn't be too hard. Harmony of Dissonance though... that could be problematic. Try Amazon I guess.

If you will forgive the shameless self promotion, if you liked this review, I also have wrote many other reviews on this site, and my reviews are also posted on audioscribbler.co.uk, a british gaming, music, and movie web magazine.

Drake the Dragonheart:
If you will forgive the shameless self promotion, if you liked this review, I also have wrote many other reviews on this site, and my reviews are also posted on audioscribbler.co.uk, a british gaming, music, and movie web magazine.

Hooray for plugs! I was actually going to post my X-Men Origins: Wolverine review there today, but that Nick Da Costa fellow beat me to it. Are you going to give them this review too? If you are, I'd suggest losing the list of controls or at the very least work the main ones into a paragraph. Also, some sentences seem a bit "iffy" to me and I think they could be written better. These two for example:

There are 10 action and 10 attribute cards, and by combining an action and attribute card up to 100 different effects are possible, ranging from simple weapon or stat enhancements, to mighty summon attacks, to transforming into a skeleton that throws a bone for either pitiful damage or an instant kill but dies instantly if something so much as breaks wind in his direction.

Master vampire hunter Morris Baldwin and his two pupils, his son Hugh, and Nathan Graves, who's parents and Morris sealed away Dracula, race in only to find they are too late.

Good review otherwise. I've played and beat Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow, and AoS is definitely better due to the fantastic new gameplay involving equip-able souls. Harmony of Dissonance is still good, but the combat mechanics towards the end are severely unbalanced and slanted in the player's favour (also the music is muddy and comparatively unimpressive). I haven't beaten Circle of the Moon yet (I'm stuck at a twin skeleton dragon boss I believe) and the only major negative so far is the overall darkness. I can't imagine being able to see a thing without ideal lighting conditions or the benefit of my DS' backlight.

I appreciate the both the advice and the input. I would say don't let the fact that someone else posted a review of it already stop you from posting your review. Maybe you picked up on something they didn't, or maybe you have a unique perspective on things. I find it helps to hear/see multiple views/vantage points.

I found the axe sub weapon really works well for that fight. Also the Diana/Manticore combo is just vicious. I know your point was about one of the other GBA Castlevania games, but at the end of the game, Nathan with all 20 DSS cards is just overpowered as piss. I had all 20 before doing the observatory tower, and completely wiped the floor withe anything I ran into afterword.

 

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