Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

In 2005, Konami developed and released to Japan, Europe, and North America Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the Nintendo DS, a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow on the GameBoy Advance. At the time, direct sequels were nothing new for the franchise, for instance, with the NES title Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest continuing the story of the original Castlevania. Dawn itself provides a solid experience on par with the best installments of the series.

Gameplay is similar to that in Aria, where protagonist Soma Cruz can collect Souls by killing enemies and equip one each of three different types at a time, whose special attacks consume Magic Points. He can also normally attack foes with a variety of different weapons, netting experience for occasional levels up. Bosses can be daunting but are largely beatable as long as the player keeps a decent amount of healing items. Beating most bosses will cause a seal to pop up on the bottom screen, with the player needing to correctly draw it using the stylus in order to complete the boss battle, else the boss will revive with some Hit Points remaining. Aside from the difficulty in drawing some seals, the battle system is mostly enjoyable.

Exploring the castle can be fun as well, although there are occasional parts where the player can get lost, particularly if they want to experience Dawn’s true ending, which may require a guide and specific Souls from specific enemies in specific areas. The rest of interaction works well, with easy menus, controls, the ability to switch between a map and enemy stats on the top screen, HP/MP-recovering save points, and teleportation between many areas.

Story has never been a strong suit in the Castlevania franchise, and Dawn is no exception, although it does have some things going for it such as decent story scenes and a databank where the player can view information on various characters. The translation, moreover, is largely flawless.

Like it predecessors, Dawn features music of a variety of genres that are all solid, although the localization team left the voices in Japanese, with even non-Japanese characters having voice clips in the language. Still, a great-sounding game.

The graphics look nice as well, with occasional three-dimensional elements for some enemies and some parts of the scenery, although the game relies upon static character portraits during cutscenes for characters to show emotion. Fans of character designer Ayami Kojima’s gothic artwork, moreover, may take disappointment that she didn’t do the portraits for Dawn, which are instead in a fairly generic anime style. Even so, a superb-looking game.

Finally, the game is short like its predecessors, taking less than ten hours to complete for the multiple endings, with plenty adding replay value such as a mode where the player controls a character other than Soma. Ultimately, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is most certainly worthy of the series name, given solid gameplay, control, music, and graphics. The story, like in most other installments, does leave a little to desire, although it still has its strong points, and Nintendo DS (or 3DS) owners that don’t mind the change in character art will be in for a nice experience.

The Good:
+Solid Metroidvania/Castleroid gameplay and control.
+Nice music.
+Great visuals.

The Bad:
-Seals at the end of bosses can be annoying.
-Real ending can be hard to unlock without a guide.
-Story is sparse at times.

The Bottom Line:
A great direct sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours

Overall: 9/10

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License