Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Reviewed by Psycho Penguin
The Castlevania series has long been heradled as one
as the most influential and innovative video game
series of all time. You will rarely ever find a
person that does not have anything good to say about
the series. It is definitely one of those series that
is loved by many and hated by few. In case you are
not familar with my stance on the Castlevania series,
I will explain it really quickly. I don't like the
Castlevania series as much as hardcore fans of the
series do, but I do enjoy most of the games in the
series. For the most part, each game in the series
has provided me with hours of fun, and great graphics
and music, to boot.
Case in point? Symphony of the Night. Released for
the Sony Playstation in 1997, it quickly became one
of my favorite titles for the console, if not one of
my favorite titles of all time. It was simply an
incredible game. Combining Super Metroid adventure
elements with the classic platforming action of the
classic Castlevania series, plus adding role playing
game stallwarts like experience points, hit points,
and gold, added up to a winning formula for Konami,
and it still remains one of my all time favorite
games to this day.
When I first heard that Konami was releasing a
Castlevania game for the forthcoming Game Boy Advance
console, I was a little skeptical, to say the least.
Sure, I was excited to be playing a new Castlevania
game. However, I was scared as to where they would
take the series. I was worried that they were going
to make Circle of the Moon a totally new game, like
Symphony of the Night was really a new game from the
previous game in the series. However, I was totally
relieved when I heard that the game was going to be a
lot like Symphony of the Night.
When I heard that Circle of the Moon was basically
going to be a portable version of Symphony of the
Night, only an entirely new game, I was estcatic to
say the least. I had pretty much outplayed the game,
and was ready for a new Castlevania game, and the
fact I could take this one on the road was just an
added benefit to an already hyped game. Adding to the
hype was the fact that the game was introducing new
elements, like a DSS Card Combo system, and summons.
I was simply blown away by this news, and waited
patiently for the latest game in the series to be
released on the American audience.
When the game finally came out, I (not so shockingly)
purchased Circle of the Moon when I got my Game Boy
Advance. Was I disappointed by the game? Not in the
least! Circle of the Moon, while not being quite as
good as its Playstation predecessor, is the single
handed greatest portable game of all time. There is
nothing I don't like about this game. It combined the
greatest elements of Symphony of the Night, and added
new gameplay ideas and innovations. It's not quite as
high in the replay value or fun factor departments,
but simply put, Circle of the Moon is a blast to play.
I already briefly mentioned some of the new ideas
that Konami implemented in this game, so I will take
this time to expand my descriptions. The main feature
added was a DSS Card Combo system. What is this?
Basically, you get a chance to collect 20 DSS Cards,
10 action and 10 attribute. You can combine 1 action
card and 1 attribute card to get a special DSS Power,
which can range to additional strength, to a whip
with fire coming out of it. How do you get these
Cards? Basically, each card can be found by getting
them from enemies. However, some of the tougher cards
to get are guarded in special places, and it will
take a while to get all the cards. You need a good
amount of luck (statistically) to get all of the
cards in the game. Collecting all the DSS cards in
the game is definitely one of the more enjoyable aspects.
Using the DSS cards, you could also perform one of
several summons. Different DSS Card combos allowed
you to perform certain summons. The good thing about
the Summons is that they really didn't take a long
time to perform. They basically got on screen, did
what they had to do, and left, so you could go right
back to what they were doing. I did have a basic
problem with the summons, which I will expand upon
once I get to the control section. I really thought
the use of summons was a good idea by Konami, and it
definitely added a bit of fun to an already outstanding game.
Another innovation provided in this game was a Battle
Arena. Basically, after working your way through
enough of the game, you get to partake in a special
competition. Spanning 17 rooms, the Battle Arena is
definitely the toughest part of the game, besides the
final boss. Each room hosts a certain amount of
enemies, which you have to defeat before entering the
next room. Every few rooms, you have the option to
escape the Battle Arena or continue. You will end up
in a different area on the world map depending on
where you decided to leave. If you decide to go
through the battle arena, you can get the second (?)
most powerful armor in the game, but you need to
defeat a tough boss-like enemy. Sure, it may sound a
little easy, but there's a catch: you can't use DSS
cards while in the Battle Arena. Healing needs to be
done using items. Now does it sound so easy? =)
The rest of the game plays a lot like Symphony of the
Night. You are a vampire hunter, and you have to go
around, collecting items and defeating enemies. You
only get one whip throughout the game, so you don't
need to worry about changing whips, as your strength
instead increases on level up. You can also use DSS
combos to basically get different types of whips,
like a flame whip, or a thorn whip. You do get to
choose from many different kinds of armor throughout
the game. You also get to equip two accessories. Each
accessory has a different use, and one accessory that
is useful in a certain spot in the game may not
neccessarily be useful in another situation. Another
thing is, you don't get gold. You basically find
everything you need, and you can get items and armor
by killing enemies. Some enemies drop armor, while
others drop items. Finding out what enemies drop what
can get to be pretty fun, and is a lot better than
just buying items.
You get a castle map, which expands as you go through
the castle. The castle is pretty large, and you will
notice that certain areas are blocked to you at
first. Once you defeat a boss, you get an item that
usually helps you get to the next section. For
instance, after defeating the first boss, you get an
item that allows you to perform double jumps. You can
then use this item which allows you to get to the
next section in the game. It may sound like your
basic action/adventure gameplay, but I felt Konami
did a really nice job in this aspect. It may not be
perfect, but it's perfectly solid. I really enjoyed
it. You can also use warp points, scattered
throughout the castle, to get from one point to
another more quickly. It can get tedious to go across
the castle after the while, especially when you are
forced to kill weak enemies. That's one of the only
problems with the game.
Leveling up is pretty self explanatory. You get HP,
MP, and Hearts to start off the game. As you level
up, your stats in those areas increase, as does your
Strength, Defense, Luck, and Intelligence. Strength
and Defense are basic, Luck increases the chances of
you getting special items from enemies, and
Intelligence determines how quickly your MP fills
back up automatically. Every enemy has hit points,
and killing them nets you experience points. Once you
get enough experience points, you get a level up. You
can also get HP Max, MP Max, and Hearts Max items
which act as a level up in those areas.
Control wise, Circle of the Moon is top notch. The
Game Boy Advance has 2 buttons, but the way this game
uses those buttons is very wise. You can move using
the directional pad, of course. Pressing left or
right twice allows you to run, once you get the item
that allows you to do so. Using down, you can
croutch. If you push down and then B (the attack
button), you can do a croutch attack, which allows
you to kill enemies which are low to the ground.
Pushing down and then A (the jump button) allows you
to slide, which allows you to get to lower places,
and can also be useful in killing enemies. To use a
sub weapon, you can just press up and B. To activate
DSS combos, you can press the L button. Pushing it
allows you to activate the combo, or deactivate it.
Pressing R allows you to use special items you get
throughout the game, like the Roc Wing. The only
complaint I have with the controls is summoning. It's
very hard to perform the combo that allows you to
summon, especially when you really need it. However,
once you get used to it, it gets a little easier.
Graphically, Circle of the Moon is the best looking
portable game I have ever played, and was a great way
to launch the Game Boy Advance by showing how
powerful the system can be when in the hands of the
right developers. This was a sterling effort by
Konami. The backgrounds in the game are amazingly
detailed, and very colorful. Each section has its own
unique background which separates each section and
gives them a feeling of their own, which may be
expected but is sometimes taken for granted.
Character designs are solid, enemy designs are very
nice, and overall everything looks solid. Sure,
everything's a tad small, but what do you expect on
the Game Boy Advance.
But Steve, aren't the graphics just a tad dark? Yeah,
that's the complaint everyone seems to have about
this. Quite frankly, I wasn't really turned off by
this too much, and the worm light actually made it
worse. As long as you are sitting in a well lighted
room, and have the Game Boy Advance titled at the
right angle, you can play just fine. Sure, it may be
uncomfortable, but you can probably find a way to be
comfortable and still be able to see the game just fine.
Music in this game is just fantastic, as the legacy
of excellent Castlevania music continues in style.
Every section has its own theme, which really fit
each section perfectly. I especially enjoyed the
melodramatic tune that played in the Audience Room. I
really enjoyed the music in the game. Sound effects
were just as solid. The basic sound effects were in
the sounds that you made as you walked around (try
walking over water, it sounds really nice), and the
sounds the enemies made as they were dying. All the
sound effects were really good. I especially liked
killing bosses and hearing the screams as they died.
Very nicely done.
The storyline to this game is really the basic
Castlevania stuff, but it's a little different. It's
1830, and Morris Baldwin is sending his son, Hugh
Baldwin, and his apprentice, Nathan Graves, into
Dracula's Castle to try to stop Dracula. Once they
were a few feet away from entering Dracula's room,
the floor collapsed and Hugh and Nathan were left
alone in a catacomb. Hugh said see ya and Nathan was
left all alone, Morris being trapped by Dracula, and
Hugh soon becoming a bitter rival. I especially
enjoyed the plot twists in the storyline, and overall
it was very nicely written, although it could have
benefitted a tad from more background story. Still
perfectly solid, however.
Replay value in this game could be better, but is
still solid. The main problem with the replay value
in this game is the fact that there's only one
castle, as opposed to two as in its predeccessor, and
once you defeat the game, there is only a few things
to do. However, those things are very fun, very
challenging, and take a while, so the replay value is
definitely there. One of the main things I enjoyed
doing once I beat the game was getting to 100
percent. I was almost there, but it was fun trying to
open up every other secret room, and it took a lot of
exploring before I was able to do so. Collecting all
the cards, killing one of every enemy, getting to
Level 99, and collecting one of every item, armor,
etc. were just other activities to do once you
completed the game, so replay value is definitely there.
Portable games have been notorious for being pretty
short, and well, pretty easy. Not the case with
Circle of the Moon. It's more challenging than its
Playstation counterpart. It takes around 20 to 25
hours to beat for the average game player, and some
of the bosses in the game are quite challenging.
(That two headed dragon is still giving me
nightmares. One of the toughest bosses I've ever
faced in any game). I know it is a shock to realize
that a portable game is long and challenging, but this one is.
Not only is it long and challenging, but it is also
fun, and the best portable game I have ever played.
This one is a real classic, and belongs in every
gamer's collection. It's worth buying a Game Boy
Advance just to play this game. if the XBox has this
kind of launch game, there will be no stopping it.
Circle of the Moon is a rare achievement in gaming
history: a launch game that delivers classic
gameplay, unstoppable graphics, and a fun factor that
can't be beat. Nintendo is well on its way to another
classic portable system, and Circle of the Moon will
help it on its way. This is a must play, must buy,
must beat game.
-This is one of the most classic games I have ever played.
-The game combines Super Metroid adventure elements
with classic Castlevania platforming action.
-Adding role playing game elements just makes it better.
-This game may be more innovative than Symphony of
the Night, because of the DSS Card Combo system.
-The graphics are wonderful, especially for a launch
game, and especially for a portable game.
-Music and sound effects in the game, simply put, rock.
-BEST. PORTABLE. GAME. EVER.
Not So Good Points
-Okay, so maybe the game can be a little dark and
hard to play sometimes.
-The controls, when it comes to summoning, could have
used a bit of fine tuning.
-Going around the castle can get to be tedious after
a while, although the warp points help.
-The storyline isn't exactly screaming Pullitzer Prize.
The Last Line
Konami's done it again. This is a true classic and
belongs in any gamer's collection. It is simply the
best portable game I have ever played, and destroys
most console games on the market. And it's a value,
because it's on the Game Boy Advance, so it costs
less than the average new game. What are you waiting
for? Buy it now!
Storyline - 5.3/10
Graphics - 9.7/10
Music - 9.6/10
Sound Effects - 9.2/10
Control - 9.6/10
Gameplay - 9.9/10
Replay Value - Above Average
Challenge - Average
Rent or Buy? - BUY!
Overall - 9.7/10