Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a 2D metroidvania style game and the final installment of the Castlevania Game Boy Advance trilogy. To catch up for this third and final part, you can check out the first one, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, and the second one, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. I’ll assume you’ve read both of those reviews by now and are up to speed, not that they are really connected story-wise. Aria of Sorrow once again takes a darker approach to things. Your whole goal is to escape Dracula’s Castle. You do so by once again running, jumping, and fighting your way through monsters. You can level up along the way, learn new abilities to traverse more of the castle, and get equipment to make you stronger. There are a few new additions in this game. Instead of using cards or spell books with secondary items, you have a soul system. There are three different categories of souls. One is used when pressing the R button, one is used when hitting up and B, and the other is passive. These are gained from certain areas in the game, but mostly through defeating enemies and getting their souls. You use these, as well as relics, to get abilities which will allow you to traverse the world further. Another new addition is that you’re no longer married to your whip. Instead, there are a variety of weapons you can both find and purchase. Some are short distance while others are long distance. Some swing, some stab. Some of them swing upwards while other swing downwards. Varying strengths, stats boots, and elemental bonuses come with each new weapon so choose the one that suits yourself and the situation the best.
I didn’t find many problems with Aria of Sorrow. Most of the game is well balanced. It’s not too difficult, but still challenging in multiple places. It’s not too dark but still carried a serious tone. The controls are still a bit stiff but not in a restricting matter and still feel smooth in action. One flaw I found was the way weapons work. As I mentioned, some weapons have longer reaches than others. Well, the range of your attack seems to directly affect the range at which enemies start attacking you. So if you have a short range weapon, you’ll only have enemy aggression if you’re very close to them. However, if you have a long range weapon, you’ll find yourself fighting them from further away, sometimes accidentally baiting multiple enemies into a fight. This seems to downplay the advantages of longer range weapons since they tend to have lower damage anyway. Adding this disadvantage on top of the lower damage to the longer ranged weapons makes them really only worth using on bosses. Likewise, since you can do more damage and fight enemies one by one with shorter range weapons, you might as well use those most of the time.
This is probably the best of the trilogy because of its balance and scope. There’s a lot to explore and do in the game. It’s serious but not overly dark. It controls in a tough but fair manner. It has lots of customization options and room for progress, as well as a lot of things to try and achieve for the completionists out there. Plus, it has a good amount of playtime. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a great culmination of what handheld metroidvania games on GBA can be. That’s all for the Castlevania GBA trilogy. Maybe I’ll review some more Castlevania games sometime… if I can beat any of them.