Castlevania: Circle of the moon - Review

Journey back.. to a time where people still use whips as weapons

By: Jake Fiveash

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 8
   Plot 5
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete 10-40 hours  

Nathan, the main character

  Castlevania, a series in which players take on count Dracula and his evil legion of undead monsters. The newest title in the series goes beyond some of its predecessors with an original feel, and a difficulty level unlike many of the other titles in the series. Players take the role of young Nathan Graves, as he quests through the giant castle of Dracula to save his master, and defeat the count himself.

   In the newest game of the Castlevania line, players have to master a distinct battle system, not seen by the likes of this type of game before. One must collect and combine Attribute and Action cards, making a special effect for each combination, an example would be the Mars card combined with Gryphon card, making a giant hammer appear instead of the normal whip Nathan uses. Players will also find stats, which will increase depending on how much experience they gather by killing enemies, and leveling up. You also can collect armor, and two different accessories, which will increase stats or add special effects. All in all the battle system is fun and easy-to-use, making it top notch in my book.

   Now the game works fairly easy, not too many puzzles to solve, or giant confusing menus to go through. One complaint though would be there isn't enough storyline, the beginning and the end are about the only times you see any real text, besides a few encounters with Hugh, a rival of the main character. Another compliant on my part would be item usage. Most items in the game are fairly useless, other than cures for certain status effects, like being poisoned or cursed, and another thing about it is you have to open up the menu, basically pausing the game, and use an item in the equip screen, which gets kind of annoying near the middle of the game. The game is fairly lengthy, taking anywhere from 10 hours to 40 hours, depending on how well one plays the game. Its also fairly difficult, and I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who has bad hand/eye coordination, especially since its on a handheld system. One last quip I have is the game is very dark, so you'll need a good light source to be able to play it well. The last thing I'll mention is a good one. You can collect certain artifacts which give you special skills, most of them are just to help access new areas of the castle, but a few have other uses. 

Whip of Fire!
Whip of Fire!  

The music of the game is quite good, especially coming from a handheld. You'll hear classic Castlevania tunes jammed out along with a few new ones. The little stereo on the Game Boy doesn't play it well though, so I suggest you invest in some headphones. The sound effects are also top notch, everything from the sound of Nathan's whip, to the grunts he makes when he jumps are spectacular for a handheld game.

The game is original in some aspects, and dull in others. Its a Castlevania game, so it has that same basic whip and jump your way through a big castle, fight a few bosses, beat up Dracula, and win the game formula to it. But the way its presented, and the originality of the battle system clearly make up for it in my opinion. Lets put it this way, I've never spent this much time playing a handheld game in my life. Buy this game, and you'll find yourself huddled next to your Game Boy for a few days, constantly searching for a better light source to see the spectacular graphics. And that's another thing, I've seen a lot of games, but this has got to be one of the best looking handheld titles ever made, if not the best. I'd say that counts for being original.

   I would call the storyline of this game "good", why you ask? Well it doesn't flow very well, you'll spend most of the game just whipping and jumping to explore new areas of the castle. The one thing that is done well is how the rivalry between the main character and his friend is shown. You'll meet up with him a few times around the castle, which basically is the only way the story is moved along. Sometimes you'll have a little chat with the boss characters, but it really has no significance in the story whatsoever. So if you're buying this game, buy it for its great game play and massive length.

   Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was translated word for word from what I understand. Its packaged in the same box the Japanese market got, and has been advertised in every gaming magazine in the country. Konami also paid off some reviewers because this game got a ton of hype before it came out in the states, but most of it is well deserved.

A look at the Card system
A look a the Card system  

  As for replay value, this game has its strong points. There aren't any different endings, or special items you get for beating it once. But there are different modes you can play through as, some effecting your stats, others effecting what does more damage, or what you start out with. And if you're a hardcore gamer such as myself, you'll play through the game every time for each of the modes.

As I said earlier, for a handheld game, this is beautiful. The graphics are top notch for a handheld system, best I've ever seen. And the amount of objects that can appear on screen is stunning. Its not too gory, for a Castlevania game at least. And you'll find that enemies have their own dying animations. Coming from a handheld system, this game is breathtaking. 

The game is fairly difficult, especially for someone new to the series. You'll find that when you're surrounded by enemies its hard to get away. Most of the bosses seem hard, but I found there are generally ways to get around each one of them with ease. Just experiment with your card skills and you'll find it much easier to get through the game. 

Dracula speaks!
Dracula speaks!  

For someone who just started playing games, this game will take in excess of 30 hours to beat, at least. Its difficulty will make for much starting over from the last save point. For a veteran of the Castlevania series, this game could take 5 hours if they just sat there playing it and didn't explore the whole castle. If you're a hardcore gamer, expect to play it at least 15 hours, you'll want to explore the whole castle, and since the thing is huge, and enemies are everywhere it'll probably take about 15 hours if you're skilled.

Well, with great game play, you really can't go wrong with Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. But if you're looking for a deep and involving storyline, I suggest you go out and get Dragon Warrior 3 remix, because you won't find one here. Lastly, a warning to those of you who find themselves addicted to video games. Be careful, this game can take control of your life a short while. ;)

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