The third and final Castlevania game on the Game Boy Advance, Aria of Sorrow was first published by Konami in 2003.
Development was again led by Producer Koji Igarashi (who had previously worked on Symphony of the Night), and the end result is another brilliant and varied mix of platforming and RPG, with challenging enemies and boss battles.
In Aria of Sorrow you play as Soma Cruz, a teenager with emergent powers, brought out by being a potential vessel for Dracula’s reincarnation. Which of course you must prevent, otherwise it’ll mean your eternal damnation…
Soma is very agile and – unlike previous protagonists – does not use a whip to fight with. Instead he uses a sword and this can be upgraded as he finds new weapons. Armour and other defensive items are found as drops from defeated enemies and equipped as usual through the menu.
One new feature in Aria of Sorrow is the ‘Soul Set’ system. This requires the absorbing of souls from defeated enemies in order to gain additional abilities. Pretty much every enemy in the game (barring a few exceptions) will yield a soul that can be absorbed by the player, although the rate at which they drop varies. Some can be extremely rare. One cool feature of this game is that players can trade souls between two different Aria of Sorrow cartridges when using two GBAs and a link cable…
Graphically, Aria of Sorrow is superb. Maybe not quite as good as the graphics in the previous game, Harmony of Dissonance, but still a work of pixel artistry nonetheless. The animation of the player character is particularly good. The menus are probably the best designed out of the three GBA Castlevania games too.
Gameplay-wise there’s little to fault. Aria of Sorrow is a very enjoyable and challenging game to play and another exceptional title in the Castlevania series.
Finish the game once and ‘New Game Plus’ mode will unlock, giving you the option of playing with all equipment and souls retained from the previous play-through, and a choice of harder difficulty. Also: there’s a Boss Rush mode to unlock, and also Julius Mode, which allows you to play as an alternative character.