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Part IV: Moving Forward for the Curse

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
(GBA, 2001)

It was seemingly inevitable that the Castlevania franchise would arrive on the Game Boy Advance at some point. This was a launch title for the Game Boy Advance system, and also the first game I bought for the system (beating out Super Mario Advance, which I ended up avoiding altogether). I specifically recall this game being very dark... literally. I practically had to concoct my own home version of the Sun just to see what I was doing. Anyway, those expecting a closed-ended experience like older Castlevania games might be disappointed to discover that there is much open-ended exploration to be performed here. As Nathan Graves (Get it? Graves? Oh, hilarity ensues here! Hey, where did the Belmonts go?), you'll be spending your free time foraging around underneath Dracula's castle, trying to locate your lost allies. This game also employs a "DSS Card System" as your main source of special powers. Yeah, I don't really care much for seeking out special power cards; I wasn't hoping for a half-Castlevania, half-Pokémon spawn where I gotta collect 'em all... Oh well, still good for a first-generation Game Boy Advance title. Funny how I never really finished this game though...

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
(GBA, 2002)

Castlevania fans will now get their *ahem* Juste desserts! Hilarity ensues for a second time. Playing as Juste Belmont, you'll have to do some more open-ended exploring to locate Lydie, a friend who was kidnapped by none other than the pasty vampire himself. The graphics are much brighter, although the music and sound seems to be much poorer in comparison. Instead of the card system from Circle of the Moon, you have to utilize a Spell Fusion system by pulling another "collect 'em all" stint with tomes of magical knowledge. Apparently, just using special weapons by themselves isn't enough anymore. Harmony of Dissonance is a reasonable Castlevania title overall, although magic seems to be too heavily focused upon in more recent times. Whatever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV?

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
(GBA, 2003)

They're just cranking these puppies out, aren't they? This is the final Castlevania outing on the Game Boy Advance before moving on to the split-screen samba that is the Nintendo DS. You take on the role of Soma Cruz (.....what?), who ends up in Castlevania (which, if one hasn't quite realized by now, is the name of the castle itself) with his girlfriend after a strange dizzy spell, or quite possibly an overdose of Transylvanian cocaine. Either way, you gotsta get out! And once again, Konami decided to fudge things up in regard to your special abilities with the aid of the Tactical Soul System, where you defeat enemies to gain souls which can help increase your stats or give you special divine powers! I still tire of such systems, to be honest, and now it seems that gaining abilities has become more randomized. Ah well. It's still a fine enough game.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
(Nintendo DS, 2005)

The first Castlevanian outing on the DS bears a strong similarity with all the previous GBA games. In fact, the developer was even so lazy as to only change one word in the game's title. You get to take Soma Cruz for another spin in a grave attempt to cease the next resurrection of Dracula. I think Castlevania fans need to come to terms with the fact that Dracula isn't going to disappear for good... ever. Still, there isn't too much new in this game. The graphics have taken a step forward, which is the only way it should be, considering the superior capabilities of the DS system. The top screen isn't used too heavily, only showing you your character's statistics , just in case you HAVE to know Soma's intelligence level at all times. If you enjoyed the other Castlevania games, you will enjoy Dawn of Sorrow as well.

Check out our Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow review for a more in-depth look!

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
(Nintendo DS, 2006)

Getting tired of the old Castlevania formula? It seems that many gamers probably were, and, just stick with it, guys. Eventually something absolutely fresh will pop up. Portrait of Ruin bears more of a strong connection with Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis than any other game. In fact, one of its protagonists is Jonathan Morris, son of John Morris from the Genesis game! Along with Charlotte Aulin, they shall whip their way through thick and thin to meet their match with Count Brauner (that does NOT sound like Dracula to me...), picking up whip upgrades and additional weaponry as deemed necessary. But both characters will be on screen simultaneously, and you can switch between them, fully utilizing their separate abilities at any time. This can lead to some fine puzzles to solve. Since the game is not so focused on Dracula's evil ways, much of the terror that Castlevania fans have come to know and love has been traded off for a more lighthearted affair. I tend to prefer a little joy over a lot of sorrow in my video games.

Check out our Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin review for a more in-depth look!

Castlevania: Order of Shadows
(Mobile Phone, 2007)

If you were ever in the mood to wedge in some vampire slaying between bouts of calling the Miss Cleo hotline and sexting your significant other, you just happen to be in luck. Castlevania: Order of Shadows is there for the mobile phone users of the world, and it's not a port of anything! That's right, it's exclusive to phones... and it's not that great either. All you have to do is imagine trying to move along and whip a skeleton, but only using a numeric keypad as your control scheme. Bad idea. Really bad idea. Well, on the plus side, at least there's a direct Belmont involved -- no weird offsprings of the bloodline.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
(Nintendo DS, 2008)

If Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a parent, this one would definitely be yet another one of its many children. However, that being said, there are some differences that set this apart from the other five portable titles that have rocked our leather chaps this century. Order of Ecclesia actually requires you to explore around and rescue lost villagers in various stages; the more people you save, the greater their town becomes again, and more items and exciting quests are available for the young hero, Shanoa, to inquire about. Wait a second... Shanoa? That's it? Is she Shanoa Belmont? No? And she doesn't use a whip -- she uses these magic things called Glyphs instead? Alright, Konami. Don't mess with the Vampire Killer, the famed whip of lore! Damn...

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirrors of Fate
(Nintendo 3DS, 2013)

Mirrors of Fate was announced in May 2012 as another sequel to Lords of Shadow, alongside Lords of Shadow 2 for PS3/360/PC. This is a 3D action game, though the general gameplay is similar to previous portable Castlevania experiences. Classic characters are making appearances again, such as both Trevor and Simon Belmont and Alucard, as they begin to unravel the mysteries behind the Belmont clan timeline and how their fate as Vampire Killers came to be sealed. There are also additional features involving the SpotPass function of the 3DS, and players can actually make notes in the game as they progress.

(Screenshots of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and Castlevania: Order of Shadows provided courtesy of The Castlevania Dungeon)
(Screenshots of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirrors of Fate provided courtesy of GameFAQs)

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