Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow DS Review

The sequel to one of the best exploration-style Castlevania titles on the Game Boy Advance, Dawn of Sorrow comes to the DS and establishes the series on new hardware. This meticulously detailed action platform game is addictive, and even more so than the previous entries. The addition of a soul collection system raises this Castlevania entry above the usual expectations and keeps players hooked.

What makes this collection aspect work (and impossible to dismiss as a gimmick) is how flawlessly it has been integrated into the gameplay. It feels normal, gathering souls that are sometimes deposited by a large variety of killed enemies, to use on weapons or to advance past an otherwise locked section of the enormous castle. The only problem this creates is randomness, since a soul you need to advance may not be in your inventory. It's not always clear which soul you need either.

You're right in thinking that it barely qualifies as a flaw. Dawn of Sorrow is just that impressive, making any aggravation brief and forgettable. These new Castlevania titles have the uncanny ability to make being lost for hours fun and engrossing. Opening a new section is a joy, and the feeling of accomplishment only grows as the castle map increases.

If you're looking for an entirely new experience, something to bring back the basic style when the series originated, that's not going to happen here. The DS isn't used extensively, and the best feature is the map displayed on the top screen at all times. It literally saves hours, eliminating the need to swap various status screens just to find a small part of the map you have yet to explore.

This is a rare DS game (as of this writing) that uses the bottom screen for its core gameplay. This allows for minor touch screen features, like the ability to break ice blocks by touching them. You'll also need to "seal" bosses by drawing a specific pattern on screen, and this can be frustrating. It's not enough to just kill a boss, but just a slight mistake starts the battle again.

Oddly though, that's what makes this game so great. It's not a problem to redo countless sections of the game. Not knowing where you'll go next only adds to the intrigue, and by leaving players relatively clueless as to their next destination, allows them to level up in a natural manner.

Repetition is also avoided by the incredible variety of enemies, some which offer up brief glimpses of humor, others that are simply terrifying creations. Animation is simply gorgeous to watch, slaughtering any of the brightest moments on the Game Boy Advance renditions. Even though it's 2-D, the sheer amount of color, detail, style, special effects, and a few 3-D backgrounds (flawlessly mixing into the game's art style) raise this title above anything in full 3-D on the DS, and well above the GBA creations.

Konami has even added multi-player features, including the ability to swap items (and souls) wirelessly and create challenges to race through competitively. It seems almost unnecessary given how strong the single player experience, but this makes up for the lower difficulty of the standard quest (three endings included though). Boss Rush mode becomes available once the main game is beaten, a timed charge on each of the games biggest fights.

Whether or not this achieves the greatness set by Symphony of the Night will depend on how highly regarded that entry is personally. There's a strong case for Dawn of Sorrow and the Playstation/Saturn title. Both are engrossing, unforgettable, and impossible to stop playing once started. This will be a classic for the DS.

Comments (7)

LKM:

Having played all Castlevania games since the original NES game, I'd say this is the best Castlevania yet. Sure, it doesn't really use the DS's features, but it doesn't have to. The fact that the map is always visible helps a lot, and the graphics are simply amazing. It's a pity that people are critizising it for not being a "true" DS title. It's good to have games like this on the DS, too.

Can't wait for a 2D Metroid on the DS :-D

Metroid will be 3D, have you played the demo? Other then the targeting, I think it looked pretty darn good.

I agree, a DS game does not have to heavily use the (sometimes stupid) gimmick factor to make it a good DS game. You are not going to be able to have one gameplay screen and one map screen on another console - so there is your "true" DS experience :)

I think he knows Metroid was 3-D, he wants a 2-D one like we all do.

But would that sell? I doubt it. It would be too much like the games they released for the GBA.

So is Castlevania, but you don't see people complaining about this one. In fact, the deeper I get, I just want to play it more. Easily the best game in the series. I beat it three hours ago, yet I'm still going. It's just that damned good.

Point well taken.

LKM:

Yeah, I know there's a 3D Metroid coming out. I even got the demo with my DS :-)

I'm sure it's going to be great, with online support and its usage of the touch screen. It's just that I don't want the 3D Metroid at the expense of a 2D one. I'm sure Nintendo will get around to releasing a 2D Metroid on the DS eventually - as Castlevania has shown, it's the perfect console for such a game.

And I think any Metroid game is going to sell a huge load of copies, whether it's 2D or 3D :-)

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