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Akumajou Dracula: Crucifix Of The Blue Moon aka Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow

version: jp - year: 2005 - developer: konami - publisher: konami - format: nintendo ds, cartridge - condition: mint - rarity: common

Japanese text can be a pain in the menus, so either look up a faq for vital info in English (like I did), or play the Euro/US version to avoid frustration!

 

This boss looks terrifying, masterfully animated and he'll give you a hard time before going down (literally several floors!)

 

Death is of course present and is one of the most annoying bosses

 

Here, try to avoid being smashed by his fists as you climb on them to hit the head

 

Enemies are as varied as ever

 

Kill this giant sea-serpent to gain the ability to swim

 

See also

My Castlevania Collection

 

 

Review - After trying to use the Castlevania brand-name globally, Konami dropped it in Japan and returned to the "Akumajou Dracula" label maybe because the rebranding hadn't been appreciated by Japanese fans.

Anyway, Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow (DoS) brings back the tried & tested formula of the past 2D GBA Castlevania chapters to Nintendo's DS system. It uses the same basic Metroid-like structure, with teleport and save rooms scattered throughout the huge interiors of the Castle and the weapon system uses the soul system, already seen in Castlevania Aria of Sorrow.

In all honesty, the specificities of the DS handheld are only marginally used as the top screen will show the progress map while the touch screen will be used to display the action and to cast away bosses by drawing seals with the stylus (or with your finger!). The fact that the action is displayed on the touch screen allows to integrate a few fresh gameplay elements, such as destroying ice blocks to clear a path. The downside of this is that the screen could get dirty pretty quickly.

Despite this very small flaw, DoS betters all of the GBA prequels in almost every aspect. Visually stylish and at times very stunning, backgrounds seamlessly integrate 2D hand-drawn graphics with 3D elements while the level of detail is kept very high throughout. Some rooms often include unique decorations and this adds immensely to the appeal of the castle.

In a word, locations are extremely varied and never get repetitive and this factor will make you want to visit every nook and cranny of the haunted castle. Soma, the main character, is very well animated as all of the other lesser enemies. Bosses look even more detailed and their size is often very impressive.

Overall the crisp and colorful graphics and the quality animations put this 2D chapter of Castlevania a couple of steps above most of the prequels. Erins Soul is really cool to look at and it also has a good range!

The music is also of very high quality. It sounds fantastic and the new themes are particularly inspired.

Now, what truly sets DoS apart from the other games in the series is the amazing "Julius Mode" in which you'll be able to replay the game not as Soma but as a trio of characters, hot-swapping between them. Each character has its own unique characteristics which must be used to successfully pass certain obstacles or kill certain bosses. In this mode, the soul system is gone, replaced instead by a more action-oriented approach.

Julius Belmont's main weapon is the standard whip, which can be directed in every direction, just like in Super Castlevania IV. He also uses a number of classic sub-weapons such as the cross, the axe etc.

Yoko is the female character of the trio and she uses a magic staff to hit enemies. The problem is that the staff has a very limited range but in turn it has the ability to recover some health points back. Yoko is weaker compared to the other characters but her MP regeneration is much faster so you'll be able to perform some of her most powerful and deadly magic attacks more frequently.

Finally, Alucard (from Castlevania SOTN!!) is the coolest character of the trio and probably of all of the Castlevania games that ever came out! His androgynous, gothic look is unique and he moves with an intrinsic elegance which has yet to be matched by any other Castlevania character. Among his key skills, the most noteworthy is his ability to fly by morphing into a bat or his teleport attack which is very effective in catching enemies off-guard. He can also chain huge jumps to stay airborne for an unlimited amount of time. The gameplay in Julius Mode is very addictive and feels fresh.

Bosses tend to be harder than on Normal Mode because weapons can't be upgraded and because you won't be able to use (and power up) souls. In turn, beating bosses becomes a matter of understanding their pattern in depth also by making the best use of the specific characteristics of each character. It's all about finding and balancing the right mix of strengths and skills. This aspect is particularly innovative and gives to the Castlevania Saga a very needed breath of fresh air. It probably also serves to give hardcore Castlevania fans a taste of the next 2D Castlevania game which will be more action-oriented also allowing for character hot-swapping.

Often, you'll need to use the trio's skills perfectly like for example when facing Abaddon or Soma (as the last boss). Abaddon is one of the toughest bosses in this mode. Mimicking an orchestra director, he will summon a swarm of locusts which will be flying very fast in different formations. Look at the boss' gesture to figure out the direction from which you'll be attacked and use the specific skill (or character) required to survive each attack! The problem is that you only have a few vital seconds to adjust your strategy and if you get caught into the swarm, you quickly become history…

So, this extra mode really provides added value to an already excellent package. It will make you want to play through the game twice and believe me, this isn't very common nowadays!

In the end, DoS surpasses most of its predecessors although it still fails to match Symphony of the Night but only because of the less appealing character design which lost its gothic flavor.

Surprisingly, according to the end credits, the original character design found in DoS is still by Ayami Kojima. If that's truly the case, I just hope the change in style is only temporary!

Bottom line: Amazing! 9/10


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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