even though i’d just finished castlevania: SOTN i was interested in what the post SOTN castlevania games were like so i tried out its immediate successor circle of the moon. the game is the first of three castlevania games on the GBA, and was one of the few that SOTN producer koji igarashi was not involved with.
having only played SOTN of the “modern” castlevania games i don’t have the larger context, but the game does have noticeably less detail and visual polish than SOTN, even taking into account the limitations of the platform. the game is also much more difficult, which was both refreshing and frustrating. since the gameplay itself is pretty much identical to SOTN, the increased difficulty made combat more interesting in general. there’s a ton of reused palette-swapped sprites, but as with TWEWY in general their behaviors make them distinct and worthwhile. the game’s pacing is really unrefined, though, and there’s a ton of backtracking and save points never seem to be where you need them to be. the middle section was also extremely frustrating and i only found out after i’d beaten the game that this was because i had done one section out of order (the poisonous sewers; apparently i’m not the only one who’s made this mistake). also, the magic system, in which you combine two cards, feels unique but underutilized, and it really, really bugs me that you can only obtain certain cards in a completely obscure way (e.g. fighting an enemy who only appears in one location and only has a small chance of dropping the card).
all in all, even though there was a lot i disliked about the game, there wasn’t a lot that i absolutely hated. as a continuation of the castlevania series there was just enough that was new to keep me interested, and the new modes that are unlocked on subsequent playthroughs look interesting. subsequent entries will definitely have to shake things up significantly more to draw me in, though. harmony of dissonance already feels like a huge snoozefest from the first half hour i’ve played of it, but since i’ve finished the metroid series i’ll probably end up working my way through more of the castlevania series before too long.
circle these castlevania: circle of the moon links:
– nice section on the game at castlevaniadungeon.net. includes a handy chart of all the card combinations and a bestiary with sprites of all the enemies and their item drops.
– strategywiki.org also has a nice entry for the game, including a walkthrough and a guide to the bosses
– PDF of instruction manual at replacementdocs.com
– reviews at vgmuseum.com and videogamecritic.net
– the game has a score of 91 at metacritic (???)
– someone’s advice on what level you should be at to beat the bosses (although i personally was well under those since i didn’t level grind at all)