Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Nintendo DS is preparing for its first ever Castlevania adventure, and we go hands-on to bring you the scoop!
The sound of cold bones chittering against the cold stone floor, the cry of hungry wear wolves, and the sputtering gush of blood from a freshly cleaved torso. Ah yes, the sounds of Castlevania. Konami's flagship series has endured for well over a decade and the company continues to impress, this time on the Nintendo DS. With the reappearance of some old friends, cutting edge graphics, and innovative ways to play, Castlevania for DS (tentative title) is shaping up to be one hell of a good time.
Fans of the classic Aria of Sorrow on Game Boy Advance will find a lot to love about this game, which takes place one year after hero Soma Cruz's adventures. Lately he's been having trouble dealing with the cold, hard fact that he's Dracula reborn. To make matters worse, there's this maniacal cult wants to sacrifice him to bring about the resurrection of a new dark lord. But Soma's not gonna take it. Rather than offer himself up to bring about the Apocalypse, he goes after his assailants in an epic quest that'll see him do battle within a replica of Dracula's castle.
Like in all Castlevania games, no one's going to leave a welcome mat at the front door (or drawbridge). Once you do get inside, you're going to find that there's a whole lot of creatures with a bad case of the uglies that don't want you there. Thus begins a new Castlevania adventure, with you playing as Soma Cruz, armed with all sorts of weapons and determined to cut through the demonic hordes of undead enemies in your quest for the truth.
Castlevania for DS, much like Aria of Sorrow, is positively gorgeous, featuring wonderfully-detailed 2D graphics. Producer Koji Igarashi and his team have not only brought to life the skeletons, werewolves, fishmen, and other assorted baddies, but also the castle itself. The snow-blanketed forests, the glorious castle archways, and the cold cobblestones are wondrously spectacular.
While you wouldn't be wrong thinking the game looks just like Aria of Sorrow (which is no shabby feat), the power of Nintendo DS allows the inclusion of polygonal bosses and other creatures that feature some really cool scaling effects, definitely setting this game apart from its predecessor.
Also, I was pleased to see that the blood in Castlevania for DS flows like cheap Charles Shaw from Trader Joes. Just about every monster covered with living tissue spews a familiar red viscous substance when introduced to Soma's cold steel, and the 2D animation is second to none. I split a zombie in two and watched as its top half immediately struck the soft, white snow, and then its bottom portion split down the middle.
While I adore the game's high level of violence, sending Dracula's denizens of evil to a bloody oblivion doesn't fully capture the essence of this title. Konami's done some marvelous work to ensure that this sequel isn't your standard Castlevania adventure, and this all revolves around the use of the two DS screens. The top screen contains your map and character stats, which, while useful, isn't really much of a surprise.
However, the use of the bottom screen is what makes the game truly unique. Unlike most DS games, all of the action takes place here, but there's a good reason for this. Using the stylus (or just your fingers), you can create pathways for Soma to use as conduits, chopping through ice or barriers with ease. For example, after just a few minutes of play I came across a bridge, and floating over top of it were these blue crystals. Using the stylus, I cut a very sloppy but effective staircase, and was therefore able to get Soma to a previously unreachable area.
Another way that the touch screen will come into play is in boss battles. According to Konami, it's not good enough to just stamp their one way ticket back to hell. Rather, you need to banish them using a technique called Magic Seal. Unfortunately, it's not yet known what this means, or how we'll make use of it, but we look forward to finding out.
Like all Castlevania games, the DS game features incredible music, the kind that begs not only for the use of headphones but also the soundtrack itself. While I only got to listen to a few tracks, they showed me that that Konami won't disappoint.
One of the game's best features will be the ability to wirelessly trade souls with another player. While Konami hasn't really divulged info regarding how this system will work (or what the point is), it should help to make eBay auctions as well as schoolyard bets just a tad easier.
Castlevania for DS doesn't release until this Fall, so expect a lot more details in the near future, especially as we head into E3. So for now enjoy the screens, wait with bated breath in anticipation of new information, and finish Aria of Sorrow already!