Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Second Opinion)
Nintendo DS
Reviewed: 12/31/2005


Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is the newest entry in long-running Castlevania the series, and the first for the Nintendo DS. It’s also a direct sequel (to Aria of Sorrow), which is rather uncommon for this series. Does Dawn live up to the Castlevania name, or Aria for that matter?

Dawn of Sorrow’s gameplay follows the Castlevania trend of late: explore a wide open castle that’s non-linear, like the Metroid games, to find hidden weapons all across the castle, while killing the undead to level up. However, to give this game its own unqiue feel, there is the soul system, where just about every enemy in the game carries a soul, and if you kill it, you have the chance of aquiring said soul. Each soul has its own powers, and there are over 100 to collect. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same system that was used in its predecessor, Aria of Sorrow. But there is a much more interesting twist this time around: the more of a particular soul you collect, the more powerful that spell will become. Soma with a only three Zombie souls might cause the spell to do 15 points of damage, while Soma with nine Zombie souls would cause it to do 39. To make soul collecting even more addicting, weapons aren’t found as frequently in the castle this trip. Early in the game a soul forge is found, where the player can upgrade their weapons with souls he’s collected, but in doing so, they lose that particular soul forever, and have to go hunt down a replacement. To make the decision all the more difficult, the more powerful weapons can only be created with boss souls, which you may only get one of in a playthrough. Get the most powerful sword, but lose an incredibly handy spell? It’s all up to you to decide.

Screen Shot
Red Bull gives you wiiiiiinnnngggssss!

The Sound in Dawn of Sorrow is, as is a Castlevania standard, fantastic. From the theme of the first area all the way to the final boss, you’ll be in aural heaven. Every area has addicting melodies that perfectly manage to complement the area you’re exploring, giving things the perfect atmosphere, and never sounding out of place. The boss battle theme will keep you perfectly engaged and pumped, keeping you ready to make them die. Plus, there are a few themes from earlier Castlevania titles, remixed with the sound qualities of the DS. And the sound effects themselves are just as excellent. The power of the DS really shines here, and makes everything sound more natural than any Castlevania before. More than once you encounter enemies that turn into cats, ride horses, or use some other animal against you, and the effects sound just like that animal is right there with you, far more realistic than you can imagine. And there is some wonderful voice acting as well, whenever you use certian spells, or come up on certain characters. Sure, it’s not much, but it’s enough to flesh out each character, and give you an idea of what they’d sound like if they were talking to you.

The Graphics look great, to say the least. Every room in the game looks at least a little different than any other room, and every area of the game uses amazing backdrops to set the scene. From the opening snowy village in the mountains (make sure to look at the beautiful trees!) which has 3-D backgrounds, to the conservatory with it’s wild jungle plants, which also has 3-D backgrounds, every area is just a delight to look at, and will have your jaw dropping. And then there are the actual character sprites. Soma moves very fluidly, and always looks just like a real person, whether swinging a sword, or an axe, or firing a handgun. All the monsters move as good as him too, so that even though you know they’re fake, you can almost see that they could be real.

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Spears of Lightning: for when the shotgun just won’t do.

Every game has a low point, or at least an area weaker than the rest, and for Dawn of Sorrow, it’s the story that takes a hit. Not that the story is bad at all, but compared to its previous source material, it’s just a bit of a disappointment. The tale focuses on hero Soma Cruz, one year after his events in Aria of Sorrow. Due to those events, he is summoned to another castle, and inside battles more undead and meets those who dwell inside. It’s still engaging, espiecally to those who finished Aria, but ultimately fails to impress as much, it’s a bit closer to a typical Castlevania story which has been a little overdone.

Ultimately, Dawn of Sorrow stands a great game, definitely among the top DS titles. It contains everything a portable adventure needs: great gameplay, good story, and great replay value….and some stuff it doesn’t need, but it works, like great sounds and graphics. If you liked any previous “Metroid-Vania” games, you’ll love this. Even if you’ve never played one, you’ll surely like this. Oh, but if the latter is the case, do not play this until you play Aria of Sorrow. You’ll be glad you waited.

-Joey Janowksi

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Excellent
Story Good
Graphics Legendary
Sound/Music Excellent
Replay Value Great
The Verdict: 8