Nintendo DS – 2005
Dawn of Sorrow is an action-platform video-game part of the expanse franchise “Castlevania”, and it is also the direct follow up of “Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow” released previously on Game Boy Advance.
The player controls a young man called Soma Cruz who is the reincarnation of the super villain Dracula (N.B. Dracula is not featured in this video game). Like Alucard in Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Soma will explore a huge castle, fighting monsters and acquiring abilities which are necessary to progress in the game. As DoS was designed for Nintendo DS the stylus and the touchscreen are used on several occasions.
In terms of technical aspects, the graphics are very good. Despite it being 15 years old, the game is full of colour standing very well alongside most of its current main competitors. The excellent soundtrack features some of the most classic Castlevania tunes from the original NES games. Frankly, there is nothing more galvanising than sticking one’s sword in a daemon’s belly while whistling Bloody Tears.
The writing of the story is mainly based on Soma’s internal conflicts about whether he will abandon himself to his dark side or not. The final result is a straight forward story which works well on an action game but at the same time is not particularly inspiring or deep. In particular I would dare (Dracula forgive me!) to state that the final villains are not good enough for the job due to a lack of charisma. To balance the weak villains, the game can count on the superb presence of some of the most iconic monsters of the Castlevania franchise. In particular, the bad guys from Super Castlevania IV infest the last few levels of the game.
The game-play of DoS is based on the one used in its predecessor, Castlevania Aria of Sorrow. Soma’s stats increase using classic RPG elements, like experience points. However, abilities and spells are randomly absorbed by Soma every time he kills a monsters (stealing his Soul). These abilities can be combined making Soma very powerful and fun to play as. Soma also has access to a nice set of weapons, armours and talismans. The result is a solid and fun experience which is probably the peak of the Castlevania franchise.
If so far you think the game sounds good you need to know that this is only the beginning. The best part comes after the game has been cleared and “Julius mode” is unlocked. In fact, It is possible to play DoS again from scratch using a formidable set of characters: Julius Belmont (equipped with the iconic whip!), Alucard and Yoko Belnades (my fave!). This super fun mode allows the player to switch between characters, similar to Castlevania III. The amazing thing is that these 3 characters have unique equipment and abilities which make the game more tactical than the “Soma mode”. In fact, money and items are not allowed so Julius and his friends must rely only on their abilities and team work to clear the castle and face the real villain of the game: dark Soma!
To conclude, DoS represents Castlevania at its very best and has very few small flaws affect the game. This is is definitely a MUST HAVE title for every Castlevania fan and DS owner.