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Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Review posted August 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Konami Entertainment
Developer: Konami
Release Date: October, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Genre: Platform Action Adventure
Price: $34.99

With the several mediocre attempts at bringing the Castlevania series into a 3D world, it seems 2D fans have been relocated to sinking their teeth into the three Game Boy Advance Castlevania releases. While these three games have been enough to keep the series alive and kicking, they've never been able to reach the same level of originality or excitement of the last truly great 2D release, Symphony of the Night for the Playstation. With the release of Dawn of Sorrow, Konami has managed to not only return the Castlevania series to its rightful place atop the Platform genre, but they've also managed to include some truly original and useful new features using the DS touch screen capabilities. The end result is one of the most enjoyable Castlevania titles ever created, not to mention a rock-solid platforming experience with enough style and substance to place it among the best the Castlevania series has to offer.

The story in Dawn of Sorrow takes place one year after the events of Aria of Sorrow have unfolded. This time an eccentric cult, obsessed with reviving the evil Count Dracula, have built an exact replica of his castle and have kidnapped Soma's friends and taken them inside the mock castle. Now Soma must enter the castle, rescue his friends, and put a stop to the vile plans of this village cult before they can carry out their plans of reviving the evil prince of darkness.


As in the previous Game Boy Advance Castlevania games, the majority of your quests will involve exploring different rooms and corridors found throughout the castle. Thankfully the game automatically generates a map for you, located on the top DS screen, to keep track of where you've already explored in the castle. At certain points, you'll come face to face with a boss, which will have to be defeated in order to move on in the game. Like Aria of Sorrow, as you defeat enemies, occasionally you'll be able to capture the soul of that particular enemy and gain the use of its special ability in the process. This holds especially true with the bosses you'll fight throughout the game. You'll have to acquire and use these abilities in order to gain access to new parts of the castle.

In Dawn of Sorrow you have three different categories of souls at your disposal. Bullet Souls give you enhanced attack characteristics, Guardian Souls give you increased defensive powers, and Enchanted Souls allow you to use other unique special abilities. Different souls bestow different powers and abilities, some more useful than others. The game even allows you to forge a captured soul to your weapon, making it even more powerful, but you lose that particular soul once you've done so.

Also similar to Aria of Sorrow is the weapons, armor, and leveling up systems. You're allowed to select a weapon, a suit of armor, and one accessory which in turn increases your character's attributes. New to Dawn of Sorrow is the ability to have two distinct character sets. Once you've located this ability within the game, you can then configure two different setups complete with different weapons, armor, accessories, and souls. You can then switch between the two sets using one of the buttons on the DS. This will make it easier to use your lighter weapons for most ordinary circumstances, while switching to the heavier weapons and armor when facing stronger enemies. As you defeat enemies and bosses in the game, your experience points will build up causing your character to level up. All of these things combined together will determine how effective your character will be at defeating the stronger enemies and bosses in the game and play a key role in how you progress through the castle.

Two new features found in Dawn of Sorrow make use of the DS touch screen capabilities. The first one allows you to draw special seals, which involves drawing different line compositions on a pentagram shaped board. You will need this to open certain sealed doors as well as to seal the soul of a boss you have just defeated in order to gain that boss' special ability. You'll find these seal descriptions hidden throughout the castle that will quickly show you a specific line composition that you must remember for future reference. The other new feature allows you to break certain blocks throughout the castle, allowing you access to areas that were previously unreachable. Some of these blocks have to be broken in a specific pattern in order for you to climb them, or avoid them while riding on some of the game's moving platforms. While these may seem somewhat gimmicky in nature, they do play a key role in the way you gain access to newer regions of the castle.

Multiplayer Mode

Multiplayer mode is something new to the Castlevania series. In this mode you can compete against another player wirelessly in a race through a twisting maze of rooms in the castle, each filled with a wide array enemies, depending on how far along you are in the game. You can even choose to place these particular enemies yourself, although this doesn't particularly add much to the experience itself. It's certainly nothing terribly groundbreaking, and has little to do with the actual quests of the game, but it's a nice diversion from the main quest.


Anyone who's played the previous Game Boy Advance Castlevania titles will immediately notice the higher quality visuals in Dawn of Sorrow. It's not until you've played the game a little, however, that you begin to notice many of the slight graphical nuances that slowly come together to create an even more impressive visual experience. Character and enemy sprites sport a crisp, detailed look, and move very fluidly, made possible by the additional frames of animation. Bosses in the game are among some of the best the series has ever seen, with some bosses spanning nearly the entire screen. Even something as minor as the way in which an enemy bursts into flames when defeated, further highlights the noticeable attention to detail that was put into the game. Another impressive graphical highlight would have to be the parallax scrolling in the game. There will be times when there are three or four depth levels of scrolling, adding even more realism to the already structured backdrops. It's fairly safe to say that Dawn of Sorrow really shines in a way no other portable Castlevania title ever has before, and further illustrates the fact that 2D gaming is still a very viable format for portable gaming.


Screen shots:

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Deals and Shopping






Not since Symphony of the Night has a Castlevania soundtrack sounded as crisp or well written as this one. Beautifully orchestrated music echoes through the DS speakers, changing as you enter each new area, while retaining that trademark Castlevania musical styling that has been somehow missing in each of the Game Boy Advance Castlevania releases. The sound effects in the game perfectly compliment the foreboding settings in the game, with enemies all sporting their own individual moans or screams. While it would have been nice to have had some voice acting in the game's wonderful conversation scenes, it's clear that Konami squeezed about as much audio out of this game as they possibly could. This is one game you'll want to turn up the volume on, and one perfectly suited to show off the impressive DS sound capabilities.


It's almost a forgone conclusion that most Castlevania fans are going to embrace this game right off. Not only does it take some of the better aspects of the Game Boy Advance series of Castlevania games, but it also manages to expand upon those ideas with several unique touch screen functions that add even more originality to an already established formula. While some developers of Konami still struggle to bring the Castlevania experience into the world of 3D gaming, other members of their development teams have just created the product that once again illustrates just how well the game can still be executed in a 2D format. If you've been looking for a reason or excuse to buy a Nintendo DS system, you've just found it.

Playing Hints and Tips

- Every boss in the game has a distinct pattern. If you're having trouble defeating a boss, try to watch its movements and attack it when it's most vulnerable.

- Sometimes bigger isn't necessarily better. Generally the stronger a weapon is, the heavier it is, thus making its swing speed much slower. Try to choose a weapon somewhere in the middle, where you can get some of the strength without losing too much swing speed.

- Get used to using the backdash move as it can get you out of some sticky situations in the game and provides a solid means of avoiding some of the deadlier boss attacks.

- It probably goes without saying, but save rooms are generally close by no matter where in the castle you are. Use them often.

- Defeat enemies every chance you get as the more enemies you destroy the more your character will advance his attributes.

- Don't be afraid to make use of your special attacks and abilities as your special abilities meter fills up as time passes. If you find your meter low, duck into an empty room and allow it to fill up. (Save rooms will also immediately refill your life and special ability gauge.)

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):


The step up in visual quality from the Game Boy Advance titles may seem subtle at first, but when the many graphical improvements are coupled together, they show just how far ahead of the Game Boy Advanced titles Dawn of Sorrow truly is. Outstanding detail, and terrific use of the DS' duals screens, make this one of the most visually impressive Castlevania games ever.


Musically, Dawn of Sorrow is the best Castlevania soundtrack since Symphony of the Night in terms of both quality and composition. The sound effects in this game are among the best ever heard in a Castlevania game and a true testament to the sound capabilities of the Nintendo DS. Actual speech would have been nice, but the game doesn't suffer for this minor omission.

Fun Meter

You won't find a better or more in-depth game for the DS system to date. Overflowing amount of gameplay, an enormous castle to explore, and some absolutely stunning bosses to fight make playing Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow an absolute joy. Even those new to the Castlevania series should find the toned-down difficulty easier to pick up than most previous titles.


A gradual increase in difficulty makes getting into the game quite easy, and the ability to collect monsters and souls gives you a good reason to come back to the game even after you've initially completed it. The multiplayer option is a nice addition, but doesn't add much to the overall package. What will keep most players coming back to this one is the fact that it's simply a lot of fun to play.

Total Score= 4.75 Dragons, 95%

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