Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 25.12.2005 1

Review for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on Nintendo DS

The Castlevania series has been prominent within the videogame Industry back from its original outing on the Nintendo Entertainment system. However, it really shot to fame upon the release of Symphony of the Night on the PSone as Konami amended the classic formula slightly. Now, after three superlative GBA adventures, the trend is set to continue in Dawn of Sorrow on the Nintendo DS. Another classic or merely a cheap re-hash?

The first GBA outing, Circle of the Moon was heavily criticised throughout the media Industry for being far too dark on the original GBA's unlit screen. However, in improving matters for its follow-up, Harmony of Dissonance, the audio aspect took a turn for the worst instead. Completing the hat-trick of handheld versions, though, Aria of Sorrow cast the perfect balance in gorgeous sprite-led graphics and stunning soundtrack. With Dawn of Sorrow, being one of Konami's first real efforts on the new Nintendo, sceptics wondered whether the game would maintain high standards.

It is safe to say that not only does this surpass the bar set by Symphony of the Night, but it far out-classes ANY other DS title on the market so far. Konami throws massive characters around the screen at a lightning pace, mixing in blur effects, rich colouring and a wide variety of special effects that blast out of the DS screens leaving you wondering just why this sort of class was not achieved in the older N64 iterations. Varied locations, weapons and enemies litter this beautiful game that has such atmosphere it almost makes you feel like you are actually on the ride with Soma Cruz!

Screenshot for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on Nintendo DS

And if that is not enough, having the extra fine soundtrack pumping out of the stereo speakers pushes the envelope even further. The orchestration throughout the series as a whole has been exemplary, yet DoS seems to be marginally more impressive than past editions with its sweeping melodies, moving tunes and array of sound effects that power-up the adventure to a superb degree. Any doubts about the game's setting and its authenticity can be forgotten about once the volume is cranked up.

For those that do not know how the new style of Castlevania plays, what you need to do is imagine moulding a typical Mario two-dimensional platform game with the Metroid adventures, searching around a large world with various different settings within. And then, on top of that, there is a role-playing element so is finely woven into the whole package to create a complete mish-mash of a game that thankfully does not lose its integrity in the slightest, instead proving to be one of the most varied and gripping formulas in the videogaming world today.

Screenshot for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on Nintendo DS

You start off as Soma Cruz as you re-enter the castle you once believed you would never have to suffer ever again. Straight away enemies set upon you like the plague, masses of skeletons and evil, blood-sucking bats bombard, leaving you to desperately attempt to fend them off with a small, weak weapon. However, once these have been despatched in sufficient number, the number of experience points gained may lead to Soma's level increasing, thus bringing him more power or defence, as well as gaining other attribute bonuses. In addition, enemies will sometimes drop items for use throughout the game, or even give up their souls to him for use at will during play.

Yes, Soma has the ability to channel the powers of those around him, similar to Kirby when he sucks his foes off...erm, I mean 'up' him extra magical powers, the opportunity to reach previously unreachable heights or create a protective shell, as well as many others. This turns out to be an integral part of play as you guide Soma around the winding paths, reckless routes and through hidden passages, facing streams of bad guys all eager to end the plight of the hero. The right combination of weapon, armour (both of which can be found around the castle and even bought from an 'associate' peddling his wares) and magical aptitude will ensure that the depressing Game Over screen does not appear far too frequently.

Screenshot for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on Nintendo DS

Now, from reading through all of this it may just sound like something that could be pulled off on any other system. However, there are some nice touches that are exclusive to the Nintendo DS hardware. The main example is how the top screen displays your large map at all times, helping you to navigate your way around the extensive labyrinth that faces Soma. This can be switched to the items screen with ease, though, for when you need to check on your status of amend your items and make use of them. In addition, the touch-screen even comes into play in a pretty snazzy fashion, with the stylus helping to rid of on-screen blocks, or trap boss characters by tracing out one of several magical keys located around the playing world. So with the already proven excellence of its normal gameplay, mixed in with some very nice DS features, Dawn of Sorrow sits in a category all on its own at the moment. But all you need to know is that it is definitely highly addictive, in-depth, magical and completely unmissable...

Unfortunately the one major downfall of each and every one of the Castlevania game is that of their length. No matter how classic and engrossing the gameplay might be, the fact that the average lifespan is about six hours drags down the appeal for many gamers as it appears to be not worthy of the high cost. Thankfully, this has been amended for Dawn of Sorrow, with the length being extended to over ten hours easily, and even more for those not exactly au fait with the series. Extra modes help to extend the adventure even more, as does a rudimentary two-player option. But the meat of Dawn of Sorrow lies in its twisting, turning single-player adventure full of touch beasts and taxing situations.

Screenshot for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Nintendo may be the King in its field, but Konami sure does know how to crack out the perfect platform style adventure. Castlevania may retain its age-old gameplay mechanic for its main formula, but with the flair it is pulled off with, plus the clever little extras a perfect refinements, Dawn of Sorrow excels itself to become one of, if not the best DS title since the system's release.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Cracking game - one that everyone should seriously own, especially Metroid fans!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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