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Castlevania: The Dawn of Sorrow (Review)

Dan Middaugh, Staff Writer

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The year is 2036, and Soma Cruz has come to terms the fact that he is the reincarnation of Dracula. He is talking to his friend Mina Hakuba when cult leader Celia Fortner summons monsters to attack him! Genya Arikado, a man working for the japanese government, quickly appears to help Soma and to interfere with Celia’s plans, but has to throw Soma a knife to defend himself with because a barrier is put up. Soma defeats a Skeleton, Armor Knight, and a Golem before Celia leaves, revealing her plan to create a new Dark Lord, something Soma refused to become (see Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow for more details). The way Celia will make a Dark Lord is by using two Dark Lord candidates named Dario Bossi and Dmitrii Blinov. They plan to ‘usurp’ Soma by eliminating him. Arikado tells Soma to let him deal with it, but Soma is not content to sit at home doing nothing. He goes to the cult’s hideout, and Soma’s second adventure starts!

Let’s start this off by getting the negatives out of the way.

Negatives:

For all of the hardcore RPG fans in the crowd that don’t mind grinding, this game will change your grinding viewpoint from tolerance to hatred. For those of you that have read my Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow review: remember how I said that the soul drop rate is pretty likely, the souls aren’t hard to get? Well, in Dawn of Sorrow the soul drop rate is very stingy. When you take into consideration the number of souls you need and the amount of grinding you are FORCED to do for better weapons and 100 soul percent is ridiculous. Yes, you read that right, you need to soul grind if you want better weapons. How this works is that Yoko Belnades runs a weapon synthesis shop, and you can use certain enemy souls to make a new weapon. The reason this is a negative is that a soul you use to make a weapon will be used up, meaning you will have to grind for two or more of a soul when you may only want one. I say want because the more of a soul you have the stronger it can become, but I’ll get more into that during the gameplay mechanics. If the soul wasn’t used up, I wouldn’t mind, but because of the fact that the soul is used up, it  increases tedium and decreases the fun. When you go grinding, I suggest putting on your favorite music genre.

A point about the weapons that I dislike is that getting the best greatsword, which is the Claimh Solais once again, requires the soul of Gergoth. Take the Ascalon and combine it with the Gergoth soul to get the Balmung. Is the Gergoth an enemy with a hideously low drop rate? It’s not: in fact, it will always give you its soul. That’s because Gergoth is a boss, and you never refight the bosses. This means if you go for the Balmung as soon as you get the Gergoth soul, you can only get 100 percent souls on a new game plus, or by erasing your save file and restarting, if you saved after getting the Balmung. If you didn’t, you should just go back to the last save point. If you aren’t going for 100 percent souls, you can get the Claimh Solais by the Pinnacle area, but I’m a completionist so I have to get 100 percent. For soul completion, an item that will help you get every soul is the Soul Eater Ring, returning from Aria of Sorrow. I utterly HATE this stupid item! Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely useful, but the additional grinding you have to do to get it is stupid. It appeared in Aria of Sorrow as well, and I don’t hate it there: so why do I hate it here? In Aria of Sorrow, there was the Tsuchinoko soul which made the Soul Eater Ring cheaper. No such thing exists in Dawn of Sorrow, and the way you grind for the 300,000 gold has been changed and not for the better. How to get all this money is to grind using the mimic soul. The mimic soul’s effect is when you get hit, you get money. In Aria, the money was just added to your inventory, in Dawn you physically drop the money, meaning you have to pick it up, which wasn’t necessary at all. For a disadvantage, Soma in Aria had much more HP that he does in Dawn. The max HP value in Dawn is 1100. In Aria, it was almost 1500, the actual value was 1496. You’ll want a lot of HP when you money grind. How to do the money grinding is to go to the Cursed Clock Tower and walk around in some spikes outside a save room until the 300,000 gold is reached. That’s for both games. Put on some high defense armor and take damage in the spikes until one more hit from the spikes would kill you, go into the save room, heal, save if you want, and repeat. In Dawn, if you drop some money in the spike pit and one more hit would kill you, and the post hit invincibility frames have worn off, you just missed out on 500 gold and being 500 gold closer to ending the nightmare. Your best bet to last for a while to get the most gold is to use the Eversing armor. Also, you absolutely need the Mimic soul to do any of this, as stated earlier. The Mimic soul has a three star drop rate, and there is a low chance of getting it. To increase your chances, you’ll want the sword Joyeuse, made from either the Hrunting or Mystletain after combining the one you have with a Killer Clown soul. The Joyeuse will boost your luck by five. In fact, speaking of the Killer Clown, its rare drop is also something else you’ll want: the Three 7s armor. There’s no need to grind against the Killer Clown for the next century because there’s a ‘door’ (it’s not really a door, but I wouldn’t know how else to describe it.) in the Garden of Madness that will open when the last three digits of your total money is 777. Once that has occurred, the door will be removed and you can get the Three 7s, as it will just be sitting on a platform. It has the same defense as your starting armor, casual clothes, but it will boost your Constitution, Intelligence, and most importantly, Luck by seven, hence the name, and I already ranted about the Soul Eater Ring and how stupidly expensive it is. This game is all about souls so let’s go over them. In terms of souls and my personal dislike of some of them, between the two bat transformations, the Giant Bat soul is far better than the Bat Company soul. This is because the Giant Bat soul, ironically, makes you a tiny bat that flies around at a high speed, while the Bat Company soul makes you the size of Soma crouching that is nowhere near as fast. You’re still faster than Soma’s general walking speed, but my point still stands. The ability souls are once again progression tools, alongside the souls of the first through seventh bosses and the ninth and tenth bosses. Eight out of fourteen bosses that give you progression tools. Although three of those fourteen bosses don’t have a soul to give you. Speaking of ability souls, there are two that are held by regular enemies, the Procel and the Mud Demon. The Procel soul can be compared to the Gravity Suit from Metroid-it allows you to move freely and not be slowed down by water-while the Mud Demon will make it so the sand in the Abyss won’t slow you down. As a side note, Procel has a soul drop rate of three stars, while the Mud Demon has a two star rate. The later version of the enemy has a more lenient drop rate than the earlier version. Also, on a new game plus, you don’t keep these souls. I don’t know why they decided to take them away, as the water you encounter before Subterranean Hell is very little.  For the Mud Demon, you go through only a few pits of sand before you encounter it and the sand is easy to get past even without its soul.. These souls aren’t necessary for anything other than 100 percent soul completion, but without them moving through water and sand is way too slow, so I’d suggest getting them regardless. For a boss related negative, here’s a problem anyone that knows the game well was expecting, those sodding magical seals! This being a DS game, and the touch screen being a new feature, the touch screen has to be incorporated into some gameplay mechanic because it’s new. Really, the purpose of magical seals was to fill a quota. In the next two DS games, Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia, I can of think of a single time the the touch screen was used: to quickly use the warp rooms. That’s it, that’s all I can think of. The magical seals have the player drawing a pattern on the touch screen using either their finger or the stylus. They start off very easy, and they get harder and harder each new one you get. The reason they are included and exist at all in game is that a boss is summoned from a dark side, and the magical seal is the only way to close the portal and kill them. If you fail the magical symbol, the boss will get some HP back, and continue fighting. If your hand shakes naturally, or you have a difficult time drawing it due to stress from fighting a hard boss, you’re going to despise these things. That’s the last negative in this long list, so it’s finally positive time.

Positives:

Let’s start off with some soul based positivity! There are some souls I really like, those being the Killer Clown, Mandragora, Flame Demon and Erinys. They are my favorite red souls. My favorite blue souls are every familiar soul, Final Guard, Iron Impact, and Bone Ark. I don’t have a favorite yellow soul, but I use the Lilith soul, Golem soul, and the Ghoul soul, which is very useful. In terms of a good ability soul that doesn’t require grinding, the Doppelganger soul is great. It gives you two sets of a weapon, armor, accessory, and each soul type! It’s super fun. I enjoy fighting most of the bosses, magical seals, Grim Reaper or Death fight, and dying notwithstanding. Using the weapons like the Claimh Solais is very fun, heck, all of the fully upgraded weapons are fun to use! I use the Greatsword and the Katana classes. Having the Chaos Ring and abusing the heck out of most everything is very fun. I like most of the music in the game, from “Pitch Black Intrusion” to “Into the Dark Night,” and “The Abyss” is probably one of my favorite songs! Time for the gameplay mechanics!

Gameplay Mechanics:

Most of the controls from Aria of Sorrow are mostly unchanged, but with the X and Y buttons added to the DS, Y is now attack, with up and Y using your bullet soul. B, however, is still the jump button. The A button will have Soma use up some MP for a stronger attack with his weapon. The X button is what will allow you to change sets once you get the Doppelganger soul, but until you get it, it does nothing. The L shoulder button is the Backdash, you still have that, down and jump is still the slide, and the R button still activates your guardian soul. The enchantment soul is still always on. The control pad still moves Soma as it did in Aria. There isn’t much else to go over, as I already talked about those stupid magical seals. There’s the weapon synthesis shop and the the regular shop. In terms of statuses, there’s poison which temporarily will lower your stats, curse  which will deplete your MP for a while, and stone which will keep you from moving until you break free by wiggling the control pad. You can get rid of poison and curse by using a antivenom or a un-curse potion respectively. There is no potion to get rid of stone early, you have to break out. That’s all for the gameplay mechanics, so I will talk about some of the bosses that I want to talk about, as there’s no way I could do all of them.

Bosses:

Boss one: Flying Armor; Where else to start other than the first boss?! The Flying Armor has blades it that will try, and most likely fail, to hit you with. Use the Axe Armor soul to hit it multiple times, and use the Short Sword to hit it when you’re out of MP. For a shorter fight, you could use the Skeleton soul, as the Flying Armor is weak to bashing, and that’s what its element is, but it’s the first boss, it should be no problem. Boss four: Dmitrii; Remember earlier when I mentioned the dark lord candidates? Well, this fight is with one of them! You fight Dario later. Dmitrii can copy magic attacks, like your bullet souls and any guardian souls that do damage, like a familiar. The first thing you want to do is to hit him with a less dangerous bullet soul, because he copied the attack of Malachi, a dark sphere that you really can’t jump over, so Axe Armor, Skeleton, or Une is a good bullet soul to use, as he can only copy one attack at a time. On a new game plus, if you maxed out the Cave Troll soul, it’s the best thing to use, as Dmitrii is stuck using the level one version of the soul, and the level one Cave Troll soul has basically no range, so you can just get in there and wail on him. When you beat him, Soma refuses to kill him, but Dmitrii dies anyway. How strange. Boss six: Puppet Master; Everybody remembers this boss! The Puppet Master is very annoying, and can kill very quickly if you’re not careful. It will vomit out dolls that will fly around and be very in the way, and will make a puppet that it will move into one of the four iron maidens in the room. You really need to hit that puppet twice. Otherwise, it will be swapped with Soma and Soma will take MASSIVE damage. On hard, prepare to use the hell out of your healing items, as the doll takes four hits, and it’s very hard to take it out in time. The Puppet Master has one weakness: fire. The best thing to do is to get the White Dragon soul and hit him with that. Now, it’s time for my score.

Overall:

This game has one big issue: all of the grinding. I still like this game despite that. I give Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow a 3.5 out of 5. As much as I like this game, it has quite the bad issue.              

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