CASTLEVANIA: Dawn of Sorrow
(Konami, October 4, 2005)

If anyone knows the StarSoldier then they know I got to have my Castlevania fix. After a rather long wait we finally get another portable game but now the horror action series makes the jump from the Gameboy Advance to the slightly more powerful Nintendo Dual Screen (or DS). The question is can the first DS Castlevania be as good or even better then the critically past editions of this franchise or is the Rocky V or Blair Witch II of sequels?

Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow is a direct sequel to the critically acclaimed Castlevania Aria of Sorrow and just like that awesome game you play the young but creepy dude with white hair Soma Cruz. The crazy thing was he was suppose to be the resurrection of the evil Count Dracula himself (sorry if I spoiled it for you) but after the events in the last game he was able to become a human again and living a normal life back in Japan. Although he was able to break free from becoming the new dark lord, a year later (2036 A.D.) Soma and his girlfriend Mina just got attacked by a evil cult member looking to kill him. Now Soma is risking everything to fight this evil cult before they can find another to raise Count Dracula again. Although Soma still wants nothing to do with the evil powers of Dracula, he's needs his unique soul gathering ability if he hopes to survive this new battle.

Although Soma may seem like a average young man that looks way too emo, he has the mysterious power to capture the souls of the monsters. All Soma has to do is kill a enemy and he may be able to earn that monster's special power but I say 'maybe' for a reason. Some of these Souls are harder to get than others and finding all the hundred plus Souls may take quite a while. There are three types of Souls in the game and Soma can use three coloured Souls at once if selected in a cool move by Konami. Another cool move Konami did was include a innovative Doppelganger move where you can switch to another version of yourself with a completely different set of equipment with mere touch of a button.

Moving this series to the DS also gives the series a new lease on life. The two screens here lets you either have a constant view of the game's map or you can go to the item management menu all on the top screen while the action takes place on the bottom. This helps save a lot of time compared to the previous installments. Konami threw in other DS functionality like when you have to draw a special seal on the screen to capture a weaken boss monster or rubbing it to clear some ice. This sounds cool at first since it's a cheap way to feel like an Artist but if you don't draw this seal in time or you get it wrong on that annoying boss it will come back to life and hand you your back side.

Like the past three Castlevania games for the Gameboy Advance this is a 2D action/role playing game meaning you fight enemies while gaining experience points for each kill. Soma can also become stronger and more defensive by equipping weapons and armour to better his chances against the forces of evil just like in the famous CastleVania: Symphony of the Night for the Sony Playstation. That brings me to the game's controls here. The control system works well for the most part but I wish that Soma could dash a little faster, this would have helped to make the back tracking in this game less tedious. Despite some minor nip picking everything else about the controls were flawless, I will complain more about Sorrow's looks however.

Although this Castlevania takes place in the future, like the last game there is very little evidence that the game is actually in the year 2036. Where are the hoverboards from Back to the Future 2 for example? Anyway the game still has some nice animation and a huge list of great looking monsters just like Aria of Sorrow so its not all bad.
This Castlevania even has a cool looking anime cinema in the opening demo which is something you usually don't see on a DS game. Sadly unlike Symphony of the Night the game doesn't have any spoken dialogue here but that also means there is no cheesy acting either I guess. The game still has a good list of midi soundtracks and sound effects to go with the stylist visuals.

Some of the touch screen features can be kind of annoying and the game overall doesn't look too different from it's prequel but that doesn't stop Dawn of Sorrow from being one kickass game. The game is not only long and challenging with a lot of items to find like guns and giant swords but without spoiling too much you can even play as different characters once the game is completed so the replay value is pretty good here. This addictive game isn't only one of the greatest action/role playing games for the DS but it is also one of the best games of 2005.

*Battery back up game

overall rating: 97/100

For 1 player only
Rated (T) for Teen
graphics: 8/10
sound: 8/10
gameplay: 10/10
replay: 8/10

(Ryan Genno) 2007