The Castlevania franchise has been a long running series that has been quite successful. Circle of the moon is the first Castlevania game for the Gameboy Advanced. The series has always been known for its 2D action adventure style game play and fairly interesting story. Is the very first GBA release worth your time or should you leave this one in the bargain bin?
You play as Nathan Graves, who with his master Morris Baldwin and his master’s son Hugh Baldwin respond to the resurrection of Dracula and goes to the castle to stop evil once again. Dracula quickly tosses Nathan and Hugh aside and sends them down a pit. After falling in Hugh runs ahead telling you to leave the castle but being concerned about his master, Nathan decides to stay and help. The story is pretty simple for a Castlevania game with a few twists here and there but nothing that’s going to shock you. It does a good job at keeping the game moving, despite being a similar set up to past Castlevania games.
The exploration in Castlevania Circle of the Moon is similar to Castlevania Symphony of the Nights set up. You can freely roam the castle with a few areas being blocked off that require special skills to get past certain parts to open up new areas for you to find another skill to go on. Nathan’s moves for exploration has a more acrobatic feel then other games, giving you the ability to do a shoulder charge and wall jump to reach higher areas. The rest of it is pretty standard Castlevania type moves.
Combat in Castlevania Circle of the Moon will also feel familiar to other Castlevania games. Basically you use the D-pad to move, A button to Jump and B button to attack with your whip. You can also use hearts to use combat items you found to throw things like knifes crosses, etc. The magic system is where Castlevania Circle of the Moon really shines. Using a system called DSS cards. You collect these cards and combine them to make spells that can enhance your weapon, enhance stats or even create completely new weapons. There is a large variety and gives you plenty of things to play with, which keeps combat fresh.
The graphics in Circle of the Moon are well done for an early GBA game, showing off the superior power it had over the Gameboy Color. Although the animations aren’t as well done as some of the later games, it’s to be expected from a older game. Although one thing you will notice is that there’s not a large variety of enemies, you will encounter a few but usually their just old sprites with different colors. While it doesn’t exactly hurt the experience it would have been nice to see more enemy types. Effects are well done but even with a brighter screen some attacks were difficult to see. More then often it was a dark see-through purple on a gray background. Considering this game was released towards the beginning of the Gameboy where there were no back-lit screens, it seems like something that should have been changed; fortunately it only happens on a few enemies.
The music in Circle of the Moon follows Castlevania Tradition and provides an amazing sound track. Most of the songs are memorable and you might find your self humming some of the tunes during the day while you’re not playing. Sound effects are well done sounding just as good as previous entries.
Overall Castlevania Circle of the Moon will definitely not disappoint Castlevania fans. Tried and true game play is mixed up with the DSS cards to make it more interesting, a great sound track, a decent story that moves the game along well and plenty of extra goodies at the end to add legs to the title make Castlevania Circle of the Moon a great game. Those who are looking for another good Castlevania game at a cheaper price (Amazon.com’s Price is currently around 10$ used) or to hold them over until the next Castlevania game, look no further. For those looking for a completely new Castlevania experience, you may want to pass.