By now, most Game Boy Advance owners should be comfortable with (or at least accepting of) reliving the past with the majority of releases 'revisioning' or outright porting the biggest hits of generations past. Konami helps this case of initial deja vu in its dark (in tone and luminance) Castlevania: Circle Of The Moonby mixing venerable 16-bit gameplay with an entirely new adventure.
Memories of Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night should come rushing back to players as they fight through the minions of the undead while exploring the labyrinthine castle. What Circle Of The Moon lacks in originality, it almost redeems itself with excellent controls and a high level of refinement throughout. The bosses are imaginative and well designed, and challenge the player to use all the tricks they know in slug matches. I found the RPG elements in the game to be a bit hit or miss. Leveling up occurred frequently, but the resulting improvement was so slight that it was difficult to get excited about.
As Chi mentioned, the game includes a card system where players can combine cards they find to generate special abilities. I really enjoyed interacting with these abilities because Konami did a great job creating them. A number of them are really fun to play with (the sword effects are great) and the majority are useful, even if only for a few moments in a boss fight. The only flaw with the cards is the haphazard way that they are distributed. Cards are random rewards for killing monsters that occur rather infrequently. Individual cards are distributed across the game to specific monsters in specific locations. So if you pass over a part of a dungeon and happen to not kill the correct enemy (or kill the correct enemy a few times and the card never appears), you would have just missed a card but without any indication. Finding all the cards is frustrating even with a hint guide because of this random factor—you have to kill the same enemy over and over again and just wait for the lucky item to pop out. Finding all the cards without the help of a hint book requires an amount of diligence and patience that might be more appropriate for someone thrown into solitary confinement. It is a shame, because the card system could have been a great hook for the game—I certainly would have played more frequently if the cards were distributed via exploration (like other power ups in the game) or were rewards for knocking out the bosses.
Other than that, there's not much to talk about with Circle Of The Moon. Solid and fun to play, but with both feet solidly planted in the past. Those who miss this style of play should definitely pick up the game, but those waiting for an innovative title to cross the handheld are forced to wait a little longer.
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