Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (commonly abbreviated as AoS), released in Japan as Castlevania: Akatsuki no Minuet (キャッスルヴァニア ～暁月の円舞曲～? lit. "Castlevania: Minuet of Dawn") is a side-scrolling platforming video game developed and published by Konami for the Game Boy Advance. It is the third and final installment of the Castlevania series on the system and was released in North America on May 6, 2003, and in Japan on May 8, 2003.
Producer Koji Igarashi, who had led the production teams for previous Castlevania titles, led Aria of Sorrow's development as well. Michiru Yamane also returned to compose the music for the game alongside Takashi Yoshida and Soshiro Hokkai. Director Junichi Murakami was new to the Castlevania series.
The game closely follows the franchise's gameplay and features established in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
The game takes place in the year 2035 and stars Soma Cruz, a high school exchange student in Japan. While visiting the Hakuba Shrine with his friend Mina Hakuba, Soma is accidentally transported into Castlevania along with her. There he meets Genya Arikado, who defeats a group of attacking enemies and explains Soma's ability to absorb monsters' souls. Genya also tells Soma to go to the Master's Chamber quickly, so Mina doesn't die an excruciatingly painful death.
Aria of Sorrow has several possible endings, depending on the course taken by the player.
- Main article: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow/Gallery
|A high-school student living in the town of Hakuba and the hero of this game. He possesses a strangely daunting presence and people find him distant and difficult to approach. On the evening of the 2035 A.D. solar eclipse, Soma sets off for the Shrine of the White Horse. The Shrine is located on a hilltop and is attached to the house of his friend Mina. Soma and Mina look forward to watching this rare astral event from the high-altitude view of the Shrine, but something unexpected happens and they are knocked unconscious.|
|The only daughter of the Shrine's caretaker and head priest. A childhood friend of Soma's, Mina is extremely friendly and well liked by everyone she encounters. Though Soma has quite an intimidating personality, she gets along with him comfortably.|
|The founder of a new religious sect with hordes of devout followers. Born on the 7th month of the year 1999, Graham is rumored to possess magical powers. He gains converts by preaching that the apocalyptic prophecies that were so popular at the end of the last century will come to pass in the year 2035 A.D.|
|Descendant from a long line of witches employed by the Church. Talkative and quite nosy, she has been sent by the Church to investigate the prophecy of Dracula's resurrection. She is acquainted with Genya Arikado.|
|An extremely cold man with an inhumanly attractive face. Mr. Arikado always wears a dark suit and is said to belong to a shadowy organization somehow related to national security. He is familiar with the prophecy of Dracula's resurrection.|
|Suffers from amnesia that was triggered by a traumatic incident he experienced in 1999. J possesses amazing powers of magic and is extremely fearful of the resurrection of Dracula.|
|A soldier dispatched by the army to investigate Hakuba Shrine. Possesses an extremely rough personality and he only works when he feels like it. Hammer has always wanted to retire from the army and open his own business.|
- Main article: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow/Script
Aria follows the model established by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, that of an action role-playing game. The player collects new equipment and skills by exploring the game's castle setting and fighting increasingly powerful enemies and bosses, leading up to a climactic encounter with the castle's master. The player primarily attacks at close quarters using variety of weapons. Soma Cruz's control and fighting style is reminiscent of Alucard from Symphony of the Night, as opposed to that of a whip-wielding Vampire Killer most prominently featured in the series. However, he has a different system of secondary attacks.
As with previous titles in the series, Aria introduces a new magic system Tactical Soul System. Each of the 110 enemies in the game may provide a unique soul upon their defeat, depending on the player's luck. Once collected, souls may be equipped, granting new abilities.
The souls come in four main types:
- Bullet Souls: These provide sub-weapon-like functionality, such as fireballs and other attacks. They are activated with the UP + B button combination.
- Guardian Souls: These provide mainly defensive abilities, such as summoning Familiars, temporary invulnerability or shapeshifting. They are activated or toggled with the R button.
- Enchanted Souls: These work to give Soma new latent abilities, such as walking on water or increasing statistics.
- Ability Souls: These provide always-on abilities, such as a double jump and slide move. These are generally obtained from bosses and used to mediate level design in the same manner as in the Metroid games; that is, as new abilities are acquired, more areas are available to the player to explore.
Souls can be traded with the use of two Game Boy Advances, two cartridges and a link cable.
Unlockable modes include playing as a Belmont and a Boss Rush mode, the latter where unique items and very powerful weapons are awarded for defeating the boss creatures in sequence in a set amount of time.
Reviews and reaction
Aria of Sorrow was well received by Castlevania's fandom in general, as opposed to the previous GBA installments Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, which received very mixed reviews. It is considered by many to be the best of the Game Boy Advance games. While many felt the Metroid/Castlevania hybrid gameplay started by Symphony of the Night had begun to wear thin at this point, Aria offered more balanced and clean gameplay, along with a fresh plot, good visuals, and other generally agreed upon improvements. The soul collection system is seen as quite fun, and gives much room for improvising and customization when combining Soma's powers in different ways. Many felt, however, that the system wasn't delved into as deeply as it could have been. Also, a complaint from the previous game, Harmony of Dissonance, that the game used too little visual contrast in the backgrounds, remained somewhat in Aria of Sorrow, although there are many genuinely beautiful and colorful backgrounds, and the tiling seems to have been done in a more competent manner.
Perhaps Aria of Sorrow's biggest claim to fame is a major plot twist near the end which surprised many long time Castlevania fans. See the article about Soma Cruz for more details, but be warned; major spoilers lie ahead. While Aria of Sorrow continued to expand on the tried and true exploration format of many of the previous installments, many fans felt that this plot twist, as well as the totally new era (this is the first Castlevania game to take place in a futuristic time period, although the signs of such were minimal, such as grenade throwing enemies or a handgun weapon), was just the potential for innovation the series' plotline needed. A follow up of Aria, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, was released in 2005, which continues the storyline started in Aria.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was re-released in North America in January of 2006, alongside Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, in Konami's Castlevania: Double Pack, which has both games on one GBA game pak.
- Starting a new game in the same slot as a previous completed save data will keep game time, number of obtained souls, all items, all equipments, and all souls (except souls obtained from Soul-Keepers and the Kicker Skeleton's soul). Starting the game this way will let Soma start with 22 EXP. Soma will start with the last saved equipment, without equipping any souls.
- Completing the game once will unlock three different modes. These modes can be played by starting a new game in an empty slot using a certain name input:
- JULIUS will let the player to play as Julius.
- NOUSE will let the player to play the game with item restriction.
- NOSOUL will let the player to play the game with soul restriction.
- This is the only GBA game where Death does not have an alternate form for his second phase (not counting the Classic NES Series port for the original Castlevania).
- The game's intro states that people were gathering around to see the world's first total solar eclipse of the 21st Century, when that statement is actually false. The first total solar eclipse of the 21st Century occured on June 21, 2001 as it began off the coast of Uruguay and across the Southern Atlantic Ocean and through Southern Africa and Madagascar. The people in Africa would be the first people to see the 21st Century's first total solar eclipse.
- Though the game is correct about a Total Solar Eclipse occuring in Japan (which will be on September 1-2, 2035) but the Eclipse itself will come from the Northwest, not from the Southeast like depicted in the game.
- Akumajō Dracula Best Music Collections BOX — Contains music from this game on Disc 9.
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (mobile) — A mobile version of Aria of Sorrow.
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow & Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow Original Soundtrack
- Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow — The Nintendo DS sequel to this game.
- Castlevania: Double Pack — A compilation package including both Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow.
- Futabasha Castlevania: Akatsuki no Minuet Official Guide — A Japanese official guide to this game.
- NTT Pub Castlevania: Akatsuki no Minuet Official Guide — Another Japanese official guide to this game.
- Castlevania Advance Collection – A compilation containing all three Game Boy Advance games and Dracula X released on 2021.
- Aria of Sorrow Artwork (category)
- Aria of Sorrow Items (category)
- Aria of Sorrow Locations (category)
- Aria of Sorrow Bestiary
- Aria of Sorrow Inventory
- Aria of Sorrow Voice Translations
- Demon Castle War
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow at the Castlevania Fan Wiki
- Official Konami page (Internet Archive: July 24, 2011 - Japanese)
- Aria of Sorrow Citadel
- Castlevania Realm
- RPGClassics' Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow Shrine
|Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow|
|Soma Cruz • Mina Hakuba • J./Julius Belmont • Yoko Belnades • Genya Arikado (Alucard) • Hammer|
|Creaking Skull • Manticore • Great Armor • Big Golem • Headhunter • Death • Legion • Balore • Graham • Belmont • Chaos|
|Castle Corridor • Chapel • Study • Dance Hall • Inner Quarters • Floating Garden • Clock Tower|
Underground Reservoir • Underground Cemetery • The Arena • Top Floor • Forbidden Area • Chaotic Realm
|Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow & Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow Original Soundtrack|
|Futabasha Official Guide • NTT Pub Official Guide|
|Bestiary • Inventory • In-Game Formula • Julius Mode • Voice Translations|