Release Date: Fall 2005
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the release of a host of A-list titles for the Nintendo DS. In January, when Konami first started showing off the DS’s Castlevania , it looked like it was going to be the system’s first real killer app. Now, enhanced with the subtitle Dawn of Sorrow, it’s simply a great-looking game for the 2005 holiday season.
If you played Aria of Sorrow, you’ll be on comfortable ground with Dawn of Sorrow. Set one year after the events in the earlier game, Dawn is what happens when Soma Cruz, worried for his friends and family, goes to preemptively mess up a cult that wants to resurrect the finally-permanently-dead Count Dracula. Said cult is holed up inside a bizarre imitation of Dracula’s castle, complete with the usual legion of monsters and undead.
Soma comes equipped with the ability to absorb defeated enemies’ souls, which he can use to grant himself powers. Unlike Aria of Sorrow, if you absorb multiple monster souls in Dawn, it powers up the relevant ability. A given monster’s soul may lend Soma a large magical axe, but if you keep grabbing the same soul, it will eventually become larger and more powerful.
The rest of the game hasn’t changed much. You’ll still be exploring an enormous 2D dungeon, gradually acquiring the skills, powers, and equipment you need to find your way into its deepest corridors. Aria of Sorrow was arguably the best game to use this model, and Dawn of Sorrow doesn’t mess with it too much. You’ll encounter the same enormous bosses, rock out to another Michiru Yamane soundtrack, and take on hundreds of unique monsters.
The action in Dawn of Sorrow takes place on the DS’s touchscreen. You can keep the map or Soma’s stats on the top screen, so they’re available at any time, and some of the souls you can collect will provide abilities that’ll require the stylus. One soul lets you crack blocks of ice by tapping the touchscreen, so you can carve out a staircase for Soma which’ll let him reach new areas.
You’ll also use the touchscreen to use the new Magic Seals, which you need to find in an area before you can successfully take on a boss. By drawing a pattern on the touchscreen, you can seal away a boss’s power permanently; otherwise, you could be fighting it forever.
I’ll admit that there’s not a lot of new information about Dawn of Sorrow, compared to its initial appearances in January. I’ve played it, though, and I can assure you that it’s every bit as addictive and entertaining as Aria of Sorrow was, with enough new features to justify the move to a new system. This is the reason I got a Nintendo DS.
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