Circle of the Moon is the first of the GBA Castlevania games which follow the Metroidvania formula established and popularized in SOTN. Taking place in 1830, Morris Baldwin leads his son Hugh and student Nathan Graves to Castlevania to stop Camilla from reviving Dracula earlier than expected. Morris is captured and Hugh and Nathan are forced to find their way through the castle to fight Dracula. You take the role of Nathan, who carries a whip that can also be spun around and used as a shield against projectiles and kill weaker enemies. Dracula’s castle holds many secrets in its various areas and you need to use all the skills you have to find your way. The DSS cards you find from enemy drops give you different offensive and defensive abilities when used together. Each of the action cards is based on someone from Roman mythology, while the attribute cards take from Greek and Roman names. This castle holds different areas than what other Castlevanias have, including a Battle Arena. This game was eventually taken out of the main Castlevania continuity.
SO HOW IS IT? This game is hard!! It’s Castlevania pumped up to 11! It can be frustrating, especially some of the boss fights and save points for healing are far apart. Another frustrating part is the item and gear drops are quite rare so you’re gonna be farming a lot, even with luck enhancing items (this game has no merchant npc). The DSS card item is fun and it’s cool to figure out the different offensive and defensive combinations. I had a lot of fun playing and finishing it, even with the tough boss fights, but the excessive farming for better gear and the stronger DSS cards wasn’t very fun. Finishing this will give you a passcode to restart with your stats geared more towards one of your attributes, then finish it in that mode, you get a password with your stats geared a different attribute.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND: The graphics in this are quite good and colorful, if a bit on the dark side. There is some frame drop and your hero seems to run kinda jerky. The enemies range from the usual Castlevania enemies as well as the bosses are quite large. The animations for using the sub-weapons are what you would expect, along with the animations using the different effects of the DSS cards. Layout of the castle in this game is quite interesting and you’ll find some different areas then you find in other Metroidvanias, including the Battle Arena.
Music is quite good to listen to pumping out of your GBA. The version of “Vampire Killer” in this is quite good, and I like the rendition of the Clock Tower music from Castlevania 3, and when you hear that boss music, prepare for trouble!
PLAY CONTROL: Nathan controls quite smoothly, though you’re gonna find yourself running to make jumps along with double jumping and wall jumping a lot when you get those relics, so be sure you know how. Using the sub-weapons is controlled by up and attack, and you can even swing your whip to use as a shield against projectiles and kill lesser enemies. Pressing L turns your DSS ability on and off, R lets you use a special ability like pushing blocks or wall jumping. Nathan also has a neat little slide move!
CHALLENGE: This is where the game gets rough, this is one hard Castlevania for a number of reasons! The difficulty for enemies, lesser and bosses, can drive you crazy sometimes meaning you’ll need to adjust your strategy or grind another level. There’s no merchant type character so you cannot buy extra gear or consumables and have to rely on item drops. Item drop rates here are absurdly low, and that even using luck boosting gear or DSS! Have fun grinding for those high powered DSS cards, potions or gear late in the game! Yeah 2 of the strongest DSS cards are from Battle Arena enemies. Have fun. Like SOTN and later Metroidvanias you’re gonna travel until you cannot get any farther till you need a DSS ability or relic, then fight a boss for said relic.
I GIVE THIS GAME 4 VAMPIRE KILLER WHIPS OUT OF 5!!
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