I am keen on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It outlined the Metroidvania style, and no different Castlevania game has ever topped its huge scope. And but, when folks ask me for my favourite game within the sequence, I don’t level to a symphony — I level to an aria.

Each of the three Game Boy Advance Castlevania video games had been impressed by the exploration-first gameplay of Symphony of the Night, to various levels of success. Of these first two video games, 2001’s Circle of the Moon handily bests 2002’s Harmony of Dissonance, however neither might maintain a whippable candle to the PlayStation inspiration that got here earlier than. They are fulfilling, even as we speak, however they’re not video games I typically relish returning to. In hindsight, it seems they had been preambles to the large present.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, launched in 2003, has seen a rebirth simply this week as half of the Castlevania Advance Collection (which incorporates all three GBA video games, alongside Dracula X, which we’ll simply ignore for the sake of sanity, and since it’s not excellent).

Aria of Sorrow is noteworthy for a quantity of causes, not least of which is that it’s the primary Castlevania game to be set sooner or later. In the 12 months 2035, an adolescent in a sick white duster finds himself with supernatural powers. Does the game being sooner or later change a lot of something? Not actually. Dracula doesn’t make use of robots or fear about his follower depend, however the setting does permit for an occasional second of futuristic hilarity to seep into an in any other case old-timey setting (learn: laser gun).

As a attainable reincarnation of Dracula, protagonist Soma Cruz can suck up the powers of the assorted enemies he fights. For instance, killing a bone-throwing skeleton may grant him the ability to throw bones himself. This so-called tactical soul system is a key part, as every of the game’s dozens of enemies carries some game-changing energy to present Soma an edge. It’s right here that Aria of Sorrow actually begins to set itself aside from the pack, including a function that I sorely miss once I return and play Symphony of the Night.

Symphony of the Night depends on a small grouping of helpful weapon varieties and skills. Alucard can spend 90% of that journey kitted with various longswords and a throwing ax, and be completely effective. Meanwhile, the tactical soul system in Aria of Sorrow encourages fixed changes and experimentation. You may bump into a brand new enemy and surprise what their soul might presumably provide. Some could also be easy stat boosts, whereas others present new mobility enhancements. Sure, you may hit stuff together with your sword … or you may shoot goddamn lighting out of your palms. It’s fully as much as you. It presents way more participant alternative than Castlevania ever had earlier than.

Zombie soldier giving you the hand grenade power in Aria of sorrow

Yes, this zombie provides you the ability to throw hand grenades.
Image: Konami by way of Polygon

Hell, even in case you simply wished to stay to weapons, Aria’s arsenal is way more various than Symphony of the Night’s, from axes to hammers to spears and precise weapons. You can actually shoot Death within the face with a laser gun on this game.

Another edge that Aria of Sorrow presents over the opposite two GBA installments: It can truly stand toe to toe with the visuals of Symphony of the Night. While it might not have the identical stage of element because the PlayStation game (the GBA was restricted to 240×160 pixels, in comparison with the PlayStation’s 256×240, and lacked some of the flowery 3D results), Aria squeezes each bit out of these pixels. Just for example, I might watch Soma Cruz’s strolling animation all day lengthy and twice on Sunday. That coat swoop, that Saturday Night Fever swagger — what extra might you need?

I might write for ages in regards to the areas through which Aria of Sorrow both competes with or bests the efforts of Symphony of the Night. But I received’t preserve you. If you’ve by no means performed this game and also you depend your self a fan of Metroidvanias, it’s completely value contemplating grabbing the Castlevania Advance Collection, only for this game alone. (And hey, the opposite video games in there are additionally fairly good … as a result of I’m nonetheless ignoring Dracula X.)

The assortment contains some nifty options like sketches from the event group and the unique field artwork from varied areas. You may even play these video games with fast saves and rewinds in case you’re too intimidated to search out your self a save room. But largely, it’s simply an excuse for me to play Aria of Sorrow on an enormous TV, and bask within the glow of that strut once more.