It may be a little late for Halloween, but today’s review is certainly appropriate for the recently passed holiday. I will be covering the first game listed in the Castlevania Advance Collection, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. Previously, I had only played three games in the Castlevania series, which includes Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. I enjoyed all of these games, and had been meaning to play more of them. Thankfully, this collection also features three more games, including Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and Castlevania: Dracula X. Due to time constraints, I will review each in separate articles, but will post links in this article and the others as I complete these reviews.
For those unfamiliar with the Castlevania games, they are loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. Dracula is the main villain in all Castlevania games, and the protagonist in most Castlevania games is from the Belmont family, who wields a vampire killing whip. The main character in Circle of the Moon, Nathan Graves isn’t a Belmont, but still uses the signature whip, and plays similarly to the Belmonts in most games. Castlevania games typically are 2D platformers with a continuous map, and also include the RPG elements of experience points, equipment, and a system of magic. This is all true in Circle of the Moon as well, with only a few distinctions from the Castlevania formula.
Of note are the subweapons, when you pick one up, you drop the old one, and have the chance of grabbing the old one if you prefer that item instead. Subweapons include things like the long range throwig knife, the axe, a crucifix that moves like a boomerang, and holy water. These items require hearts to use as ammunition (which is confusing for those used to video games that use hearts to represent health), and often are weaker than the whip, but move in ways the whip cannot. Having the right subweapon at the right time, particularly in boss fights is crucial in this game.
Exclusive to Circle of the Moon is the Dual Setup System, or DSS for short. With it, you combine two magical cards to create a unique magical effect, such as a stronger flame whip, or a protective circle of ice chunks. These cards are randomly dropped from certain enemies, and this version of the game shows if an enemy you encountered could drop the card. This system of magic is fun to experiment with, and can make the game easier with some creative use. There are a lot of effects, but you have to use the effect for the game to tell you what it does. Without a manual or guide, you might not even be aware of how to use this system. Thankfully, I had some clue due to this edition’s controller mapping menu, which came in handy.
My biggest gripe with this game is the way it handles getting equipment, healing items, and the aforementioned magic cards, they only sometimes drop from defeated enemies. In particular, the healing potions are surprisingly rare. Most games would include a shop to buy more, but there isn’t any collectable money in the game. Particularly odd is getting duplicate equipment and not being able to do anything with the extra copies. If there was a shop that had these items, the game might have felt more fair, particularly late in the game. Most of the time, I was low on potions, and had to heal at save points, which were surprisingly scarce as well.
Still the explorable map was fun to check out. Every time I defeated a new boss, I got an item that expanded where I could travel to. Often, I was rewarded with a health, magic, or heart capacity upgrade for going somewhere I haven’t been before. The bosses were all fairly tough, but were possible with the right strategy and observation of enemy attack patterns. Only one or two were too easy or a little on the frustrating side. In the case of the final boss, I had to try and find more healing potions to complete the game. Most other fights didn’t require this tactic though, and I was thankful for it.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon felt like a bite sized version of the Castlevania series, which is appropriate considering that it was originally on the Game Boy Advance. It was fairly short, but it was fun to try out new magic spells, and explore the castle in that time. Most of the difficulty was against the boss fights, and while it wasn’t the best the series has to offer, it was a decent start to the collection.
For part 2, click here: Review: Castlevania Advance Collection: Part 2: Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Switch)
- Collect the magic cards when you can: this edition allows you to see which enemies can drop them when you encounter them.
- Explore for health, magic, and heart upgrades.
- If you struggle, you may have to defeat enemies to gather health pickups.
- Experiment with the DSS magic system.
- If you want more out of this game, you may want to play with the optional game file modes. The main difference is your character’s stats.
- Fully explore the castle, if you like, including the tough battle arena.
- Good action and platforming.
- The graphics are okay (possible pro, considering when the game was made, as well as the original hardware).
- Music is good.
- Decent exploring.
- The DSS system is fun to try out.
- Must get new equipment, items, and cards through enemy drops.
- Some bosses are tough (Possible con, based on difficulty tolerance).
- Must double tap left or right to move faster, you move too slow otherwise.
- Game feels too short (a personal impression, other players might not feel this way).
8.0/10 A Great, if somewhat short game
This game’s range is 8.0-8.9. The nostalgia factor for some players might elevate this game’s apparent quality, as could a player’s individual taste for the Castlevania formula. The game is good, but is somewhat small, and a little dated. If you haven’t played a Castlevania game, this might be a good place to start.
Did you like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon? What is your favorite use of the DSS? How do you feel about this game’s length? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this review, then click that like button and share on social media. To keep up with That’s All Games, you can subscribe via email or WordPress. Until next time, have fun gaming!