Soma Cruz returns in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow for the Nintendo DS. (Author’s Note: Wait, Dawn of Sorrow…Nintendo DS…oh I get it!).
By now, the Metroidvania format is a well-traveled road, but somehow Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow manages to keep things fresh with refined gameplay, and tons of extra modes and characters to make Dawn of Sorrow an adventure worth going on.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow continues the great handheld Castlevania trend
Taking place only a year after Aria of Sorrow, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow has a trio of vampires, Celia, Dmitri, and Dario, wanting to resurrect the Count. Luckily, since Soma Cruz is still living in Japan, he is up to the task of stopping them using a more powerful version of his Soul system in Aria.
First thing players will notice is the massive art style change, going for a full out anime style similar to Rondo of Blood. It’s a bit jarring at first, but it works. The actual in-game graphics are well-animated as well, rivaling Symphony of the Night.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow retains the typical Metroidvania-style and the controls have been perfected for this style. Although, would it have killed Konami to change up the level design a bit? The throwback level to the first Castlevania stage ever is great, but the rest of the levels have a big case of the “same.”
Dawn of Sorrow fleshes out the soul-gathering system by having the souls of the enemies not only improve Soma’s combat prowess but also help with puzzles and certain boss fights. It’s a more rounded out system where players will feel like they are armed to the teeth with all kinds of useful souls. The touchscreen is even utilized well, although it can come off as gimmicky having to draw to defeat a boss.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow adds some great features to the complete package
In several entries to the series, there has been an option to play as another character without any real change. You can play as Simon Belmont in Harmony of Dissonance, Richter Belmont in Symphony of the Night, etc. But this game adds the lesser-known Julius Belmont as a playable character with an actual story with him.
Playing as Julius is, without question, one of the highlights of Dawn of Sorrow since he is a BLAST to play as. You can also play as Alucard and Yoko from Aria of Sorrow (who plays like her canonical predecessor Sypha), almost making Dawn of Sorrow a pseudo-remake of Castlevania III.
Despite the hiccups with the levels and the game starting to feel too well-traveled, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is still one of the better games in the Metroidvania subgenre. The gameplay is still as fun as ever, and the addition of more characters to play as makes it a great addition to the series.