VC Weekly 329

Welcome to VC Weekly, N-Europe’s guide to the wonderful world of Nintendo’s download service. Written by Sam C Gittins

A popular portable entry in a fang-tastic series from Konami graces us with its appearance. Anyway enough from me and on with the game!
Available for download this week we have...     

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Price: GB £6.29, EU €6.99
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Released: 2001
System: GBA

While I have never played any of the portable Castlevania games to completion I have to confess that I used to own many of the GBA titles as I acquired them very cheaply second hand back in the day, had I known that their value would increase exponentially to this day I may not have swapped them for other - still decent - GBA games at the time; ah the benefit of hindsight. Now the first of these excellent - and highly sought after - titles Castlevania: Circle of the Moon has arrived on the Wii U VC making for a very reasonably priced option indeed; our story starts with an inexperienced vampire hunter named Nathan Graves who following an encounter with Dracula - yes he's back again! - is separated from his superior Morris Baldwin, then his son Hugh goes off on his own which prompts Nathan's decision to take on Dracula's castle which in turn gives us an excuse for another excellent platforming adventure featuring more evil then you can shake a stake at.

Expectations were understandably high being that this would have been the first portable Castlevania title in a while, indeed it was originally a launch title for the GBA so taking that into consideration it has actually aged remarkably well, it may contain a vaguely unlikable character initially but as the plot develops you'll warm to this new protagonist especially as it's the gameplay which really matters, regardless of none of the Belmont clan being present. Starting out with some basic abilities you'll soon gain extended plus wall-jump skills in addition to acquiring strength upgrades allowing you to break or move large items with relative ease, the sub-weapons have returned so you can cast your holy water or knives in the direction of your foes but at the cost of a heart, so you'll want to do all that you can to find many upgrades to gain more hearts, health and magic lest you wish to be underpowered for the inevitable final battle.

There is definitely a decent balance in the dificulty level as you'll be able to progress without grinding too much providing you don't shy away from enemy encounters, boss battles are simple yet satisfying with set patterns to memorise, of course that means an element of repetition is present but it doesn't bring down the game too much. In addition to the standard character upgrades you can also augment even further by way of the Dual Set-Up System adding extra layers to the gameplay by way of having you collect cards from enemies you've eliminated; these can be combined for a wide range of effects including elements for your whip or giving you a slight stat boost, there are a hundred possible combinations which provides a decent amount of scope, it also makes for a rather simple, unique upgrade system which mixes things up a bit as you explore each section of the well designed castle with precision controls.


All of the visuals are simply sumptuous for an early Game Boy Advance title, they are easily of near SNES standard with plenty of work having gone into the backgrounds, character animations, along with the stages themselves; indeed now it's nice to be able to actually fully appreciate them thanks to dramtically improved brightness over the first GBA thanks to the decent screen on the gamepad or indeed the lavishness of a large screen TV which makes this entry really shine. Of course the music was always good as there are several remixed classic Castlevania tracks, though again hampered by the original hardware as the original portable machine only had one speaker so unless you were listening through headphones at the time - if you've played this game before - then you would have been missing out but now it all outputs through two or more speakers rather nicely indeed, the sound effects seem to carry more wieght as well which is nice.

Clearly if you're a Castlevania fan then you need this in your life, even if you own the original cartridge there is still a lot to be said for having the ease of being able to play this classic on the big screen with the addition of save states which only serve to further complement the experience. This is also an ideal starting point for anyone new to the series who wishes to jump in at a point where the aesthetics are largley representative while the difficulty is only fair to mildly challenging unlike other entries in the series which can prove punishing at times; this is easily of of the most enjoyable titles within Konami's long running vampire slaying, whip-cracking repertoire that I've had the joy of experiencing.

Verdict : Castlevania which contains enough bite and fight to be just right.

That's it for another installment of VC Weekly which will return again soon. So until then, enjoy the rest of the week and Game On!

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