Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

After playing through Circle of the Moon I kind of shied away from the Castlevania series on the old portable systems. Not for any reason other than the portable games in the series, while usually pretty solid in their own right, are all kind of similar lately.

I was a little slow in getting games for the DS, so I missed Dawn of Sorrow on its first release. About a year later, during a particularly pronounced portable game drought I found that the game had been rereleased for a pittance, and at that time, since I had in my possession exactly one pittance, I decided to give it a go.

Turns out that this game is a lot like Circle of the Moon, which is a lot like Symphony of the Night. This isn’t really a bad thing, just more of the same. With one major change: it’s on the DS, so the touch screen is used. The touch screen is used for exactly two things: Clearing away items that impede your progress, and making seals. Clearing the items on the screen to continue is just a nuisance. Once you proceed so far in the game, you gain the ability to scribble away special blocks on the screen. Lame.

The other use for the touch screen is a bit more engaging. As you progress through the game, you will get the ability to draw seals on the screen. This becomes pretty important pretty quickly, since you can’t defeat any boss monsters without them. It works something like this: You beat the monster to near death with the weapon of your choice. It doesn’t quite give up the ghost, but a circle will appear on the screen. Draw the correct seal on the circle and you seal the monster away. It’s a kind of neat concept, but I found myself fumbling around for the stylus and then repeatedly failing to draw the symbol correctly (the later symbols are extremely unforgiving, you have to do them quickly and extremely accurately). Fail to draw it correctly and you have to bludgeon the boss some more before you get another chance.

I should probably mention that I managed to finish the main part of this game in a marathon play session the day I got it (got it in the morning, and finished it up that evening). It was, like most Castlevania games these days: moderately challenging until the final fight, where the difficulty ramps up to a ridiculous level. Then you get some unlockables that entice you to play through it again. Standard stuff.

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