Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, one of my first ever games AND one of the hardest Castlevania games in history!
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon released for the Gameboy Advance on June 22, 2001 in the EU, and was the first Castlevania game to be released on the Gameboy Advance, a recently fresh system that was taking the world by storm – Since the Gameboy Advance’s launch, a lot of the older NES-loving crowd were missing the challenge that used to be in their games, with rock-hard games such as Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man and, of course, Castlevania – Following the mass success of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on PS1, developers Konami set out to the next natural step – To make the game harder, and make it portable.
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon begins with three Vampire Hunters, Nathan Graves (Our Protagonist), Hugh Baldwin and Morris Baldwin entering Dracula’s infamous domain, Castlevania, located somewhere in Turkey in early 1830 where they aim to put a stop to Dracula’s ressurection at the hands of his loyal servant, Camilla – Their plan, however, fails, as Dracula is revived, and Morris, Hugh & Nathan’s master, is captured and held hostage as Dracula’s new vessel; it’s up to Nathan and Hugh to rescue their teacher, slay Dracula, and defeat the monstrosities deep within this twisted castle before the dusk of the next full moon…
Castlevania: COTM, gameplay-wise, functions similarly to its’ predecessors Castlevania 1 / 2, taking more from the classic gameplay and control style instead of allowing players to change weapons, or use impressive gymnastic abilities like in previous games, making the game seem like a regression on mechanics implemented in the previous games – This, however, simply adds to the difficulty.
Another missing feature from Symphony of the Night is that Circle of the Moon completely eliminated Shops from the game – No longer can players just buy healing items, weapons, teleports or status cures; players had to earn everything in the game themselves, every point of EXP, every item, and every DSS card.
Now I hear you ask, “What the hell is a DSS card, and why should I care?” – DSS Cards were a system unique to COTM, and acted as spells that could be cast to affect Nathan and his abilities; needed a Flame Whip to defeat that tough icy foe? Simply use Salamander + Mercury. Want to heal yourself when you have a spare minute? Use Mandagora + Jupiter. With the DSS Card system, there were 10 Elemental Cards, and 10 Effect Cards, allowing for 100 different abilities, weapons, effects and attacks you could pull off in the midst of battle.
This leads, however, to COTM’s first problem. The drop rate of said cards was stupidly low – You would farm for hours, and hours, and hours, looking for your next card, only to find out you’d been farming the wrong enemy entirely – The same goes for items, so I hope you like your games tough, cause until you find a Save Point, you ‘aint healin’!
One other issue laid within the controls – Whilst they aren’t unbearable, the controls feel slow, slightly unresponsive, and sluggish; this, however, is slightly remedied through certain DSS combos.
It may seem like I’m giving the game a bad rag, but to be honest, this is only to highlight the main issues one would face entering this game – The game itself is amazing, the challenge fair but hard, the environments detailed and full of secrets, the enemies interesting and horrifying at the same time, however if you don’t like games such as Dark Souls, Mega Man, or games that will test you, then this game isn’t for you. If you do, however, live for challenge, want to be tested, and also want a game where you can sink multiple playthroughs in, then this is the game for you!