If it's crap ... We'll tell you
When I was in a local video game store that focuses on selling retro games I saw a copy of this game. However, the UK version only says Castlevania on it. Due to my ignorance, I was unaware that this wasn't the originally Castlevania. So when I started to play it I rather disappointed to see the typical Metroidvania gripes:
-Long, unskippable dialogue sequences.
-Only appeal to attack in two directions (that whip spinning attack doesn't count as multiple directions as it is still in only one).
-Incredibly long invincibility buffs that you can just take advantage of to navigate around the castle with complete ease.
-Enemies that just appear to be jumbled around to be in their areas without any kind of relevance. Not to mention alot of recolours. A lot of the enemies are ill-impressive and generic too (were-bears, were-panthers, fire demon, earth demon, electric demon).
-An over-reliance on grinding. All of the Metroidvanias have some kind of grinding involved to artificially pad out the game play experience. Symphony of the Night had rare drop weapons and Dawn of Sorrow had the souls while Circle of the Moon decided to involve cards for some reason. These cards are used to combine two for some kind of power up to your stats or whip attacks. It’s a good concept but could have been executed better, perhaps get different whip power-ups after fighting certain bosses; instead of grinding for hours. My favourite so far though is the rose whip.
-Finally this definitely has the weakest of the stories of the Metroidvanias. It’s basically two vampire hunters, the main being able to somehow wield Vampire Killer without being a Belmont, trying to save their master from Dracula. They’ve also got a rivalry going on. This could have been interesting if we knew these characters. The reason Symphony of the Night and Dawn of Sorrow’s storylines had, despite being not the most inspiring, pre-existing characters and a continuation of the storyline. These main characters in Circle of the Moon feel generic and unnecessary.
-Finally, there’s the boss fights. All of the Metroidvania games have an issue with boss fights. Unlike their previous instalments, their boss fights are most reliant on your stats, health or weapons instead of skill or mind. A prime example is this giant cow head thing who does the following:
-Shoots skulls in an arc towards you.
-Shoots a volley of fireballs in multiple directions
Guess which one the three is the most dangerous? Skulls? Ha don’t be silly. Fireballs? Pfft as if. Bubbles? Those things a re the real threat of one powerful enough to wield Vampire Killer. Why are they? Because they do moderate damage and appear without warning all over the map. The boss fights are mostly cheap and dull rather than challenging and engaging. Remember Death in Super Castlevania 4? That was a real boss fight.
There is only one good thing I can say about playing this game for me: I saw this in Primary School and it was bugging me for years. I finally now know what game it was.
Does the actual game have any good points? Well you do end up getting power ups to your movements. You get to sprint and jump of walls which is pretty cool and makes navigation a little faster. And I do like the visuals of the game, brilliant for a Game boy Advance game and it has the typical gothic tone I expect from the Castlevania game. Still not enough to keep me interested though. I will go back to it eventually, just not sure when.