Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
|Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow|
European box art
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, known in Japan as Akumajō Dracula: Sōgetsu no Jūjika (悪魔城ドラキュラ 蒼月の十字架, lit. Devil's Castle Dracula: Cross of the Blue Moon), is an action-adventure game developed and published by Konami. It is part of Konami's Castlevania video game series and the first Castlevania game to be released on the Nintendo DS. The game is the sequel to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and incorporates many elements from its predecessor. Dawn of Sorrow was commercially successful, selling more than 15,000 units in its first week in Japan and 164,000 units in the United States three months after its initial release.
Dawn of Sorrow continues the story of Aria of Sorrow, in which Dracula has been completely defeated, and his powers assumed by his reincarnation, Soma Cruz. With the help of his allies, Soma avoids becoming the new dark lord. A cult forms to bring forth a new dark lord by killing Soma. Soma and his allies move to ensure that a new dark lord is not created.
Dawn of Sorrow incorporates many features from previous Castlevania games: the combination of elements from platform games and role-playing video games, the "Tactical Soul" system featured in Aria of Sorrow, and a dark, gothic atmosphere. Dawn of Sorrow also introduces new gameplay elements, such as the "Magic Seal" system, which requires the use of the DS stylus to draw a pattern in order to defeat powerful enemies, a distinctive anime character design, and a multiplayer mode, where two players compete for fastest times on a prerendered level. The game received high scores from many video game publications, and was considered one of the best games on the Nintendo DS for 2005. The game was re-released in Japan on June 29, 2006 and later in North America during 2007 as part of the "Konami the Best" line.
During the game, the player controls the onscreen character from a third-person perspective to interact with people, objects, and enemies. Like previous games in the series and most role-playing games, characters level up each time they earn a set number of experience points from defeating enemies; each level gained increases the character's statistics, thus improving their performance in battle. Statistic examples include hit points, the amount of damage a character can receive; magic points, which determine the amount of times a character can use magical attacks; strength, the power of a character's physical attacks; and intelligence, the power of a character's magical spells. Upon encountering an enemy, the player can use a variety of weapons to attack and defeat the enemy. Despite the game being set in 2036, the weapon choices are largely medieval, including swords, axes, and spears, although handguns and a rocket-propelled grenade are available. These weapons differ in their damage output, the range of the weapon, and the speed of the attack.
Dawn of Sorrow, similar to most games in the Castlevania series, is set in a castle, which is further subdivided into various areas. Areas of the castle differ in their composition, including monsters and terrain features. In addition, each area has its own unique piece of theme music that plays while the player remains in that area. The character moves around the environment based on the player's choices; however, the areas the character can move into are restricted based upon the items the player has, similar to most platform games. Progression, however, is not linear, as players are free to explore the parts of the castle they have access to, and can backtrack or move forward as they see fit.
The primary method for the player to gain additional abilities in the game is the absorption of souls via the Tactical Soul system, which was originally featured in Aria of Sorrow. Except for human enemies and the game's final opponent, all enemies' souls can be absorbed by the player. The chances for absorbing a soul varies on the enemy, as certain enemies will release souls more regularly than others. The player can absorb multiple copies of the same soul; many of these souls will increase in effectiveness depending on the number of the same soul a player possesses. Souls provide a variety of effects, and are separated into four categories: Bullet, Guardian, Enchant, and Ability souls. The player can only have one type of Bullet, Guardian, and Enchant soul equipped at any given time. However, when the player acquires the "Dopplegänger" soul, the player can have two different weapon and soul setups, and switch between them at will. Players can trade souls wirelessly using two Dawn of Sorrow game cards.
Bullet souls are often projectiles, and consume a set amount of magic points upon use. Guardian souls provide continuous effects, including transforming into mythical creatures, defensive abilities, and the summoning of familiars. The movement and attacking of familiars can be directly controlled with the stylus. Guardian souls continually drain magic points so long as they are activated. Several Guardian souls can be used in conjunction with Bullet souls to execute special attacks called Tactical Soul combos. Enchant souls offer statistical bonuses and resistance against several forms of attack. They are passive, and require no magic points to remain active. Ability souls give the player new abilities and are required to move into certain areas of the castle. They are always active, and therefore not equipped, nor do they consume magic points. Some examples include the ability to break ice blocks with the stylus, and the ability to double-jump.
Souls can alternatively be spent to permanently transform a character's weapon. At Yoko Belnades' shop, the player can remove certain souls from their inventory in order to change their weapon into a stronger form. Certain weapons can only be acquired through using souls to strengthen a lesser form of the weapon. Souls are also used in the "Enemy Set" mode, where a player builds a custom scenario. The player can place monsters inside rooms if the player has acquired the monster's soul in the main game, but boss enemies cannot be added to any scenario, even if the player has the boss' soul. Two players, using two Nintendo DS consoles, can compete in these scenarios, with the winner being the one with the fastest time in completing the course.
The Magic Seal system is a new feature introduced in Dawn of Sorrow, and makes use of the DS touchscreen. Once the player reduces the hit points of a "boss" enemy to zero, a circle will appear, and the game will automatically draw a pattern connecting any number of smaller circles on the circumference of the larger circle. After this, the player is prompted to draw the same pattern on the touchscreen in a set amount of time. If the player fails to draw the pattern accurately within the time limit, the boss will regain health and the battle will resume. If successful, the boss will be defeated. More powerful boss enemies require higher level Magic Seals, which have more intricate and complex patterns as the level increases and are found over the course of the game.
After the player completes the game with either the worst ending or the best ending, Julius Mode is unlocked, similar to the Julius Mode in Aria of Sorrow. Julius Mode, in storyline terms, follows the assumption that Soma succumbed to his dark power, and became the new dark lord. A new game can then be started from the main menu in Julius Mode. In Julius Mode, the playable characters include Julius Belmont, Yoko Belnades, and Alucard. Each character has a weapon and an assortment of abilities unique to them, and although these abilities remain static throughout the entire game, the characters' statistics can improve by acquiring enough experience points to level up. The castle layout and enemies are the same, with the exception of the final battle, which is against Soma.
Dawn of Sorrow is set in the fictional universe of the Castlevania series. The primary premise of the series is the struggle of the vampire hunters of the Belmont clan against the vampire Dracula and his legacy. Before the events of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Dracula was permanently defeated and his castle sealed within a solar eclipse. With Dracula dead, a prophecy relating to who would inherit his powers drove the events of Aria of Sorrow, with the protagonist, Soma Cruz, realizing that he was Dracula's reincarnation. Soma manages to escape his fate of becoming the new dark lord with the help of his allies. Dawn of Sorrow takes place one year after the events of Aria of Sorrow, where Soma believes that his inherited powers have been lost. The majority of the game is played inside a copy of Dracula's castle, which is further subdivided into several areas that the player must venture through over the course of the game. The future setting of both Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, as well as starting a storyline after Dracula's defeat, was a result of Koji Igarashi wanting to take a "different route" with Aria of Sorrow.
The primary playable character in Dawn of Sorrow is Soma Cruz, the reincarnation of Dracula, the longtime antagonist of the Castlevania series. He is supported in his quest by Mina Hakuba, the daughter of the priest of the Hakuba shrine; Genya Arikado, a mysterious government agent dealing primarily with the supernatural; Julius Belmont, the latest member of the Belmont clan of vampire hunters featured in the series; Yoko Belnades, a witch in the service of the Roman Catholic Church; and Hammer, a vendor of military material who retains a large information network.
A cult, dedicated to the resurrection of the dark lord, serves as the game's antagonists. Celia Fortner is a shadow priestess at the head of the cult, and seeks to revive the dark lord in order to prevent the loss of her magical powers. Dmitrii Blinov and Dario Bossi are Celia's primary lieutenants, the former a ruthless manipulator and the latter a vicious firebrand. They are the "dark lord's candidates," born on the day Dracula was slain, and thus can assume the mantle of dark lord by destroying Dracula's soul, which is present in Soma Cruz.
One year after the events in Aria of Sorrow, Soma is living peacefully, and believes that his powers have been lost. A woman who identifies herself as Celia Fortner, appears and summons several monsters. Arikado arrives to help Soma defeat the monsters, after which Soma absorbs their souls. Celia retreats, proclaiming that she will destroy Soma. Soma expresses disbelief at the return of his powers, but Arikado reveals that his powers were never lost, only submerged. He informs Soma that Celia is the head of a cult that seeks the resurrection of the dark lord. He leaves, instructing Soma not to pursue Celia.
Soma, however, uses information acquired from Hammer to locate the cult's base, a facsimile of Dracula's castle. Hammer arrives, and as he has left the military, agrees to help Soma by opening up a shop in the castle. After entering the castle, Soma encounters Yoko and Julius Belmont. As Julius leaves, Soma escorts Yoko to a safe location. During this time, she instructs him in the use of a Magic Seal, which is necessary to defeat certain monsters in the castle. As Soma travels farther into the castle, he meets Celia, who is flanked by two men, Dmitrii Blinov and Dario Bossi. Celia explains their nature as the "dark lord's candidates," who can become the dark lord by destroying Soma. He later encounters Dmitrii and is able to defeat him. Soma gains dominance over his soul, although he acquires no abilities. As Soma travels further, he comes upon Dario. Soma bests him, and Celia teleports Dario away from harm.
Soma meets Arikado, who is initially angered by Soma's presence, but accepts the situation. He gives Soma a letter and a talisman from Mina. Soma briefs Arikado on the current situation, and Arikado leaves to locate Dario. Soma comes upon Dario and Julius, with the latter defeated due to his inability to use the Magic Seals. Dario retreats, instructing Soma to fight him in the castle's throne room. Soma does so, lambasting Dario for only desiring power, and promising to defeat him. Before the battle begins, Soma uses one of his souls to transport himself into the mirror in the room, revealing Aguni, the flame demon sealed within Dario's soul. Soma defeats Aguni, leaving Dario powerless. As Dario flees, Celia arrives, and instructs Soma to come to the castle's center.
Upon arriving, Soma is forced to watch Celia kill Mina. Furious, he begins to succumb to his dark power. The talisman that Mina gave Soma is able to slow the transformation, enabling Arikado to arrive in time to inform Soma that the "Mina" that Celia killed was a doppelgänger. This aborts the transformation, but a soul exits Soma and enters the doppelgänger, which takes on the appearance of Dmitrii. Dmitrii states that when Soma defeated him he allowed himself to be absorbed, wishing to use his powers to copy Soma's ability of dominance over the souls of Dracula's minions. He then leaves with Celia to absorb the souls of many powerful demons and monsters in an attempt to increase his power. Soma and Arikado chase after the two, and find them in the castle's basement. Dmitrii, using Celia as a sacrifice, seals Arikado's powers, and engages Soma. However, his soul is unable to bear the strain of controlling the demons he has absorbed, and they erupt out of him, combining into one gargantuan creature called Menace. Soma manages to defeat it, but the souls that composed the demon begin to fall under Soma's dominance. He becomes overwhelmed and rejects them, fleeing from the castle with Arikado. Soma is conflicted over the present situation, as he believes that it was his responsibility to become the dark lord and that the events of the game were a result of him not accepting this responsibility, but Arikado convinces him that his fate is not fixed. Soma then shares a tender moment with Mina, much to the amusement of his onlooking friends.
The production of Dawn of Sorrow was announced on January 6, 2005 as the first Castlevania game to be released on the Nintendo DS. Longtime Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi was in charge of the production. The choice to use the Nintendo DS in favor of the Sony PlayStation Portable was due to Aria of Sorrow's success on Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, and Igarashi's observations during the 2005 E3 Media and Business Summit of both consoles. Igarashi felt that the storyline with Soma Cruz and the Tactical Soul system were a waste to only use in one game, contributing to his desire to make a sequel. The original design team from Aria of Sorrow, as well as numerous new additions from Konami Tokyo, was involved in the production of Dawn of Sorrow. Igarashi intended to include a white collar Japanese worker in the game. This worker would be a manager in a Japanese firm and have a family as well. However, the development team's opposition to this idea forced him to drop this prospect.
The use of the technical features of the Nintendo DS was one of the production team's principal concerns during development. The DS touch screen was a primary point of interest, and several functions, such as picking up items on the screen and moving them, were originally intended to be incorporated. However, scheduling problems forced the development team to abandon many of these ideas. Igarashi's primary concern with using the touch screen was that it would detract from "the Castlevania pure action gameplay," in which the player would have to slow down play in order to use the stylus. The DS microphone was looked at during development, but Igarashi noted that although he found humorous uses for it, it was never seriously considered for inclusion into the game.
For the graphical representations of the numerous enemies in the game, Igarashi had sprites from previous Castlevania games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night reused, and the development team redesigned them for use on the Nintendo DS. Unlike most recent Castlevania games, Ayami Kojima did not participate in the character designs for Dawn of Sorrow. Instead, the characters were drawn in a distinctive anime style. This was done due to influence from producer Koji Igarashi, who wanted to market the game to a younger audience. Aria of Sorrow's sales figures did not meet expectations, and as a result, Igarashi consulted Konami's sales department. The staff concluded that the demographics of the Game Boy Advance did not line up with the series' target age group. Igarashi believed that the Nintendo DS inherently attracted a younger audience, and he was working to court them with the anime style. Furthermore, Igarashi considered the anime style a litmus test for whether future Castlevania games would incorporate it. Kojima's hiatus was also to allow her to concentrate upon her character designs for Castlevania: Curse of Darkness.
The game's music was composed by Michiru Yamane and Masahiko Kimura. Yamane, a longtime composer of music for the Castlevania series, had previously worked on the music of Castlevania games such as Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, while Kimura had developed the music for Castlevania on the Nintendo 64. In an interview, Yamane noted that she made the music "simple" and "easy to recognize," similar to her work on previous Castlevania games, and she specifically drew a parallel between her work on Castlevania games for the Game Boy Advance and her music in Dawn of Sorrow. Igarashi, present in the interview, asserted that making music for handheld game consoles, regardless of the type, is largely the same, although he accepted that the DS's sound capabilities were much better than those of the Game Boy Advance's.
Dawn of Sorrow has received critical acclaim from many video game publications, with several hailing it as the best Nintendo DS game of 2005. In Japan, the game sold over 15,000 units in its first week, acquiring the number ten slot in software sales. The game sold over 164,000 copies three months after its release in the United States. The game was later re-released in both Japan and North America as part of Konami's "Konami the Best" line.
Many reviewers noted that despite being highly similar to Aria of Sorrow, it managed to define itself as a standalone title. GameSpot commented that Dawn of Sorrow succeeded in continuing 2D games as a definite genre, and that it "keeps that flame burning as bright as ever". In addition, GameSpot considered it for the accolade of best Nintendo DS game of 2005, with the prize ultimately going to Mario Kart DS. Editors at IGN awarded Dawn of Sorrow the prize of best adventure game on the DS for 2005.
The gameplay, the Tactical Soul system in particular, received praise from reviewers. The sheer depth of abilities from the numerous souls found in the game was lauded, and IGN believed that the ability to have two customizable "profiles" of different abilities was "an extremely handy idea". The relative difficulty of the game and its length was also brought into question, with GameSpot noting that the game could be finished in five hours and "is fairly easy as far as Castlevania games go".
GameSpot extolled the game's animation and graphics, describing the backgrounds as "intricate and gorgeous" and the individual animation, especially of enemies, as one of the game's "highlights". IGN echoed this assessment, calling the animation "stunning and fluid," and noted the differences in graphics between Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow, stating that the latter was on a "broader and more impressive scale". The utilization of an anime style of drawing the characters, as versus the traditional gothic presentation of illustrator Ayami Kojima in previous Castlevania games, was lambasted by reviewers. GameSpy deplored the "shallow, lifeless anime images" used for the characters and Kojima's absence from the production. IGN believed the new images were "down to the level of 'generic Saturday morning Anime' quality". The audio by Michiru Yamane and Masahiko Kimura was highly regarded, with GameSpot stating that it was "heads and shoulders above [Aria of Sorrow]". IGN noted that the DS dual speaker system presented the audio "extraordinarily well". In the review from 1UP.com, the game's score was compared to the soundtrack of Symphony of the Night, and the sound quality and compositions considered "excellent" and "exceptional" respectively.
The functionality associated with the Nintendo DS, namely the use of the touch screen and the Magic Seal system, was subject to criticism from reviewers. GameSpot noted that it was difficult to use the stylus immediately after the game prompted the player to draw the Magic Seal, thus forcing the player to use their fingernail on the touch screen. Other functions using the touch screen, including clearing ice blocks, were viewed as trivial, with GameSpy labeling it as a "gimmick". However, IGN dismissed the lack of DS functionality as a major issue, claiming that it "doesn't hurt the product in the slightest".
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- Julius Belmont: "So...Soma has become the dark lord. I have no other choice...The battles of the past are to be waged once again..." / Genya Arikado: "I had assumed that he would have equipped the talisman from Mina... It would have protected him. But alas, I will have to unleash my power..." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
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- Soma Cruz: "So those two are the dark lord's candidates..." / Celia Fortner: "Correct. They were born at the same time as Dracula's demise. They are inheritors of Dracula's dark powers." / Soma Cruz: "But that's no guarantee that they can become the dark lord." / Celia Fortner: "They can. By shattering Dracula's soul." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
- Soma Cruz: "Yeah, I'm fine. But that power...It returned! Arikado, what's going on?" / Genya Arikado: "The power didn't "return." It was always with you. You just never had a need for it since you fled the castle. And that set free all the souls that you had gained dominance over." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
- Genya Arikado: "They want to resurrect the lord of darkness. Like some sought to do with Dracula." / Soma Cruz: "I guess they don't like the fact that I didn't become the 'lord of darkness'." / Genya Arikado: "Not only that, they intend to create a new lord by eliminating you." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
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- Yoko Belnades: "The cult leader appears to create gates that draw the power of darkness. Monsters exposed to that power are said to be invincible." Soma Cruz: "So how am I supposed to destroy them?" / Yoko Belnades: "That's where this Magic Seal comes in." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
- Soma Cruz: "Unh! What was that? Did I gain dominance over a human soul? No, I gained no power... But...what was that light?" Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
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- Genya Arikado: "You copied the power of dominance from Soma?" / Dmitrii Blinov: "Ah, so you understand. I touched the boy's soul and copied his ability." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
- Soma Cruz: "Then that means there will always be a need for a dark lord. All because I ducked out from becoming the next in line!" / Genya Arikado: "Don't misconstrue me! Perhaps there is a need for the dark lord...But there is no reason at all for you to become the dark lord." / Soma Cruz: "But if it weren't for me, none of this would have happened!" / Genya Arikado: "You're neither a god nor a demon. You're only human. You have no chance at ever achieving perfection. Or are you saying you want to be the dark lord?" / Soma Cruz: "No...Of course not." Konami. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. (Konami Tokyo). Nintendo DS. (2005-10-04)
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