How Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow’s Tactical Soul System Inspired a New Generation of Metroidvanias

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow will celebrate its 20th anniversary today, May 6, 2023. Below, we take a look at how the Symphony of the Night successor is still influencing the genre.

From the hack-and-slash of Blasphemous’ Souls-ian to the gentle beauty of the Ori series, the sheer number of metroidvanias on today’s gaming market can overwhelm even the hard-core enthusiasts. most counted. But while most fans will always consider Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as the most influential entry in Konami’s lauded series, there are other games that have had a major influence on metroidvanias today – and I think 2003’s Aria of Sorrow is the best of them all. Surname.

Playing: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow video review

Aria of Sorrow is the third Castlevania game for the Game Boy Advance, though it’s much more memorable than the previous two. It is the fourth “Igavania”-style entry in the series, meaning it features the same exploration and role-playing mechanics first introduced by Symphony of the Night and designer Koji Igarashi. Its huge new innovation, the Tactical Soul system, will be the next step in the franchise, and it’s a mechanic that has inspired many of the metroidvanias that have popped up over the years.

The Tactical Soul system is basically the basic logic of the Mega Man bosses that applies to every enemy in the game. Every time protagonist Soma Cruz kills an enemy, there is a chance he will absorb the enemy’s “soul”, which gives him an ability that revolves around the enemy’s power. Skeletons give you the power to throw bones, ax-throwing armor sets allow you to throw axes, etc. These souls are grouped into different categories: Bullet souls are single-use spells, Spirits are grouped into different categories. guardian spirits allow you to draw mana to gain a certain ability, and enchanted souls give you passive spells or other abilities similar to equipment.

The nature of the Tactical Souls system is random, meaning that some players will be lucky to get a great list of souls without much effort, while others may struggle to get it. useful abilities. Some people use online guides to determine which enemies are worth crushing for ideal souls early in the game, but personally I think it’s more interesting to see what you get out of the gameplay. natural and try to make it work. The real advantage of the mechanic is that it gives you an intermittent bonus in addition to exp for killing the same enemy over and over again as you go back and explore to find your way forward.

There aren’t many souls in Aria of Sorrow that are completely useless, and I often find new ways to use abilities that I removed very early on. For example, in the beginning, I obtained one called a Stinger that allowed Soma to grow a tail in exchange for MP, which didn’t seem so cool at first. However, by the end of the game I have so much MP that the tail’s extra attack is basically just extra damage with the right weapon, making it useful for some late game bosses. .

The Tactical Soul system and its variations became a signature aspect of 2D Castlevania games after Aria of Sorrow, especially its sequel, Dawn of Sorrow. It’s also no surprise that this system goes back to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night by producer Koji Igarashi, a spiritual heir who managed to add a few wrinkles to the formula. You can also see echoes of the mechanics in Castlevania-inspired games like Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights and Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth. Both of those games let you gather new abilities from defeated enemies in a similar way, but each game has that concept.

Overall, I think the positive qualities of Aria of Sorrow go beyond this single mechanic–it’s my favorite Metroidvania game, and I’ve played a lot of them. Unlike many games of the same genre, this is a very well-paced game, through with only a few boring patches or degradation. Its map is small but well designed and it is one of the few games of the genre where I really want to find and explore every room. Don’t expect the 30 to 40 hour run of a modern metroidvania epic–you can easily do everything there is to do in Aria of Sorrow in 7-10 hours. I’d prefer a few hours of pure, focused brilliance in Aria of Sorrow to the filling hours that would make for great games in the genre, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

A big part of what makes Aria stand out is how it changes up the usual Castlevania recipe. Stars of series like Belmonts and Dracula didn’t show up during opening hours, and it took them a long time to get out of their slumber. Instead of playing the role of a seasoned vampire hunter trying to win the ultimate prize, you’re a scared kid who’s been sucked into a demonic castle for reasons that aren’t clear. The plot is simple, but it works in an action game like this, and it elevates it above other games in the series. It also features lots of great boss battles, including some of the best in the entire Castlevania series.

Although Symphony of the Night is ultimately the more famous name, I think Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is considered the most notable these days. If you’re someone who’s come to the genre from genres like Hollow Knight or Blasphemy and you haven’t given the genre’s classics a real chance, this GBA giant is well worth playing. try like Super Metroid. The good news is that the Castlevania Advanced Collection includes the Aria of Sorrow, so you can simply pick it up when you’re ready.

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