When the DS was first announced, a first of its kind portable system with two screens, the press immediately clung to the idea that you could use the second screen as a map in a Castlevania game. Of course, the second screen proved useful for a number of reasons, but Konami made good on people’s wishes putting the map on the second screen, actually for all three Castlevania games on the DS. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is a sequel to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and the first Castlevania for the DS.
After a brief tutorial on how to play the game, you enter The Lost Village. Notable here is the fact that the item–buying shop is right across from the forgery, where you make new weapons. Above you is a warp point, so you can easily return. It was a really good idea to point these things all next to each other, so you don’t have to run around the map to, say, get a potion or improve a weapon. From here you can start your adventure.
Similar to the previous game, sub-weapons are gone in favor of enemy souls. True to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night four games earlier, you can turn into a bat and get a super jump. You have three slots for souls, but as a bonus, you can switch between two different sets of three souls of your choosing, which are labeled A and B. You also have two defensive items, and one weapon. As expected, items are scattered across the map.
You’ll notice that Dawn of Sorrow really takes advantage of the DS’s power. The overall resolution of either screen is bigger than the Game Boy Advance resolution. Foreground sprites and background art are excellent. Also, the music is much better on the DSs’ superior sound chip, especially when compared to GBA, which can sometimes sound like a detuned radio.
Not all paths in Dawn of Sorrow lead to boss fights, which is another throwback to Symphony of the Night, which is most welcome. That said, the series goes back to having a super hard final boss, which is (as far as I know) a first for an Igarashi game. Acknowledging the spoiler phase is over, there is only one ending. Dawn of Sorrow is among the most visually appealing games in the series, and it has the stellar game-play to back it. Though you might be growing tired of Castlevania sequels, this is the best portable offering yet.