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Konami Focus: Castlevania DS
game: Konami Focus: Castlevania DS
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: Konami
developer: Konami TYO
ESRB rating: RP (Rating Pending)
date posted: 12:00 AM Tue Apr 12th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Tue Apr 12th, 2005

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One of the most popular and most enduring series in the history of video games is the Castlevania series.  How is it that the series has survived for so long?  Some say that it is the subject matter itself, Vampires, that keeps things going.  Personally, I tend to believe that the simple concept of chasing Dracula around with a whip draws gamers like moths to a flame.  Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure, the titles just keep on coming; and the latest edition to this storied franchise is the tentatively titled Castlevania DS? for Nintendo's little dual-screened wonder.  In this direct sequel to Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow for the Game Boy Advance we assume the role of Soma Cruz, the current manifestation of Dracula.  Unfortunately, there is a mysterious cult which would much rather see a different version of Dracula than the one Soma portrays, particularly one who is more focused on the evil side of things.  Of course the catch is that Soma must first be eradicated before they can try to create a new version of their favorite bat.  Left with the options of kill or be killed, Soma takes matters into his own hands and decides to destroy the cult on their own ground, included in which is a replica of Dracula's castle.  Monster mayhem ensues.

The game is still in development with plenty of work left, but from what has been seen so far it is going to have the look of a spruced up Game Boy Advance game.  Not that that is a bad thing.  I have always been a fan of 2D gaming and it is good to see that even though all games, including handhelds, are capable of having awesome 3D graphics, there are still games being made that give us some old-school fun.  Also take note that I used the term spruced up? GBA game.  Soma and his adversaries all move very fluidly and feature a lot more animation than in a GBA game.  The backgrounds also have an impressive amount of detail and there are a ton of sharp particle effects, especially with bosses.

The gameplay resembles that of its GBA predecessor; use the D-pad to move Soma and the other buttons are for jumping, magic, etc.  Soma is also able to summon souls to help him out whenever he gets into trouble.  These souls are collected throughout the game and each has its own use, whether it be offensive, defensive, or some kind of buff.  The game itself takes place on the bottom screen of the DS while the upper holds a map, character information, and other such things.  Not the most amazing use of the dual-screens, but having a map readily available map will most likely be very handy as you are trying to work yourself through every last room of Dracula's castle.  Another neat use of the DS's features is that some levels require you to break bricks or blocks of ice by hitting them with your finger or stylus.  Sometimes things are just blocking your way and other times you will have to be selective in your destruction in order to build steps and ledges to climb up.  Your stylus dexterity will also come into play with the new Magic Seal? function.  When you defeat a boss, in order to banish it from existence, you must draw a Magic Seal you found earlier in the game on the touch screen.  Get it right and the boss is history, get it wrong and the boss regains some strength and the battle continues.

As far as multiplayer goes, it is not known exactly what will be included in the final version of the game.  What is confirmed right now is that players will be able to trade the souls they have collected between DS's via wireless.  One idea that Konami is tossing around right now is some form of Time Battle mode in which two players would trade versions of levels and try to beat them fully in as little time as possible.  Each player would set up their own version of a level, not in terms of monster placement but by way of key items, and test their friend's skills.  Personally I would like to see some kind of direct head to head battle system, or perhaps even cooperative play, but things don't appear to be heading in that direction.

The game appears to have basically what you would expect in a Castlevania game, but of course with a few custom DS touches.  Despite still being heavily in development, this game shows a lot of promise and is shaping up to be a must buy for Castlevania fans, and maybe even so for all DS owners.  Set for release sometime this coming fall, 2D gaming fans should keep an eye on this one, it may be one of the few reasons to look forward to the end of summer.