Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow

The year is 2035. Japan.

Crowds of spectators are gathering around in anticipation of the first full solar eclipse of the 21st century.

Soma Cruz is a high school exchange student studying abroad in Japan. He lives near the Hakuba Shrine, an ancient shrine with strong ties to Japanese mythology.

Mina Hakuba, the only daughter of the shrine's caretaker, is both Soma's classmate and childhood friend. Soma started making his way to the shrine to see the solar eclipse with Mina. But, for some strange reason, the stairway leading up to the shrine felt longer than usual, as if something was trying to keep them from their destination. When they finally managed to get through the shrine gate, Soma's senses began to dim.

In the distance, the solar eclipse was approaching totality, but the pitch black sun appeared to be trapping chaotic darkness. At that moment, Soma and Mina were knocked unconscious - only to awaken inside a mysterious castle. Now Soma must find a way out of this labyrinth and escape safely with his friend, Mina.

Released on May 6th, 2003 for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a tale of struggle between good and evil within one's own self. Soma Cruz, a 19 year old exchange student has woken up inside a dark and mysterious castle. His good friend Mina is no longer with him, as she remains on the outskirts of the castle. Soma ventures deep within Dracula's castle, learning that Dracula had been destroyed years prior, and his reincarnation was coming very soon. He encounters Graham Jones, a man who claims that he is the reincarnation of Dracula, and that no one can prevent his return. Soma is aided by a few friends he meets along the way including Hammer, a man who sets up a shop inside the castle to sell weapons, armor, and items. He also meets Genya Arikado, a member of a mysterious Japanese government organization related to national security. Aria of Sorrow follows the same Symphony of the Night map layout style that Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance adopted, a layout that has been extremely successful. In Aria of Sorrow, the hero Soma has the ability to capture souls from enemies he defeats, and then use their power in battle. There is a wide variety of souls that Soma can collect, and they can be used for attack and defense purposes, summoning spirits, increasing stats, and more. Like Symphony of the Night, this game is also RPG based and follows the same stat and level increases. Aria of Sorrow is widely considered the best of the Castlevania games released for the Game Boy Advance due to it's unique use of the soul collecting, it's enchanting castle design, it's strong roster of the best monsters and bosses the series has to offer, and it's captivating storyline, a storyline that contains a secret so dark, and so frightening that you must play the game to find out, and when you do you may never be the same.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was the 3rd and final title released for the Game Boy Advance, one of the best trilogies of the franchise. It's immediate popularity and success helped launch Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, which was released a few months after for the PlayStation 2. By the end of 2003, due to games like Aria of Sorrow and Harmony of Dissonance, the Castlevania series was over the slump it endured for a few years after the release of Symphony of the Night. These titles lived up to the expectations of the SOTN fans, and made us all quickly forget about disasters like Castlevania Legends and Castlevania 64. Aria of Sorrow not only restored honor to the Castlevania franchise, but helped make it more popular than ever before. I's success continued with the release of a direct sequel, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow in 2005 for the Nintendo DS.