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Critical Reception: Konami's Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, covers the new DS action ...
This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, covers the new DS action title Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, developed and published by Konami. Though the game follows the same format as the last several 2D Castlevania games, and dating all the way back to Symphony of the Night on Sony's PSone, many reviewers felt that this game's execution was exceptional enough for it to receive top scores. In fact, the average score from the video game press, as calculated by review aggregation site GameTab, was a high 93%, making it the average top-rated DS game to date. 1UP reviewer Jeremy Parish explains why the "Metroidvania" style hasn't gotten old yet, saying that: "While some may be understandably weary of this particular formula, Dawn's ghoul-slaying, soul-stealing exploration is quite simply the single deepest and most refined example of "traditional" gameplay to be found on the latest wave of handheld systems. Yes, yes, the DS is all about innovation and breaking the mold and heterogeneous goods and all that, but it turns out the system does a damn fine job with old-fashioned games too." Dawn of Sorrow is a direct sequel to the GBA title Aria of Sorrow, and uses a modified version of that game's soul-collecting system to good effect, as IGN reviewer Craig Harris notes: "The "hook" of Dawn of Sorrow is the same hook that Aria of Sorrow featured: Souls. Each enemy has one, and Soma has the ability to take it. Defeated enemies occasionally (and randomly) give up their souls for Soma to acquire, and these souls can be used a variety of different ways depending on the creature. Some offer an offensive technique that can be used , others a special move to reach out-of-the-way items. And some souls can be used to fuse with weapons to create more powerful arms for the fight. For Dawn of Sorrow, the developers give players the ability to have two different "profiles" to make it easy to switch back and forth between Soul settings, an extremely handy idea most likely spawned out of Konami's own Castlevania-inspired GBA spinoff, Shaman King." The chief flaw brought up by all the reviewers was the game's use of the touch screen, often cited as getting in the way of the onscreen action. GameSpy's Justin Leeper complains that: "Dawn of Sorrow does its best to utilize the DS' capabilities, but I'm not too crazy about the end result. To put bosses away for good, you need to draw lines on the touch-screen to cast spells. Since you're not using the stylus normally, there's no chance that you can pull it out to cast the spell in time. Thus, you're left with your finger, which isn't nearly as accurate. As nifty as it is, using the touch-screen to clear debris off the screen and carve a path is more gimmick than anything." Despite that eternal bugbear of DS reviews, the "gimmick" concept, rearing its ugly head again, most reviewers seemed happy with the relatively straightforward gameplay in a DS game, proving that innovative touchscreen technology isn't necessarily required for a critical success in the DS market -- and with such a popular and anticipated franchise, it's a good bet that the new Castlevania will become a decent commercial success compared to other DS games, too.

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