For Handheld Fun Try ‘Castlevania: Circle of the Moon’

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Most portable games are lacking in complexity. I can’t say I blame the designers of these games, seeing as how much of the target audience needs only a temporary diversion in the midst of waiting in a theater line or for a meal at a restaurant.

But Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance, or GBA for short, is actually a great purchase for both people looking for something more substantial in games as well as those seeking temporary solace from boredom.
For those looking for a game to occupy them for quite a while, a GBA title I had the pleasure of playing recently will deliver.

“Castlevania: Circle of the Moon” is Konami’s resurrection of its flagship series of games for the portable system. In “CotM” you play a vampire hunter by the name of Nathan Graves, a young man under the tutelage of aging vampire hunter Morris Baldwin.

Morris, Morris’ jealous son Hugh, and Nathan journey into Dracula’s castle, where a confrontation with the recently revived vampire goes awry: Morris is captured and Hugh and Nathan are sent into an abyss. It is up to Nathan to save his master, with no help from the brash Hugh.

“CotM” is extremely similar to one of the great PlayStation titles released circa 1997: “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.” Like its predecessor, “Circle of the Moon” throws Nathan into a massive castle where repeated battles with enemies will make Nathan stronger and give him better equipment and abilities.
This is fortunate considering he’ll need them to traverse otherwise inaccessible areas of the castle to defeat the ghastly monsters that become ever more powerful and strategically diverse with the game’s progression.
Nathan has access to both conventional weapons, such as the standard whips and daggers, as well as magical attacks, all of which are easy to control and execute.

Finding magical cards throughout the adventure allows Nathan to execute a variety of spells, from offensive endeavors to more defensive applications. Control is spot-on and intuitive, which makes things all the more pleasant.

What’s surprising is the level of graphical complexity for a game designed for a tiny screen. “Circle of the Moon” has some extremely lush scenery for a video game of this caliber, and the amount of animation is surprising.

But be forewarned that the GBA’s screen can be difficult to see without adequate lighting.

With all it has going for it, “Circle of the Moon” becomes a title bigger than its format; it’s a complex and engaging game that’s much like a good book in that you won’t want to put your handheld system down.
“Circle of the Moon” is roughly a 12 to 15 hour game from start to finish, and rather epic considering the rest of the portable competition.

Because of this, the game doesn’t fit well in the scope of most portable game venues that yield rather short stretches in which to entertain oneself.

For those of us with a lot of time to kill, however, “Castlevania: Circle of the Moon” for the Gameboy Advance will not disappoint.