Review: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Konami made a significant change in the Castlevania franchise with the PlayStation release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, fusing two beloved Nintendo franchises into one spectacular package.  Taking the upgradable attribute style from Metroid and melding it with traditional Castlevania platforming and epic storytelling, Symphony became an instant classic that many argue is the series’ flagship title. There is little need to debate the impact the game had simply because of the path the series has taken since its inception and, most importantly, fan reception.  People are still talking about it as if the game released this year, (and mind you, it has been out since October of ’97).

With such resounding success it was inevitable for the series to continue in this direction, and so it has for the past thirteen years, releasing multiple handheld titles -some of which were lackluster, but overall are very fun and fulfilling to the legacy that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has left.  The first of these titles to be released was Castlevania: Circle of the Moon on the Gameboy Advance in 2001. It follows Nathan Graves on his mission to rescue his mentor, Morris Baldwin.  The journey is long and treacherous, but nonetheless exciting.

Stated previously, Symphony added some elements to gameplay not yet seen in the Castlevania franchise, i.e. shape-shifting, familiars, and using actual armor upgrades and different weapons to dispatch your foes (other than the usual holy water, cross, axe and dagger found in the series as a whole); Circle follows this same RPG style by having Nathan level up, find and equip different armors and relics along the journey, but also adds a new card system that combines different powers to strengthen his whip and discover weaknesses to various enemies.  It was such an interesting concept that a couple titles later, in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, we experienced the “Tactical Soul” system, which no doubt has roots tied to the card system provided here.

Graphically, Circle is brilliant.  One thing about the Gameboy Advance is that it is basically a miniature Super Nintendo / N64 hybrid that is stronger than the SNES, but not quite as strong as the N64, which allows for a nice, colorful, detailed environment to be explored.  While the game’s animations are not as fluid as those in Symphony, it does not hinder the pace or the fun experienced.  It all wraps up nicely inside the shell of its soundtrack provided by Sotaro Tojima and Hiroshi Mitsuoka – an anthemic soundtrack, but still lacking the melodies and beauty of Michiru Yamane’s work. If you like Symphony, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this title.  From the gameplay to the innovative combat systems to the ever familiar feeling of gradual exploration, this game is a nice ride and still plays like it did ten years ago –nice and smooth.


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  • Zack Furniss

    I loved the game, but damn it was hard.

  • I never did like the card system. I find it a bit tedious, but then again I’m not a big fan of RPG games either. *shrug*

  • Balder

    Despite it’s technical shortcomings, CotM remains my favorite CV title. Very challenging, great soundtrack, epic boss battles and some genuinely fun unlockable alternate game modes. The lack of a merchant-type adds an extra element in survival as Nathan as to literally beat his equipables out of enemies.
    My only genuine complaint would be the lack of a Bestiary, especially when this game has so many one-shot unique enemies.

  • Kefka


    Definitely. I’m glad you agree with what I had to say. I didn’t even take into account the bestiary lol. oops! Oh well, the game was good. Not perfect, but very fun.

  • necaros

    Definitely one of the best ‘Vania’s! The difficulty was sublime, challenging enough to force you to play very cautiously, and rewarding when you made it through to the next save point. The one or two health items you get must be saved for the moment of absolute desperation. The card system was great, but hard to get all of them without using the name code. A little too dark in pallet for the GBA, but looked great on the later back-lit systems. I would put this in the top three of my favorites in the series.

  • The Ronfather

    Good write up and review. One criticism that I have is, and it has nothing to do with this article, since you’re the new writer/reporter for all things related to Castlevania, I’m hoping you can be a little more active with Castlevania information and sharing it on this site. I used to come to this site often for all news concerning the Castlevania series (when the franchise was mostly covered by Jorge), but posts are so random and scarce since the torch has been passed, that I find myself not visiting this site as much. Awhile back Konami had released the box art for Mirror of Fate and it was never covered on this site. Than a month back an ex-Star Trek actor let slip that he was working on a live action Castlevania feature which was also neglected on this site. Than it turns out that this live action feature is actually a web series which the first episode premiered this past Tuesday, which was also not mentioned or shared anywhere on here. I think you’re a wonderful writer Mr. Angileri, but I just ask that you be more proactive with getting information involving Castlevania. Just today David Cox, the producer of the Castlevania Lords of Shadow series just shared on his twitter account that the 4th playable character for the 3DS Mirror of Fate game will be Gabriel Belmont, alongside Simon Belmont, Trevor Belmont & Alucard. There’s also new Mirror of Fate gameplay footage on Nintendo’s official youtube page on a 3DS sizzle reel. Just some criticism as a fan of this site and of the Castlevania series.

    • Don’t go anywhere buddy.

      • The Ronfather

        Jorge, glad to see you back in action on the Castlevania coverage!


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