Otherwise known as 暁月の円舞曲 (Minuet of Dawn) in Japan, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was the last of the Gameboy Advance "Metroidvania" games, and in most cases the best-received. It was, in my opinion, the most polished of the three titles and it was the closest one to Symphony of the Night. It has its own flair, of course, and features its own unique characters even if some of them fall in normal Castlevania style.
Unlike the other games in the series you are not playing a Belmont OR a Vampire as the main character, and you are also not a descendant or relative of either the Belnades or Belmont families. You're simply this one guy who was brought by perhaps coincidence, to Castlevania. It is a 2d exploration action RPG akin to the later Castlevania titles and it most heavily takes after Symphony of the Night with its equipment section at least. It has one thing really standing out for it, though: The Tactical Soul System.
The Tactical Soul System let you equip three different souls: Bullet Souls (red) that worked as sub weapons, Guardian Souls (Blue) that worked as special toggle skills, either as barriers or transportation or healing or even active attack skills. Enchant Souls (Yellow) gave passive abilities.
You gain these souls by being getting them randomly from defeated enemies, or through bosses or even from lanterns that hold souls that contain upgrades to your mobility or otherwise.
I love the system despite how lame it can be to farm for souls later on. Yes, there is a goal for farming 100% and I will show it when we get that far in the drat game.
So, what is this LP all about?
This is a straight hard mode run (and while you do not see it in the opening videos it will become apparent to anyone who has played the game before) with no added benefits of a New Game +. Unarmed/Fist weapon style was a lot of fun to me though it's not wholly entertaining to everyone else, especially those who were not too keen upon the game at the start.
I will be playing through normally how it would be, showing off secret rooms and the like as well as how to get the hidden weapons and with enough patience (and off-camera grinding) show how broken the game becomes when you complete your soul collection. Hard Mode doesn't do a lot for the game other than make the enemies slightly tougher and more lethal to you if you brush up against them.
To note, this is playing from a patched game, which changes the enemy names to be like the ones from Symphony of the Night. It also clarifies on some of the soul descriptions which I will show later on. It's pretty much a nitpick patch as it also fixed some weapon name and enemy name errors in the katakana. There's not much else it does really, besides clarify on some of the dumber souls that were given bad translations.
Here's the introduction to the game as well as the beginning conversation that takes place. I took it out of the main commentary section because it bogs down the actual LP itself, and it's suited more for viewing without my own voice mixing with things.
Introduction! (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Now we move on to the actual gameplay itself! This is the first area of course, and it's generally a breeze. There's a jump that I missed though all it does is give me better armor to make the early game easier. That's no fun, right?
Part 1. Guest: Medibot (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 2. Guest: Static Fiend (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 3. Guest: Oyster (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 4. Guests: Static Fiend and EnsignShiroAmada (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 5. Guest: Raar I'm a Dinosaur (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 6. Guests: Sartak and Syvalion (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 7. Guest: Evil Tim (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 8. Guests: Static Fiend and Scarboy (Viddler / Grimfiend)
Part 9. Guests: Medibot, Slowbeef, and Static Fiend (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 10. Guests: Evil Tim and Static Fiend (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 11. Guests: Static Fiend and Duet (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 12. Guests: Duet, Evil Tim, and Static Fiend (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 13. Guests: Jowy and Oyster (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 14. Guests: Krakhan and Jowy (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 15. Guest: Medibot (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Best Ending (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Bad Ending (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Chaos Ending (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 1. Guest: EnsignShiroAmada (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 2. Guests: Duet and Static Fiend (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Part 3 and Finale. Guests: Static Fiend and Krakhan (Grimfiend / Viddler)
Bonus - Part 7 First Take
Guests: Facebutt and Cybershell
(Viddler / Grimfiend)
Bonus - Money is Pain
(Grimfiend / Viddler)
Bonus - From Static Fiend
Positron Rifle Cowboy
Bonus - SKY FISH
(Grimfiend / Viddler)
Cast of Characters
Oh boy! Let's see who we know of so far, or at least of the people that we have encountered. I will update this from time to time as we reach them in the movies without being a spoiling bastard, because it's not nearly as fun spoiling games.
Soma Cruz - There's not much I can say about Soma. He is an exchange student studying in Japan and he likes Mina, maybe. His mysterious power is explained at the beginning of the game and he is super flowery. Honestly, there is a reason why a lot of the characters spend their introductory moments making fun of Soma.
Mina Hakuba - Mina is the caretaker of the Hakuba Shrine that she and Soma visit regularly, and is apparently Soma's childhood friend. How can she be Soma's childhood friend if he's an exchange student studying abroad in Japan? I don't know... Maybe he was brought on a drat slave ship or something because his parents couldn't stand the flaming stuff at birth. Mina's purpose in this game is to provide awkward lines and make Soma look retarded and semi-heterosexual as they both try to talk to each other and have fake romantic tension. Also, when you speak with her during breaks or trips back to the entrance she will heal you after the conversation.
Genya Arikado - The First of the Business Suit Men. Genya is cold and rude and right to the point for the most part, but he's always a good guy through and through. He helps Soma out by telling him to go and get lost or go on and continue his search when you do see him, but he also has the magical power to appear to watch over someone for Soma... so he can tell Soma to go. Genya is basically fanboy/girl fodder in this game, being the quiet, cool one with a crisp fashion sense.
Graham Jones - The Second of the Business Suit Men. Graham prefers wearing white and he is particularly known amongst the clergy he was a part of by having a set of absolutely freaking epic eyebrows. He's nice to Soma at first, but probably just because he thinks the guy is going to die anyway.
Yoko Belnades - The OTHER Female character in the game (tm). Yoko tries to be helpful but the most she accomplishes at the start is hurting Soma's feelings as well as confusing him. At the very least, she's spot on about Graham not being the greatest guy in the world.
Hammer - Too white, and too bald to have a last name. Hammer makes no sense and has very childish reasonings. He's the merchant of this game once you find him (and just behind him is one of the best ability souls in the game also) so at least there's some merit. I still have no idea where he finds poo poo to sell or the money to buy your items.
Julius Belmont - Finally revealed to be a Belmont, you can see the traditional family genes at work here, seeing as he... sealed his family's most precious item in Castlevania itself. Julius is an okay guy otherwise, and he has a big beard and epic eyebrows.