Most helpful critical review
on November 11, 2006
My biggest problem with Dawn of Sorrow is that it wants to be Symphony of the Night *so bad* that it actually ends up missing the mark by quite a bit.
First of all, there's an assortment of problems with this game. I grew up with Symphony of the Night from the Playstation 1 and let me tell ya- THAT game is an absolute masterpiece in every way imaginable. Back when it came out, everyone knew there was something incredibly special about it. Symphony of the Night is the kind of game that only comes along once in a blue moon. The kind of game that does just about everything right, making it extremely hard (almost impossible) for the Castlevania series to ever reach that kind of greatness ever again.
Keeping Symphony of the Night in my thoughts the entire time I was playing through Dawn of Sorrow, this game had major expectations, most of which fell short, BUT not enough of a fall for me to claim Dawn of Sorrow is a complete failure. Nope, not at all.
I personally have a major problem with the countless amounts of text you have to witness in the beginning of the game. I mean LOTS and LOTS of text. One of the main reasons Symphony of the Night was such a charming game is because you didn't have to read through all kinds of unnecessary text- you simply jump right into the game and play it. Konami made sure SOTN was playable for everyone, Castlevania fans or otherwise.
It's not that the story in Dawn of Sorrow is bad and all that text reading is boring as a result, it's just that, Symphony of the Night was able to become a timeless classic without having to rely on the player reading text upon text, so Dawn of Sorrow misses the mark there and HAS to be seen as somewhat of a disappointment in comparison. If this game is supposed to be a combination of RPG and action elements similar to the Zelda series, well once again, Symphony of the Night was able to do it better.
Also, the enemies in this game are pretty much nothing but the *same exact enemies* we'd already seen and loved in Symphony of the Night. I fail to see why we have to deal with exact replicas of the same enemies once again.
How can it be possible to carry the same kind of excitement in a sequel when all we're doing is fighting the same enemies all over again? We shouldn't have to- Konami should have found some developers who were willing to lend their creative ideas for more variety in the enemy department. Folks, I kid you not- most of the enemies in Dawn of Sorrow can be found in Symphony of the Night doing their same routine once again. Those skeletons that throw flame barrels? Well they're all OVER the place here. I can pretty much run down a list of enemies in both games and conclude there's just way too many of them in this game that simply don't belong. When you first encountered these same enemies in Symphony of the Night, it was truly an incredible experience because you've never seen anything like them before. Dawn of Sorrow has that "been there done that" vibe mostly because of the enemies, but also because of the gameplay.
Which leads us to the next problem- the animation of the enemy movements (and the way they die) aren't nearly as good as the ones in Symphony of the Night. Everything moved in such a fluid and near-perfect way in Symphony of the Night, but unfortunately this game comes up way way short thanks to some unnecessary choppiness in the animations. Watching enemies die isn't nearly as thrilling either.
The gameplay is NOT as much fun this time around since we're dealing with the same enemies and movements once again. I don't know what went wrong. If anything, now it feels like we're playing a cheaper or watered down version of Symphony of the Night. Unacceptable.
The weapons are alright, but they aren't animated as nicely as the sword swings from Symphony of the Night. I feel a bit of choppiness in each swing that makes the game feel tacky most of the time. Also each weapon really stood apart in Symphony of the Night (except for a few swords here and there) but in this game, most of the weapons blend together and there's hardly any truly memorable ones.
Updated review (July 14, 2015).
You know even though I think Dawn of Sorrow is a pretty good game, it has a couple really noticeable flaws.
Certainly I think more highly of Aria of Sorrow overall, and Symphony of the Night is of course way better than both games. The problem with Dawn of Sorrow is that while there's a really good variety of enemies, often times their movements are stiff, clunky and uninspiring. They don't move as intimidatingly or as lively as in Aria of Sorrow so you never feel threatened or excited by their presence. Another problem is that several baddies often appear on screen in a way that makes them look like they're marching down the street in a parade. They're often times too close together and lack distinctive qualities as a result, which makes them mindlessly easy pickings whenever you walk down the path and slice them to pieces with your sword.
Also the castle overall is small, boxed in and bland. Small because there's not nearly as many interesting environments compared to SOTN or AOS, boxed in because these areas feel really tight and unimaginative with not a whole lot of space for movement and exploration, and bland because it seems around every corner I'm facing nearly identical areas/staircases but with different features. For example even when exploring the underwater cave areas, it doesn't feel dramatically different from other areas of the castle. Too many areas tend to blend together.
The music comes with mixed feelings as well. For whatever reason the music sounds exactly like the stuff you'd hear in the Mega Man X series, specifically the Playstation 1 ones (X4, X5 and X6). Not sure why the game creators thought a more futuristic soundtrack was appropriate for a Castlevania game. Also the characters have less interesting conversations than they did in previous CV games. For the first 20 minutes you're constantly being swarmed with one discussion after another involving Soma (your playable character and the protagonist), Yoko (the attractive blonde) and Hammer (the merchant). Often times you can return to these characters as you progress for more conversational progress, but the dialogue isn't as interesting overall. Also Mina isn't as attractive or as memorable this time around because she plays a lesser role.
At least the graphics and specifically the backgrounds are usually a sight to behold, and the boss fights, while easy if you're beefed up and prepared for them, are really imaginative and graphically appealing. There are a couple puzzle rooms that are VERY annoying *hint* sliding puzzle room *hint* but otherwise this game's pretty good and offers a perfect challenge, but I recommend Aria of Sorrow and especially Symphony of the Night first.
The areas themselves aren't that great to explore either- one place has these square rooms and number puzzles that end up being a nightmare of confusion and annoyances, something Symphony of the Night avoided entirely.
The boss fights are a LOT worse than the ones in Symphony of the Night. These ones are almost terrible in comparison. Just swing at them as quickly as you can with your sword until they die. No strategy or anything involved, and especially no creativity as far as dodging boss attacks are concerned. Completely uncreative. The bosses don't really feel like much of a fight either because most of them have only a couple attacks and that's it. Play Symphony of the Night for a solid year and you'll STILL be surprised when a boss throws a new attack at you that you haven't seen before.
With all these complains, the game DOES do one thing right- the game is loaded with action. Lots and lots of action, at almost every single turn. Perhaps even slightly more than Symphony of the Night.
Unfortunately, this game comes up way short compared to Symphony of the Night. Dawn of Sorrow doesn't have the crisp graphics, fluid animations, incredible weapon variety, or incredible soundtrack that SOTN had (though the music IS quite catchy in this game I admit).
In addition to these problems, Dawn of Sorrow seriously feels like playing as Zero from the Mega Man X series thanks to the way the main character spins around and slashes at enemies with his sword. It's TOO reminiscent of Zero from the X series. Plus the anime style graphics were a bad idea. It's been done a thousand times, and it doesn't belong in Castlevania. Just not a classic game in my mind, but if we ignore many of the problems and focus on all the action (and of course ignore the fact Symphony of the Night completely smears it) this is a pretty good game despite its many flaws.