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Akumajō Dracula Circle of the Moon
悪魔城ドラキュラ サークル・オブ・ザ・ムーン
21 Mar 2001

   
The Akumajō Dracula Series had somewhat stalled since the hugely successful Symphony of the Night (1997).
Two controversial Nintendo 64 titles had been and gone, and by the turn of the millennium SotN had gathered a phenomenal international following.
Gaming media all around the world had started throwing around tags like 'Best Castlevania game ever' or 'Best 2D game of all time' - slowly elevating it as a bona fide standard for the series, against which every sequel should be measured.
They were wrong. Symphony of the Night was, like the ageing Dracula II (1987) an enjoyable but ultimately disposable game, a flawed experiment in blending the series' sharp arcade-style gameplay with excessive RPG elements.
In effect, people completely forgot that Symphony of the Night was a celebrational 'Best of' of series... It was the sheer originality of this concept matched with the PlayStation's super-smooth visuals and sound that created a cocktail potent enough to thrive.
 

 
 
 
 

 

 
But here... What we have here is nothing but a miniature re-hash of everything that made Symphony of the Night dull, on a tiny little screen that you can barely see.
Strip this game down and what is left verges on the pathetic: go right, find a locked door. Go left, find a key and a ledge too high to reach. Return right, open the locked door, and find an item that lets you climb ledges. Return left, climb the ledge, and find another f***ing locked door. Repeat and fade. Having difficulties? Simply keep killing the same enemy over and over again and earn a 'level up' power boost.
This is not Castlevania. Castlevania is Akumajo Dracula (1986), Akumajo Densetsu (1989), Akumajō Dracula X (1993) or even Vampire Killer (1994)... It is fast-paced action, challenging platforming and 'Game Over' screens until you get it right.
Something has gone horribly wrong since the heyday of the series. One of the last bastions of quality arcade-style gaming for home consoles has been utterly subdued by menu screens riddled with statistics, where achievement is measured not by raw skill but by how many items you've collected. Welcome to the Pokemon generation.
What makes things worse is that the storyline and dialogue are laughable ('How dare you toy with his soul. I'll get you for that!') and the castle layout immediately strikes as a low-rent repeat of the now 4-year-old Symphony of the Night.
It's all over. In terms of the series as a whole, this is the creative cul-de-sac - the moment when Konami stopped being inventive and experimental with the series, and regressed to endlessly recycling the exact same formula in a shameless bid to repeat the critical and commercial success that was Symphony of the Night.
Disposable is the word: between 2001 and 2008, no less than 6 near-identical handheld titles would appear - 3 on the Game Boy Advance and a further 3 on the Nintendo DS.
That's once a year for crissakes... Each one faded immediately into obscurity the second the following one came out. The only variety in this 7-year stretch of mediocrity came in the form of two lacklustre 3D games for the PlayStation 2, which to all extents finished the name off like a lame horse.
Ignore them all. But remember Circle of the Moon as an important marker: every game before it is unforgettable, and everything in its wake is quickly forgotten.

Rating:
 

 
 


 
Akumajō Dracula Circle of the Moon
悪魔城ドラキュラ サークル・オブ・ザ・ムーン

GAME BOY ADVANCE
DETAILS
Format Game Boy Advance
Released 21 Mar 2001
Publisher Konami
Product ID AGB-AAMJ-JPN
Size (cm) 13.5 x 8.5 x 2
Weight (kg) 0.06
PRICE
STATUS

First in a set of three formulaic Dracula games for Game Boy Advance.
Not a terrible game in the grand scheme of things, far from it - but a new low in terms of a once masterful series.

Standard GBA packaging, 64Mbit cartridge, colour manual.


Akumajō Dracula Circle of the Moon Kōshiki Guide
悪魔城ドラキュラ サークル・オブ・ザ・ムーン
公式ガイド
KONAMI OFFICIAL GUIDE - KŌSHIKI GUIDE SERIES
DETAILS
Format Guide Book
Released 1 June 2001
Publisher Konami / NTT
Product ID ISBN4-7571-8093-4
Size (cm) 21 x 14.8 x 0.8 (A5)
Weight (kg) 0.26
PRICE
STATUS
Konami 'Official Guide' for Circle of the Moon that includes castle map, character art, a meticulous 'Capture Guide' to the game, followed by a comprehensive 'Enemy List' and illustrated guide to the DSS card system.

112 pages, full colour, Japanese.

Akumajō Dracula Circle of the Moon Perfect Guide
悪魔城ドラキュラ サークル・オブ・ザ・ムーン
パーフェクトガイド
KONAMI OFFICIAL GUIDE - PERFECT SERIES
DETAILS
Format Guide Book
Released 11 June 2001
Publisher Konami
Product ID ISBN4-88317-875-7
Size (cm) 21 x 14.8 x 0.8 (A5)
Weight (kg) 0.24
PRICE
STATUS
Second official Konami book; a 'Perfect Guide' very similar to the first one but a little more polished; along with a neat little history of the Akumajo Dracula series at the end.
It's also a little harder to find.

128 pages, full colour, Japanese.

Akumajō Dracula Circle of the Moon & Castlevania Byakuya no Kyōsōkyoku Original Soundtrack
悪魔城ドラキュラ Circle of the Moon & Castlevania 白夜の協奏曲 オリジナル サウンドトラック
DETAILS
Format Audio CD
Released 26 June 2002
Publisher Konami
Product ID KMCA-162
Size (cm) 14.2 x 12.4 x 1
Weight (kg) 0.11
PRICE
STATUS
2-in-1 soundtrack release covering the first two GBA games of the series:
- Circle of the Moon (2001)
- Byakuya no Kyōsōkyoku (2002)
Includes bonus 'Arrange' track.
View (back) for track listing.

CD case, audio CD (45 tracks, 58:43), booklet, spine card.

Akumajō Dracula Circle of the Moon [Konami The Best]
悪魔城ドラキュラ サークル・オブ・ザ・ムーン
[コナミ・ザ・ベスト]
GAME BOY ADVANCE
DETAILS
Format Game Boy Advance
Released 3 Nov 2005
Publisher Konami
Product ID AGB-AAMJ-JPN-1
Size (cm) 13.5 x 8.5 x 2
Weight (kg) 0.06
PRICE
STATUS
'Konami the Best' label re-issue.

Standard GBA packaging, 64MBit cartridge, colour manual.

 



'Akumajō Dracula', 'Castlevania' and 'Konami' are registered trademarks of Konami Corporation
'Game Boy Advance' and 'Nintendo' are registered trademarks of Nintendo Co. Ltd.
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