Circle of the Moon, a side-scrolling action/RPG like the classics, offers a huge castle to explore, tons of secrets, and reams of intense action. What I like about this game is that it has a welcome degree of challenge that was missing from SotN. Your vampire hunter gets mighty powerful, but you won't find yourself mindlessly scything through your enemies fearlessly...the game is consistently difficult. Although it does get frustrating sometimes, all in all the difficulty is fair and satisfying. Most games these days are too easy.
For this installment to the series, Konami has spiced up gameplay with a cool card combo system. There are a hundred card combinations possible, and by mixing them in different ways you gain different abilities. This gives the game an added degree of depth, although there's some missed potential because some of the combinations are pretty useless.
Everything about this game is great: the challenge, the action, the card system, the graphics...and the music! CotM features a bunch of old Castlevania songs that help define the series. Great tunes, man...just be sure to plug in some headphones to get the full audio experience. Absolutely a must have for 2D action fans who hunger for a hardcore, old-school challenge. Buy it!!
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The game plays like a side-scrolling classic without seeming too dated. Players traipse around a nonlinear dungeon, defeat monsters, and unlock new parts of the dungeon, often through the use of new abilities. It's similar to the excellent Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation, with the obvious aural limitations of a cartridge-based handheld system.
Unfortunately, the game's dark graphics are difficult to see on the Game Boy Advance's fickle screen. Long sessions require consistent overhead lighting, so this isn't the ideal game for travel. The animations are also lacking, making character movement appear jerky. Despite these graphics shortcomings, this side-scrolling wonder makes a fine addition to your GBA library. --Raymond M. Padilla