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PSA: Your Wii U Has Resurrected Castlevania: Part I

Like the Great Pumpkin rising from the pumpkin patch giving presents to all of the good girls and boys, Nintendo and Konami have given us all a special treat this past Halloween. It’s a gift that will last longer than any pillowcase full of candy or Fireball-induced hangover – it’s the Gameboy Advance Castlevania trilogy.

Inarguably some of the best action games for Nintendo’s first hardware of the new millennium, the GBA trilogy, which includes: Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, and Aria of Sorrow, is now available on the Wii U eShop for a mere $7.99 each. If we consider that Castlevania Dracula X, an extremely difficult to find but mostly underwhelming SNES port(ish) of the Turbografx masterpiece Rondo of Blood, was also recently released on the eShop accompanied by Castlevanias I, II, III, and IV it’s plain to see that the Wii U has one of the most impressive catalogs of Castelvania titles around.

But wait, there’s more! Accessing the original Wii Shopping Channel via your Wii U also gives you access to two titles in the series that are tragically underappreciated. Orienteering your way through the maze of menus in the Wii’s digital storefront can be a bother but you’ll be rewarded with Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. Both of these games are important in their own right and we’ll get to them in a moment. First, the GBA trilogy…

Circle of the Moon Title

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Circle of the Moon is sometimes regarded as a dark horse in the exploration-based Castlevania titles and for good reason – it’s been burdened with the painfully unfair position of being the first new Castlevania after Symphony of the Night came along and rejuvenated the series. Just by virtue of being on smaller hardware than Symphony meant that this would be a slightly truncated experience but Circle of the Moon held it’s own and helped establish a home for the series on Nintendo’s handhelds. This would prove to be fertile ground for Symphony of the Night producer Koji Igarashi to cultivate and perfect the series for the next decade.

CotM Gameplay

Key Features
-A man with a whip fighting Dracula
-A jealous friend
-The DSS ability system which is used for buffs and applying elemental effects to your whip
-Darkness. Darkness everywhere. Not a problem on the Wii U but man did it make GBA owners yearn for backlight.
-Unique New Game+ options that radically change your abilities

Harmony of Dissonance Title

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
If Circle is the black sheep then Harmony is the sheep that’s too white -- blindingly so. Just find a happy medium, please. Someone cranked the contrast up a liiiiittle too much and some of Harmony looks washed out on the GBA’s screen.

Luckily, playing on the Wii U mitigates this problem. Harmony basically built upon the foundation that Circle had set and kicked everything up a few notches. Characters and enemies had higher sprite counts, backgrounds had more layers, and the map was more expansive and interesting. Unfortunately, Harmony’s attempt at replicating the famous upside-down castle from Symphony feels a little hamfisted and makes navigation a bit more confusing than it needs to be. Still, Harmony excels as a follow-up to Circle and begins to paint a fascinating arc of what the evolution of the series will look like for the years to come.

HoD Gameplay

Key Features
-A man with a whip fighting Dracula
-A jealous friend
-The beginning of the unlockable character trend
-Interior Decorating: The Side Quest
-Some of series artist Ayami Kojima’s most beautiful artwork
-‘Yoost’? ‘Justee’? ‘Joostay’? Let’s just call him Greg. Greg Belmont.

Aria of Sorrow Title

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Gosh, this game is good. Just play it. It’s 8 bucks. You deserve it.

AoS Gameplay

Key Features
-The best supporting cast in the series
-The best unlockable character
-The best Bad Ending imaginable
-Ugh! It’s so good! Just go get it! You have no excuse. I’m not saying anything more.

Hopefully you’ve got enough info to convince you to try out this amazing trilogy. So go play through these masterpieces and then come back and see me for Part II where I’ll try to convince you to play one incredible game, one not-so-incredible version of that incredible game, and one strange little oddity that no one played.