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Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a side-scrolling platforming video game developed and published by Konami. It was released in May 2003, and is the third installment of the Castlevania series on the Game Boy Advance. Producer Koji Igarashi, who had led the production teams for previous Castlevania titles, led Aria of Sorrow's development as well. Michiru Yamane returned to compose the music for the game alongside Takashi Yoshida and Soshiro Hokkai. Director Junichi Murakami was new to the Castlevania series.

Aria of Sorrow is set in the year 2035, when Dracula has been sealed away after a battle in 1999. The plot follows the journey of Soma Cruz, a teenager granted occult power as a result of being a potential vessel of Dracula's reincarnation, as he battles dark figures that wish to inherit the undead lord's power. The game incorporates the same combination of elements from platform games and role-playing video games as in a previous game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Aria of Sorrow introduces several features to the series, such as the "Tactical Soul" system and employs a futuristic storyline in contrast to the medieval setting of many other Castlevania games.

Although Aria of Sorrow sold poorly in Japan, selling 27,000 units nearly one month after its release, it was commercially successful in the United States, with more than 158,000 units sold in the three months following its release. Aria of Sorrow received universal acclaim with praise going towards its visuals, gameplay (particularly the Tactical Soul System), music, and level design with some even considering to be the best game in the Castlevania series since Symphony of the Night. Konami released a sequel to Aria of Sorrow, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, in August 2005. It incorporated many elements from its predecessor, including the "Tactical Soul" system.

The game was re-released as a part of the Castlevania Advance Collection on September 23, 2021 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows alongside Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.

Plot

The story begins in the year 2035, when Soma Cruz is visiting Japan as a transfer student and living near the Hakuba shrine. During a solar eclipse, he visits the Hakuba shrine with his childhood friend Mina Hakuba. He and Mina are then drawn into the eclipse, landing in a mysterious castle, where they meet a government agent named Genya Arikado. Arikado reveals that they are in Dracula's castle. After a group of monsters appear and are dispatched by Arikado, one of the monsters' souls is absorbed by Soma. Arikado explains this as the awakening of Soma's "power of dominance". Arikado then directs Soma to enter the castle and seek "the master's chamber".

As Soma proceeds through the castle, he confronts several characters, each present due to a prophecy related to Dracula's powers. Graham Jones, a missionary that has come to the castle, befriends Soma. Graham explains the nature of the castle and reveals that Dracula, long thought to be immortal, was destroyed for good in 1999, and that his powers will be passed down onto his reincarnation. When Soma proceeds further into the castle, he meets the witch Yoko Belnades, who is present on the orders of the Roman Catholic Church. Yoko is looking for Graham, who she believes is dangerous and the inheritor of Dracula's powers. She clarifies the nature of Soma's powers, revealing that they are not necessarily evil, but inherent to Soma himself. Later, Soma encounters Hammer, a member of the Army ordered to come to the Hakuba shrine. He has forfeited his mission, however, in favor of selling goods. He becomes Soma's vendor, selling numerous goods to aid Soma's mission. A mysterious man then accosts Soma, asking about the nature of Soma's dark power. When Soma continues to converse with him, the man reveals that he has amnesia, and the only thing he remembers is his name starts with "J".

Soma meets Graham again, and questions him on Yoko's suspicions. Graham claims he will receive Dracula's powers, believing himself to be Dracula as he was born on the day Dracula was slain. Graham inquires as to the nature of Soma's powers, to which Soma responds that he has "the power to rule," causing Graham to panic and flee. Concerned, Soma confides this incident to Yoko, who recommends that Soma join her in stopping Graham. As Soma proceeds further through the castle, he comes upon a scene of Graham stabbing Yoko with a knife. Graham retreats, and Yoko warns Soma of Graham's power. Arikado arrives, promises Soma he will look after Yoko, and demands that Soma pursue Graham. Soma meets "J" again, who reveals he is Julius Belmont, the man who defeated Dracula in 1999. As he leaves, he remarks that he knows something about the current situation, but does not elaborate.

Soma ascends to the castle's keep and confronts Graham in the throne room. Although Soma's sole desire is to leave the castle, Graham is convinced that Soma must be killed for absorbing the souls of the castle's monsters. Soma manages to defeat Graham, even after Graham uses his newfound powers to assume a demonic form. As Graham falls in defeat, Soma absorbs his powers, and realizes he is Dracula's reincarnation. Arikado arrives and reveals a way for Soma to save himself by halting the flow of chaos into the castle. Soma proceeds to the Chaotic Realm, but Julius attacks him, believing that Soma is Dracula. Julius allows Soma to defeat him, as he sensed Soma's soul fighting against Dracula's influence. Before he leaves, Soma elicits a promise from Julius to kill him if he fully becomes Dracula. Soma travels through the Chaotic Realm and finally locates the source of chaos. Soma manages to defeat the manifestation of chaos and is sent congratulations by Yoko, Hammer, Julius, and Arikado. Soma awakens back in the Hakuba Shrine with Mina, pleased that the conflict is over.

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