For various personal reasons, I felt a sudden compulsion to pick up and play through Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow today. I can’t believe this game is already 10 years old. When Aria was new, the 10-year-old games were things like Secret of Mana, Doom, and Star Fox. Aria notwithstanding — it was decidedly behind the times in terms of tech at its debut — I feel like games changed a lot more in those first 10 years than in the latter 10.
Also, this whole thing makes me feel really old, as it reminds me that the time from my entering college to moving to San Francisco to start working in the game press at 1UP (1993-2003) was essentially the same as the amount of time between my starting at 1UP and finally starting something different (2003-2013). Good lord.
The nice thing about Aria, though, is that it has a New Game + mode, and I was a little obsessed with the portable Castlevanias several years back. When I picked up my cartridge today, I found a 100% complete save file that allowed me to start a new playthrough with all Soma’s endgame powers and gear intact. Aside from turning the entire adventure into a hilarious cakewalk, it’s also given me the freedom to play a Castlevania game like Mega Man.
I’ve equipped Soma with the Silver Gun, which is exactly what its name suggestions: A handgun. I’m playing the entire game like it’s a shooter, with Soma packing heat and fighting the hordes of hell with a sidearm. The early going has been laughably easy, but I suspect it’ll get tougher as I go along. The Silver Gun has its share of advantages — its range spans nearly the entire screen, and it’s insanely fast — but also its shortcomings. Each round can only hit a single foe (no piercing damage), and the hit box on bullets is pretty small. It’s terrible for shooting enemies at angles and lacks the natural advantages of melee weapons, especially those with a swiping action.
Be that as it may, I am bowled over by the minute detail Konami’s designers invested in this weapon, which appears late in the game and is so relatively weak by then that few people are ever likely to use it. Not only does Soma have a somewhat unique animation for the two handguns in the game (his arm is drawn differently), the guns demonstrate certain other details that are absolutely 100% unnecessary. When your shots strike a wall, a spark appears where the bullet strikes. And after each round, a tiny, spent shell casing — probably about three pixels by one pixel — ejects from the gun’s chamber, away from Soma, and bounces off the ground before disappearing off the screen. It’s almost too tiny a detail to notice… but someone took the time to program and design this superfluous action, and it adds an uncanny (almost surreal) element to an otherwise fantastic video game.
Meanwhile, in 2013, we… eh, forget it. I’ve spent enough time complaining about how hollow and meaningless Mirror of Fate was. I’d rather use my energy on enjoying a game that isn’t. Even if I have to reach back into the distressingly distant past to do so.