Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the third GBA game in the series, was released in May 2003 but takes place in 2035. Soma Cruz, a high school exchange student in Japan, visits a shrine to observe a solar eclipse, and is suddenly transported to Dracula's castle along with others. Gameplay is similar to Symphony of the Night, with equippable swords and RPG-style leveling up, but adds enemy souls as the magic.
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Hard mode 0:36:12 by Damien Moody, done in 17 segments.
Main Corridor Part 1 + Creaking Skull:
I timed out some battles with Creaking Skull using Baselard+Winged Skeleton and compared them to Short Sword+Axe Armor. Average fight time was about 12ish seconds on for both, but my fastest came from SS+AA at 9 seconds (wasn't on tape, but oh well). However, Baselard becomes completely obsolete when I get the Combat Knife. Axe Armor is useful for a long while after that (killing Rock Armors comes to mind...seeing as I pick up that soul for Great Armor).
Other than that I think I lost 3 seconds in this segment between the one mistimed jump in the skeleton room (bounced forward though so it wasn't bad) and the bounce backwards off the Peeping Eye near the first save room. I also grabbed the Mind Up in the room just below the Save Room after CS.
Main Corridor Part 2:
Since I skipped Flying Armor I used the Backdash Jump to get into the castle...honestly that caused the most restarts here, with a few 15-20 minute spans where I just couldn't make the jump at all. The Combat Knife dropped off the 4th Zombie Soldier this time.
Only time I lost here was a short jump over the Axe Armor (bounced forward), and a shot of Axe Armor too soon on the Rock Armor just before the save point, causing me to take a hit. I think I lost about 3 seconds here too.
Chapel Part 1:
Very short segment, this one only goes from the last save point in the Main Corridor to the first save point in the Chapel. The randomness here is Giant Ghost (I'm using a combo Giant Ghost/Lightning Doll Strategy on Death now...more on that in a moment) - provided that even counts since Giant Ghost is a fairly common soul. It only took 3 tries to get.
Chapel Part 2 + Manticore + Study Part 1:
I need Rock Armor this time, for the Great Armor fight. There's 4 of them, and running through them isn't too smart since I need to save a little HP for the long room with the Arachnes/Ectoplasms. Axe Armor+2 Combat Knife swings is all it takes. I lost a couple seconds from the last Fleaman in this room deciding to not jump into the Axe I threw (granted it DID hit the Rock Armor perfectly) and allowing the Rock Armor time to throw his rock at me.
The Arachne room went quite well this time around. I found that it's best to run in and swing at the Arachne, causing her to back up. This allows me to run under the Ectoplasms, and by the time I reach her again she was ready to spit at me, which allowed me to just jump over her. The second Arachne started spitting before I could swing, so I ended up smacking into an Ectoplasm and bouncing forward into the Arachne - I just kept running through her to make up for it.
I saved just before Great Armor.
Study Part 2 + Great Armor + Floating Garden: Start off with Great Armor. Rock Armor soul works well since nothing else does any decent damage (best is Axe Armor at 21 (3 hits for 7), but that requires me to be at a distance to get all 3 hits out of it. Winged Skeleton only hits for 4 or 5, and can only hit twice max. Rock Armor hit for 27 and allowed me to not have to reposition myself every time he moved since I could just throw a Rock at him whenever he backed up.
No randomness this time, just a quick run to the first save in the Clock Tower. I mistimed one jump in the room where Manticore use to be, and took a hit for it...but it made the jump to the far stairs easier since the Ghost Dancers weren't in my way any more.
I tried like hell in practice runs to get a damage boost from the Tiny Devil to get to the Warp Room quicker. I know exactly where he needs to be, but the odds of it happening quickly and perfectly are about as good as me getting Flame Demon to drop it's soul AND Laevatain in the same kill. I also tried to Backdash Jump up there...and was literally missing it by 2-3 pixels. Soma's sprite would even start moving left (2-3 pixels) into the opening, then it would move back those same pixels and fall.
Clock Tower Part 1:
Nothing special here, just get Lightning Doll and get to the save point before Death quickly. Luckily the second Lightning Doll in the Mystletain room dropped it, so I didn't have to bother with them in the room before Great Armor. I also dropped Great Armor with 2 Lightning Dolls and 2 swings of the Mystletain since I knew it would enough for me to level. It's like 3 seconds to kill it.
Death and Death only...this fight timed out to 37 seconds faster than my last one. I noticed something (that I couldn't manage to pull off and just took it as was since Death was giving me a migraine...literally) about Giant Ghost vs. Death:
Giant Ghost does 30 damage per reflect.
Mystletain swings do 28 damage.
Lightning Doll does 59 damage per hit, 3 hits at point blank.
With the Mind up I grabbed earlier I can cast Lightning Doll exactly 3 times for a total of 531 damage. By the time I kill his first form, I still won't have enough MP to cast Lightning Doll again.
Now, if I could reflect 18 or more shots back at him with Giant Ghost, it would out-damage Lightning Doll for the same MP cost, and also allow me to be completely on the offensive since I won't have to dodge anything except the floor lasers. I figure since the rest of the damage has to be made up in sword swings, having Giant Ghost up makes that part a bit quicker...plus if Giant Ghost gets 20+ hits or so it would mean less swings anyway.
Note that I only managed 10 hits with Giant Ghost...the only times I got more (highest was actually 23) he decided to be a prick and use almost nothing except his Dash-Slash after he changed forms, which made attacking next to impossible.
Clock Tower Part 2:
Just running from the Clock Tower to the Underground Reservoir. Nothing Special here.
I honestly think this is one of my better segments. Flame Demon was a bitch and didn't cough up his soul for a while, but it gave me a chance to practice the segment enough to get it almost perfect. The only unintentional hit I took was from a merman in the room after the Nightmares...but it bounced me forward so no biggie.
Arena Part 1:
This is, by far, the worst segment I've done. Not in terms of how I performed, but just in how freakin' long it took me to get Flame Demon to cough up the Laevatain - 3 weeks of off and on attempts! I don't know what the actual chance of getting it is, but I'd estimate that it's < 1% with only 20 Luck ;)
Beyond that I mistimed a jump attack against one of the Gargoyles in the first (large) room in the Arena, which caused him to double back and hit me a second time.
Balore took a lot of practice to perfect. Getting hit here means losing quite a bit of time and opportunity so I re-did this segment quite a few times to get it right.
I attempted to use his hand as a platform, but just couldn't find any decent use for it. My attack rate didn't speed up at all really since I normally do 2 attacks per jump.
I also tried using the Handstanding as a way to keep pounding on him (he swings and I jump over and land on a hand, so I don't have to dodge the other one). Unfortunately, he's too random on where he swings for this to work well either.
The major problem I had was when his hands would desync and attack at different times. I noticed that when he swings high that it takes longer for him to recover than if he swings low. Generally the left hand would lag only after a few swings, which would make it so I couldn't get as many attacks off. I restarted more times due to this than anything else.
Arena Part 2:
YAY for 22 second segments! All I did here was grab Succubus' soul from the one above the main path in the Arena (also a Lilith in here, and the Black Cloak). I would have waited until the Top Floor to get it, but I needed Lubicant there (for Graham) and know that Luck wouldn't have been on my side.
Arena Part 3 + Top Floor:
Finding the perfect path up to the Top Floor was hard enough, then Lubicant decided to make me re-do everything quite a few times before coughing up his soul. It was still worth it though since it made the Graham fight really quick.
Graham. Is. A. Pain. In. The. Ass. I found that Graham will open the fight a little different depending on how many candles you break on the way from the save point to him. I don't know why, but 4 got him to do what I wanted him to do (well, almost).
The only time the game checks to see if you have the right souls equipped is when you deliver the last hit when Graham is still in Human Form (with the rotating Lava Balls). Other than that you're free to use whatever souls you like, which meant heavy abuse of Lubicant/Lightning Doll.
I start the fight by taking a hit from Graham himself, then smack him a couple times. Then I wait until he fires Lava Balls and take 2 more hits, bringing me to 14 HP.
When he starts using the Rotating Lava Balls, I have to count hits. It takes 42 swings of Laevatain with Lubicant/14 HP to cause him to switch to his final form. That means I have to stop at 41 since I need Succubus/Flame Demon. After he changes I switch back for the damage and more Lightning Doll-ing.
There were a few points where I could have been slightly more aggresive, but this segment had me nervous as all hell and I really didn't want to screw it up.
Started off dropping down to 14 HP followed by 4 Lightning Dolls (which are a bitch to triple hit with on him...I think one only hit twice) then just Laevatain as often as I could. I found quite a few good attack opportunities as well, like if he does a sliding Kick, I get behind him and swing once standing, then three more crouching, then he blinks for a second. If he backdashes I can usually catch him with a 4 hit when he comes out of it as well.
After he starts using sub-weapons he doesn't blink any more, but I found that it's better when he uses a sub-weapon since he pauses longer afterward, giving me ample time to hit him twice before he does anything. If he does a kick/backdash/whip I only have time for 1 before he attacks again.
I honestly think it's a close call between this battle and Graham for "most visually impressive"...though I'd lean a bit more toward this one - in part cuz the music is nothing short of bitchin' ;)
This took quite a few tries to get the route figured out. Most of the rooms are easy enough to figure out but a bitch to pull off. The only real mistake was when I mistimed the landing before the first Succubus in the Arena large room. Ended up hitting the Succy while in Bat form and got knocked back, and a bit disoriented. Lost maybe 3 seconds.
I went with a Kaiser Knuckle strategy here (I bet you were still wondering just why the hell I picked it up in the Study, huh?). Pounded the first form as best I could, taking one hit from the demon to heighten damage. Second fight just berserked the eyes with the Kaiser Knuckle. I decided against using Lightning Doll since the eyes die quickly anyway. I saved all my shots for Chaos' Core, which totalled 12 I think (4 for each of the Mana Prisms, 3 after using the High Mind Up, and one after letting my MP refill after all that). It would have been one more except I accidentally was pressing up when swinging at one of the small green balls.
This one fight took me almost 3 days of constant attempts to finally complete. The Dragon in the second fight seems to have a future sense of sorts...he won't aim for where I am, but for where I will be 2-3 seconds from now. He also has a very nasty habit of appearing directly below me while I'm swinging at the Core.
You'll also notice that I didn't immediately drop to 1 HP this time. I would have done this in the first fight, but I needed that extra hit for leeway in case the Dragon decided to toss something my way that wouldn't be possible to dodge. I had a lucky drop of Rotten Meat back when I was killing the Zombie Soldiers for the Combat Knife - which made it easy to make sure I had 1 HP =)
I really can't think of anything else to say...
Single-segment Hard mode New Game + 0:19:57 by Damien Moody.
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Manticore is used in 2 ways: One is simply travel through long rooms. It's the fastest form of transportation for quite some time. It's second use is to remove the crouch animation when falling long distances. It seems I only need it active for 1 frame to make this work, which is nearly impossible on the console...but I still managed to cut time with it since I usually was able to let go of the button quickly.
I only switched to Iron Golem in the Merman room on the count of the fact that the Mermen occasionally appear directly below me.
Death was the first boss that gave me issues. A sickle appeared directly below me during his first phase, causing me to take a hit. Then His first attack after switching forms was a Dash-Slash which caused me to take another hit. I'm estimating that it only cost me like 2 seconds for both of those, though. I also needed to have Erinys equipped for the final hit. Death grants 4444 XP, so Erinys gives me an extra 889 XP on top of that.
I didn't notice much difference between using Lubicant and Headhunter on Balore. The number of RM swings didn't decrease, and I use a berserker strategy anyway. The only thing that cost me time here was the fact that his left hand swung low, and I flew across the room for it. I needed his hand to swing high for everything to go perfectly.
Graham went prefectly. I had tested out Lubicant for all 3 forms, and found it only would cut hits on the second form - which was fortunate since that's the easiest form to dodge his attacks.
Julius cost me a little time when he trapped me in the corner...although I think I could have hit him with RM anyway. I equipped Ascalon for this one since Julius resists Holy and Ascalaon grants a better STR bonus. Each RM hit does 492 Damage, and Julius has 6000 HP...so that equals 13 RM hits. However, one swing from Ascalon does 99 damage...just enough to cut one RM swing out. Julius is a bitch to double hit with RM.
The first room in the Chaotic Realm cost me a small amount of time...but that room is a bitch to pull off perfectly anyway.
Chaos's First form went OK. While I was playing I didn't think it was that good, but upon review decided that it wasn't that bad. The whole idea here is to take out the Red Orb first so I can use RM. The other 2 don't matter too much since RM does so much damage anyway.
Chaos's Second form I kept swinging RM too early and the second hit wouldn't connect. I could have also used Lubicant here, but the odds of a perfect fight aren't exactly good. It shaves 4 TM hits off though, and with the early RM swings I kept making, probably would have sped this battle up by about 6-10 seconds.
Single-segment Hard mode as Julius 0:08:44 by Damien Moody.
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The only real time losses were:
-Headhunter, 2nd Form - Missed a couple axes, and got hit a couple times...I actually hate this form more than the 3rd one.
-Graham - Missed a couple hit opportunities during the 1st phase. Took a hit and missed 2 of them.
-Graham - Missed one opportunity during the 2nd phase.
-Graham - On the 3rd phase, I could have manipulated the Laser about halfway through so I could have kept attacking without having to duck at all...this one didn't cost me all that much time, though.
A note about Graham - During his first phase, his attack pattern determines the max number of hits I can get per round:
4 Lavaballs - 3 hits
Hi-Lo Lavaballs - 5 hits
Triple Fireball - 4 hits
Now, the 4 hits on the Triple Fireball are pretty easy so long as I don't swing early (before he fully appears). The 5 hits on the Hi-Lo Lavaballs are a different story. There has to be VERY little pause between my attacks, which is difficult to do while dodging the Lavaballs. You'll notice that I wasn't always able to get all 5 hits in.
Other than that, I don't there's really anything else that went wrong. I was being extremely picky about what I wouldn't accept.
Single-segment 100%, Hard mode as Julius 0:16:46 by Damien Moody.
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The initial minutes of this run are pretty much identical to my 8:44 run, since the route doesn't branch off until the Inner Quarters. Note that Headhunter, 2nd Form gave me trouble again. Have you guessed that I despise that form?
Anyway, I make a quick detour to open up the portal in the Inner Quarters, then just head back to the Main Corridor through the Top Floor.
Manticore and Great Armor die easily to the Crucifix.
I had my best fight against Legion ever this time around. I found that 3 Crucifixes made it difficult to do damage afterward, but only using 2 Crucifixes and saving the rest for Crosses worked extremely well. Legion also immediately died this time which has never happened before for me.
Balore went more or less as I had anticipated.
Death decided that he liked the Dash-Slashes (which had actually killed a previous run attempt) but I did all I could to keep the damage up anyway.
Graham works a little different than I think most people would expect.
The minimum number of teleports I can take him out in is 4, which can happen 2 ways:
1) I Crucifix on each of the first 3 teleports, then whip him 3 times on the 4th. Or...
2) I'd need to whip him 18 times within 4 teleports. That means he has to do Hi-Lo Lavaballs at least twice (provided he does Triple Fireballs for the other 2) or 3 times (if he uses a Quad Lavaball).
Now, the reason I opt for the whipping over the Crucifix is that I can save time on the final form by using the Crucifix to avoid attacks. However, he didn't do the attacks I wanted, and I wound up with a 5 teleport first form. Then, on the final form, I screwed up my attack order and had to dodge anyway, plus I whipped one too many times.
Despite that, most of the run went extremely well.
Boss Rush in 0:01:21.38 by Jason Hochreiter.
this is a run of aria of sorrow's boss rush mode as soma "it expired three years ago" cruz, timing in at 1:21:38. in the course of making this run, i found out several interesting things about how the game works. in short, you can kill balore so quickly that he won't die (think about that for a second). in other words, to kill a boss, you must A) do enough damage and 2) let enough time pass. note that this doesn't apply to every boss and that this feature is evident in a few of harmony of dissonance's bosses. also, graham is so random that he can affect your time by a whole second - even if you do everything *exactly* right. rather frustrating, to say the least. feel free to email me for a more detailed description of these two oddities (see contact section at the end).
the biggest improvements in this run over dragondarch's impressive 1:26:71 run are the dreaded blocking mail strategy on great armor, a new balore strategy of my own, and a toned-down, easier/possible version of a graham fight i saw in a time attack. (yes, one does exist. no, i will not send it to you.)
is 1:20:xx possible? yes. likely? maybe. as stated, the randomness of this run makes it difficult to find motivation to try to shave off 39 hundredths of a second, but i may try some day. using savestates and slowdown, i reached a time of 1:20:63. however, with these current strategies, i find 1:19:xx impossible; this elusive time will only be obtained with newer, better strategies.
POINTS OF INTEREST OR FRUSTRATION:
creaking skull - admit it, you didn't see that coming.
great armor - the blocking mail, which blocks attacks about every 1 in 10 tries, makes this fight minutely faster. note the "1 in 10 tries" part.
death - mr death "killed" several of my runs; occasionally, the axe will only hit him once. i have never discovered why.
balore - in my opinion, the best part of the run. the strategy i employ in this video is a whole second faster than a previous strategy i developed which i thought was optimal (or as optimal as possible in this kind of a run). four things can go wrong here:
1) the first execution of the red minotaur soul connects only once.
2) you move too far to the right and the second execution of the red minotaur misses the second time.
3) balore moves his fists the wrong way, you panic, and you die. note that not panicking still results in death.
4) balore is so powerful that he can, in fact, kill you from beyond the grave. he shares this ability with death and legion. as balore is dying, his fists begin to disappear, but if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, he can still kill you.
the key behind this strategy is the use of the ascalon, which raises soma's strength - a figure used to determine the damage dealt by a soul like red minotaur.
graham - interesting strategy right here. it didn't quite work as planned...the idea was to use lightning doll and then follow it up with a red minotaur that would connect instantly and finish grahamy off. however, the axe didn't hit as soon as i wanted it to, but i do believe this fight was faster than the one in dragondarch's video.
i'd like to thank iceaga and james gray for allowing me to vent my frustrations while working on this run. they also made comments on different boss rush videos i sent them. thanks go to zanapher for his boss rush strategies that formed the basis for this run, and i'd like to thank dragondarch for his impressive 1:26:71 submission which i "researched" in making this run. also, if you, dear reader, actually read all of these comments, you deserve a cookie.
if you want to discuss this run or anything else - especially anything relating to castlevania - you can (rarely) find me on AIM with the screenname dingusSJr, or you can always email me at dingussjr АТ gmail.com. feel free to submit any criticism or suggestions for this run.
hope you enjoy the video.
Boss Rush as Julius in 0:03:28.63 by Tomi Salo.
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Aria of Sorrow has been one of my favourite games of all time, probably because I just love super responsive gameplay and the 'Castleroid' consept (yeah, I still haven't played SotN :p). Also, I'm a fan of the NES Castlevania games so I immediately fell in love with this game, despite the vastly different gameplay. After finishing the game in every possible way, I watched the speedruns on SDA and I was particularly amazed by dingussjr's Soma Boss Rush. So, this game being on a handheld console, I though it would be fun to practice Soma BR from time to time using dingussjr's tactics (I actually didn't like Julius mode AT ALL, mainly because it had reversed jump/attack). But it took only couple of attempts after I made some compromises on his tactics (blocking mail anyone?) and got fed up with all the switching. I ditched the game for couple of months but I picked it up again for some unknown reason. Knowing how not fun Soma BR was I tried Julius Boss Rush for a change and after all, I wasn't used to the default Soma controls anymore so it was a pretty easy switch. I got 4:30 without any real tactics after couple of attempts and then checked SDA again (I actually hadn't watched Julius BR run) and saw the 4:06 time.
After watching Dragondarch's run and searching for information I found some old run by Persona. After a while, I was able to beat the run on SDA but Persona was still giving me trouble. At that time I knew I was gonna do a run on this game no matter what and so after practising quite a lot, I finally beat Persona's run. There was some talk about AoS at the time so I made a post about beating the SDA/Persona's record with couple of seconds and explained some of my revisited strategies. I'm not sure if Persona improved his run after I told on the forum that I had beaten his or had he already made it before, but still he had a 5-6 seconds better time at the time, 3:40:93. After watching that run I learned a bunch of things, including the notorious Legion Quick Door trick. I asked him how did he do it but he didn't really know himself either and directed me to dingussjr. Well, it turned out that he somewhat knew how it works but it's nearly impossible to get. With the various info he gave me about the game and his support helped me to beat persona's record, 03:38. I kept trying but I wasn't able to improve it for a long while. One day I got a great run going and for my surprise I did the Legion Quick Door trick and dropped my record to an awesome 03:31. After this began the very long search for a Gameboy Player (which was nearly impossible to get from Finland) and the very frustrating fight with recording problems.
After finally getting a GBP, I recorded a crappy quality run after couple of hundred attempts, 03:30. Again, I was lucky with Legion but when I got 03:31 I had kinda promised to get sub-03:30 so I kept trying and of course I wanted the run to be on SDA. When I got rid of the recording probs, and after many failed attempts to beat my own record, I finally did it, this time it was only 0.2 seconds faster but it was without Legion Quick Door so I was baffled with the result. I never even thought of sub-03:30 being possible without LQD and after reviewing my run, I knew it definitely was possible for me if I got few of the bosses to cooperate. So I furiously attempted to nail down the run and I really wanted to do so too. I had worked on this for way too long :D. After 78 recorded attempts this time, I finally got it! 03:28:63.
General stuff and tricks
The run and strategies:
Well, so what do I think is possible then? I'd go for sub-03:20 but that is with totally perfect luck and flawless execution and I'm not the one who is going to wait for that to happen. If you got something to ask me about the run or just wanna bash me for no reason, send sarou an IM over at forums.
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