***CASTLEVANIA: ARIA OF SORROW*** PSEUDO-COMPREHENSIVE MANUAL EVALUATING EACH AND EVERY SOUL IN THIS TITLE a.k.a. "Soul Evaluation Guide" Author: Drew Smith Version: 1.00 Date: October 22, 2006 email: firstname.lastname@example.org 1) Table of Contents: 1) Table of Contents (hi) 2) Revision History 3) Introduction --Soul Evaluations-- 4) Bullet Souls 5) Guardian Souls 6) Enchanted Souls 7) Soul Setups (not complete...or started) 8) Copyright Information 9) Special Thanks 2) Revision History 1.00 (OCTOBER 22, 2006): Beginning of the guide. 1.01 (MARCH 31, 2007): Quite a long pause, huh? Surprisingly, I do have a life. Regardless, several reader comments and view points were put into the guide. Some ratings have been changed accordingly. Also revised a couple of souls. 3) Introduction Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a highly successful RPG/platformer and another superb entry in the Castlevania lineage. Brought to us by Konami, the game is considered one of the finest in the series for its immersive atmosphere and gameplay in the vein of the widely-loved Symphony of the Night. The game follows the trials of one Soma Cruz, a young man living in the year 2035. When the first solar eclipse of the twenty-first century comes around, Soma visits the nearby shrine with his friend Mina to lay witness. However, Soma's senses suddenly fade out, and he finds himself and the unconscious Mina in none other than...Dracula's Castle. With Mina's life teetering in the balance, Soma explores the castle in hopes to escape - and later to put a stop to an evil that has cursed the world for far too long... But forget all that. What really sets Aria of Sorrow out from its compatriots in the Castlevania license is the Soul System. See, there are 110 foes within the game, and each one has a slim chance of dropping its Soul. Once Soma acquires this Soul, he is free to use that Soul's power whenever he wants. There are three types of Souls: - Bullet Souls, used by pressing Up + B. These Souls generally act as sub-weapons for Soma, and have an expansive amount of utilities, from throwing mud to summoning cats; - Guardian Souls, used by holding the R button. While you hold the R button, Guardian Souls assist Soma in many different ways; - Enchanted Souls. These Souls are passive, and help Soma in more subtle ways, such as increasing stats. You may have one of each type of Soul equipped to Soma at a time. Now, the issue is here that some of the Souls are simply better than others, and getting a Soul from an enemy can take a very long time. Why not see whether or not a Soul is simply worth the effort you'll exert? Unless you're an obsessive completist, you shouldn't even have a need for maybe half the Souls you come across. Please also note the following about this guide: - Opinions are rendered aesthetically. I test the Soul out in a few situations and then pass judgment. If you have a difference of opinion, please e-mail me (courteously) and I'd be happy to listen to what you have to say. - The Souls are (mostly) organized in the order in which you'd find them in the Bestiary. I got lazy on the Guardian Souls though, so they're not sorted yet. Big deal. - If you are looking for a specific Soul, please use the Ctrl+F function. So without further ado... 4) Bullet Souls BAT Description: Attacks using supersonic waves. MP Cost: 5 MP Evaluation: Err...the only redeeming values I can think of for Bat are that it comes out pretty quickly and it's really generous with MP. The range makes it absolutely impossible to hit almost any enemy, and the damage just stinks. I guess you can pop one or two off before your foe wises up and beats the hell out of you, but otherwise, I wouldn't use this past the first 5% of the game. (Get Merman! Get Merman!) Verdict: 2 SKELETON Description: Throws bones. MP Cost: 8 MP Evaluation: This Soul is good...for laughing at. I just love watching femurs arc uselessly through the air only to fall several feet short of their target. To use this right you simply have to jump around like a madman, dancing around your opponent and lobbing a bone and then getting away as quickly as possible. I don't know whether I'd rather use this or Bat. This one's fairly stronger, a little more expensive and about the same speed. Or you can just get Merman. Verdict: 2 MERMAN Description: Fires a water pistol. MP Cost: 14 MP Evaluation: This is probably your best Soul for the first stretch of the game. It's a little pricey, and the damage isn't as good as the Skeleton's (lol), but it makes up for these with such novel factors as 'ease of use' and 'range'. You can hit several enemies on a line with this (though the range is not as long as it may appear), and unlike the Bat or Skeleton it isn't a hazard to your health to make it effective. It's also a little slow, but intersperse it with weapon attacks. You'll probably get a bit of use out of this one. Verdict: 6 AXE ARMOR Description: Throws axes at enemies. MP Cost: 22 MP Evaluation: Don't bother with anything that's more mobile than a Zombie or Skeleton. Unless you're right next to your opponent, you won't be landing any hits. Axe Armor works on the principle that a dumb boomerang might, flying out on a straight line and then retreading that line until it goes off-screen. Unfortunately, this is a rather slow process and really only does appreciable damage on enemies that are just standing around. It's even more disappointing when you consider the hefty MP cost. It might be a good asset against Creaking Skull, but after that I'd just retire it. Verdict: 3 SKULL ARCHER Description: Fires enchanted arrows. MP Cost: 8 Evaluation: You'll need to use this creatively to have it be anything more than crap. The damage Skull Archer does is solid, but other than that it is a Soul ridden with problems. Like Axe Armor, it is very difficult to hit any enemy that has mobility more than "none", especially since the arrows you're shooting are dinky. There's also a three second launch time per bow, half of which Soma will spend just standing there waiting to be hit. It's oddly difficult to find a spot to run to after playing one. You can, however, get about three on the field with some rapid taps of the B button, and in different places if you like. With its low MP cost and good damage, this is a considerable substitute for Axe Armor, but no more than that. Verdict: 4.5 KILLER FISH Description: Attacks enemies underwater. Perishes when out of water. MP Cost: 16 MP Evaluation: Eh, I could see it getting some use during the water- bound levels, but obviously it's complete crap anywhere else. Hot damage, but you just don't get enough chances to use it. Across- the-screen range and the ability to pass through enemies, in addition to that aforementioned hot damage, make this a great Soul...but you won't see it in action very much. I guess try switching if you think you'll be underwater for a while. Verdict: 4 BLUE CROW Description: Attacks by flying crows at enemies. MP Cost: 10 MP Evaluation: Funkiest Bullet Soul ever. This is a little like Axe Armor, but with less range and more "wtf". After you launch one, it just kind of flies in this halfhearted circle back to your hand. Once again, it's more MP-economical than its Axe counterpart, and does vaguely more damage, but it's hard to land an attack with this thing. Not many enemies ever appear in that radius of attack anyway. Pass on this one. Verdict: 3 ZOMBIE SOLDIER Description: Throws hand grenades. MP Cost: 14 MP Evaluation: These are awesome, but only against slow, landlocked enemies. Nonthreatening MP cost, great damage, three on the field at a time and a decent range of attack...but they take too long to detonate. The grenades bounce along the ground for a bit and then detonate. Yet another Bullet Soul scuttled by a lack of speed, and this time it's made even worse because you can only get enemies that have both feet on the ground. In Castlevania, that's kind of a liability. Try them for a little while, but don't expect something so good that you can substitute your weapon. Verdict: 5 GHOST Description: Summons a spirit that will fight evil. MP Cost: 16 Evaluation: This is a surprisingly good early-game soul. The MP cost is average, and the damage may seem unimpressive, but since you're getting two homing light-balls at a time your opponent won't be around too long. Considering the lack of mobility of many of the Bullet Souls you get early game, the Ghost's awesome range and tracking are godsends. Consider also that it can get two completely separate and distanced targets at once, as well. Downsides? Hm...it could come out a little faster, and there's a slight delay before it zooms towards its target. Other than that, make good use of Ghost. Verdict: 8 SIREN Description: Song casts a spell upon enemies. MP Cost: 10 Evaluation: It's kind of fun to spam the screen with musical notes, and I kind of like the "schwom" sound they make when you let them out. Other than that, this Soul is really nothing special. The damage is lackluster and there are better Souls for your MP cost. The notes are too slow and easily dodged or neutralized. Use something else. Verdict: 2.5 TINY DEVIL Description: Creates a blade vortex around its foes. MP Cost: 18 Evaluation: This is a little like Ghost, but not really. There's tracking, but it's not as effective, and the damage from each of the three blades doesn't usually stack. It does more damage than Ghost and is probably more effective for multiple targets, but unlike Ghost, it never stacks since the blades are on the exact same wavelength. Ghost is better for single targets, but this move ain't shabby either. Verdict: 7.5 DURGA Description: Throws katanas. MP Cost: 20 Evaluation: Well now, this is a pretty straightforward Soul. One Katana makes a beeline for the enemy. You can throw them out pretty fast and they also travel through their targets, so you can nail several baddies on a straight line. The damage is good and the MP cost, while noticeable, is fairly generous. Durga isn't amazing, but it could hold its own on the battlefield until you find a suitable replacement. Verdict: 7 ROCK ARMOR Description: Tosses boulders at enemies. MP Cost: 22 Evaluation: I didn't like this when it was called Skeleton, and I'm not a huge fan of it now. The damage is far better, and the range and trajectory have improved a little bit, but it suffers a fairly grievous disadvantage in that it can't travel through walls/ceilings. You can also only get out two at a time. I can't see anyone making effective use of Rock Armor; stow it. Verdict: 3.5 WINGED SKELETON Description: Throws spears. MP Cost: 12 Evaluation: The damage is total crap and the MP cost is a little high considering it's the first soul you get in the game. You can get them out very quickly and they travel through enemies, but since the trajectory is a downward arc they'll probably hit the ground before they can get more than one. Despite being a very weak Soul with mediocre range, I'd still use this above Bat or Skeleton. Verdict: 3.5 STUDENT WITCH Description: Releases a lethal cat that runs full-speed at enemies. MP Cost: 20 Evaluation: These guys are kind of like a miniature Lightning Doll, only not nearly as good. The cats run all the way across the screen through any targets. They do fantastic damage to larger, slower enemies, and the sheer volume of evil kitties you can send out will quickly slay any foe. You can run along in the direction of the cats to prolong their usefulness, most likely clearing the screen of any enemies that are on the ground. This all comes at a price - getting too cat-happy will devour your MP. 20 a pop isn't cheap, and you really need to get a lot out to cause the big hurt. Still, there are a lot of creative uses for this Soul; don't discount it right away. Try combining it with Black Panther, for instance. Verdict: 5.5 ARACHNE Description: Ensnares enemies using a sticky web. MP Cost: 15 Evaluation: Pretty solid damage, a decent range, quick delivery speed and lenient MP cost make this all a very usable early- midgame Soul. It's a lot like Winged Skeleton in its speed and range, only the MP curve is kinder and the damage isn't completely atrocious. Not much more to say. It's an effective Soul, but not too much fun to use (unless you really enjoy hitting enemies with spider webs). You could make use of it. Verdict: 6.5 FLEAMAN Description: Hops around madly. MP Cost: 15 Evaluation: Even with three of these guys out at a time, it'll take you FOREVER to kill anything that won't already go down in one hit. They're just too arbitrary and random to do any sort of substantial damage. Suddenly jumping for no reason and changing directions upon hitting a wall make it very difficult to hit any enemy, immobile or otherwise. The damage is a little unimpressive for the MP cost, they disappear too quickly upon use, and since you have to get three out for any chance of hitting the MP will vanish too quickly. This is just an inefficient diversion. (I will admit, though - they're pretty fun. :D) Verdict: 2 EVIL BUTCHER Description: Throws sharpened butcher knives. MP Cost: 5 Evaluation: This is exactly like the Durga Soul except for three fundamental differences. 1) Significantly less damage. 2) Significantly lower MP cost. 3) It can't travel through terrain, other projectiles, or more than one enemy. Use Durga instead, if it's available. It's fast, of course, but you're not going to be putting much hurt on your opponents. The MP aren't that hard to come by and the difference in damage is too glaring to warrant using this Soul. Verdict: 4 WAITER SKELETON Description: Slings hot curry at its foes. MP Cost: 30 Evaluation: Like others of its ilk, the Waiter Skeleton will prove to be very useful against slow-moving enemies. Though the damage is low, this will hit a slow or immobile foe about five times before vanishing away, dealing some surprising damage for a 30 MP move. Unfortunately, it's next to useless in most other circumstances. Personally, I think there are better moves for your MP usage. This is just a little too steep to justify making constant use of. REVISION 1.01: Thanks go out to Ulti, Beau Goodwin and Ryan Simons for this one. They've all informed me that the curry launched by Waiter Skeleton's Soul will actually lure enemies towards it. I can't believe I missed this before. Anyway, this really makes the Soul far more useful than I'd assumed at first glance, and certainly helps it to trounce Killer Doll. I still think it's a bit pricey on the MP, though. Verdict: 6 KILLER DOLL Description: Mesmerizes the enemy. MP Cost: 20 Evaluation: No, just don't. This is a massive waste of 20 MP. For one thing, most of the enemies that actually fall for this can be dispatched quickly enough so that they're not that much of an offensive threat, so why bother distracting them? Also, this doesn't always work. Whatever monsters are on screen will probably attack it once and then go right back to slaughtering your dumb ass. Furthermore, it only lasts for about five seconds, and doesn't even work on bosses. Stick to something with an actual use, please. Verdict: 0 NEMESIS Description: Cloaking shield makes you invisible before enemies' eyes. MP Cost: 60 Evaluation: Ehh. This can be clever here and there, but like with the Killer Doll, regular enemies are not enough of a danger to justify constant usage. Not only that, but the MP cost is three times as high for a move that lasts about the same amount of time (six or seven seconds). Keep in mind that it doesn't protect you from damage, and most enemies will still carry out their attack patterns (i.e. Disc Armor swinging around his little blade). Eh, I dunno, if you really feel that threatened by simple enemies use Kyoma Demon instead. Verdict: 3.5 KYOMA DEMON Description: Temporary invincibility. MP Cost: 80 Evaluation: Whoo, that's a pretty steep MP cost considering you get this Soul fairly early in the game. Honestly, I wouldn't spend much time on either this Soul or Nemesis, considering the foes that they work against aren't often that big of a threat. They might come in handy during certain concentrated stretches, but in any situation Kyoma Demon is usually better. That 20 extra MP may start to add up if you use the soul too often, and this doesn't last as long as Nemesis (a little less than five seconds). Regardless, if you're having trouble with a certain part, this may be the way to go. Verdict: 5.5 CHRONOMAGE Description: Ability to stop time. MP Cost: 96 Evaluation: This one gets style points, but personally I still think it falls short of the Kyoma Demon. You can STILL take damage while time is stopped (granted, you have to run into an enemy and that's probably kind of difficult), and the lasting time is only about five seconds. (There's a timer that indicates when you're about to run out, which is a neat touch.) This is a good 'safety net' Soul, and that 96 MP cost is less likely to be a problem since you get this later in the game, but yeah check out Kyoma Demon instead. Verdict: 5 VALKYRIE Description: Slashes enemies with its sword. MP Cost: 50 MP Evaluation: A superb Bullet Soul. Valkyrie hits hard, comes out fast, has a great area of effect and is attained fairly early on. The one big issue here is that of MP. You'll need to scrounge up every Heart you can find to use the Valkyrie for prolonged periods of time, since Bullet Souls tend to sap Soma's MP at a pretty quick rate (especially during boss battles). Valkyrie is a good investment, however. That kind of massive Holy damage will do you nothing but good throughout a major portion of the game. Verdict: 9 ALTAIR Description: Summons and hurls eagles. MP Cost: 22 Evaluation: Using this Soul is kind of unwieldy, but that is its only real disadvantage. The damage is solid, the MP cost isn't too severe and you can telegraph three at a time. It's dangerous in that it demands you to stand still to use it for a fairly noticeable amount of time; still, Altair can rack up some big hits against unsuspecting enemies. The speed could really be better, and you may have trouble connecting with faster foes, but I'd give this Bullet Soul a whirl if you're getting sick of Valkyrie. Verdict: 7 COCKATRICE Description: Fires a beam of petrification. MP Cost: 24 Evaluation: More like a "beam of stupid". I'd like to thank the programmer who thought having a laser that essentially points directly downwards would be a good idea. I mean, the components of a good Soul are there - very good damage, conservative MP cost, manageable speed, petrification of enemies that are weak against Stone...and then there's the fact that you'll probably never hit anything with it. You basically have to jump directly over your enemy to make use of this, which is just begging for you to take some damage. You'll also have to recalibrate it constantly against any quicker-moving enemies. Try it if you're having trouble with Armors or other petrifiable enemies, but don't let it see the light of day under any other circumstance. Verdict: 4 WEREWOLF Description: Creates a fountain of magical fire. MP Cost: 28 Evaluation: The big problem with this Soul is that you can't use it in midair (or other places, such as collapsible bridges, but midair is the big one). Personally, I find myself using Bullet Souls quite a bit while jumping, and Werewolf excludes me from doing just that. Other than that...the soul still isn't all that great. Just like Waiter Skeleton, it does five hits to slower enemies and inflates its mediocre damage, but it has an extremely limited range and also travels a little. The fire burst basically happens right in front of Soma, moves forward an inch and then dissipates. You have to do some serious hit-and-run to make sure you don't take big damage right after launching this. As a matter of fact...don't launch it at all. Pick something that can do damage AND keep you safe. Verdict: 2 DISC ARMOR Description: Shreds enemies to bits with a spinning disc. MP Cost: 34 Evaluation: This travels at the exact same trajectory as the Blue Crow Soul does, only it seems to get a wee bit more range. The damage is also quite impressive, even though the MP cost might take a toll after repeated use. You can also land double hits on enemies far more easily than you can with the Blue Crow, which means even more damage still. This Soul isn't 100% reliable (you might find it only getting off one hit, or you may get fooled by that range) but it's a definite candidate for use. Verdict: 7 HARPY Description: Shoots out razor-like feathers. MP Cost: 25 Evaluation: Not bad, really, but you should have found something a little more hefty than this to smack enemies around with. Harpy shoots feathers in front of and behind Soma for decent damage. The slim hit margin and the inability to pass through enemies, combined with the fact that that 'decent' damage will quickly grow obsolete, means this Soul probably won't see much time in Soma's hands. Try it out for a little bit, but don't get attached. Verdict: 4.5 BOMBER ARMOR Description: Astounding amount of destructive power. MP Cost: 80 Evaluation: The description certainly doesn't lie. Bomber Armor does massive damage to any foe unfortunate enough to be standing around when the blast goes off. These are a little like the Zombie Soldier's grenades, except way more powerful and way more pricey. 80 MP a pop is just a little too steep for my tastes. Try this on bosses - don't get complacent using it during normal exploration. As with Zombie Soldier, this is a little tricky to use when you're trying to hit mobile enemies...but the results are amazing! Verdict: 6 LIGHTNING DOLL Description: Discharges lightning from its fingertips. MP Cost: 46 Evaluation: This is what you all have been waiting for. Lightning Doll is in the running for one of the best Bullet Souls in the game. Combined with its massive range and overall hit radius, superb damage, and awesome priority/speed, this Soul will trump nearly any enemy you encounter in Dracula's castle. You'll be unstoppable. The catch? As you may have already seen, it's 46 MP a go, which drains out surprisingly quickly considering how effective (and fun) this is to use. If you're going to commit to Lightning Doll, you've gotta make sure you pick up every stray Heart - and if you can bear it, use this sparingly. This Soul is most certainly worth the time it takes to pick up. Verdict: 9.5 UNE Description: Buries land mines throughout its turf. MP Cost: 20 Evaluation: I was ready to write this off as irredeemable crap, but it can be surprisingly effective. Sure, the range and speed are nightmarish, but being able to spam five at a time is a power to be reckoned with, especially considering that they can get up to three hits a piece. (Probably not when they're all after the same target, but even then.) Like others, you have to use this creatively in order to get much functionality, and even then its utilities are very limited at best. Verdict 4 NEEDLES Description: Tosses mines into the air that explode at fixed intervals. MP Cost: 15 Evaluation: This is a Soul with some potential. The damage isn't too bad, and the explosion radius can strike several enemies at a time. (Don't let the tiny-looking animation fool you - it has a deceptively wide circumference.) You may even get double or triple hits against beefier enemies. Once again, however, a lack of range makes an otherwise-decent Soul difficult to use. The Needles spurt directly in front of Soma, like a mid-air land mine, and wait around for a few seconds for something to run into them. Though it may seem like a good Soul to use against enemies who advance on you, the Needles won't stop or stun them and you'll probably end up taking damage unless you run around a whole lot. You can have five Needles on screen at a time, but you have to be quick to lay that many because they're only around for about three seconds before they explode on their own. Verdict: 5 MAN-EATER Description: Shoots a Ripple Laser. MP Cost: 22 Evaluation: As fun as shooting a bevy of multicolored rings can be, this isn't really the most practical of Bullet Souls. It does good damage for a cheap cost and can also get double hits, but it's WAY too slow and can be intercepted by terrain, candelabras or other projectiles. You will rarely find your mark with the Man-Eater Soul unless your opponent is just kind of standing there, or if it has a slower attack pattern (such as a Bomber Armor). But there just aren't enough uses for this Soul to keep it around. Verdict: 3 FISH HEAD Description: Shoots fireballs. MP Cost: 18 Evaluation: This ain't too shabby! It's a little like the Man-Eater in that it's a projectile that travels in a straight line and diffuses upon contact with something, but has a big advantage: speed. The fireballs come out fast and move faster, so that the issue of connection isn't nearly such a big deal. The MP cost is very generous and the damage is solid; Fish Head isn't the most exciting of Souls, but it is a rather effective one. Verdict: 7.5 NIGHTMARE Description: Summons nightmares to use as weapons. MP Cost: 30 Evaluation: Despite the ramifications of using a horse as a weapon (hi PETA), Nightmare is a fantastic soul. The damage is tremendous, the speed is great, the MP cost is decent (not cheap, but at least manageable) and it also travels through enemies and across the screen. It loses out to Lightning Doll just narrowly on range and speed, but this is a fantastic Soul nonetheless. Pick it up! Verdict: 9 SLIME Description: Hurls slimeballs at enemies. MP Cost: 20 Evaluation: This is one of the most fun Souls to use in the game - and yet another very effective one, at that. The Slime balls arch out at a downwards angle from Soma, bounce off the ground, and continue to bounce around the room for another five seconds, doing damage to anything in their path. They can also pass through enemies, which means MASS CHAOS. Seriously, since you can sling two of these at a time and their damage is quite good given the MP cost, you can clear out a smaller room of enemies in no time flat. What makes it more useful than the somewhat similar Fleaman is that its pattern is predictable if you understand basic physics...the Slime bounces off X wall and ends up going in Y direction. Simple. You should be able to hit your opponents fairly reliably. You'll have to be smart about Slime's usage - single foes may be difficult to hit since the Soul is always moving, and the initial angle can make it a little tricky to calibrate the Soul right. Still, this Soul certainly has merit. Verdict: 7.5 DRYAD Description: Grows stronger by stealing HP from its enemies. MP Cost: 33 Evaluation: Yet another awesome Soul! The Dryad may not seem all that strong at first, but you need to fulfill one condition. Hit your enemy with the bulb on the top of the head, and like magic a Dryad will sprout from the top! Once it's there, it will proceed to suck all of the HP out of the enemy, with 1/4 of the damage from each hit returning to you as HP. There's no real way to go wrong with this; it's a fat waste of MP if you don't hit your opponent in the right spot, which is fairly common considering the tricky angle. It also doesn't work on bosses. Those are fairly minor problems, however; this Soul is gold. Verdict: 9 RIPPER Description: Stabs enemies with a blood-soaked knife. MP Cost: 35 Evaluation: Same principle as Evil Butcher, and the damage may seem like crap, but Ripper's neat because the knives you throw actually stick into the enemies. With one hit, you automatically score a 6 hit combo, and while that damage is accumulating you can also hit the enemy with weapon attacks to add even more hurtin'. This is most effective against high-HP enemies with low defenses, obviously, but Ripper can make quick work of tankier enemies. It's a big waste of MP against smaller foes, though, especially since they're harder to hit. High defense enemies will shrug off most of the damage from the knives. Verdict: 7 WEREJAGUAR Description: Packs an extremely powerful straight punch. MP Cost: 40 Evaluation: I guess the good Souls couldn't last forever. Werejaguar DOES do very good damage, more than most Souls, but suffers from a few inherent disadvantages. First off, the range sucks. It's just a tiny little burst right in front of Soma. Secondly, after using this, Soma will take a small step forward. If your enemy survives one of these punches, it leaves Soma wide open to take a nice big counterattack. Finally, the animation can be canceled if you use it in midair and land before it comes out, which means you'll be wasting your MP. Damage isn't everything - there are better Souls to use than this that also do very high damage. Verdict: 4.5 UKOBACK Description: Sets fires in mid-air. MP Cost: 12 Evaluation: Fun Soul for those pyros out there, but pretty lousy under any other circumstance. This works under the same principle as Needles - Soma sets it in mid-air and waits for an enemy to walk into it. Ukoback doesn't have any of the advantages that helped Needles to overcome its pitfalls, though, so it's essentially a worthless Soul. It only gets one hit against enemies, has no explosion radius, and doesn't explode after a certain period of time. Its only advantage over Needles is a piddling 3 MP threshold. Don't bother. Verdict: 1.5 BIPHRON Description: Shoots out a series of exploding fireballs. MP Cost: 35 Evaluation: Seriously, who translated these descriptions? They're accurate maybe half of the time. Biphron actually works quite similarly to the Werewolf Soul, only FAR better. Unlike Werewolf, Biphron has range and speed. It still has the fairly grave inability to be used in midair, but other than that, Biphron is invariably powerful. Those fire jets don't do huge damage on their own, but they can stack up to six times against big opponents for some major hurtin'. The targets do need to be on the ground, or at least very close to it, for the attack to have any effect. Biphron even bounces off of walls instead of sputtering out. A very solid Soul under most circumstances, except for areas where you'll be jumping around a lot. Verdict: 8 MANDRAGORA Description: Kills enemies with scream. MP Cost: 110 Evaluation: The MP cost is probably the first thing you'll notice about Mandragora. It is obviously one of the priciest Bullet Souls in the game (as well as one of the most difficult to get, by God). However, the results are arguably worth the very steep cost. Mandragora does tremendous damage within a decent radius to any enemies unlucky enough to be nearby. One shot of Mandragora will take out all but the hardiest of Dracula's minions. This is a superb Soul if you find yourself in a bind, but the massive MP cost means that you won't get the opportunity to sling it around that often. Use sparingly for best results. Verdict: 6.5 WERETIGER Description: Packs an extremely powerful uppercut. MP Cost: 40 Evaluation: This is almost exactly the same as the Werejaguar's Soul, but a little more powerful and a little less ranged. At any rate, it's no good. Don't waste your time or MP. Verdict: 4.5 KILLER MANTLE Description: Ability to swap HP and MP of enemies. MP Cost: 19 Evaluation: Since there's no way to tell how many MP a creature has, this Soul requires a lot of trial and error. You can do away with some of your foes extremely quickly with its help (most notably the Iron Golem and Red Minotaur), but you have to be careful because it can also end up giving some foes lots of extra hit points. In technical terms, Killer Mantle is poorly ranged but decently quick and quite powerful in its own single attacks. Give it a whirl here and there, and keep in mind if you get any especially desirable (or undesirable) effects. Verdict: 6 MUDMAN Description: Slings mud at enemies. MP Cost: 20 Evaluation: Um...I kind of like the sound it makes when it hits an enemy. The range is good too, and you can get them out pretty fast. Other than that, there's not much more to this Soul that really makes it worth using. It flies in a fairly generous open arc towards your target and hits them for decent damage. Honestly, this is a pretty dry Soul. No risk, minimal reward. This is useful for widespread castle exploration, but don't bother against harder enemies. Verdict: 5.5 RED MINOTAUR Description: Swings an oversized axe. MP Cost: 150 Evaluation: Here it is, folks. Highest MP cost in the game, which naturally leads up to the highest damage. Now there's obviously going to be uses for an attack with such massive base power, even though the MP cost is steep. The range and radius of the move is great - you can hit nearly everything on screen as long as it's not too close to you. This has massive potential in certain circumstances, but don't waste your time using it around the castle. The damage is overkill at that point anyway. Verdict: 7.5 BEAM SKELETON Description: Fires a deadly beam. MP Cost: 28 Evaluation: High damage at a decent range with a very manageable MP cost. Beam Skeleton comes out very slow, and can be difficult to use against mid-air enemies. There's about a one and a half second downtime before Soma releases the laser, which makes it difficult for enemies who are always moving. It also makes Soma a rather easy target. The attack does superb damage, however, especially considering that it can land two hits. This is definitely a usable Soul, but be cautious; you'll probably be taking some knocks along with it. Verdict: 7 SKULL MILLIONE Description: Weakens its enemies with its poisoned claws. MP Cost: 25 Evaluation: Skull Millione's speed is its greatest asset. You can throw these around at about the same speed as a normal short sword attack. That's also about the range of Skull Millione, but because of the Soul's speed, this isn't normally a problem like it is with slow, short-ranged Souls. The damage is good too. The problem with this Soul is that it doesn't really offer any advantages over a normal weapon that does more damage than it (range, multi- targeting, etc.) If your normal sword isn't cutting it (no pun intended) give this a go. Otherwise, stick to your weapon or another more versatile Bullet Soul. Verdict: 6.5 GIANT SKELETON Description: Throws giant skulls. MP Cost: 19 Evaluation: How many times is Konami going to try and dress up the Skeleton Soul and make it seem useful? The damage to MP rate is quite nice, but other than that, this just suffers from all the same quandaries as its equally crappy predecessor. It gets a little more range since the projectile is bigger, but you can only have one of these on screen at a time and they're abusively slow. NO THANKS. Verdict: 3 GLADIATOR Description: Throws wheels at enemies. MP Cost: 30 Evaluation: I think Konami was starting to run out of ideas at this point. Throwing wheels? Seriously? That said, it's not really a bad Soul. Soma shoots out a wheel that rolls for a fairly long time, slows down and then fades away. It can do high damage to big enemies as it slows down, but don't expect any more than one or two hits at normal speed. Roll one of these through a big long hallway and watch how fun it can be! Verdict: 6.5 DEMON LORD Description: Unleashes a furious barrage of magic upon enemies. MP Cost: 38 Evaluation: Most of the end-game souls are good no matter how you look at it; Demon Lord is no exception. Basically every advantage afforded to a Soul can be found in this guy. It's a little slow, but that doesn't really matter considering it goes through anything (including enemies). If you get it, use it. Simple as that. Verdict: 9.5 FLAME DEMON Description: Burns enemies to a crisp with its ultra-hot flames. MP Cost: 44 Evaluation: It's not quite as reliable as the Demon Lord Soul, but still very powerful nonetheless. It shoots anywhere from 2 to 5 fireballs in a spray pattern. The range is wider than that of Demon Lord, though the damage is a little less (even though up to three of those fireballs can stack on larger opponents). This is a very powerful Soul, not to mention one that's required to attain a certain ending. Verdict: 9 LEGION Description: Fires an array of lasers. MP Cost: 66 Evaluation: Great damage, good range, stacks twice, high MP cost. The Legion Soul is missable if you don't know the trick to getting it, but otherwise you have no reason not to pick this Soul up. One of the strongest Bullet Souls in the game, with no real liabilities other than the long startup time and the steep MP cost. REVISION 1.01: To actually get this Soul, you need to destroy all of Legion's outer parts before finally defeating the core. Thanks to Ben Sillence for reminding me to put this in. Verdict: 9 BALORE Description: Packs a deadly punch. MP Cost: 120 Evaluation: This is basically a souped-up version of the crappy Weretiger and Werejaguar Souls. The range is massively improved, but there are still issues. First off, there's that really annoying cancellation that happens if you use it in midair and get interrupted somehow. At 120 MP a pop, you definitely don't want that to be happening. Also, if you don't manage to kill the enemy for some bizarre reason, they get a free hit. Other than that, the damage is splendid and the possibilities are much wider than the Souls that precede this one. Verdict: 8 5) Guardian Souls FLYING ARMOR Description: Falling speed slows down and jump distance increases. MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: Yeah, no point to using this except for utility's sake. This has no noticeable effect on your battle performance, unless you like striking enemies down from the air while floating gently. Or something. Verdict: - GIANT BAT Description: Transforming into a bat gives you the ability to fly. MP Cost: 30 MP/sec Evaluation: Again, this is a utility soul. I don't see why you'd use something that took 30 MP a second willingly that can't even attack, anyway. Verdict: - BLACK PANTHER Description: Generates shock waves while you dash. MP Cost: 2 MP/sec Evaluation: This is kind of fun to throw around, but its uses are rather conditional. By pressing Forward and the L button, you dash forward with a electric forcefield around you, doing damage to anything you pass through. Naturally, this is only good on long screens where you can jump around and be free, since you're moving in a beeline the entire time. You CAN jump, but it's still a little tricky to hit a target. The problem is that you are not completely invulnerable while doing this and taking damage will pull you out of your little jaunt. You can pass through most enemies, but if Soma's sprite crosses theirs for too long then he'll get hit. The damage Black Panther does is negligible at best, and you're going to have to practice so you don't take a beating while using it, but the real value of the soul is an accelerated movement rate, dodging and being able to easily take out enemies with low HP. Verdict: 8 BUER Description: Creates a revolving wall of flame. MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: Two balls of fire will revolve around you Gradius- style in a rather feeble attempt to protect you from harm and whatever baddies may accost you. These move so slowly that they will probably fail at their job, not to mention the rather unimpressive damage. And finally, the MP cost is decidedly steep for what is basically an early-game soul, so I can't see much redeeming value in this. It can do some damage to slower, bigger opponents, but doesn't really have the clout to be very usable. Verdict: 3 WITCH Description: Repels bullets with shield. MP Cost: 3 MP/sec Evaluation: The shield that Soma puts up is kind of small, but other than that this isn't a bad ability. All projectiles are reflected back at their launcher at a rather unusual angle -- if it hits them or another enemy, they will take damage. (I'm not sure how the damage is tabulated; most likely through the original attacker's attack power and the enemy's defense.) If you practice whipping it out at just the right time so as to be economical with your MP, and how to angle it just so it'll hit it's original shooter, then you could have a pretty good power on your hands. Verdict: 7 GIANT GHOST Description: Provides a protective barrier. MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: This is only different from the Witch's power on two levels: it costs a little more MP to use, and it protects your back as well. Unless you have a mortal fear of getting hit in the back with projectiles, I would just stick with the Witch's power. This is available a little earlier, which is both a blessing and a curse, considering your MP will be lower when you're fighting Giant Ghosts vs. Witches. Verdict: 6 FINAL GUARD Description: Guards against enemy attacks. MP Cost: 60 MP/sec Evaluation: While Soma's shield is up with this attack, you can take absolutely no damage, be it from a projectile or another source. Doesn't sound like a bad deal, right? The big problem is that, at 60 MP a second, you're not gonna have it up for very long. Furthermore, you must remain completely immobile while you maintain this, which means you can't use it in the air or while attacking. I guess if you need temporary invulnerability against an attack you can't avoid (like something a boss might throw out), this is a good route to take. Otherwise, I can't condone such a steep MP cost for an inflexible move. Verdict: 5 GREAT ARMOR Description: STR is increased by 120%. MP Cost: 60 MP/sec Evaluation: I have a nitpicky typographical error first -- the move doesn't increase your Strength BY 120%, but TO 120%. Thus, you'll get a 20% increase in power. If it was an 120% increase, you might be able to justify the exorbitant MP cost. You might be able to rack up a respectable amount of extra damage if you're using a fast weapon, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend using this soul at all. There are better Guardian Souls, Bullet Souls that can use your MP much better, and using this means your magic will be down the toilet before you know it. Verdict: 4 CATOBLEPAS Description: Breathes a petrifying cloud into the air. MP Cost: 15 MP/sec Evaluation: Catoblepas does rather unastonishing damage, but its real value is in the ability to petrify some enemies that are normally rather hard to kill. All of the Armor-type enemies are vulnerable, as are Golems. When an enemy is petrified, they cannot attack you, and they take double the damage from any attacks. I wouldn't deign myself to using it throughout a majority of the castle, unfortunately, because it's short-ranged and the move is not damage-economical for its MP cost (which is not too severe, thankfully). Verdict: 5.5 BONE PILLAR Description: Radiates flame. MP Cost: 30 MP/sec Evaluation: Your MP will be siphoning out surprisingly quickly for damage that is good, but not overwhelming. It has the same short range as Catoblepas, but does about twice the damage (without the petrification aspect naturally). You COULD make something out of this, if you're good at magic management. Otherwise, I'd use it from time to time just for a little variety. It's not a bad move, just a little demanding. Verdict: 6 CAGNAZZO Description: Punches enemies. (Konami sure knows how to write a colorful description) MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: The cost is right and the damage is good since Cagnazzo punches at a fairly rapid rate, AND you can stack it on to your weapon attacks for added carnage. The problem is with this soul's range. Seriously, Cagnazzo sprouts out of your head and starts punching at a downward 45 degree angle with his wimpy little girl arms. You aren't going to be hitting anything with him unless you are seriously in your enemy's face or using a combat knife. In my opinion, this is a fundamental issue that makes the soul almost worthless, if it wasn't for all its other advantages. It's lenient on your MP and the attacks come out fast, so you could use it for a while. And there's a certain inherent comedy value when a big red thing comes out of your skull, yells "ORA ORA ORA!!" and starts punching things. Verdict: 5 BIG GOLEM Description: Punches enemies. (Imagine that!) MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: Unlike his partner in enemy-punching crime, the Big Golem has even more distinct disadvantages that make it generally unusable. The same low MP cost is still there, and the damage is greater than ever, but the thing is that the move is impossible to make practical. For one, Big Golem actually comes out of your back, and instead of automatically punching will only attack in response to one of Soma's attacks. So basically Big Golem can only hit things that Soma is facing away from. That's a problem. Furthermore, his attacks come out far more slowly than Cagnazzo's, and even though they do considerably more damage and don't have the range of a piss stream, you're probably not going to be hitting much with them. Verdict: 4 SHADOW KNIGHT Description: His shadow fights beside him. MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: This is basically a combination of the Cagnazzo and the Big Golem souls, only with most of the negative aspects removed. Like Big Golem, Shadow Knight will only trigger when Soma himself attacks. However, its attacks come out notably faster than the former soul's, and though it doesn't do as much damage it still chalks up anyway. Its range is longer than Cagnazzo's and shorter than Big Golem's, and it actually manages to face forward. And look! We still have that same generous MP cost. Of the four 'punching enemy' souls, Shadow Knight is my pick. I think there are still better Guardian souls though. Verdict: 7.5 CREAKING SKULL Description: Supports a battle from behind. MP Cost: 5 MP/sec Evaluation: What's kind of cool about this soul is that it always faces the same direction (whichever way Soma had his back turned when you called it out) no matter which direction you're facing. It makes hitting your target a lot more flexible...at least, it would, if Creaking Skull wasn't the slowest of the four 'punching enemy' souls. The damage is the highest of the four, but the move comes out so slow that Soma can probably kill the enemy before it actually gets the attack in anyway. Also, it's prone to miss your target if you're moving around a lot (and that's a problem in any Castlevania game since you're trying not to get hit). Regardless, the added support can help against harder foes, and since you can manipulate it to go both forward AND backward it's still better than Big Golem. Verdict: 5.5 MEDUSA HEAD Description: Ability to stop in mid-air. MP Cost: 10 MP/sec Evaluation: You will probably have no use for this soul except for fighting certain bosses such as Balore or the Big Golem. There aren't many tactical advantages to being able to float immobile in the air, especially considering it will generally just make you an easier target. This does have great potential during boss fights where the time calls, but you're never going to use this otherwise. Verdict: 2 PERSEPHONE Description: Absorb enemies' HP with a magical item. MP Cost: 15 MP/sec Evaluation: I'm trying not to be biased towards this move, because I'm secretly obsessed with it. Seriously, there's something so dorky and fun about being able to suck out your foe's life with an evil vacuum cleaner. I use this move far more than I should. Geeky fetishism aside, this really isn't that bad of a soul. The lack of range is what hurts it the most; the attack's radius is a small oval about two inches high and one inch long. Furthermore, the damage is rather middling, but those extra HP it brings you add up pretty quickly and the attacks rack up. This soul takes practice to use well, well enough to the point where you don't end up hurting yourself more than the life you gain back. Vacuum cleaner of death! Verdict: 6 ALURA UNE Description: Restores health. MP Cost: 60 MP/sec Evaluation: The MP cost is steep, but generally this is a surprisingly good soul. You'll be getting back about 40 HP a second -- if you think 40 HP for 60 MP is a good exchange rate, go for it. Hearts are a lot easier to come by than health in this game anyway, not without using your items at least. Generally, I just try to hold out for save statues, but that's just me. If you're really hurting at one point or another, you could just switch this soul in really quickly and give yourself an emergency intervention, but Alura Une is also good enough to warrant an endgame spot in your soul roster. Give it a try. Verdict: 8 CURLY Description: Transforms into a demon that rushes at enemies. MP Cost: 30 MP/sec Evaluation: I honestly don't like any of the transformation souls. You can only use them in big passages with long floors, and though they do good damage they also take a huge chunk out of your MP. You can also get damaged out of the transformation phase, rendering the attack useless and still wasting anywhere from 30 to 60 MP. Furthermore, they basically make an uncontrollable beeline, and I hate not having any control of my attacks. Curly is only different from Devil and Manticore because her attacks are the fastest and weakest of them, so she will get in the most hits. I wouldn't use her or any of the other Souls, though. Verdict: 3 DEVIL Description: Transforms into a demon that rushes at enemies. MP Cost: 30 MP/sec Evaluation: See Curly. Devil is the middle-of-the-road soul as far as attack strength and speed go. If you really had to pick one, go with this one, I guess. Verdict: 4 MANTICORE Description: Transforms into a magical beast that rushes at enemies. MP Cost: 30 MP/sec Evaluation: See Curly. Manticore does the most damage to enemies in its path, but it also has less of a chance of getting multiple hits. Whatever, it still sucks. Verdict: 3 SKY FISH Description: While praying, both STR and LCK increase for a moment. MP Cost: 60 MP/sec Evaluation: At first, I prayed only for the minimum amount of time and was ready to pass Sky Fish off as a completely useless soul. Worse yet, you need to pray in a relatively safe place because you can get knocked out of it. However, I made an important discovery that the game neglects to tell you: the longer you maintain the prayer, the more Strength and Luck you will gain. The game doesn't show you the numbers, so there's no way to really tell how much your stats go up, but I poured about 300 MP into the move and got my Strength up to about 250%. Naturally, enemies dropped their items far more often as well. That was, granted, almost my entire magic bar, but the increase in strength can really help out for the five seconds that you get it. Another neat advantage is that if you DO get knocked out of the prayer, you still get the benefits that leave off at however much you prayed. And since it's variable, you can strike whatever balance between Strength and MP that you need. This is not a bad investment at all. Verdict: 7 IMP Description: Summons "Imp", the familiar. MP Cost: 3 MP/sec Evaluation: Yeah, at 3 MP per second I didn't think that this would do much. I was right. Imp's damage is shaky and it almost never attacks its foe. Most of the time, it'll just fly around uselessly, sucking up your MP and neglecting to do anything of value. There is really no reason to use this at all, unless you are a huge stinge with your MP. Verdict: 1.5 ALASTOR Description: Summons "Alastor", the familiar. MP Cost: 3 MP/sec Evaluation: Far, far more useful than Imp, and at the same MP cost as well! Alastor attacks more frequently, has a wider range, and does at least four times as much damage. The Familiar souls are still a little unreliable for my tastes, but you could do worse than this. Verdict: 6.5 DEATH Description: Attacks enemies using sickles. MP Cost: 10 MP/sec Evaluation: It does pretty middle-of-the-road damage for a Guardian Soul, but it is MP-economical and the scythes come out pretty quickly. They also track! This Soul certainly offers up a lot of bang for your buck. One of the more useful offensive Guardian Souls. Verdict: 8 6) Enchanted Souls ZOMBIE Description: Becomes stronger when poisoned. Evaluation: Eh, not really a fan. The power increase is decent, but you're not gonna get to hang onto it for very long. It isn't really worth it to cling onto your Zombie soul waiting for the right opportunity to get poisoned, or to shuffle into your menu to equip the soul just to unequip it again a few seconds later. I mean, if you've got NOTHING better to use...which I doubt...then go for it. Verdict: 3 PEEPING EYE Description: Identifies breakable walls. Evaluation: Aria of Sorrow is not really breakable-wall-happy like some other games in the Castlevania series, so for all the effort it takes to get this soul it doesn't pay off. (Yes, it takes forever for those damn Peeping Eyes to give it to you. Argh.) The rewards behind a breakable wall are always nice, but ultimately not mandatory. And besides, most of the breakable walls are pretty obviously placed anyway. If you're really that stuck then use a guide. Verdict: 3 WHITE DRAGON/QUEZALCOATL/GORGON/DEAD CRUSADER Description: CON is increased by 4/8/12/16. Evaluation: The thing about Constitution and Defense is that you can increase them a lot more flexibly than you can Strength. With your attack power, there may be one certain sort of weapon that you'd rather use and it isn't as strong as another type of weapon; no problem, put a Golem on! With Armor, and thus Defense and Constitution, this problem doesn't really exist. Your best choice of armor is almost always evident throughout the game. Defense isn't usually as big of a worry factor as offense in Aria of Sorrow, and though it obviously helps I still value the Strength souls more than these. These souls suffer from the Headhunter quandary as well. Verdict: 6.5 SKELETON KNIGHT/MINOTAUR/GOLEM/TRITON Description: STR is increased by 4/8/12/16. Evaluation: In my opinion, the Strength increasing souls are probably the most useful out of the static stat increasers. The increase in the overall numbers, especially towards the higher end, is always the most apparent. If you're dead-set on using a faster, weaker weapon, then strapping on one of these puppies can help to offset the lowered damage quite a bit. These obviously become very outdated once you get your Headhunter up to speed (or if you have a Lubicant and not so many HP), but they're useful substitutes in the meantime. Extra damage doesn't hurt, right? Verdict: 7.5 ECTOPLASM Description: Immunity to curses. Evaluation: This is only a little less dumb than Poison Worm because there's no Zombie-like substitute to fill in for it. However, it's still dumb. Buy a lot of Uncurse Potions and this shouldn't even be a problem. Verdict: 2 GHOST DANCER/GREMLIN Description: LCK is increased by 4/8. Evaluation: What bugs me about these souls is I have no way of telling if they're actually that effective. I mean, I don't know if the enemies are more likely to drop items or not. Then again, even after I used these souls my foes weren't exactly like "BLAAAH I'M DYING HERE TAKE MY CRAP". Luck is kind of a shady stat in that regard, and the lack of tangibility makes Luck-increasing souls rather useless in my opinion. I'd rather augment something that I can see in numbers, personally. If you really think you need the help getting more souls or items, be my guest - but don't expect a revolutionary increase. Verdict: 4 UNDINE Description: Walk on water surfaces. Evaluation: Well, the move is just a utility that you need to advance farther in the game. It doesn't really serve any combat purposes, so it isn't really possible to evaluate. There's no real tactical advantages to being able to stand on the water, anyway. Verdict: - SKULA Description: Allows you to walk while underwater. Evaluation: Like Undine, this is basically a necessity for completing the game. Also like Undine, this won't really turn the tides (ho ho I made a pun) of any battle. Verdict: - ZOMBIE OFFICER Description: Jumping while taking damage restores health. Evaluation: REVISION 1.01: Big freaking thanks to Erik Randolph for figuring this one out for me! He writes: "What Zombie Officer really does, it allows you to recover from getting hit in the air by hitting the jump button. Instead of flying back, you'll fall straight down, and if you haven't double-jumped already, you can jump in the air. Its best use as far as I see it is those Medusa Head areas where they tend to knock you all over the place, that'll let you have more control over where you go. Especially nice if you're going to fly into a set of spikes or something." Still, as it goes, I don't think this is a particularly useful Soul either way. Verdict: 2.5 WOODEN GOLEM Description: MP recovery rate is increased. Evaluation: This will approximately double the rate at which your MP regenerate, from a little slower than 1 MP/2 seconds to a little slower than 1 MP/second. This isn't a bad deal at all, in my opinion. It can help out in times of gripping battle when you find your magic points draining out fairly quickly, or if you're having trouble accumulating the hearts you need to keep your MP in check. This is still not exactly a game-breaking ability, sadly. Verdict: 7 TSUCHINOKO Description: Allows you to buy goods at cheaper prices. Evaluation: Tsuchinoko will contribute a 20% discount at Hammer's shop. This is nice if you need to do a big shopping spree before facing a boss or something, but I rarely suffered any money woes throughout the game. If you're going after the Soul Eater ring, this can also help out quite a bit by knocking a cool 60000 off its 300000 Gold price tag. This soul takes an awful long time to get because the enemy is so elusive, so I'd only recommend sitting it out if you REALLY think you'll need it. If you do manage to pick it up, it can't do you anything but good -- equip it, do your shopping and then take it off. Verdict: 6 RED CROW/LILITH/BAEL/STOLAS Description: INT is increased by 4/8/12/16. Evaluation: As with the previous two sets of souls, these are just kind of thrown out the window once/if Headhunter's statistical increases exceed 16, especially since Headhunter covers all the stats. (Then again, that would take collecting 256 souls throughout the game. Good luck!) Intelligence is probably the least useful of the stats to upgrade, since all it affects are the Guardian Souls. To me, it seems a little silly to use one soul merely to complement the other, especially since Guardian Souls aren't really a reliable source of damage compared to Bullet Souls or your normal attack. You could still do worse than throwing on a Stolas, but I'm not really sold on these. Verdict: 5 DEAD WARRIOR Description: Deflect normal attacks by pressing Up + B. Evaluation: This is a bad translation. What the move really allows you to do is interrupt a regular attack with your equipped Bullet Soul. That said, it really isn't that useful unless you're using Hammers, which are awful in the first place. I guess it could get you out of a few pinches, but I have yet to see a really useful strategic purpose for it. Verdict: 2 GIANT WORM Description: When motionless, HP are gradually restored. Evaluation: You get 5 of your HP back every two seconds, which isn't really a bad deal. Still, if you're impatient or it's not really safe to stand in one place for too long, I'd just stick with the Succubus soul. Hell, I'd stick with the Succubus soul anyway. This is an okay alternative, but if you're missing a lot of HP then you're gonna be doing an awful lot of tedious standing around. Verdict: 6 POISON WORM Description: Immunity to poison. Evaluation: Okay seriously, you may as well just use Zombie. Getting more power out of poison is a lot better than just not getting poisoned. And why the hell can't you just use an Antivenom anyway? Dumb. Verdict: 1 ARC DEMON Description: Restores MP as damage is inflicted upon him. Evaluation: This is actually really neat. Since you're getting back 2 MP for every one point of damage you take, you're going to be expanding your magic pool very quickly. Let's face it: no one can get away from taking damage in a Castlevania game. This could be even more helpful during bosses where you run out of MP with no hearts/items in sight to replenish it and you wanna get a liiiitle more use out of that Lightning Doll. I don't encourage intentionally taking damage just to get your MP back, because that could easily go awry, but Arc Demon will add a lot more oomph to your performance on the battlefield. Verdict: 9 FLESH GOLEM Description: Enjoys eating the oddest things. Evaluation: Since the description is a little vague, the Flesh Golem's soul actually enables you to...wait for it!...eat Rotten Meat and Spoiled Milk without suffering any damage. OOH. Honestly, your enemies will drop maybe two of each throughout the entire game; the effort it takes to put the soul on just to eat the item and then take it back off isn't worth the reward. Don't bother. (If you're REALLY wondering about the denominations, Rotten Meat restores 200 HP and Spoiled Milk restores all of them. I guess if you're hurting for healing supplies, which is rarely a problem in this game, you could use this and make do with the crap that you normally can't.) Verdict: 1 GARGOYLE Description: Immunity to petrification. Evaluation: See Ectoplasm, except that being petrified is so insignificant that I can't imagine wasting an Enchanted Soul space for the sake of keeping it away. If you can mash the buttons fast, you'll never be petrified for longer than three seconds. Super dumb. Verdict: 1 SUCCUBUS Description: Absorb enemies' HP when an ordinary attack is delivered. Evaluation: Well, considering all of the 'ordinary attacks' you'll be 'delivering' throughout this game, Succubus is definitely a useful soul to occupy this slot. 5 HP per hit may not seem like a lot, but when you consider that a lot of enemies take more than one hit to down you'll be gaining your life back pretty fast. Furthermore, the game also counts attacks against candelabras and other terrain items as "hits", which sweetens the deal even more. If you're having trouble keeping those HP up, then you definitely owe it to yourself to try out this soul. Verdict: 9 MIMIC Description: Increases money as damage is incurred. Evaluation: 5 Gold for every point of damage incurred is actually not a bad deal. I could see this being abused fairly easily: hanging out near a save statue, going out and taking a big chunk of damage from a nearby enemy, then going back to heal. Rinse, lather, repeat. You have all the money you could possibly ask for! The quandary that Mimic shares with Tsuchinoko, however, is that there is rarely a DIRE need for money throughout the game. You are generally well-provided for as long as you take the time to pick up all the money bags and knock out the candleholders here and there. Unlike Tsuchinoko, however, you have to be a little more active with Mimic to get use out of it; still, that extra change racks up pretty quickly. REVISION 1.01: A big thanks to Ben Sillence for this trick! When you fall on spikes while the Mimic Soul is equipped, you get 1000 Gold. There's a spot in the Clock Tower where there's a Save Point right next to a spike bed, so you can impale yourself to your heart's content and then go refresh your life when you're getting low! Great source of Gold. Verdict: 7 ERINYS Description: Increases experience points by 120%. Evaluation: Extra levels definitely don't hurt. The description is really kind of self-explanatory -- if you want more experience, then just slap this on and watch the points pile up. Level-ups come around rather slowly in Aria of Sorrow, so this is actually a pretty good idea in the long run. The problem is that if you end up taking this off after using it for most of the game, then the game's natural experience curve will probably eat Soma alive and end up averaging out his growth rate anyway. You could go through the game without this, but it would certainly help if you employed it from time to time. (Erinys does not change the value of the Sherman Ring. Shame, eh?) Verdict: 8 LUBICANT Description: Gains strength as it loses HP. Evaluation: I'm not entirely sure as to how the increments work for this ability. Your Strength, Intelligence and Constitution are the only affected stats, with the latter being far less affected than the other. However, your numbers get alarmingly high if you let your HP drop low enough -- I used the soul at 54/692 HP, and I was getting 60 extra points of Strength and Intelligence. The thing that sucks about the soul is that for it to really have a profound effect, you're going to have to wander around at low life, which means Soma could get nixed in a matter of unsuspecting seconds. The soul also contributes no stats at full life, so a friendly trip to the local save statue will basically render Lubicant useless. Use this one with caution. Plus, the name sounds like Lubricant, which is kind of creepy. Verdict: 6.5 BASILISK Description: Defensive strength increases and offensive strength decreases. Evaluation: You know, I'm not an avid supporter of losing 50% of your Attack Power just for a 25% defensive bonus. Sure, you need to be able to soak up the damage in Castlevania, but you have to dish it out too -- and the exchange rate just isn't worth it here. I can't really see much practical application for this soul, unless you just intend to blast through the game with Guardian Souls as your main source of offense only. And that would be a really dumb idea. Verdict: 2 IRON GOLEM Description: Withstand a lot of damage without flinching. Evaluation: This is a neat, unique little soul. There are really better Enchanted Souls out there for you to be using, but this one has some covert advantages to it as well. Basically, it means that Soma won't do his reflexive 'damaged' animation after taking a hit from an enemy. It sounds useless, but it means that you can retaliate a few moments sooner, which can be helpful. It's even better if you take damage in the air; your jump will not be interrupted as it usually is. This is also really nice to use in conjunction with Black Panther for uninterrupted dashing fun! Verdict: 6 HEADHUNTER Description: Collects souls to increase strength. Evaluation: Headhunter increases each of your stats, except Luck, by 1 for every 16 souls you collect. These statistical increases across the board will be helpful, but not monumentally so -- the fact is, since it upgrades in power throughout the game at a rather gradual rate, you aren't going to be seeing any gigantic upgrades. If you take the time to intentionally hunt down the same enemy over and over until you've collected like 200 Bat Souls, then Headhunter will obviously serve you very well. The game caps this Soul's statistical boosts at 33, so don't bother collecting any more once you've hit that ceiling. Still, you don't have to have this equipped to cash in on the bonuses that the souls will confer, so I'd just recommend letting this sit around for about 80% of the game and then equipping it towards the end when it peaks in power. That lack of early-game utility is kind of what hurts Headhunter the most, but it's still a strong soul, no argument. Verdict: 8.5 7) Soul Setups Sorry, it doesn't exist yet. ;[ 8) Copyright Information This may be not be reproduced under any circumstances except for personal, private use. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission. Use of this guide on any other web site or as a part of any public display is strictly prohibited, and a violation of copyright. Freak. Copyright 2006 Drew Smith. 9) Special Thanks - Thanks to Schlave's awesome guide for the references to a Soul's Power. Though I tested the power of each Soul on my own, it was quite useful for cross-referencing the damage of certain Souls to one another. It's a great guide, too. - Konami, for making such an awesome game. - Me, for thanking a developer in an entirely cliched way. - My friends and family - the people who make this life worth living!