CASTLEVANIA : ARIA OF SORROW / Konami / Gameboy Advance
This is the first of the Symphony follow-ups to live up to the standards of the game it was cloning in all areas. It's not quite as good as Symphony (due mostly only to the limitations of the cartridge), but it's fun to play and much more polished and evened out than the first two GBA entries.
This is the first Castlevania game set in the future, though it's hardly "futuristic". You're in the year 2031 this time out, but it's a romp through a mostly typical medieval Dracula's castle, with the only period references being some zombified army soldiers that you fight and the addition of a handgun and grenades as bonus weapons on your roster. You play as Soma Cruz, a young student drawn into Dracula's castle under odd circumstances and having the power to suck the souls from monsters and use them for weapons and bonus effects. The soul system employed here is the best of the three GBA games, offering a lot of customization and giving you additional impetus to explore looking for unique monster souls and abilities.
The game has the nicest balance between graphics and music of the GBA trilogy, coming across as above average in both areas. It doesn't have the tremendous animated backgrounds of Harmony, but I thought this game looked cleaner, and the sound quality is very much improved. The story is hardly a masterwork, but it has an interesting twist and a cameo return of a fan favorite. All in all, this is among the top GBA games and definitely worth a look.