[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/circleofthemooncover_4001.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:300:His master captured, his friend turned against him, and worst of all, a dark ceremony to power up Dracula looms in the horizon.]]

In 1830, a woman named Camilla holds a ceremony to resurrect Dracula. A trio of vampire hunters, the aging Morris Baldwin, his son and apprentice Hugh, and Hugh's fellow apprentice and rival Nathan Graves, go to her castle to stop her, but arrive too late. The reborn Dracula overcomes them all, captures Morris, and casts Hugh and Nathan into the catacombs. Lost within the castle and abandoned by Hugh, Nathan must find his way to Dracula's chamber to defeat him and save his captive master.

Arguably the game that introduced the [[{{Metroidvania}} new-school]] ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}'' to the states- while ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight'' had been released four years earlier, it was at this point an obscure title that Konami had not supported heavily upon release. Likewise, the more recent Nintendo 64 games had been critically panned.

Gameplay consists of exploring the castle in search of artifacts that will allow Nathan to overcome obstacles and push deeper inside, with the ultimate goal of confronting Dracula. Exploration and combat with enemies also yields items that will make Nathan more powerful. The most valuable are a series of tarot-like cards [[FightLikeACardPlayer which allow the casting of spells]]. Although the plot is threadbare and predictable, it is played up for all it's worth, with major bosses that would just otherwise just be [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere random monsters]] given purpose, if not exactly character.

The game caught some flak upon release for allegedly having graphics so dark and poorly-defined that it was nearly impossible to see what was going on on the screen. In fact, this was the fault of the non-backlit Game Boy Advance, for which ''Circle of the Moon'' was a launch title. Later improvements of the hardware have dispelled these criticisms, but it explains the uncharacteristically bright and colorful graphics in the later ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaHarmonyOfDissonance Harmony of Dissonance]]''. Those critics who could play the game, however, had generally positive things to say.

!!''Circle of the Moon'' provides examples of:

* AnimatedArmor: Thirteen [[UndergroundMonkey varieties]]; the ''Castlevania'' standby Axe armor, one armor for each of the ten elements, and two bonus armors (basically buffed versions of the Holy and Dark elemental armors) in the arena.
* ArmorOfInvincibility: There's two, the first being the "Shinning Armor" which boosts all your stats in addition to its outstanding defense. Its counterpart, the Dark Armor, boosts defense even more, but actually cuts the rest of your stats (it's also simpler to acquire, being an item drop, albeit one from a somewhat rare enemy).
* ArtifactTitle: The game takes place in Camilla's castle, making the game (along with ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaDawnOfSorrow'') one of the few ''Castlevania'' titles to not include the eponymous Castlevania / Demon Castle Dracula.
* AwesomeButImpractical:
** The Mars + Black Dog combo gives you a ''gun''. Range and damage go through the roof, [[GunsAreWorthless but]] it takes forever to fire (and put away) and you need to be on the ground to use it [[note]]Try it- you can jump off the highest drop in the game and pull out said gun at the top, and it won't fire until you hit the floor[[/note]].
** There's a secret item crush triggered when you have at least 100 Hearts and no subweapon equipped. Since you can only swap but not completely drop subweapons after you've picked one up, you'd only be able to use this by intentionally avoiding picking subweapons up until you've attained a 100+ Heart maximum and the DSS cards necessary to use the item crush command (unless you use the "use any DSS combo" glitch). The requirements mean that indeed, you'd want to try this out maybe once at the most.
** Special mention goes to the DSS combo of Venus and Griffon, which increases intelligence by 25% while it's in use. The problem? It drains magic at the rate of 4 per second, and you recover mana each second equal to (intelligence / 100). This means that with 400 INT after using it, it would exactly negate your mana regen. In order to use it effectively, you need at least 640 base INT with it activated (which you'll almost never have on a standard playthrough, because at that point, you're well into level 50, at least before items are factored in).
*** Even then, it won't actually pay for itself until your base INT is at least ''1600''; even in the Magician mode, you won't achieve that much INT (without items) until level ''31'', at which point you could quite feasibly have already beaten the game.
* BackThatLightUp: Basically, playing this on the original GBA is not recommended. Fortunately, just about any other system that plays GBA, from the SP (even the older frontlit SP is an improvement) to the {{DS}} Lite, solves this problem.
* BalefulPolymorph: There's an item that can turn you into [[BearsAreBadNews a bear]], and you can turn into a BallisticBone-flinging [[DemBones skeleton]] with a right DSS combination.
* BlindIdiotTranslation: While Camilla is a real name, it's generally an accepted fact that it's the traditional ''Castlevania'' villain Carmilla who's the primary bad guy.
* BonusDungeon: The Arena; a BrutalBonusLevel filled with DemonicSpiders and has the game's best armor waiting at the end.
* BossInMookClothing:
** The Devil enemy in the observation tower is probably one of this game's best examples. At least the experience matches.
** The hidden Lilith enemy counts as well, both for difficulty and experience points.
* BrainwashedAndCrazy: [[spoiler:Hugh's increasingly JerkAss behavior]] is revealed to be manipulation on Camilla's part. [[spoiler:Nathan has to BeatTheCurseOutOfHim in the penultimate boss battle]].
* BrandX: [[WhipItGood The Hunter's Whip]], since only a Belmont can use the Vampire Killer to its potential.
* BroadStrokes: It is debated whether the game is part of IGA's official timeline. IGA, in a 2008 interview with ''Nintendo Power'' magazine (covering ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaOrderOfEcclesia Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia]]'') considers this game [[GaidenGame a side story]] and [[CanonDiscontinuity not part of his timeline]], as it's unmentioned on [[http://www.konami.jp/gs/game/dracula/product/data.html the Japanese timeline]] (updated as of 2007's ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaTheDraculaXChronicles The Dracula X Chronicles]]''), though it was shown in the timeline that came with pre-ordered copies of ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaPortraitOfRuin'', minus the description.
* CartographySidequest: A couple of the DSS card combinations increase your stats based on how much of the map you've uncovered.
* ClownCarGrave: The floating {{Mummy}}-producing sarcophagi, as one holds an infinite amount of them.
* CopyAndPasteEnvironments: Blatantly obvious, at least compared to ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight'' that came before and ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaHarmonyOfDissonance Harmony of Dissonance]]'' that came after. Large stretches of the castle have precious few distinguishing features, giving it a far more repetitive feel more reminiscent of NES {{Metroidvania}}s like ''VideoGame/{{Metroid}}'' or ''VideoGame/BlasterMaster''.
* CraniumRide: You can turn flying eyeballs into stone or ice and use them as platforms.
* DifficultySpike: The boss battle against the [[{{Dracolich}} Zombie Dragons]].
* DiscOneNuke:
** You can get the [[GameBreaker cross subweapon]] as early as the third area if you explore enough.
** Magician Mode make this literal, since you can access late-game spells from the start.
* DoubleJump: Though as per Metroidvania rules, you must earn it.
* DualBoss: The [[{{Dracolich}} Zombie Dragons]].
* DualTonfas: The combination of the Mars and Cockatrice cards allows Nathan to attack with these. [[TakenForGranite They can turn enemies to stone]].
* EarlyGameHell: At the beginning of the Thief mode, enemies can kill you in about 2 or 3 hits and your attacks are incredibly weak, but as your luck goes up you can easily collect equipable items that more than make up for your reduced stats and max out your healing items. By the end of the game, even the Battle Arena can be easiest to beat in this mode.
* ElementalPowers: The DSS allows 10.
** Salamander - [[PlayingWithFire Fire]]
** Serpent - [[AnIcePerson Ice]]
** Mandragoria - [[GreenThumb Plant]]
** Golem - [[DishingOutDirt Earth]]
** Cockatrice - [[TakenForGranite Stone]]
** Manticore - [[PoisonousPerson Poison]]
** Griffin - [[BlowYouAway Wind]]
** Thunderbird - [[ShockAndAwe Lightning]]
** Unicorn - [[LightEmUp Light]]
** Black Dog - [[CastingAShadow Darkness]]
* ElementalRockPaperScissors: Some elements work better on some enemies and some don't. Since there is no MonsterCompendium, this will take a while to learn.
* EveryOneLives: Save for the villains, of course. There is only one ending in this game anyway; more or less a HappyEnding...
%%* {{Familiar}}
* FierySalamander: Slamander DSS card grants you the use of fire element.
* FixedDamageAttack: The Diana card gives your whip projectiles, but the strength of their attack is uneffected by leveling up. meaning at first, they are one hit kills for early enemies and the first boss, but by the end of the game, your normal whip attack will inflict more damage then most of them, although they are still very useful.
* FrankensteinsMonster: Appears as a common enemy in the Eternal Corridor.
* GoForTheEye: Final Dracula's sole weakpoint is the giant eye [[EyesDoNotBelongThere on its stomach]].
* GottaCatchEmAll: The magic cards.
* GrimyWater: The [[DownTheDrain Underground Waterway]] has purple water that hurts you when you touch it. It can be purified with the proper magic item, or just avoided with extremely judicious [[DoubleJump double jumping]] and enemy-dodging.
* GuideDangIt:
** Some of the magic cards and secrets. Perhaps most egregiously, the Pluto & Uranus cards requires you return to a certain boss room at a much later point in game- when you would have no logical reason to- and defeat a mook that appears to be part of the scenery. And then hope said mook [[RareRandomDrop actually drops the card]] before it melts away. The Unicorn and Black Dog cards are rare drops from enemies far into the [[MonsterArena Arena]]--an area with abnormally pumped-up enemies whose later rooms you can only get to after completing those before them.
** That is before saying that some DSS combinations have effects which don't show up immediately: The simpler DSS combos instantly add elements to your whip or increase your stats, but some other combos only show their uses after you get hit. Worse, some, especially the uber-useful [[SummonMagic summoning]], requires a [[SomeDexterityRequired relatively complex button input]], and the game absolutely doesn't tell you all these until you figure them out.
* HeadlessHorseman: Dullahan, who gallops back and forth with its half of a horse.
* HelpingHands: Evil Hand is a floating undead hand that tries to grab you.
* HolyHandGrenade: The Holy Water and Cross subweapons let you smite horrors with holy powers.
* InfinityPlusOneSword: Some DSS cards (Unicorn and Black Dog come to mind) and the Shinning Armor you find at the end of the arena.
* ItsAllUpstairsFromHere: The Machine and Observatory towers have you ascending upwards to the inevitable boss battle.
* ItemCaddy: In Thief mode, you gain an incredibly high LuckStat and not much else, so you will be buried in stockpiled items from fallen enemies, which you'll spam constantly in order to survive.
* ItemFarming: Required if you want certain spells or being up-to-date on your equipment. Thief mode makes this much easier.
* JamesBondage: As Nathan finally reaches Dracula, [[spoiler:Morris]] stands tied to a pole in the background.
* JerkAss: Hugh appears frequently troughout the castle, giving Nathan hard time.
* JokeItem: The Uranus + Black Dog combo summons the Black Dog, who deals [[FourIsDeath four]] damage to everything on screen and heals you for four hit points. It would be mana cost-prohibitive against the very first monsters, but both cards are found near the end of the game in [[GuideDangIt obscure locations.]]
* LethalJokeCharacter: The Pluto + Black Dog combo turns you into [[DemBones a skeleton]] that [[OneHitPointWonder dies in one hit]], [[GlassCannon but its attack can do the most damage in the game]]. And such a hit shows up every 4-6 attacks on average.
* LevelScaling: As the player progress through the game, enemies are replaced by more powerful enemies to keep up with them.
* LittleHeroBigWar: Nathan is completely unrelated to the Belmont clan or anybody they've ever encountered or intermarried with, and it bears repeating, he does ''not'' wield the Vampire Killer. But that doesn't stop him from doing what he can to help keep Drac sealed away.
* LostForever: One of Nathan's DSS Spells can summon a long-lasting storm of rapid homing projectiles, but only if you never got a subweapon during the game (you can't take them off).
* LuckStat: To go with the [[RandomDrop Random Drops]]. The last NewGamePlus bonus, Thief mode, you earn boosts it through the roof (hitting the {{Cap}} before long) .
* ManaShield: The Neptune card combinations heal you if you are hit with an element that it is guarding you against. However, in the regular mode the amount of restored health is very small, turning the combinations into this trope.
* MercyInvincibility: One of the DSS combinations (Jupiter+Golem) actually interacts with this mechanic, making the invincibility last four times longer.
* MetalSlime:
** The Skeleton Medalist, who will run into a wall as soon as you enter his room. He drops the [[SecretCharacter Bear Ring]].
** [[ChestMonster Masquerading as ordinary candles]], the Scary Candles only give you a brief window of opportunity to destroy them before they dissolve into the floor and disappear. They drop the [[SummonMagic Uranus card.]]
* MirrorBoss: [[spoiler:[[FightingYourFriend Hugh Baldwin]]]] wields a sword instead of a whip, but he uses your subweapons as well. He also has a variety of special sword techniques which are roughly similar to the DSS enhancements used by Nathan.
* MoreThanMindControl: [[spoiler:Implied to have been the case with Hugh, who [[TheResenter harbored some degree of jealousy]] toward Nathan, [[WellDoneSonGuy as Morris chose him over his son to be his successor]]. After Nathan defeats Dracula, Morris tells Hugh that his training will have to begin anew.]]
* MultiMookMelee: The Battle Arena, a multiple-room area where you are drained of your MP and thus not allowed to use DSS cards. There are several floors of monsters to fight through, but between floors there's a one-way path to leave the area prematurely
* MusicalNod: The title screen and main menu reuse the main menu theme from ''[[VideoGame/CastlevaniaRondoOfBlood Rondo of Blood]]'', even including the sound of a door opening when the player presses Start.
* MythologyUpgrade: Mesopotamian sun god Adramelech appears as a giant, eyeball controlling, ooze gagging goat thing that is locked into a giant pillory.
* {{Necromancer}}: The second boss is a necromancer (called Necromancer) who sometimes [[FlunkyBoss summons skeletons to its aid]].
* NewGamePlus: Every time you beat the game, [[UnlockableContent you get a new mode]] based [[FighterMageThief RPG character classes]] that has a set of bonuses. Beating that gets you another, up to five different modes in total:
** Vampire Killer - The standard playthrough
** Magician - You start with all the DSS cards, but have poor physical stats
** Fighter - You have amazing stats, but can never get a single DSS card
** Shooter - Subweapons cost half the hearts, plus you can get a homing dagger, and subweapon damage is equivelant to "Fighter" stats.
** Thief - You get insanely high luck in a game where power is more or less influenced by item drops
%%NewWorldTease
* NintendoHard:
** Unlike ''Symphony, Harmony,'' and ''Aria'', this game is far harder and has less forgiving control physics. (You can still [[JumpPhysics steer your jumps]], but don't expect to be pulling Mario-esque acrobatics and mid-air dodging.
** Spread out save points, lack of an item shop, no AfterBossRecovery that's been there in practically every other game in the series and excess of low-contrast projectiles on dark backgrounds really ups the difficulty. The game itself is also pretty hard even with lighting.
* NoSympathyBetweenMooks: If one Zombie Dragon is killed, the other will [[DevourTheDragon chew away]] at the corpse to recover its own health.
* OminousLatinChanting: The game uses the traditional "Kyrie Eleison" chant for its opening menu.
* OneWingedAngel:
** To get more power after Nathan beats him, Dracula teleports into [[FinalBossNewDimension a hellish dimension]] where he turns into a demonic figure.
** Death (more like ClippedWingAngel) and also Camilla (who does this without you fighting her normal form).
** Necromancer does it too, turning himself into a flying skeletal demon.
* OurWerebeastsAreDifferent: Features [[OurWerewolvesAreDifferent werewolves]], werebears, werejaguars, weretigers, and more.
* PerversePuppet: The floating life-sized marionettes that inflict Curse upon contact.
* PetalPower: Several of the [[GreenThumb Mandragora]] based spells involve attacking with flower petals.
* PimpedOutDress: Camilla wears a pink and red dress with frills trimming the sleeves and neckline, and the skirt made of flowing fabric, that is bunched up in the back that makes it look like a GiantWaistRibbon.
* PowerUpLetdown: The Dagger is yet again the weak starter weapon that just gets in the way of progress. Averted once you unlock the Shooter mode, you can make daggers [[HomingProjectile home in on enemies]], which can actually be pretty handy. The Shooter also does more damage with daggers than the other job classes (but they still aren't as powerful as your whip).
* QuicksandBox: This is a general trope with {{Metroidvania}} games; you pretty much ''need'' a guide or to religiously check the map or else you'll get lost. It's probably most prevalent in this game because you don't get much of a hint on where to go; only a couple times do you get a boss giving you a goal.
* RandomDrop: The items ''and'' the DSS Cards, the latter of which is the mutant lovechild of this and GuideDangIt. In Magician mode, at least, you start with all the cards.
* RareRandomDrop: Thanks to the absurdly low drop rates of items, some of which only drop from one enemy at a rate of <1%. Thief mode helps by starting you out with 1400 luck (and jacking it up close to max pretty quick), but considering that takes three playthroughs to get...
* RecycledTitle: The game was released in Europe simply as ''Castlevania''.
* RegeneratingHealth: One of the spells allows you to heal gradually, but you have to stand still for it to work.
* RegeneratingMana: Your mana replenishes over time, its rate depending on your Intelligence.
* RespawningEnemies: As with other {{Metroidvania}}s in the series, enemies respawn when entering a room. Some respawn even within a room by arriving from outside a room.
* TheRival: Hugh. Also a [[spoiler:RivalTurnedEvil, thanks to Dracula's influence.]]
* SaveGameLimits: Save points are well spread-out, and there's no quicksave feature. And ''this is a game for a portable system.''
* SeanConneryIsAboutToShootYou: [[http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/File:Cotm-na.jpg Nathan Graves is about to whip you!]]
* SequenceBreaking: You can skip the fights with Death and the Zombie Dragons. Once you kill Adramelech, you can access the [[AbsurdlySpaciousSewer Underground Waterway]], although the water is poisonous until you get an item from Death. If you know the path through it and some good reflexes (or abuse the [[GameBreaker Uranis + Unicorn combo]]), you can make it through to the save point before Camilla relatively unharmed.
* SequentialBoss: Averted in that while Dracula has two forms the second is in a different room and you are free to go save and heal before you follow him there, unlike most games in the series.
* ShoutOut:
** A ''very'' well hidden easter egg gives a shoutout to an obscure {{Nintendo 64}} fighter called ''Rakuga Kids''. In a secret room hidden ''within'' a secret room, itself pretty difficult to find, there is a unique enemy, who will immediately run away from you before you can fight it. Figure out how to catch and kill it, and ,if you're very lucky, it will drop a Bear Ring. This item has no ostensible purpose other than lowering all of your stats by 100 when equipped. However, if you equip the ring and then use the Pluto+Black Dog combo that normally turns you in the aforementioned skeleton (and getting either of those cards is a GuideDangIt in itself), you instead will turn you into a strange green bear with a cannon on its head and its ass that shoots bear-shaped rockets out of the cannons and can drop bombs. It is a lot more agile than the skeleton, and can DoubleJump, but still dies in 1 hit. The bear, called Beartank, was one of the fighters in ''Rakuga Kids''.
** Hugh's rant on Nathan's winning all the time not because of his own skill, but because of the whip he has calls back to a similar rant to the protagonist in ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam''.
* SlideAttack: The one special move that you have from the get-go. If your strenght is high enough, you can plow through enemies that you'd be able to oneshot anyway. Trying the same on stronger enemies does hurt them, but you will receive CollisionDamage.
* SpaceFillingPath: In any room that is more than one screen wide or tall, it is virtually guaranteed that you'll move through every possible screen to get from one corner to the other.
* [[SpellBlade Spell Whip]]: The Mercury DSS card imbues your whip with the element of whichever card it's paired with, causing it to deal elemental damage and changing its attack range.
* StandardStatusEffects
** Poison drains your health gradually for a short time.
** Curse makes you unable to attack for a while.
** Freeze and Petrify make you unable to move for a while, and you must shake yourself free.
* StationaryBoss: One of the mid-game bosses is a huge goat-headed monster called Adramelech that is locked into a giant pillory at the end of the CreepyCathedral. It can't move, but attacks with summoned projectiles.
* SummonMagic: Uranus card, generally regarded as the best card in the game. Too bad [[SomeDexterityRequired some dexterity is required]] to use it, and they [[GuideDangIt don't tell you how it works]].
* TakenForGranite:
** Enemies like the bronze Medusa Heads and Gorgon (and its PaletteSwap Catoblepas) can turn you into stone.
** The Cockatrice card can add a petrification effect to your weapons or abilities.
* TechnicolorToxin:
** The poison status effect causes Nathan to take on a purple tint.
** Poisonous worms, Poison Armors and other poison enemies are purple, fitting the games focus on [[ElementalPowers different elemental traits]].
** The Manticore card applies the Poison element to your spells, which results in predominantly purple graphical effects.
** Interestingly enough, antidotes are also represented by a bottle filled with purple liquid.
* TemporaryPlatform: Before gaining the High Jump, you have to relay on crumbling floating platforms in some areas.
* ThemeMusicWithholding: The game doesn't play "Vampire Killer" until the very last area.
* TurnsRed: [[spoiler:Hugh]], who halfway through the battle, turns on the power of evil and gets an extra skill for each of the sub weapons.
* UniqueEnemy: The Devil is found in one room in the game. And ''thank Christ for that!''
* UselessUsefulSpell: The watch subweapon ordinarily only stops regular enemies, slows down larger ones, and doesn't do a thing at all to bosses. There is an item crash spell available later in the game that enhances the watch to make it stop all enemies and even slow down bosses (including Dracula himself), but at this point you have much better spells that actually do damage.
* WakeUpCallBoss: Cerberus makes up for its weak appearance in ''Symphony'' by setting the standards of high difficulty for the bosses of this game. It is huge, the player can't be careless about its powerful attacks and only by bringing the right subweapon can the player expect to do good, constant damage.
* WallJump: The magic item that you receive after defeating Golem allows you to do this, enabling you to proceed.
* WhereItAllBegan: At the very start of the game, your character is dropped into the Abyss while standing in front of the door to Dracula's inner sanctum. The entire rest of the game is a quest to get the key to that same door, behind which is the final encounter with Dracula.
* WhoForgotTheLights: Its dark graphics [[MemeticMutation became something of a running gag]] until Nintendo added a backlight to the GBA hardware.
* WickedWitch: In contrast to the [[CuteWitch Cute]] and [[HotWitch Hot Witches]] seen in other ''Castlevania'' titles, the witches in this game have large noses and green skin, a la the Wicked Witch of the West.
* YouHaveResearchedBreathing: You need to find a powerup in order to ''run''. Even though you were seen running in the opening sequence.

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