[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/circleofthemooncover_4001.jpg]]

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 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: More [[UndergroundMonkey varieties]] than probably any other game in the series.
** 13 in total. The ''Castlevania'' standby Axe armor, One armor for each of the 10 elements, and two bonus armors (basically buffed versions of the Holy and Dark elemental armors) in the arena.
* ArtifactTitle: Along with ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaDawnOfSorrow'' is one of the few ''Castlevania'' games to not include Castlevania / Demon Castle Dracula.
* AwesomeButImpractical: The Mars + Black Dog combo gives you a ''gun''. Range and damage go through the roof, 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. Perhaps Nathan is not confident with firearms?)[[/note]]
** Also, the first Revolver would be invented six years later then the setting of the game, and is likely a single-shot Flintlock pistol.
** 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 800 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). Although, in one {{NewGamePlus}} mode, it becomes something of a {{GameBreaker}}.
*** Not quite; to have 800 INT with the combo active, your base INT would have to be 640. That means you're regaining 6 mana per second ''without'' the combo active, as opposed to only ''4'' per second ''with'' the combo active (8 per second, minus 4 per second from the combo itself). It won't actually pay for itself until your base INT is at least ''1600''; even in the {{NewGamePlus}} mode in question, 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.
* 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; 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:BeatTheCurseOutOfHim]]
* BrandX: 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 ''The Dracula X Chronicles''), though it was shown in the timeline that came with pre-ordered copies of ''PortraitOfRuin'', minus the description.
* CopyAndPasteEnvironments: Blatantly obvious, at least compared to ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaSymphonyOfTheNight'' that came before and ''HarmonyOfDissonance'' 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''.
* 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 (and a few others) make this literal.
* DoubleJump: Though as per Metroidvania rules, you must earn it.
* {{Dracolich}}: The Zombie Dragons.
* DualBoss: The Zombie Dragons, who are also [[ThatOneBoss Those Two Bosses]].
* 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]]
* EveryOneLives: Save for the villains, of course. There is only one ending in this game anyway; more or less a HappyEnding...
* FanNickname: See ShoutOut's second bullet point
* GoodOldFisticuffs: One NewGamePlus mode you earn is Fighter mode, which boosts all your stats but you never earn DSS cards. [[LinearWarriorsQuadraticWizards All things considered]] it isn't that great, but it does seem to be made for the Arena.
** Isn't that great nothing, it actually subverts it because the growths for the Warrior is ALSO exponential. Whereas before where the Wizard more or less could care less about MP (in the high 50s-60s, you need not even care that you have a bar at all), the warrior does the opposite where most hits quickly become 1 HP worth of damage. This is so bad that by the time you get to the end of the game, you could TANK Dracula's insane charge multiple times. Considering the sheer defense and HP that you get, the only thing holding you back is the fact that you only have a subweapon and a whip.
* GottaCatchEmAll: The magic cards. Which are a...
* 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.
* InfinityPlusOneSword: Some DSS cards (Unicorn and Black Dog come to mind) and the Shinning Armor you find at the end of the arena.
* JamesBondage: [[spoiler:Morris]]
* JerkAss: Hugh
* 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.]]
* LethalJokeItem: The Pluto + Black Dog combo turns you into a skeleton that dies in one hit, but its attack can do the most damage in the game, emphasis on can.
** Apparently, the chance increases based on having higher strength. Even so, you'll find a big bone shows up every 4-6 attacks on average. Combined with the {{GoodBadBug}} entry above, you can defeat bosses ''very'' quickly in some cases.
* 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 {{Random Drop}}s. The last NewGamePlus bonus you earn boosts it through the roof (hitting the {{Cap}} before long) and is also a GameBreaker to boot...
* 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.]]
** With careful positioning, it's actually very easy to farm the medalist for his ring. Typically, you want to run left, hop, then use the Roc Wing to enter the second secret room, then do a double jump as you're falling to land on the raised platform. Because you started running, you'll still have that momentum the second you land, meaning you can land one or two hits on him before he suicides into a wall.
* MoreThanMindControl: [[spoiler: Implied to have been the case with Hugh, who 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.]]
* MusicalNod: The title screen and main menu reuse the main menu theme from ''Rondo of Blood'', even including the sound of a door opening when the player presses Start.
* NewGamePlus: Every time you beat the game, you get a new mode that has a set of bonuses. Beating that gets you another, and so on, until you get [[GameBreaker Thief Mode]].
** The modes include:
*** 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
* 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.
* OneWingedAngel: Dracula.
** Death (more like ClippedWingAngel) and also Camilla (who does this without you fighting her normal form).
** Necromancer does it too.
* OurWerebeastsAreDifferent: Features {{werewolves}}, werebears, werejaguars, weretigers, and more.
* PerversePuppet: The marionettes. Also tread into GoddamnedBats territory.
* PimpedOutDress: Camilla
* QuicksandBox: Well 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''.
* 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.
* 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.
* SequenceBreaking: You can skip the fights with Death and the [[ThatOneBoss 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.
* ShoutOut: A ''very'' well hidden easter egg gives a shoutout to an obscure N64 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 ''MobileSuitGundam''.
** This game is basically [[Manga/CardcaptorSakura Cardcaptor Nathan]]!
* 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]].
* TheRival: Hugh. Also a [[spoiler:RivalTurnedEvil]]
* SaveGameLimits: Save points are well spread-out, and there's no quicksave feature. And ''this is a game for a portable system.''
* [[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
* UniqueEnemy: The Devil is found in one room in the game. And ''thank Christ for that!''
* 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.
* 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.
** [[FridgeLogic Yet you don't need one in order to slide]].
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