Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Retro Review of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This is a review I wrote long ago for the XBOX Live Arcade version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which was released back in March 2007.

In 1997, The Playstation was all about Sony bringing 3D graphics to the console market in a big way, then this little game known as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night stayed 2D and took the console to a different direction being one of the greatest games of all-time. It also took the legendary Castlevania series to a whole new direction as well with its level based gameplay, Super Metroid style exploration, and memorable music. This game was also released for the Saturn at Japan and never seen any other re-releases on compilations since its original release till now. Now that Symphony of the Night is on XBOX Live Arcade, fans of the original and also new players can experience this classic. It is the biggest game in terms of size to hit the service and also the best game out there to download for 10 bucks (800 Microsoft Points).

In Symphony of the Night, you play as Alucard, Lord Dracula's son and a non-follower of him siding with the humans. He realizes that someone is trying to resurrect him at his castle and it is up to him to prevent that from happening. Once you enter his castle, Death comes in and jacks all of Alucard's powerful items, which reminds you of the recent Metroid games if you never played this game yet, and Alucard has to explore the castle with nothing other than punches. While exploring the castle, he will eventually face many bosses and find new items and even transformations to help him navigate around it. Also similar to the 2D Metroid games, Symphony just throws you into this place with no purpose and allows you to go crazy without any help unless you the use the map as a guide to go around or even a FAQ especially for new players.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a game divided into two halves, the normal castle and an inverted version of it. The four endings goes along with these two halves as the worst two endings will not let you explore the inverted castle and the better two endings requires a run of the inverted castle. This system can easily divide the hardcore Castlevania fans and casual gamers if they are going for the best ending. Speaking of crowd division, the achievements for this game are good and will take some time even for the hardcore fans to accomplish. They range from exploring 200.6% of the whole game, having a bank of 100,000, and beating the game as Richter Belmont.

For new players, Symphony of the Night is basically the old-school gameplay of the Castlevania series fused with a Super Metroid like exploration system. Alucard will use many weapons, magic, and different transformations to defeat his enemies. The magic system is only beneficial to Alucard turning into mist, a wolf, and a bat rather than the spells itself. There is also a sidekick like system called the familiars, where they follow Alucard around helping him in certain situations, which range from a bat, a faerie, demon, a sword, and a ghost. If you beat the game as Alucard, you can play the game as Richter with a Castlevania signature whip and limited abilities.

The graphics for this game are faithful to the original Playstation version and there is nothing that makes the graphics go crazy like in the Saturn version. There are options for updated graphics as well, but it does not do too much to differentiate from the original graphics. The game is also limited to a boxed window with an awesome wallpaper surrounding the screen, but it can be stretched to full screen if that is your preference.

Symphony has also possibly the greatest music in any 2D game with many orchestral scores being played in the many stages. Each stage has its own song which sets the tone for what each room will contain. Some music gets recycled in the inverted castle, but it does not matter. The voice acting in this game is awesome in a sarcastic way with horrible dialogue, but it is more funny than bad. This game does give you perhaps the most important question ever, what is a man?

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was awesome in 1997 and still awesome today. Being released on XBOX Live Arcade gives fans of the series to experience greatness again while it also gives new players a chance to get into this 20 year old series. Specifically for new players, Symphony is a good start to see what Castlevania is all about other than Belmonts and Dracula. You will notice why the recent Castlevania games on the handhelds are heavily influenced by this entry. For 10 bucks, Symphony of the Night is truly a bargain and something that should not be missed on XBOX Live Arcade.

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