|Castlevania: Symphony of the Night|
|Platforms||PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PSP|
|MtAMinutes to Action||3|
|Score||7 Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 6
|Buy from Amazon|
Symphony of the Night is known by Castlevania fans as the definitive game in the series. I personally see it as the turning point from when the series went from tired and mediocre to awesome and addictive. The catch is, I had never played Symphony of the Night! I own every single portable Castlevania released for the GBA and DS (and 100% them all), but I have never played the pivotal game, until now. Did Konami have any idea what they had when they released this game (probably not)? Does the experience live up to the hype? Well, a Night virgin is about to find out.
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select File Select from the "Select Your Destiny" menu and start a new game! Already I'm pumped, but it seemed like the obvious choice (my other destinies were Name change, File copy, and File delete). I enter my name in Gothic letters and an FMV starts. aven't seen one of these truly awful looking PSX-era videos in a while! How were we ever excited for this? It looks like something I could do in Maya in an hour and I've only ever used that program once. Anyways, I have to remember this was a different time period... Either way, the castle design is horrid. There's this tower just sort of hanging off another tower with a little plank to keep it connected. What sort of evil dark lord would even bother with that?
02 - I finally get control of a guy, he looks sort of familiar to someone I've used before. The game says its the "Final Stage: Bloodlines." I like these openings, where they just throw you into the fire with some random character and tell you to go at it. Turns out I'm playing as Richter Belmont, one of the extra characters in Portrait of Ruin for the DS. He was pretty awesome in that game as he was super fast and could just zoom around the castle, very fun. I run up and of course, encounter Dracula.
03 - The dialogue is pretty nasty, probably just a rushed translation. I start whipping Dracula as there's no other choice (though I am tempted to just stand there and see what happens if I get killed).
04 - After enough damage, Dracula morphs into a minotaur like beast. The best part is that the battle background becomes an awesome vortex. I like vortexes. After Dracula owns me up, a girl wanders up and shouts something completely muffled. Somehow I'm powered up.
05 - Turns out I'm invincible and I quickly destroy Dracula! Now that was a short game.
06 - Some boring text starts scrolling explaining how Richter beat Dracula and then four years later he disappeared. Now Maria (also in Portrait of Ruin) is going to look for him. Turns out, Dracula's castle suddenly appears even though it only comes around once every 100 years. That's pretty lucky for Maria considering Richter was just hanging out in the castle four years ago.
07 - There's some info about Alucard, this game's main character. Alucard has a cursed bloodline and wants to purge it.
08 - All of a sudden, a white haired guy (Alucard) is hauling through a forest. He's even outrunning owls! Then he jumps really far and lands just as the castle gates are closing. I have a feeling I will never be able to run that fast, or jump that far ever again. Turns out Alucard uses a sword, I miss the whip.
09 - I kill a wolf and then enter the dark castle. I kill another wolf (these are rather large wolves too - and they die in one hit too) and this one drops $25! Score! All of a sudden some zombies start coming out of the ground and I slice them back to earth.
11 - Another vortex in the background and then Death materializes. It seems like Death and Alucard know each other pretty well.
13 - I quickly get a short sword from a skeleton and arrive at my first save point. Sweet 3D casket!
14 - I find a Cube of Zoe, no idea what it does. I check the Relic screen and it causes items to materialize. But didn't I just pick up a sword? Anyways, I enter the mysterious CD room, and then the Alchemy Laboratory. For those unfamiliar with Castlevania games, the castle is usually broken up into different areas, but the names don't matter because you usually only see them once ever.
15 - Okay, I've just encountered some red skeletons. These enemies seem to be exactly the same thing as the Dry Bones in Super Mario Bros. 3. You attack them, they collapse, and then a few moments later stand up and start walking again. It's even the exact same sound effect!
18 - Boss time! The boss is made up of two ugly beasts - one is a flying guy and picks up the other. This makes them super vulnerable to my sword.
19 - This was a harder battle than I thought. One of the uglies started shooting tons of fireballs at me but I managed to take them down with a few hit points left.
20 - I get a life max up and move on. I start killing human looking bad guys in a very, very bloody matter. Kind of disturbing.
22 - I enter Marble Gallery, the next area I suppose. I have no real direction, just sort of wandering around. For the record, my favorite sub-weapon in the Castlevania series is the cross and then the ax. Since I have the ax, I'm sticking with it, but the game keeps trying to take it away! In every other candlestick there's another lame sub-weapon including this really weird diamond laser thing that bounces around. That might be useful in a tight area, but most bosses are in wide open rooms.
25 - I battle a bad guy with a huge swinging ball and chain. I end up getting knocked behind and kill him easily, but slowly. Too bad he wasn't a boss.
27 - Sucker! I die. There's this crazy jumping guy that shoots a ton of fireballs at me and eventually cornered me and threw like a Sonic Boom at me Guile-style. That one attack did 45 damage, I barely have twice that. I don't think I was supposed to come this way...
28 - I reload my game, feels like I lost a lot of time. Anyways, this time I go a different way from the save point and start beating up midgets. They're hard to hit but it's satisfying.
29 - I meet up with Maria and we chat. Obviously this was the way I was supposed to come before.
31 - I run into a magically sealed door, it's glowing blue. Too bad I can't mark the castle map and note this magic door for later (something you can do in Portrait of Ruin). I run into a woman attached by the torso to a lizard's tail. Creepy!
33 - I reach the outer wall, This means I've made it across the whole castle already, though in a relatively straight line with little movement in the Y direction.
35 - A stargate! Out of the other dimension comes a seemingly more powerful version of myself. He throws a lot of knives at me though and I'm able to take advantage of his battle pattern pretty quickly.
36 - I backtrack a bit to save, you never know.
39 - I enter the Long Library. This is confirmed by the many books on the walls. Does anyone read these besides Dracula? Maybe Death when he's not out reaping.
40 - A floating gob of jelly curses me. To uncurse myself, I have to equip the uncurse potion. Quite awkward.
42 - I find the shop! I can finally spend all my hard earned cash. The master librarian is just chilling out above a hole in the floor in the middle of Dracula's castle! This geezer is a brave man! He seems to know Alucard, maybe I missed something in the opening text? Did Alucard use to chill out here? Must be the cursed bloodline. If Alucard used to live here, why don't I already have a map of my old place? Anyways, I buy a shield and a hat, all I can afford that will help me out.
45 - I obtain a faerie scroll, it displays the enemy's name. Neato.
48 - Alucard stumbles across a teleporter and I climb in. I end up teleporting near the beginning of the castle. I suppose this may be convenient.
53 - I wander around already explored areas looking for something new. Nothing so far.
55 - I take an elevator down and get some sunglasses. Not sure if these will be useful.
56 - A cannon! Wait, what's a cannon doing in Dracula's castle? Is it used for defense? Or is it just used to blow up walls? Yes... just for blowing up walls. Are you serious? Like, you didn't even make me push the cannon into the room or anything.
58 - With seemingly nothing left to do, I venture down to where I was killed before. Due to my increased levels and equipment, I end up taking down the ball and chain baddie in only four hits!
59 - No first hour climactic boss but I get my revenge on my hopping, fire-shooting murderer! This guy went down in five hits!
60 - I enter a red door and end up back near the teleporter again, I'm not sure what the point of that whole excursion was but there's no more time to explore, time's up!
Can someone tell me why Alucard moonwalks like Michael Jackson? Now for scores out of 10.
Minutes to Action: 3
I love Castlevania games, mostly for their awesome gameplay. Exploring a castle, finding every single secret, and getting new moves (like the double jump!). But the first hour of Castlevania games is usually always the same, battling easy enemies and going from boss to boss. It's really later on that they pick up a lot more. Symphony of the Night isn't much different, but Alucard's moves are extremely limited. He walks slow, he has no sliding technique available, and I received no new moves within the first hour. He also doesn't use a whip which is disappointing, but they may have been the first in the series where the main character didn't use a whip?
Fun Factor: 6
Symphony of the Night starts awesome, playing as Richter against Dracula right away. But it slows down pretty quickly after that (blame the super-slow scrolling text). There's lots of exploration and killing skeletons, but it's a pretty straight-forward first hour. The fight against "Dark Alucard" was probably the highlight of the hour in terms of fun after the initial battle.
Graphics and Sound: 8
This is a gorgeous 2D game, especially for being a relatively early PSX game. There's tons of detail in the backgrounds and the sprites look really good. So good in fact, that many of the portable Castlevania DS games just ripped off the sprites from Symphony of the Night and are still reusing them today, 10 years later. Sound effects are decent, and the music is pretty good too. I know fans love the music of this game, but there wasn't a single track that really stood out.
Okay, I was kind of bored during the scrolling text after the first Dracula battle, so I probably missed some of the important tidbits... So maybe an eight is higher than the first hour deserves, but there were still some interesting aspects. Playing as a completely different character in the opening and just being thrown into the action is usually always fun. Especially with invincibility and the obligatory impossible-to-lose battle. I'm familiar with Richter (ironically from the newer games) so it's good to see him. Alucard is one of the more unique vampire-killers, even if he does look a little feminine (and moonwalks like a pro).
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is noteworthy, at least to me, as it was the beginning of the new gameplay style used in almost every Castlevania game since (this gameplay is sometimes known as Metroidvania - as the focus is on exploration and item collection much like the Metroid series). I really think some of the later iterations have been better (but that doesn't affect my final score). The first hour of Symphony of the Night is quite linear in a non-linear game, which is disappointing. There's little variety in the number of weapons available early on, and the lack of double-jump (or any other advanced ability) annoys me. The first hour of Symphony of the Night sets the tone for what is known by some people as one of the greatest games ever, I just have to assume it gets better as it goes on. Symphony of the Night's first hour is just not that remarkable.