Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Title: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Genre: Action/Platform RPG
Castlevania has never been considered the RPG gamer's favorite series. Early games were much more reminiscent of 2-D action platformers, nothing more than giving Mario a whip, replacing Bowser with Dracula, and turning Goombas into Zombies. Although the games were not bad by any stretch of the imagination, they had no place in the hardcore RPG gamer's collection, and certainly did not belong alongside games like Dragon Warrior and Chrono Trigger. Enter Symphony of the Night.
Symphony of the Night ditched the simply sidescrolling platform levels that plagued its predecessors. More similar to Metroid games than other Castlevanias, gamers are free to explore the giant castle, *SPOILER* or rather, two giant castles, *END SPOILER* at will, creating a non-linear experience that provides for more replay value than most other video games on the market. Speaking of replay value, SotN has 5 different endings and one of the biggest secrets in an action RPG that can be unlocked upon completing the game in the correct manner.
But, I hear you asking, what makes SotN an RPG? Well, although its storyline pales when compared to the likes of Xenogears and Final Fantasy, it walks all over previous Castlevania games and is on par with most other action RPG's on the market, like The Legend of Zelda and The Bouncer. Level building, which has nearly become an RPG staple, is present, as well as collectable weapons, armor, items, and the like. Character development is pretty much non-existent, but Alucard is still likeable, if only for the coolness factor that he has in common with Dante from Devil May Cry.
At first, Symphony of the Night does not seem to have much going for it graphically. Surely Konami could have done better than a 2-D game on the Playstation. However, many a disappointed gamer remembers the horrid 3-D N64 Castlevania games. Some games were meant to stay 2-D, and as far as 2-D games go, SotN sure is pretty. Look at the transparency effects when Alucard is walking. Observe the detail on the bosses and backgrounds. This is Castlevania at its greatest. My only complaint is the occasional slowdown that takes place when a lot is happening onscreen. This slowdown seems to effect the Saturn version more, but since its unlikely that's the version you'll be playing, there's not much to worry about there.
As far as gameplay, SotN is a great game. Battles take place on the spot and reward quick reflexes (although not as much as your normal action platformer). Exploring the seemingly infinite castle is nearly nirvana to the non-linear gaming fan, although going through multiple already-explored rooms to get to a certain spot can get tedious. However, Konami even thought of a way to remedy this--teleporters. Hardcore gamers who go crazy in an attempt to explore every inch of the castle, and non-hardcore gamers who enjoy flying through games will be thrilled to find they can beat the game without seeing half of it (although they'd be missing a lot of fun).
Music. This is the place where SotN really shines. With beautifully orchestrated tunes, SotN picks up right where Dracula X and the other Castlevanias left off. (On the subject of Dracula X, shouldn't it be that and not Bloodlines in the intro? Just a thought.) Sound effects are also good, although the voices are lacking, a problem that arises in many US games with voice acting. The voice acting is, however, better than Final Fantasy X, so don't write it off completely.
In conclusion, SotN is an excellent game and a worthy addition to your collection. Known as one of the greatest video games of all time, there's a reason this game is so difficult to find, despite being rereleased as a Greatest Hit. If you can find it, pick it up, because despite differing from your average traditional RPG, it deserves a spot on your gaming shelf, somewhere near your SNES RPG's.
Replay Value: 9.0
Reviewer's Tilt: 9.5
Dark Mistress' Reviews
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Reviews
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