Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Action RPG

The Castlevania series is a long one, spanning from nearly all systems. The whip-wielding Belmont family would fight Dracula every time he rose, and had always won. Yet something is different this time. Richter Belmont, legendary vampire hunter, succeeded in finally ending the menace of Count Dracula, who had been brought back from the grave by the dark priest Shaft.

One night 4 years later, under the glare of a full moon, Richter mysteriously vanished. Maria Renard, Richter’s sister in law, set out to look for him. Castlevania, the castle of Dracula, which is rumored to appear once every century, suddenly materialized out of thin air, as if to show her the way.

Meanwhile, Alucard had awaken, the very same Alucard who had teamed up with Trevor Belmont to battle his immortal father, Count Vlad Tepes Dracula, in Castlevania 3 for the NES. Alucard (which is Dracula spelt backwards, in case you didn’t notice), in order to purge the world of his own cursed bloodline, had submerged his vampiric powers and entered into what was supposed to be an eternal slumber. But now, he is awake and aware of the evil once again at work in his homeland......

The time has come for the forces of Good and Evil to engage in their ancient battle.

That is the story behind Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. You are Alucard, Dracula’s son. No longer are you limited to just a whip, as in previous Castelvania incarnations. Alucard brandishes a sword, armor, shield, cape, relics and more in a unique Action RPG mix unlike any other. If you consider Zelda and RPG, then you should also consider SotN an RPG, too. The Zelda series is more of a melting pot of an RPG, the RPG and action elements blending together. SotN is more of a salad bowl of an RPG, having more action elements AND more RPG elements than Zelda. Instead of just being a hack and slash side scroller, SotN incorporates Role Playing elements such as gaining experience from enemies, gaining levels, having Health Points, Magic Points, magic spells, equipment, and having on screen damage shown.

The graphics truly take advantage of the Playstations power, and are some of the most stunning 2D graphics in any game I have ever seen. Brilliantly animated, well detailed sprites populate SotN. Alucard himself is probably one of the most animated, detailed sprites I have ever seen this side of Street Fighter. While some of the backgrounds are very 16-bittish, many are 3D, such as the Cathedral background, are scrolling, awe inspiring perfection.

But no matter how stunning the graphics can be, they cannot begin to compare to SotN’s soundtack. CD quality organs, violins, singing and chanting so beautiful yet so haunting at the same time, from the chilling prologue theme to the final vocal ending theme, the music maintains a standard of utter perfection unmatched by very few other game soundtracks. Lushly arranged variations on classic Dracula themes, haunting original classical pieces, and thrashing guitar boss music blend together to achieve a mood that is romantic, chilling, beautiful, terrifying, haunting, and pure Dracula.

To call it the best Castlevania soundtrack ever composed would be an injustice. It is simply one of the best video game soundtracks, period.

Castlevania also takes advantage of the CD format by making the game HUGE. There are no levels in the game, you go where you want to when you want to (if its accessible) ala Metroid. If you want to just play through the game straight through, just getting what you need to beat the game, it will probably take you 15 hours! Thats about as long as Suikoden if your a master!! BUT if you wanna find a lot of the secrets, expect about 20 hours of gameplay, which isn’t much compared to the likes of games like Xenogears and Final Fantasy Tactics, but it is a LOT for an Action/RPG game. You wont find any mini-games here, but you will find a unique weapon or item that you have a chance of getting by killing an enemy a certain amount of times. Your Luck factor plays a part in this, but its basically more of a like 1 out of 10 chance thing, depending on the enemy.

The presentation is flawless, mainly due to it is actually a playable introduction! You see a cinema of Castlevania, hear a truly haunting song with people chanting and singing, then the intro turns to be the epic battle between Richter and Dracula. You control the whip swinging Belmont as you have a little conversation (bad voice dubbing for Richter) with Dracula. Then the battle begins.

This is one of the many times you realize just how awesome SotN is.

"TASTE TRUE POWER!!!!!" Dracula yells as he fires 2 huge black shadow fireballs toward Richter. However, you cannot lose this fight. If you run out of health Maria will show up and heal you and make you invincible. The heavy pounding organs and instruments begin kicking in, in fact thats song is so awesome you could rock your head back and forth to it like a rock song! The battle is really just for awe value, because when Dracula runs out of health......Then it starts getting really awesome.

"TIMES OVER!!!!!! RELEASE ME........NOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!!" Dracula yells as he morphs into some big demon thing. Then a huge 3D scrolling black portal will appear in the background, and you will have a lot of trouble concentrating on the fight at hand because you are in shock at the sheer awesomeness of the atmosphere of the game. I had a friend over when I played the game for the first time, and simultaneously our mouths dropped open and we said "awesome..........." when we saw that part. Truly a gaming moment.

But in the end, even with stunning graphics and an unbelievable soundtrack, a game is nothing without great gameplay. And SotN delivers in spades. Never have I been so addicted to game since Final Fantasy 6(3 US). When you find a new unexplored area, you will feel as if you have truly accomplished something, not just "found a new area Ive been looking for for a while. yay." The only faults I can find with SotN is the voice dubbings arent nearly as good as the Japanese version; I dont like how they got a new Rambo sounding voice actor for Alucard, but he sounds alright when hes not carrying on a conversation and battling instead. And although being able to gain levels is a VERY welcome Role Playing feature in SotN, it would often have you fighting bosses using less skill than with the other Castlvania’s. If you were having some trouble with a boss you could just level up a bunch; in all the other Castlevania’s this was not the case; it was all about skillz!!!

However, those faults are trite when compared to the big picture. Especially when you find out one of the biggest gaming secrets of all time...I wont spoil it for you, but its possibly one of the most unique gamings secrets Ive ever found out, and it increases the depth of the game 10 fold. This game is an absolute must-buy. Few games stay with you after you’ve turned the system off, but Castlevania:SotN does. The game has a polish and finesse worthy of a Ferrari, complete with a trunkful of secrets that only the best will discover. Few games I would call a masterpiece, but SotN is one of them. A masterpiece. Simply put, this is the finest example of the Action/RPG genre you will find on any platform, home or arcade, to date, and it is my all time favorite.

Graphics 10
Sound 10
Story 8
Battle System 9.5
Innovation 10
Extras 10
Presentation 10
Depth 10
Gameplay 10
Reviewers Tilt 10
Total Score 9.8

Ice Man Ash's Reviews
Castlevania: SotN Reviews

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