Synyster Graves

Castlevania: Symphony of The Night

by on Aug.05, 2011, under Xbox Live Arcade

Castlevania: Symphony of The Night was originally released on Playstation back in 1997 and to many was considered a classic, if not the definitive Castlevania title. Having never really played any of the Castlevania series I decided to get the full version of this on Xbox Live Arcade. Symphony of The Night is a side scrolling exploration game with strong RPG elements in it mainly the levelling up aspect.

Bizarrely you begin the game as Richter Belmont and you start on the very final level of Symphony of The Night’s predecessor, Castlevania: Rondo In Blood. Straight away you are thrown into the a battle with the ever morphing Dracula and you can pretty much use Richter’s special attack repeatedly until the two forms of Dracula die. This then goes into a retrospective almost like storybook and the game begins.

Richter takes Dracula's pop quiz

You then properly start the game playing as Alucard the half human-half vampire son of Dracula, as opposed to Alucard from the Manga series Hellsing, who is in fact Dracula, but nevermind I digress. You start the game with Alucard legging through the murky forest and diving into the front portcullis of the newly resurrected Castle Dracula, setting you up for the biggest tease in video game history. You plough into the enemies like the proverbial hot knife through butter as Alucard is pretty much invincible and can kill everything in one hit. Only for two rooms away, Death takes all your armour, weapons and frankly, dignity as you start off back at the drawing board, taking about 7 punches just to kill a skeleton. You then engage in the more RPG side of the game as you thwart enemies to get better weapons, currency and shields. Plus if you’ve never played it before, you need to realise that this game won’t hold your hand, it’ll only save when you stumble across a save point, a mistake I made several times as I didn’t know how to actually save your progress!

Considering that this game was originally on the PS1, this level design is huge. You can explore through hundreds of rooms, all with secrets and hidden areas enabling you to have better skills and weaponary. The level design does have an interesting twist as halfway through the game, just as you thought you’ve completed it, you have to do the whole castle again in reverse. What I mean by that is that the entire game is literally turned on its head and you have to complete the castle upside down. This personally I found to be a stroke of genius and doubled the original expectation of the  length of the game.

Alucard’s special abilities range from being very useful, to being utterly pathetic. Maybe I didn’t play the game right but I pretty much relied on the poison fog transformation most of the latter stages of the game as you couldn’t be hit, cause damage, and pretty much pass through seeminly opaque walls. The wolf on the other hand, I spent the whole time inanely barking like a retarded pokemon and it didn’t seem to do much at all. The enemies are brilliantly designed and seem to take inspiration from all the classic horror monsters, ranging from flying skeletons, medusa, demons wielding pronged spears and of course, Dracula. The massive irritation with the game is that it still has the smae flaw as the original series in that Alucard will throw himself back vehemently everytime something touches him, as if he’s playing up front for Chelsea. This on several occasions will knock you back into a previous room and the game always seems to respawn ALL it’s enemies once you’ve left the room. While this is good for farming the levels to get the precious EXP, it is also bloody irritating.

Overall I thought Symphony of the Night was utterly fantastic. Considering that it is a re-hash of the original on an arcade format, I’ve throughly enjoyed playing through this game and I’ve been coming back to it constantly to get my newly acquired Castlevania fix. Definitely worth the points if you’re after an entertaining platform/hack’n'slash game.

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