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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation) artwork

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation) review


"WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! "



WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the direct sequel to Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (no, not the port for the SNES, the one for the PC Engine). In fact, in Japan even this was just called ''Dracula X'' because so few had played its prequel (although its full name was Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight). It was made on the PSX and the Saturn. The Saturn version was much better, because it could handle 2d graphics, but the PSX version was good too. Another thing, though, the PSX version when it came to the US, it lost a lot of cool features it originally had (such has being able to play as Maria at all and Richter from the start, and being able to see Richter's alternate clothing).

The game starts off with the ending to Rondo of Blood. You start out as Richter and beat Dracula. After that you are given some details on the story, and you then switch to Alucard, the son of Dracula who was supposed to stay asleep in his coffin. You play as Alucard for the rest of the game, fighting Dracula's minions, going through Castlevania, which appears only once every hundred years. Along the way you meet Maria, Richter's girlfriend's sister, who is looking for Richter because when the castle disappeared so did he. You meet her several times throughout the game, and finally you are supposed to meet Dracula. However, you find that it is not Dracula but Richter who is controlling Castlevania, cursed by the castle. You fight him, and depending on how you beat him you get a different ending. If you decide just to kill him, you get the lousiest ending where he just dies and Maria leaves. If you get every weapon and get special goggles you can see a halo on top of Richter's head showing that he's being possessed. If you still kill him, Maria leaves trying to find out why he went mad (she didn't see the halo). Finally, if you destroy the halo, he'll fall out of the curse and you can continue to another whole castle (it's actually Castlevania upside down with new enemies). There Alucard asks more about his mother and you eventually finally meet Dracula.

The graphics are still among the most beautiful graphics ever in a 2d game. At the time they are amazing, and they are still awesome. The characters are no longer sprites, but they are now hand-drawn characters (and drawn by a very good artist I might add). They are very large for a game, and are beautifully animated. While Maria and Richter's animation resembles those of Rondo of Blood's (even though they look better), Alucard, to make him look like a vampire, instead glides across the floors. Whenever he glides he looks great, and he has this little shadow of himself following, giving it a nice little feel. Even more astoundingly, all of his animations are great. His sword attacks are thoroughly animation; his slide still keeps that cool shadow effect, and so does his backslide. It's all good. The bosses are huge, some even spanning up to over a screen. They are very well thought out and drawn very well. Dracula, finally, does not resemble the classic Bram Stroker Dracula and now actually looks more original, which is nice for once.
As for the castle itself, it's really something to awe at. All of the backgrounds are beautifully composed into the game. Unlike Circle of the Moon, where you didn't know where the hell you ever were and had to pop out a map every 3 seconds, Symphony of the Night was able to make every area of the castle so different I never once popped out my map. Every place looks completely different, and you can always tell right where you are. If you're in the cathedral there's no doubt in your mind you're in the cathedral (which I might add looks very nice).

I already explained the story, so I'll go on to the gameplay. Gameplay-wise, it's simple astounding. It took what was great about Rondo of Blood and made it 10x better. Now, instead of just having some multiple paths or secret areas, the entire game is now one huge non-linear map. There is no route you have to follow. There is no order to the bosses, which you can fight. There is no one certain way to get anywhere. The entire castle is like playing through Metroid. You can do whatever you want. And there's never a point where you are unsure what to do, because you can fight the bosses in the order you see fit. As for the combat system, it’s heaven. It combines many element, which I love, and merges them together perfectly into an amazing game. I'll explain all three in separate paragraphs to give an understanding why I love it so much.
First of all, you no longer play as a Belmont. You get to play as a vampire, which in itself is a cool idea. And this vampire isn't just like Dracula like he was in CVIII, he's now more original than ever. He looks awesome as well. He doesn't look like his father much at all. Rather, he looks more like the character from Vampire Hunter D. He doesn't have a whip; instead, he has a sword. I love characters with cool swords. Because of all this Alucard has much more style and gracefulness to his character. He is a lot cooler than any of the Belmonts by far (although Richter's pretty close).
Second of all, the way the combat works is great. It's an action RPG, with the original Castlevania atmosphere that we all know and love, but, you are no longer a Belmont, and the way you fight is now alot different. Rather than attacking with you whip, you have a sword, so you can now have slashes, which you can use to cut down upon enemies. The game moves much faster now that you are a vampire. Instead of walking slowly like in most Castlevania games, you now walk much faster and you are usually running anyway. Also, it's now more RPGish than ever. You now actually have levels, which I think was a great idea. You can also learn new spells to perform on enemies.
Third, it takes innovations from one of my favorite games ever, Diablo. It takes the idea of all the item hunting and incorporates it very well. You are now searching for better items, or for money to get better ones, like in CV2, but taken much further. Items cannot only be in stores. You can get them by finding them in hidden rooms, they can be from fallen enemies, and they can be anywhere, which you must play to really understand why it is such a good idea. As much as people don't admit it, it is fun upgrading your character, finding newer and cooler weapons, so you can make your character stronger. It was one of the many joys of Diablo and Konami was able to put it in this without problems.
Finally, we can’t forget to count all the others such as all the animals you can eventually transform into. You also can't leave out the familiars (little guys which follow you around and gain exp too). Those little guys provided me hours of joy and saved my butt a couple of times.
So, what do you think happens if all of the above is merged and done without conflict? Well, this is what you get. You get an excellent game with amazing gameplay that is very addictive, never gets old, isn't tedious, and brings elements of some of my favorite games. It has everything anyone could ever want. It has the non-linear path of Metroid. It has the cool item hunting of Diablo and Diablo II. It has the classic atmosphere of all the Castlevania games. And, it has tons of secrets, and many elements of Rondo of Blood taken further. But then again, I've just finished covering the gameplay, there is still more to tell.

The sound and music are awesome once again. All of the sounds sound very realistic. They also sound eerie at times, as well as funny (if you've heard the demon familiar you'll know what I mean). The music is everything you loved from the old Castlevania games. It has new music sounding just as good as the older ones. It has all the great old songs remixed and sounding better than ever. All of its music matches the parts you're in and once again contributes to the amazing atmosphere of the game. The only problem with the music is there is no remix of Bloody Tears (although there was in the Japanese and Saturn version). But, other than that the music is near perfect. Most people have complained that the voice actors are very bad, but to them I say that at the time all the voice acting was bad. It's just as bad as Rondo of Blood's, so it's mean to complain about it when nothing else was better at the time. And even then, Alucard's voice acting was pretty good. Only Richter really had a problem.

If you thought the game would lack replay value, you are far from correct. It has tons. For starters, it's an rpg. You can build Alucard up to level 100. Next, there are familiars, who gain experience, so you can build them up, and then they become stronger and can help you out. Next, you can learn new spells along the way. Also, you can find upgrades for your animals, such as a weapon for your bat, or a longer time elapse for you mist. Finally, as stated before, there is the magic of the item hunting. You can spend hours looking for better items, having such fun do to the gameplay that you don't notice it. There is such a wide variety of weapons that you'll never run out of things to do with the game. You can get weapons such as your family heirloom, the Alucard sword, th Blood sword, the Dark sword, and, my personnel favorite, the Masamune.

So, overall, this game is near perfect. It has a couple flaws and could've afforded to get some of the things the Japanese version got, but other than that, it's a near perfect game. To summarize everything it has amazing hand-drawn graphics. It has gameplay with elements from traditional rpgs, Super Metroid, and Diablo. There are tons of extras, the atmosphere and music is just like you remembered, and the story is good. If that was too much for you I'll summarize it in one word: class.

Rating: 9/10

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Community review by aganar (Date unavailable)

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