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Forums > Submission Feedback > zippdementia's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSN) review

This thread is in response to a review for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the PlayStation 3. You are encouraged to view the review in a new window before reading this thread.

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Author: zippdementia
Posted: January 22, 2010 (10:07 PM)
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You may be on to something. I only got to SotN after the GBA Castlevanias myself and only finished it after playing the first two DS ones too (Ecclesia wasn't out yet). When you visit it at that point and the whole milestone in Castlevania history it represented is something you've only heard about, not seen at the time, you just go into it differently.

I think my opinions on quite a few of the classics have been influenced by that effect. I do tend to run behind the facts.


One of my goals for the last few months has been to discover if that might be a MORE accurate viewpoint of games. After all, it doesn't hold true for everything. For instance, I'm playing through Silent Hill 1 for the FIRST TIME right now and it's great.

What I'm finding it's most connected to is the purpose of the game. Silent Hill is very clear about its purpose and meets that purpose with stellar diligence. Fatal Frame, to take another example, was clear about its purpose but kind've tripped over itself in the execution of that purpose.

Castlevania: SOTN, to me, represents a game that had some ideas as to its purpose but didn't really go 100% on its achievement of those purposes. It wanted exploration but really fell back on backtracking and mirror image castles to achieve it; it wanted platforming but aside from one cool section in the clocktower, avoided putting platforming into its level design; it wanted big bosses but failed to make them impressive to fight.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: January 22, 2010 (10:21 PM)
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I would disagree with that -- I think SOTN did go 100% on its purpose, that purpose being to "explore and discover". It was never intended to be a platformer. Since most of the game lacks any serious environmental hazards, it's safe to say that the clock tower was simply a nostalgic nod to previous episodes.

The backtracking and surprising second castle were an integral part of the game. Backtracking is crucial to an exploratory game; otherwise, it would slip into straightforward action. (I prefer straightforward action, mind you. However, "what I prefer" does not match SOTN's purpose.) Backtracking is critical for any game of this type, where the player is expected to find items to unlock formerly inaccessible territory. As for the second castle, that was a way to turn familiar territory on its ear.

SOTN takes the concepts of exploration, randomization, and content... and for sheer volume and coolness factor, it still blows away any of its successors in those regards. SOTN incorporated content with little regard for impact on gameplay. The sequels, which seek refinement and increased challenge, actually stray further from the original purpose.

The above does not mean SOTN was my favorite Castlevania. I always found it lacking in challenge and environmental hazards; I prefer Rondo of Blood, which maintains a focus on straightforward action while still incorporating hidden secrets.

In other words, I don't think SOTN's enduring popularity is grounded in nostalgia. Its faults have been apparent since day one..... most people just don't care.

//Zig


Unlimited Zig Works!


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Author: honestgamer (Mod)
Posted: January 22, 2010 (10:21 PM)
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I share your interest in looking at what a game was attempting to do and rating it accordingly, Zipp, but I'm quite frankly at a loss for words when I see you saying that platforming was one of the developers' goals.

Platforming couldn't be a goal, you need to understand, because including good platforming elements in the game would have run counter to pretty much everything else that the game stood for on the most fundamental of levels. Not including a platform-heavy design scheme wasn't an oversight or a blunder. It was careful design!

It's pretty obvious to me that the goal with SotN was to provide the player with a sprawling environment, one populated by all of the typical Castlevania fiends that have tormented players for years... and then some. SUCCESS.

A secondary goal was to turn the tables, to provide a powerful hero who is capable of slicing through those enemies like a hot knife through butter, of exploring every last chamber without often feeling that death is imminent. SUCESS.

So it is that in Symphony of the Night, we see Alucard morphing, leaping and even melting his way through the familiar castle environment that has been his home for much of his life. So it is that we see the son of the castle's lord making short work of its most powerful denizens. If he were struggling to get through a series of difficult jumps, if he couldn't effortlessly patrol those corridors, everything that the game stood for would have been thoroughly undone.

When you played, it's obvious that you were frustrated by the lack of platforming sequences. That frustration colored your experience. You had gone in expecting the leaps and thrills of the previous Castlevania games. When you didn't find them--except in the Clock Tower, where those jumps provide that region's whole identity and couldn't be rightfully excluded--you felt betrayed. In one crucial respect, the game had failed you. Disappointed, you found yourself only just barely entertained by an experience that didn't meet your expectations (expectations, by the way, that arguably were quite reasonable since they had been cultivated through numerous previous titles in the overall franchise that were directed by other designers). When you found a way to power through a game that wasn't proving particularly satisfying, you took advantage of that exploit and thus avoided properly exposing yourself to the many other elements that make it so worthwhile. You got glimpses of those things but couldn't really appreciate them because in some respects you were just anxious to put the unsatisfying experience behind you.

Stacked up against the expectations that you have made clear in this thread, Symphony of the Night is a 5 or a 6 out of 10 sort of game. Stacked up against what it was trying to achieve--and what it did achieve for the gamers who went in looking for that experience--it is a 9 or a 10, maybe an 8 at the very worst. That's a fairly large disconnect. It's going to prevent perfect harmony from ever finding its way to this thread, I'd wager.

And yet I don't resent you for writing the review. I don't feel that you were dishonest. I just feel that you were trying to paint a portrait of your singular experience with the wrong paintbrushes.


"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy on reality

"What if everything you see is more than what you see--the person next to you is a warrior and the space that appears empty is a secret door to another world? What if something appears that shouldn't? You either dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than you think. Perhaps it really is a doorway, and if you choose to go inside, you'll find many unexpected things." - Shigeru Miyamoto


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Author: zigfried (Mod)
Posted: January 22, 2010 (11:05 PM)
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I think it's useful for a reviewer to describe how well/not-well a game achieves its purpose, but that shouldn't dictate the score, as developers' intent doesn't necessarily correlate to how fun a game is. As Honestgamer pointed out, SOTN's purpose was in opposition to player expectations established by earlier episodes. I think it would be fair for someone to explain that SOTN accomplished exactly what it intended to, but still only scores a 5 or 6. That's how some people feel about the newer Resident Evil games -- which prompts the discussion of "when should one series end, and give rise to a new series with new expectations?"

//Zig


Unlimited Zig Works!


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Author: randxian
Posted: January 23, 2010 (12:00 AM)
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Its faults have been apparent since day one.....

What faults would those be? The lack of challenge? It's not that some of us don't care; some of us consider an easier game now and then a good thing, not a bad thing.

I'm not sure when it became such that a game is only good if it brings your blood pressure to a boil every five minutes.


I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?


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Author: fleinn
Posted: January 23, 2010 (02:44 AM)
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:) ..about the gameplay. I really agree with zipp on this one. I'm put off by the way the review strips any mysticism away from the game and just places it there as a bunch of sprites that bark at you until you bash them with "magic stick". I mean, that's.. something you could say about many games, but honestly in this case it's actually true. Because that part dominates the game sooner or later.

Whether it's the weapons or the powers.. I got the time-stopping thing and a sword with ice or something like that, and just tore through an entire level that I'd been struggling with for hours. And it didn't feel satisfying in the end. I thought I should have managed to do it with the weapon and powers that I had - but since I had to replay the segment so many times, I was given a crutch of some kind to complete it (and just about every other level afterwards).

It's the same thing that made me hate Star Wars: The Farce Unleashed. In that game, you gain new experience after you die and replay the level. So if you die at the end of a level, you get more powers. And the result is that you either are woefully underpowered, or else you can plow through everything. This isn't good game-design.

--

..what's missing in zipp's review, imo, is appreciating that the gameplay actually can be pretty good. I spent a few hours with a sword and doing dodge-moves, climbing around and solving the mysteries of the castle *cough*... and that was kind of cool. The entire ice-cave in the castle dungeons was brilliant, imo.


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: January 23, 2010 (11:00 AM)
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My Lumites review or my Trackmania review are good examples of times when I may not have particularly enjoyed a game or been interested in its purpose and yet looked past that to its target audience and realized that, hey, these are pretty good games.

But for SOTN I feel like there's some major flaws that people are overlooking or just plain ignoring because it's shiny. I mentioned that exploration was the game's point in this thread and I also pointed out where I feel they failed in that. Super Metroid remains the best side-scroller exploration game. That one made me feel like I'd gone on an epic journey.

SOTN just left me feeling a little empty.

Part of what made Super Metroid work was the challenge. Unless you wait till the very end of the game, when you have the screw attack, finding and figuring out how to get to all the special items is a blast and quite tough. Also, that game is full of scripted sequences which make every moment feel important and unique (the lava battle with the beast down in Norfair, the entire ghost ship sequence, the journey into Maridia, starting on the shore of the wrecked ship, the opening destruction sequence, the end fight, the flight from Zebes, etc etc etc etc).


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: joseph_valencia
Posted: January 23, 2010 (02:52 PM)
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Eh, I find "Super Metroid" boring compared to SoTN. The pace really plods after a certain point, and the environments aren't half as cool as Castlevania. (Dank Caves vs. Castle. Castle wins.) I dunno about challenge either. My least favorite parts of Metroid, aside from wandering around with no idea of what to do, were having to retread an area after dying. I think these kind of adventure games have to walk a tight line between vigorous challenge and frequent discovery.


Spaceworlder was able to build this sig IN A CAVE…… WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS!!


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: January 23, 2010 (11:24 PM)
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After careful examination of this thread and my review, I've decided not to make any changes to the review. I want to be clear that I haven't decided this out of a sense of self importance. Actually, much of what has been said here has been very good discussion and will all be useful information for me in future reviews.

But the key word there is future. I'm happy to let this review stand as a sign both of my experience of the game and my reviewing ability at the time of publishing it.

Taking the unpopular stand against anything is difficult. I've learned a lot from doing it this time and I thank everyone for the time they've taken to talk with me about the review and share their perspectives on how it could be improved. I'll use everything I learned from this experience in my next writing endeavor.

Thanks again, everyone. I really appreciate it.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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Author: sashanan
Posted: January 25, 2010 (06:52 AM)
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One of my goals for the last few months has been to discover if that might be a MORE accurate viewpoint of games. After all, it doesn't hold true for everything. For instance, I'm playing through Silent Hill 1 for the FIRST TIME right now and it's great.

Yup, my first play of that was recent too - 2008 I think - and I loved it also. But that may have more to do with whether a game is timeless, and I'm not sure how possible it is for a developer to set out to make their game timeless. It feels like by definition, that's somethign that can only be told in hindsight.

I would disagree with that -- I think SOTN did go 100% on its purpose, that purpose being to "explore and discover". It was never intended to be a platformer. Since most of the game lacks any serious environmental hazards, it's safe to say that the clock tower was simply a nostalgic nod to previous episodes.

That makes sense to me. It seems to apply to the subsequent Castlevanias too (Circle of the Moon actually less so than the others), and what few areas *are* heavy on the platforming seem to do it as a deliberate break from the mold. The Clock Tower is the usual candidate, and Order of Ecclesia blatantly introduces difficult platforming in its optional lategame areas.

But the key word there is future. I'm happy to let this review stand as a sign both of my experience of the game and my reviewing ability at the time of publishing it.

Pretty much how I approach it. It sounds like bluster coming from someone who barely outputs reviews as it is, but I prefer to look toward newer projects than to touch up old ones even if they contain things I know I might do better now. I'll touch up typos, I'll do something about actually false info if I find out I was wrong on something, but the piece stands and I could adapt it a dozen times but I'd never be entirely satisfied regardless.


''Yes, yes...but apart from all that, Mrs Lincoln, how was the play?''


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Author: Masters (Mod)
Posted: January 25, 2010 (09:39 AM)
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Eh, I find "Super Metroid" boring compared to SoTN.

Indeed.

Clearly the best game of this type is Harmony of Dissonance.


I don't have to prove I'm refined - that's what makes me refined!


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Author: aschultz
Posted: January 25, 2010 (12:07 PM)
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RotW-ish stuff: I can't add any game specific criticism, but I tend to come down on the side of not blaming the game for a potential ruining invincible moment/move. I think the player has a responsibility to resist that, or recognize when something messes up, or a solution ruins his appreciation of the game. I've seen this with Infocom walkthroughs on games I never got to play. I like them less than the games I did. In some RPGs where I cheated, or found a down-the-line cheat that could be used early on, I still found a lot of fun stuff to do. I don't think the game should be forced to defend against all instances of looking under the deck, and because of this, some good writing runs up against a wall and feels too focused on a smaller part of the game than it'd hope to.


My principal said, 'Emo, Emo, Emo.'
I said 'I'm the one in the middle, you lousy drunk!'
-- Emo Phillips


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Author: zippdementia
Posted: January 25, 2010 (01:07 PM)
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Well, I don't feel too sorry for SOTN. It's got a million reviews praising it.


Note to gamers: when someone shoots you in the face, they aren't "gay." They are "psychopathic."


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