- Release date on PSN: July 17th 2007
Original release date: October 2nd 1997
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania is about the castle Dracula, and you play his son Alucard (Dracula backwards) as you try to defeat your father and banish him once again. There have been many Castlevania games, and this one is a direct sequel to Castlevania Bloodlines, but having not played that, I didn’t feel too lost in the story. It’s the gameplay we’re going for in this one.
SOTN as it’s called is a basic 2d beat em up type dungeon crawler. If you’ve played one 2d Castlevania, you’ve played them all, but this gameplay really works well and it’s extremely satisfying. The difficulty in this game is pretty high though, and dying is a huge pain due to the lack of a continue screen, and that it took me a while to figure out how to save (read the manual on this one!). Once while playing around with the controls I found a spell that kills everyone on screen and then heals you for the damage you caused. It was a life saver! But it didn’t make it too easy.
The game is non-linear in a fashion, in that you have to go through the castle, searching for new abilities that allow you to access new areas. The amount of abilities is staggering as well, from turning into a bat, to spells, tones of special equipment, swords and armor, and collecting all of these really got me addicted (not to mention leveling up your character as well). Not just OCD to collect everything, but because they added new elements to the gameplay, and gave you more options to defeat the bosses.
The boss fights in the game aren’t revolutionary gameplay wise, you’ll be hitting them with your sword just as you do with all the enemies in the game, your jump and strike skills will be tested, but once you memorize the patterns you’ll plow through them.
What is interesting is the scope of the Castle, every part feels different which makes it easy to remember where you are, and where you’re supposed to go (the map helps too). Half-way through the game however (if you use a special item during what seems to be the final battle) the castle will flip over and you’ll play through the castle again (upside-down) while collecting more cool items and defeating more bosses. There are many endings; I didn’t go through them all, but those I witnessed were interesting and worth the playtime.
At the time 3D gaming was coming into its own, but was usually poorly executed. The makers of SOTN made a smart decision in keeping the game 2D and making those graphics detailed and colorful. Some use was made of 3D though on some enemies. This really makes them pop out from the screen and they make for a good contrast.
The style of the game is slick as well. The design of the spaces shows a lot of time was put into it. With every area of the castle looking very unique, along with the monsters you’ll be killing in each area, it just adds that extra something that keeps it from being a grind, and more of an exploration.
How it holds up today
When I first started playing Symphony of the Night, I couldn’t get into it. I would die constantly, and it wasn’t much fun. But once I got over the learning curve I found a compelling experience that really had me hooked. The story was somewhat interesting, but it was the castle that drew me in, and the abilities I was unlocking that kept me going. And as well as colorful graphics and varied locations the music was spectacular, spooky, but catchy; a great companion while playing.
I was skeptical to begin, but the game soon won me over with its timeless style and classic gameplay. For ten bucks, this is a great time eater.
Played through on a PSP-3001 approx 12 hours playtime.
If you love the music of SOTN as much as I do check out the OST here.
Also for some humor based on SOTN check out this article.