Review: Castlevania – Symphony of the Night

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The next installment of my Castlevania playthrough is complete. The legendary Symphony of the Night! This title is considered a classic, and is often considered one of the “must-have” Playstation titles. This is the game that revitalized the series, and set the bar for many of the future installments in the franchise.

Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood. The intro to this game showcases the final battle between Richter and Dracula. Five Years later, Richter mysteriously vanishes at the same time that Castlevania reappears (that is, before the normal one hundred-year cycle). Rondo’s beloved Maria heads to Castlevania in search of Richter. While she’s there she runs into Alucard, who has also ventured to the Castle to investigate it’s mysterious return. This is where the game beings.

During the course of the game, you control Alucard as he explores the castle, and overcomes its many obstacles and monsters. Over time, he finds stronger weapons and armor, and develops new abilities.

This is the first is what is known as the “Castleroid” (or “Metroidvania”) games, due to the similarities it shares with Metroid (finding items to gain access to new areas, giving the player free-reign of the environment, etc). Progress can be saved by having Alucard rest in a coffin, much like the save-rooms in the later Metroid titles.

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As the game progresses, Alucard has several encounters with the various minions of Dracula. Eventually he runs into Richter, who seems to be possessed. Richter claims to be the “lord of the castle”, and he summons a mighty beast to fight Alucard. Alucard also has several encounters with Maria. On their last meeting she gives him a pair of blessed glasses. These will enable him to see “things which are hidden by evil”. At one point, while Alucard rests, he has a surreal dreams that depicts the death of his mother, Lisa. It seems that Lisa, who was a human woman, was condemned to death by humans for her relationship with Dracula. This finally explains the logic behind Dracula’s hatred for humanity.

Eventually, Alucard makes his way to Dracula’s throne room and finds it occupied by Richter, who attacks Alucard. When putting on the glasses, it becomes clear that Richter is being controlled by some phantom magic. Symphony of the Night features multiple endings and defeating Richter results in one of the poor endings of the game. But if players attack the magic orb controlling him instead, this allows Alucard to free Richter. Once Richter is free of his spell, all hell breaks loose… the clouds above the castle begin to swirl, and a dimensional portal appears in the skies above the castle. A mirror image of Castlevania descends from the portal, and this “Inverted Castle” becomes accessible.

This castle is a mirror image of Castlevania (although you must transverse it upside down this time). Now, just like Simon in Castlevania II, Alucard must recover the remains of Dracula. Once clearing this castle, Alucard finds his way to a hidden room occupied by the dark priest Shaft. He manages to slay Shaft, but moments too late – Dracula’s resurrection is complete, and Alucard’s battle with his father begins. If Alucard is successful in defeating his father, in Dracula’s last moments, Alucard will reveals Lisa’s final words to Dracula. As he returns to dust, Dracula seems to express some remorse for his evil ways.

The ending of the game depicts Alucard, Maria and Richter watching the Castle crumble. Alucard, still dealing with having to battle his own father, declares that he is going to go into seclusion. Richter pledges to continue to maintain the Belmont legacy, while Maria hints that she might attempt to learn more about Alucard and learn the secrets of his secluded nature.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
1797: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Alucard vs. Dracula
1897: Dracula the novel
1917: Castlevania Bloodlines – John Morris and Eric Lacarde vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium This title is fairly easy-going for the most part. Unlimited saves make things much less stressful than the Castlevania titles that came before. Anyone with a bit of patience can manage to power up before taking on new areas and bosses. This game sort of sets the standard for the future titles in terms of difficulty. The challenge here comes from exploration and finding all of the hidden and secret rooms.
Story: Very well done. We finally learn a bit of history behind Dracula, as well as backstory on Alucard. Of all the Castlevania titles thus far, this game focuses the most on the lore and storyline behind the game.

Originality: Overlooking many of the elements borrowed from Metroid, this game represents the new direction of the Castlevania series. Out with the old and in with the new.

Soundtrack: Excellent stuff here. New original tunes, CD quality audio. The music matches the game perfectly in most respects.

Fun: Very fun title. For a change, I found myself wanting more once the game was over. I can’t say enough good things here.

Graphics: This game is an excellent example of the what the Playstation could do. Excellent character models and background scenes.

Playcontrol:  Another win here. Everything feels natural with this title. The buttons do what they “feel like” they should do. Whoever mapped the controls to the in game abilities did a masterful job. Probably the best in the series thus far.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – For many, this game IS Castlevania. While completely different from the older games, there is no denying that Symphony of the Night was responsible for bring the series back into the attention of the mainstream audience. This is one title I think no gamer should be without.

Currently available: Playstation Network

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II

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