Activate the T.A.R.D.I.S. and hold on tight. Time Warp Review drops back to a true underdog title. Let’s take a look back at Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Developer(s): Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Platform(s): PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Tiger Handheld
Release date(s): PlayStation
JP March 20, 1997
NA October 2, 1997
PAL November 1, 1997
JP June 25, 1998
For thirty years, gamers have been fighting monster hordes of Konami’s Castlevania games series while on their quest to defeat the immortal vampire Count Dracula, usually as a member of the Belmont clan. This is until an entry in the series not only changed the lead but also the experience. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night broke the mold set by previous titles by allowing players to take up the role of Alucard, the dhampir son of Dracula. Following the events of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (Dracula X in the US) where Richter Belmont defeated Dracula, Alucard enters his father’s home, Castlevania, after learning of his return with the intension of returning him to the grave once and for all. Symphony of the Night featured RPG elements and broke away from the linear sidescrolling the series has become known for in favor of open-world exploration. Alucard is able to use a wide range of weapons that he collects throughout the game such as various swords, axes, fist and throwing weapons. Like any RPG, items, like potions and food, play a role in keeping Alucard alive. He can also use magic by imputing Street Fighter-style commands and he can summon familiars each with their own attributes. Defeating enemies grants Alucard experience allowing him to level up and become stronger. Plus, it was the first game in the series whose story is told through actual dialogue.
Symphony of the Night’s open world exploration clearly borrowed inspiration from Super Metroid allowing Alucard to roam freely about the castle to collect hidden items and connect various rooms through certain actions, i.e.-using a cannon to blast a barrier to connect the Marble Gallery to the Castle Entrance. The game also featured impressive graphics that truly brought out the gothic feel of the environment. Occasionally, the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation try to embellish the largely 2D world. For example, cloudy skies in the Royal Chapel area are rendered as 3D textures moving towards the player’s perspective. A polygonal clock tower visible from the Castle Keep rotates as the player moves. Enemies and spells also sometimes render 3D elements as part of their special animations. The game contains some short full motion video (FMV) sequences, most of which showcase the castle from different angles. Parallax scrolling effects attempt to simulate depth in backgrounds and can be seen throughout the game. This technique was widely used at the time of the game’s production.
The music used in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was composed by Michiru Yamane, known for her work on other Castlevania games as well as other Konami titles. The soundtrack contains elements from music genres classical, techno, gothic rock, new-age, jazz, and subgenres of metal – including thrash metal and black metal. No wonder the soundtrack sounded awesome.
Despite limited advertisement, Symphony of the Night went on to became a cult classic. It gained ground due largely to word-of-mouth and received critical acclaim. It was low-balled as a prospect for release in the United States and given relatively little Stateside advertising. Since then, it has developed a large cult following and copies of the original PlayStation version are considered collectors’ items. It demonstrated the continued popularity of 2D games during the fifth generation of video game consoles – the 32-bit era, which saw rapid advancements in 3D gaming. Though it was not a financial success, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did become a critical success. Gaming magazines have given high marks for the game. It has a made it on several “greatest games” lists and received a Playstation Game of the Year in 1998. Gamepro listed the discovery of the Inverted Castle the 26th greatest moment in gaming. After nearly 20 years since its release, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is still just as enjoyable as it was back then and is regarded as the last great title from the 2D era. Alucard would join several “Greatest game hero” lists and become a well-known character. Symphony of the Night still remains the best game to play today.
This classic gets a retro rating of 4.75 out of five.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood Dracula battle
Final Bosss battle