Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Graphics: 5
Sound: 5
Control: 4.5
Depth: 5
Overall: 4.5

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

By: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Published By: Konami
Released: 1997

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is widely regarded as one of the last great 2D games and one of the best Castlevania games, if not the best. Playing it soon after it came out, I thought it was good, but borrowed too heavily from Super Metroid. After playing through the excellent Dawn of Sorrow on DS, I decided to give Symphony another try.

The first thing I noticed is that this is one beautiful game. In terms of presentation, this is one of the finest games ever made. The 2D graphics are stylish, lush and almost over-animated! The bosses are especially nice and there are a lot of small details, if you take the time to look. A few of the backgrounds seem overly ‘tiled’, but I can’t think of anything else to complain about. The music is equally great and matches the mood of the game (except for the “Kenny G” end credit music?!). The voice-over work is cartoonish and over the top, but kind of fits with the rest of the game.

The game actually has a decent—if slightly campy—story. Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to the Japan exclusive, Rondo of Blood for the Turbo DUO. As such, both Richter Belmont and Maria Renard return.

Symphony does crib from Super Metroid almost shamelessly—establishing the ‘Metroidvania’ gameplay that has been used in almost all subsequent 2D Castlevania games. You explore one large environment (Dracula’s Castle) with many areas inaccessible until certain abilities are gained. RPG elements are introduced, such as leveling up, health potions & various weapons and armor to find and equip.

Your character is not a member of Belmont family—you play as Alucard, the son of Dracula—and instead of the traditional whip, you’ll use various swords and shields. However, gameplay is still classic Castlevania for the most part, including the use of secondary weapons like holy water, or the axe. Other additions include learning Street-Fighter-like special moves, the ability to transform into various monster forms & having monster familiars—such as vampire bats—help you.

The gameplay and controls are great for the most part, but can be a little rough around the edges compared to later games in the series. While the first half of the game is paced perfectly, the second half can drag at times. Exploration of the castle can leave you scratching your head wondering where to go at times, and having to equip food and health potions in order to use them can be annoying. The difficulty is just about right, but a few of the last bosses are way too easy.

Just different enough from the Metroid series and oozing style, Symphony of the Night’s few quirks keeping it from getting the top rating. Despite its minor flaws, this is a great game. If you are a fan of the Castlevania series or just a fan of 2D games in general, you owe it to yourself to play the game at least once.

-Ben Langberg