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Review – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)

Konami – Playstation – 1 Player

Castlevania games are hard. Or at least they used to be. They tend to be kind of random, long and have clunky controls. At least on the NES. I have never really cared much for Castlevania games. The whole “goth” and “vampires” thing never really appealed to me either. Still, Symphony of the Night I one of those games you hear people talk about a lot. When people start saying a game is one of the best they have ever played, it generally is worth giving a little attention to.

I had first purchased SotN on this notion. This was still several years after it’s release and it would sit in my collection for several years after I acquired it. I still couldn’t quite bring myself to get over the fact that it was still a Castlevania game. Eventually of course, I came up on a need for something to play, so I decided to work my way through this game.

I’ll have to say I was initially disappointed by the main character. I suppose I still am a bit. I have always associated Castlevania as being Simon Belmont. Or at the very least SOMEONE named Belmont. Instead I find that I get to play as some flakey gothy vampire wannabe named Alucard. What’s with Japan’s obsession with anorexic pretty boys sporting flowing white hair anyway? On top of that, you don’t even get to wield the classic whip weapon. Still, there was something intriguing about the gameplay and environment.

Also the music was intriguing. The soundtrack for this game is absolutely wonderful. It matches the visuals extremely well to create the perfect atmosphere for the game. It also helps to keep things entertaining, which is good because there is a lot of backtracking and random exploring involved in this game. The castle is quite large without being overwhelming. The designs and areas are varied more than enough to keep you from getting lost without having to look at the map all the time. Not to mention that once you reach the second half of the game you realize just How brilliant the level designs are. It’s not every game that allows you to traverse every area upside down as if it were designed to be played that way.

The action is quick as well. There are RPG elements of upgrading weapons and levels to help prevent you from easily traversing areas you’re not supposed to be, though generally there are lots of puzzles and required items that do this quite well. In that respect the game does come off as a bit of “Find item A to enter area B, now find Item B to enter area C” aspect to it. Still, many of those old power-ups remain useful for most of the game.

I guess I should interject some sort of opinion here, this being a review and all. This game is a blast to play. It is certainly deserving of all the praise it receives. After I finished the game the first time through, I felt compelled to replay it again, several times. Fortunately there are some reasons to replay. As Alucard you have the option of several different endings, depending on which items you have in your inventory at the time an how you go about defeating some bosses.

There is also the ability to play as Richter Belmont. Hey look, we get to be a Belmont after all! Complete with whip power. Richter’s gameplay is also considerably different than Alucard’s, it’s more reminiscent of the play style of more classic Castlevania games, essentially you simply charge through and kill everything until you get to the end. Not plot or leveling or power ups required. NOTE: in the Saturn version you also get to play as Maria, I’ve not played this version of the game.

Anyway, this classic game is spot on awesome and comes highly recommended.

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