Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Retro Review

sotn
Platforms: PS1, PSN, XBLA
Release Date: October 7, 1997, July 19, 2007, March 21, 2007 (respectively)

For a game to be considered within the realm of classics, it more than likely has to withstand the test of time. Rose colored glasses can plague a game you once thought was a gem. It’s even harder to hit a jive of an old game you never played back in its prime. A few months ago, I tried to play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the highest rated game of all time, and I just couldn’t finish it. I recognized its influence of modern games, but some dated aspects and newer games distracted me from the title. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was another aged game I wanted to check off my gaming bucket list, but unlike Zelda, I couldn’t stop playing it. Not only has this title aged well, it is a blast.

Back in the time when it was released, story wasn’t a big importance to drive gameplay and it is more than apparent here. The small amount of voice acting is very hammy and the thin plot is just to find an antagonist to slay. Dracula needs to dead and you, Dracula’s son Alucard (get it?), needs to be one to end it. Thankfully, very little story interrupts gameplay, although a woman will attempt to drop some light narrative drive to try to make you care.

Unsuccessful story or not, the part where you actually play the game holds up incredibly well. Taking an inspiration from Metroid, you are stuck in a large 2D hub with many places to explore and open. In the beginning, after an “abilitease,” you are pretty powerless and must regain everything back.

Finding all your weapons and special moves is a big part of what makes this title so addicting. One power leads to one passage that is now accessible which opens another new section of the world. It ends up being a great effect because it snowballs into a need to fill every little square on the Metroid-like map. See something just out of reach in the area around you? The way may not be possible with your current move set, but sooner or later you’ll fly or jump high enough to get there.

High jumping, flying, and other powers are achieved by finding the many items in this game. RPG-like in its nature, helpful tools and weapons are scattered in every nook and cranny. New armor, badass weapons, and new abilities make sure your experience isn’t getting stale. Leveling up also has an effect on combat as you gain experience for slaying bosses and enemies. I wasn’t expecting RPG-lite mechanics but was pleasantly surprised by them.

The level up jingle will play a lot as there are plenty of bosses to test your combat skills against. While they may sneak up on you (so save often as there are no checkpoints), they are all different and given the sheer number of bosses, it is impressive. Combat with regular enemies isn’t particularly deep but enjoyable nonetheless, with two weapons available at once.

Game soundtracks aren’t made in the same way anymore and titles like Castlevania SotN showcase this. All the melodies are catchy as hell and I found myself humming them throughout the days when I didn’t play this game. Soundtracks nowadays, while good in different ways, just don’t do that nearly as much anymore which makes it refreshing to hear.

Not only does this game have quality exploring but there is a bunch of it. The OCD part of your brain will have you search every corner which makes your first time through take around 15 hours. Meaty for sure but there is more. After you conquer the game with Alucard, Richter and his unique moves are playable but there is a catch. I can’t decide if this is ingenious or devious but when you play as Richter, the whole castle is upside down. New, more difficult enemies haunt the inverted castle along with brand new bosses making this an almost completely different game. Stating Castlevania is an understatement given the sheer quality and quantity of play time and finding all the well hidden secrets will only add more time spent playing. Good thing we have the internet now to help on the quest for 200.6%.

I can’t really pinpoint why games of this ark aren’t really developed anymore. Uncovering vast amounts of secrets and new abilities with good 2D gameplay is a good time suck and one everyone can enjoy. Vampires have had their reputation tainted by recent abominations such as Twilight, so this is a needed reminder that they were cool at one time.

Pros:
+Plenty of places to explore and things to do
+Lots of new powers
+Great music
+Numerous bosses and enemy typed
Cons:
-Story is weak
-Voice acting is bad
-No checkpoints

Final Score: 9.5/10

Note: I reviewed the PS1 version downloaded off PSN. The 360 version has 12 achievements and leaderboards while the PSN version is a straight port of the original.

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