Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) by Konami
Game Type: Side-scroller
Players: 1

Review by PrimeOp

For any fan of 2-D platform/adventure video games, the word Castlevania brings a chill to the spine, a smile to the face and a glow to the heart. Gameplay that was difficult and challenging, yet fair. Memorable music. Life-replentishing meat hidden in blocks of stone, flying Medusa heads and irritating little Flea Men. This and much much more are the ingredients that made Castlevania great. 'Castlevania: Symphony of the night' just may be the greatest installment in that series.

You begin the game by playing the last moments of Dracula-X with Richter Belmont and Dracula locked in battle. One day, four years later, Richter disappears without a trace. As his friend Maria Renard sets out to find him, she makes a startling discovery. Although defeating Castlevania should've sent it back into Limbo (or whatever pocket dimension it resides in) for another 100 years, it's suddenly rematerialized. Enter Alucard: the son of Dracula. After the events of Castlevania III, he placed himself in an eternal slumber to spare the world of his potential bloodlust. Something ended that sleep at the same time Castlevania returned, and he knows that only the reappearance of Castlevania could've done it. What follows all this is one of the most incredible sprite-based games in the entire history of human civilization. Don't question it!
Some of the gears in this clock tower hold a secret or two.
Instead of being separated into linear, unconnected levels, the game is played inside the one large map of Castlevania itself that is broken up into areas to explore (much like Metroid). There are no bottomless pits in this castle, so the emphasis is placed on exploration and applying powers and skills in the right places. You'll slowly regain Alucard's powers as you battle your way through Dracula's minions. Along the way, you'll also build a large inventory of weapons, shields, armor and items, each with their own attributes, quirks and bonuses. For instance, the Shield Rod produces various special attacks based on what shield you're equipped with at the time. The Walk Armor's defense is based on how much of the castle you've cleared so far. There's even a Gem Sword that turns the remains of your foes into gems that can be sold to gain more items from the library, where one of your only allies in Castlevania resides. As you kill the fiends of the castle, you gain experience and powering up will increase your statistics. Regaining your vampire strength will give you further abilities like regaining life from the blood of your foes, stealing their souls for more energy to even throwing a barrage of fireballs like the old man himself. You'll also obtain Familiars, little creatures or objects that travel with you and assist you in different ways and power up like you as they gain experience.
The bosses in the game are some of the most mindboggling and disturbing enemies that you'll see in a video game. There are also a few that you'll wish would just put some pants on.
Castlevania is crawling with more monsters than ever before. No, not a zillion palette swaps, but different unique enemies. Almost every classic Castlevania monster is represented up in here from Medusa heads to those Gorilla skeletons. Then they added about a gazillion more for good measure. Some of these creatures are so massive and tough that they could easily be mistaken for bosses! The bosses themselves are even more awesome. Some are old familiar faces, and I know of at least three that will suprise you if you know your Castlevania history. Every one of these enemies are heavily animated and most of them have unique death sequences that are better than the death animations for other games' bosses! Skeletons shatter into a rain of bones, mermen burst in a spray of blood andKarasuman, a crow/man demon, explodes in a highly-animated shower of feathers. This game has some incredible animation and you'll find yourself wanting to kill them again over and over again (especially if you're trying to get the rare items). This game also continues the Castlevania tradition of excellent music with incredible mix of different styles. If you don't buy game soundtracks, this may just might change your ways and have you scouring the web for the CD!
In many games, an enemy that huge would be a boss. In Castlevania: SOTN, it's just a drone.

It's hard to believe that this game, which went on to become a Playstation Greatest Hit, almost never reached the U.S. thanks to an anti-2-D mindset. If you are a fan of Castlevania, 2-D games, old-school gaming or just gaming in general, you need this game in your collection. Even if you're just a horror fan, you'll dig the atmosphere. The game was made much easier to find by being rereleased under the 'greatest hits' banner but you just may have to do a bit more digging to find a copy nowadays. Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9
Control 9
Overall 9

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and all related characters © Konami

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