Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
By Art Mead Friday, 18 Feb 2005

I was always a member of the Sega Genesis contingent when the 16 bit contingent of platforms came out for general consumption, so I really haven’t had much access to the Castlevania series since the original NES games. A while back, however, they released a side-scrolling Castlevania for the Playstation, which I picked up with little expectations, other than a bit of classic style gaming. What I got, however, was a masterpiece of the modern day systems.

This game focuses not on the whip-wielding Belmonts that have been the consistent stars of the series, instead focusing on a (somewhat bastard) son of Dracula, the sword wielding Alucard. I liked this change, as it gave a lot more possibilities in terms of equipment, clothing, etc. that could be wielded throughout the game. Alucard’s mission, to put it simply, is to infiltrate the castle of Count Dracula and stop his father’s return and domination of Earth.

Graphically this game is the perfect blend of old school side-scrolling and modern day visuals. There is little slowdown, the backgrounds are lush and well drawn, the characters and enemies are all well executed, and the entire “feel” of the castle seems to fit perfectly with the plot. The graphics are outdone by another aspect of this game; the music. The sound effects and music throughout this game are entirely “right.” All of it is well orchestrated and fits into the gameplay flawlessly. I’d suggest checking it out just for the music, even if you don’t like side-scrolling games such as this.

The plot of the game, while simple, is engaging and interesting enough to draw you into the castle. There are tons of secrets to be found, and lots of minibosses to fight and develop your character with. That’s another great thing about this game, as you fight your character gains strength, luck, experience, etc… as opposed to just having a static health bar throughout the game. If you really want, you can devote yourself to making an unstoppable killing machine before even getting to the first boss, though normal players will find the development is set at a pace to keep the game challenging, yet fun.

The entire experience of this game should keep both old-school and new-school gamers entertained throughout, with all of the secrets and developmental possibilities allowing you to play this game for hours on end. Once you beat it you can even go through as the chain-wielding Richter, if that’s more your style, so theres something for everyone. I’d highly suggest adding this game to your collection, as it seems that the entire gaming industry and Castlevania series in particular are moving away from classic games in favor of 3D graphics which just can’t capture the same appeal as games like this.