Castlevania: Symphony of the Night faced a lot of competition when it came out all the way back in 1997. Not only would it inevitably be compared to previous Castlevania games, but it would also be compared to each and every entry in the crowded field of 2D sidescrollers.
However, its developer Konami needn’t have feared. When it came out, many crowned it the best of the Castlevania games, and possibly even the best of the 2D sidescrollers.
But, does the game still hold up over 20 years later? Let’s break it down.
A New Hero Rises
The focus of most Castlevania adventures has been on the Dracula-hunting Simon Belmont. And when you first boot up this game, you might think you’re getting another Belmont adventure.
However, the beginning of this game is actually the end of another game, Castlevania: Dracula X. Once you get past that, you are introduced to your actual protagonist.
His name is Alucard. If you’re bad at palindromes, I’ll spell it our for you: “Alucard” is “Dracula” backwards. This character is actually Dracula’s son.
This means you get different powers and abilities than Simon Belmont ever had. Overall, this helps the game feel fresh even to experienced Castlevania fans.
Touch of RPG
The original Castlevania games were platformers. And this one is, too, but Konami throws in many RPG touches that change things up.
You actually have a level system, inventory management, and the ability to transform into different creatures as you progress through the game. And this synthesis is part of the game’s secret to success.
It’s difficult for any game to be two genres at once. But this game adds just enough RPG sauce to be interesting without detracting from the platforming fun, making it immensely engaging.
In most of the previous Castlevania games, your weapon was simple: you had a whip. And while you could get a handful of other useful weapons, combat revolved around upgrading your whip and swinging it as fast as you could.
But, Alucard is no Simon Belmont. And that leads to perhaps the most surprising aspect of the game: there are no whips at all!
Instead, you must rely on Alucard’s vampiric abilities (which you help him to restore over time) and a full range of medieval-inspired weaponry, including swords, shields, daggers, and more.
This helps add to player engagement and replay value. Players can find the weapons that suit their playstyle or challenge themselves to master different weapons when they do their inevitable second playthrough of the game.
Platformer at Heart
It’s possible to play this 1997 game on a number of more modern gaming platforms. However, modern gamers should be aware that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night comes from the heart of the 2D platforming era.
That means that life or death often hinges on your ability to make precision jumps from one place to another. Without fast reflexes and a good controller, you will find yourself dying to countless traps and boss fights.
Speaking of controllers, this was originally meant to be played with a D-pad. If you have a choice of ways to play this game, I recommend choosing the one that has the best D-pad controller!
A Massive Map
Ever hear the term “Metroidvania?” As the name implies, this is a kind of gaming genre that blends Metroid and Castlevania. And Symphony of the Night happens to be the game that started the whole genre!
If you are a Metroid fan but haven’t played much Castlevania, you will likely find this game very accessible. That’s because it includes familiar aspects like multiple weapons, a complex map, and the need to return to previous areas to unlock something new.
While this is mostly a good thing, it’s not to the taste of every player. If you found yourself getting lost in games like Metroid and its sprawling map, you will certainly get lost in Symphony of the Night’s sprawling castle.
If, however, you like exploration and discovery, this game rewards you in spades!
When you spend dozens of hours playing a game, you want to be able to listen to something great. Fortunately, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has one of the best soundtracks of all time!
It’s moody and immersive at times and heart-stopping at others. If you’ve ever wondered what stoked the modern mania for retro game-inspired music, it was awesome soundtracks like this.
In fact, the only bad thing I can say about this music is that after you hear it, other game music is definitely going to let you down.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a game that all gamers should experience.
If you’re a Castlevania fan, then this is arguably as good as the series ever got. And if you’re not already a fan, why not experience the very best for your first dance with Dracula? The game is available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4.
If nothing else, it gives you something to stay occupied with in-between seasons of that awesome Netflix Castlevania show!