Episode 20: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Creature of Chaos


Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 
Platform: PlayStation

Japanese Release Date: March 20, 1997
U.S. Release Date: October 2, 1997
PAL Release Date: November 1, 1997
Difficulty: Easy
Current Amazon Price: $149.99 new (ouch), $30.67 used, PSN: $9.99, Xbox Live Arcade: $9.99

Note: there is another (Japanese) version on the Sega Saturn, but this is not being reviewed.   

Lightning’s Review: 
Someone must have played too much Donkey Kong in their youth.

The Good

  • A nice game to sink your teeth into (pun totally intended) if you are an RPGgoer but also are interested in games with platforming elements. Symphony of the Night does a good job incorporating RPG elements with some relatively easy side-scrolling that should be a pleaser for fans of both genres.
  • The soundtrack will blow you away! Some parts of it are strange (such as songs that would seem to come out of a cult ‘80s hair band rather than a game about Dracula’s son), but it’s all in good fun. Other songs are appropriately dramatic and have a more classical feel.
  • The game also greatly encourages exploration rather than mindless leaping from one side of the screen to the next. New abilities that unlock as you play – such as higher jumps, the ability to turn into a bat or a cloud of mist, and the use of helpful familiars further promotes looking for hidden passages and breakable walls.

The Bad

  • The menus are extremely clunky, which is not a good thing when you’ve got, say, a ball of writhing corpses attacking you. To be able to use a potion, for example, you’ve got to drop your shield (or whatever you had in your one of your hands) to be able to use it. Since this is primarily a platformer, I can understand why they didn’t have a battle menu like in most RPGs, but wouldn’t an “item” button have been awesome?

The Ugly

  • If you thought Shining Force III had bad voice acting, then this gives it a run for its money. You might want to wear earplugs during the cutscenes.
  • Hundred year old pot roast…which you then eat. Being free of food poisoning is actually one of Alucard’s greatest powers.    

 Wasn’t New York New Amsterdam around this time period? Argh – maybe I’m thinking too hard.

The Lowdown

A fun first title to play in the long-running Castlevania series, as well as one of the more highly regarded. Since we had an easy time picking up the platforming elements, I would even suggest that RPG fans who are interested in the series should try this one first. I definitely suggest this game as something to hit up in your retro backlog, especially since it approaches RPG elements in a non-conventional way and doesn’t require much prior knowledge of Castlevania lore to pick up and play.

I finally remembered what Castlevania game I want to play next. Not Aria of Sorrow, or Harmony of Dissonance. LAMENT OF INNOCENCE.

Music Credits:
Castlevania: SotN OST
RPG Roundup Theme Song: “Video Game Theme,” J. Arthur Keenes Band. Creative Commons Attribution License.  

One thought on “Episode 20: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Creature of Chaos

  1. DIE, MONSTER! YOU DON'T BELONG IN THIS WORLD!

    I actually like how cheesy the voice acting is, since "Dracula's half-vampire son with a reversed name invades his shapechanging castle to kill his father" is a pretty cheesy plot to begin with. I came to Symphony of the Night having only played Castlevania III, so I had some context for the story, but it's not like the plot is the draw point. As the people on Retronauts said when talking about Lords of Shadow II, "I liked Castlevania when it was pretty anime boys fighting laser skeletons."

    The real draw is the sheer variety of environments you can explore, the powerups you have to find to get there, and the whacked-out enemies in your way, like the giant ball of corpses, the women-tailed lizards, and the Cthulhu expy. I'd even say it's one of the best platformers ever made. Sure, it doesn't have the simplicity of the Mario games, but the RPG elements and exploration add more than enough to the experience.

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