Symphony of the Night is fantastic game, simple as that
But before we get too deep into the game, let’s get what the game is about out of the way first. If you’ve played a Castlevania before, you know exactly what to expect from Symphony of the Night: you play as a Dracula hunter that needs to take down his nemesis before Dracula does something incredibly evil. Instead of playing as the famous Belmont family, you’re put into the shoes of Alucard (fought beside Trevor Belmont in Castlevania III), the son of Count Dracula awakened from an eternal sleep and must enter the Castle of Dracula found by a women named Maria Renard, that only appears once every century. The game begins at the end of Castlevania: Bloodlines where you briefly play as a Richter Belmont taking down Dracula once and for all, but 4 years after Dracula was killed, Richter Belmont suddenly disappeared, and was never seen again.
Alucard plays much differently than the Belmont family did. Instead of using the trusty whip, and upgrading it, Alucard can find a bunch of different swords and other weapons like maces to kill his enemies with. You can also equip to small weapons at a time, but if one weapon requires two hands, you have to only equip one instead of two. Alucard can also use magic spells by hitting a certain combination of buttons and directions that can hurt enemies and bosses even more. The variety of different weapons is awesome, and the addition to the magic also comes in handy in messy situations. Alucard also has a health bar that goes down when hit, and he also possesses a magic gauge that will heal by collecting hearts from killing enemies or breaking items like lamps. Thankfully the game has many save-points where you can both save, and heal Alucard of his wounds. The save-points are easily found on the map, so if you can’t find one, map the shit up.
The map system is what made the gameplay evolve from what it previously was, and stood out as a great and almost needed element. Pressing R2 will bring up the map for you to see where you ca go next. The map is divided into a bunch of smaller rooms, and will be outlined by a white line, if the line disappears, then you’ll know that’s door that you need to go through. The map will open up more where ever you go, so even if you’re in the same room, you have to keep going through it to complete more of the map. Symphony of the Night’s map is always needed because the game isn’t linear in a Mario Bros. or Sonic style of way. Yeah, you have to fight bosses, get items and such in a certain order, the way of getting there is up to you. There’s still a lot of platforming involved, more than previous game in fact. If you want to get to the top of this room, you can just fly up, you can have to jump on a platform, then jump on the next one, and so on.
Getting to the different parts of the map is also done with many different kind of power-ups you gain throughout the adventure. Some will have you turned into an animal like a Wolf or a Bat that can either jump across long distances, or fly across a room dodging enemies, and getting to otherwise impossible areas. Alucard can also transform into other things like Mist for example, that let him seep through almost impossible walls and structures. You also get the ability to use a double-jump technique that will get you to higher places that you just couldn’t reach before.
The enemies are also pretty difficult in some situations, but are well designed overall. Enemies will be seemingly everywhere, starting with easy-to-kill Zombies that die in one hit with any kind of weapon, then progressively getting more difficult like the Ball and Chain Soldiers, and other sword based enemies. Alucard can kill enemies pretty easily, just hit them continuously with a weapon while dodging their own attacks, and they will eventually perish. The variety of the enemies is pretty good too, you will see enemies in different areas of the castle, but it will be satisfying enough. Near the end of the game you will fight very hard enemies though, and you will be put the test with frustration and dismay.
Symphony of the Night also has some pretty epic boss battles to boot. Not only do they look fantastic while fighting them, but they also have good strategies to them as well. Some will have you dodging more than attacks, and some you have to figure out a battle pattern before going in and attacking. They’re also not a walk in the park, you will be put to the freaking test in SOTN with these bosses they throw at you. And speaking of the difficulty, Symphony of the Night, like most Castlevania games, is a perplexing game. You may not die several times, but you will be close to dying for half of your time playing it.
Visually, Symphony of the Night isn’t anything be in awe over, but the mix of 2D sprite based character models and level designs with great, but minor, 3D effects looks pretty good overall. For the PlayStation, Symphony of the Night did impress, but with games near the release of SOTN having all 3D models mixed in with amazing effects make SOTN stand out as a good effort, but lacks in many ways. Still, the game is very easy on the eyes and doesn’t look smudgy and ugly like lots of PS1 games do. The animations of the sprites from Alucard to the enemies all work fantastic. There isn’t any slowdown of the frame rate, even with many enemies in the vicinity, so it plays very well. The load times when going to different rooms of the castle are good, but the load times while saving and starting up the game are quite long.
While talking to certain people, the screen with fill with the character talking with they’re text below it, and the art of the characters are pretty awesome. The game sounds pretty well in the audio department with full voice acting and awesome sound effects, but you still want be in total shock of it. The music on the other hand is very good, and you will be in awe of it. The music always suits the mood perfect and doesn’t get annoying in any instances. Some areas of the game certainly sound good, but are easily some of the best composed music of all time (in a video game).
Overall, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night might not be a total beast of a game with the graphics and the sound effects being good, but not amazing. But the gameplay is just so amazingly paced with the free roam ability to go anywhere you want while equipping any weapons you want. Symphony of the Night is one the best titles on the PlayStation, and is one of the best titles of the generation that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network have this title downloadable, so if you own one of these machines, I suggest picking it up because it is pretty rad.