CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT / Konami / Playstation

Your modern Large Game Publisher can employ one of two basic philosophies when setting out to create a new game. The first is to allot the necessary resources and time to do the best they can with their material, and to craft an experience that they believe the player will thoroughly enjoy and count on sales through good reviews and positive word of mouth. The other philosophy is to maximize profit by skimping wherever possible, and then basically con or manipulate you into buying the game somehow. This latter approach is particularly easy to take when trading on the good name of a series that has established credibility through multiple quality releases -- Castlevania would be a perfect example.

Thankfully, Konami has never taken the latter approach with this franchise (yes, I'm including the 3D games in that statement -- bad as they were, I believe that they were really trying). Symphony of the Night is instead one of the greatest examples of the former philosophy - loads of detail, lots of stuff that could have easily been cut from the game without affecting its overall positive reviews, a very moody gothic sort of atmosphere created by the exemplary craftwork in all areas and the sense that the design team really, really loved what they were doing and generally wanted to live up to the expectations of the fans of their work and then go one better. I don't know if it qualifies as art, but it's a beautiful game.

SotN has the sort of stylistic and gameplay direction that began with the Bloodlines game for Genesis and continued with the rare and coveted wilderbeest Dracula X for the NEC TurboDuo. Varied backgrounds that go beyond the usual dark forest / castle dungeon motif, much more robust heroes possessing a greater range of abilities than those seen in the NES origins, the wonderfully diverse music of Michiru Yamane...then it boosts it all into the upper pantheon of gaming by pilfering the non-linear free-exploration style of Super Metroid and a sort of RPG-like statistics and inventory system similar to the Ys games or Zelda 2 (but vastly better than either of those examples). It also helps that it has a really badass main character. And, as mentioned before, there's just a slew of wonderful little details - multiple types of weapons to use, combos and hidden moves based on what you have equipped, spells invoked via Street Fighter style motions, hidden items and areas (it's very possible for a player not using a walkthrough and not asking for any help to completely and totally miss a full 50% of the game and never know), unique idle and death animations for nearly all of the game's common enemies .... it's almost impossible to catch everything on your first play-through,and then once you've completed the game you've got a few extra modes to replay in (including one that lets you play as an entirely different character).

Is it worth ten dollars to download? Well, even if it isn't perfectly emulated, it's incredible just to have this game available again in any form -- after a limited Greatest Hits reprint in the late 1990s due to massive demand, the only option in the past five years or so has been to go troll eBay for a used copy that will run you $30-40 at best. So, at least sheerly for the sake of preservation and availability, sure. It's absolutely worth it.

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* Gameplay Video







 

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