Castlevania: Symphony of the Night | Flashback Review
Every great video game series has that one game that people point to, that defines the series as the best it’s got to offer. In the case of Castlevania it’s the Playstation and Sega Saturn classic Symphony of the Night; a game that evolved the formula into something completely new taking inspiration from many different games that d come before and has been copied so many times since.
A sequel to the Japanese only release Dracula X; Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night threw out the level by level based game play of all the previous entries and created an absolutely massive castle that could be fully explored at will with items and abilities scattered about the castle in the same style as Metroid games but with added RPG elements like leveling, shops, equipment and street fighter style special abilities. This was effectively where the term MetroidVania came from and has become a genre in itself since.
With the change to the structure of the game changed so too were the characters. While you briefly start the game off playing as Richter Belmont, a more traditional character from the series (the level is actually the final boss level from Rondo of Blood to help non Japanese players, while the game was finally released on PSP) For the rest of the game after the introduction you play as Alucard, son of Dracula.
Unlike the traditional whip toting Belmonts from before Alucard is half vampire and has inherit abilities similar to Dracula himself that he can use; turning into animal forms as well as having familiars that follow you around and aid you. Also at your command were magic spells that you could activate at any time using preset button combinations. Finally, and possibly the best thing about Alucard was his available weaponry, not stuck to a whip you can access to hundreds of weapons so you could always find something to match your preferred play style.
The open ended structure of the game gave people far more to do then just progress through levels from one to the next, but the game had more then its fair share of tricks up its sleeve. After exploring the whole castle and collection the correct items the would be final boss under any normal circumstance led to a second castle to explore which was an inverted version of the first with harder enemies and a true final boss. Following that you could also reply the game using Richter as well as Maria on the Saturn version.
Finally you have to mention the graphics… choosing to stay 2D led to some wonderful visuals with 3D used sparingly to add depth to the castle ad spells. It certainly made the case for 2D games being a perfectly viable in a 3D world that every other series was trying to adapt itself into. Overall the game was nothing short of amazing and is ranked among the highest of games in its generation and earns itself a place in many top 100 games of all time lists.
All that’s left to say is if you’ve somehow avoid this game up until now you must play it!