Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jul 14, 2009 05:57

Back when this game was first released in the 90s, the term ’Metroidvania’ was not widely known. Today we know it to describe games in which you start off with a character of modest power, placed into a huge world (usually divided by rooms) to explore. Your short-term goal is usually to find new powers and weapons, then work your way through the area and deal with various bosses, before confronting the final enemy of the game. It’s a formula made popular by Metroid, and starting around the time of Symphony of the Night, many Castlevania titles began playing like that too; hence the term Metroidvania.

This is a port of the Playstation version, with a few adjustments and bug fixes. This means the major things you won’t see in this version are Maria as a playable character, and some FMV cutscenes; everything else is still here. Like the summary above described, your major goal is to explore the massive castle and gain new abilities, with the ultimate goal of stopping Dracula’s revival. Brief plot sequences do come up, but for the most part it’s all about exploring and fighting tons of enemies as you go. Along the way, you not only collect new abilities, but new weapons: Magical fireballs, swords, shields, ’Familiars’ (creatures that follow you and attack enemies), throwing axes, and more. Many even have special attacks you can use through Street Fighter style motions, adding more variety still.

Despite the sheer amount of content, Symphony of the Night is an easy game to learn. Each button on your controller clearly does one task, and while some complex motions and combinations can be done they’re usually not required to win. The real challenge lies in fully exploring the castle, since you have to find certain items to get the good ending and in turn unlock new characters. Well, character; Richter’s the only fully developed one, though there is a monster you can play as a short-lived gimmick. With all this content, a normal run through the game could easily last upward of twenty hours, though a speedrunner might be able to clear it in a mere fraction of the time.

While the graphics are clearly dated, the music remains very good with lots of deep and dramatic tracks to impress upon you just how ’epic’ a game you’re going through. For its time it was one of the most ambitious Castlevania games yet, and remains rather atmospheric even today. The only thing that ’detracts’ from this is that it is a port of the Playstation version, and that means the incredibly bad voice acting is back. Thankfully, it’s so bad it’s actually hilarious, so I was glad they kept this.

Ultimately, your 800 Points/$10 buys a very lengthy and in-depth game full of classic platforming gameplay. The premise is simple, mostly consisting of going from one place to the next while beating up enemies and bosses and gathering new abilities needed to solve some basic ’puzzles’, but the sheer variety keeps it interesting all the way through. It’s a good port of a classic game, and really is one of the best values in the Xbox Live Arcade catalog; I would recommend it to just about anyone.

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (XBLA)
8.0 Replay
There is a huge castle to explore, with tons of secrets and even a few alternate characters to play after you beat it the first time.
5.5 Graphics
While fairly well animated and presented with some good visual effects, they’re nonetheless dated.
8.5 Sound
Excellent music is joined by plenty of "so bad it’s good" voice acting.
8.5 Gameplay
Excellently designed with tons of weapons to try out, the only problems are that a few puzzles required to beat the game are very unintuitive, and combat is generally too easy.
0.1 Multiplayer/Online Content
Not applicable; this is a single-player game that only offers leaderboards.
8.5 Overall
A genuine classic that provides a lot of play time for your money.

Rating: 5.0, votes: 1

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