Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

GAME TECH INFO

Computer Platform: PlayStation (Sony)
Produced by:
Price Range: $21-30
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Teens
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

     Reviewed By: Theophilus
     VOLUNTEER GUEST REVIEWER

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Genre: ,
Rating: 3 of 5 (average)
Gameplay: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Violence: 3 of 5 (mild)
Adult Content: 5 of 5 (none)


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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a 2D / game with religious references.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the character Dracula. The evil vampire with blood-sucking tendencies is often depicted in a great number of fantastical books and movies. In the Castlevania video games he’s been a mainstay, resulting in stories that usually boil down to the simple formula of “kill Dracula to save humanity from the forces of evil”. The problem is that this demon never seems to die but gets resurrected every hundred or so years and thus we have another Castlevania game. This creates the need for a dedicated family of vampire slayers (the Belmonts) and a player to lead them to their ultimate goal.

In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night the formula is a bit different. Instead of playing the whole game as a Belmont who is charged with killing Dracula you play primarily as Dracula’s own son: Alucard. This complicates the story a bit but not in a bad way really. See, this game isn’t just about killing Dracula but it’s also about love and hope.

Story:

(Note: This game has multiple story endings)

Alucard is a son of an unnatural union between Dracula and a human woman (Lisa), who’s deeply Christian. Alucard is born with the blood-sucking tendencies of his father as well as his vampiric powers. Alucard though learns to guard against these tendencies via ascetic practices and instead cherishes the faith that his mother passed down to him. He uses his vampiric powers to aid the forces of good. Thus he is often seen joining the Belmonts in the quest to kill Dracula: his own father. If you think this all perplexing, just wait: it gets more complicated.

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Dracula is not the all-evil person we’ve all assumed. While being thrilled with his power and the ability to terrorize the human race his evil desires have been pushed back by forces of good that are so strong that he can’t help but comply to them. Hence he and Lisa got married because she was so good and graced that he didn’t feel like just grabbing her and turning her into a vampire-wife. So they get married and have a kid. Then he leaves her to do some vampire stuff which, I’m guessing, she was opposed to but he didn’t care. She prayed and hoped to change him but ultimately didn’t succeed.
*SPOILER*
Some humans grab Lisa and burn her at the stake for being a witch. As she’s dieing and Alucard witnesses this she utters to him not to give up hope in the human race but to continue loving them.
*SPOILER END*

Sometime in the future Dracula is being resurrected again. His castle (”Castlevania”) is appearing and this is bad news. Also bad is that vampire slayer Richter Belmont disappears. Alucard rises from his coffin ready to fight the good fight and see who has risen his father from the grave.

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Gameplay:
You play as Richter Belmont at first who kills Dracula in some sort of ported version of an older Castlevania game. You start at the end of that game where all you do is fight Dracula. After doing that you get the details about him being resurrected again. After this you assume the role of Alucard.

The game plays very well and is easy to get into due to simple controls and 2D side scrolling gameplay. Alucard gains more abilities through time which means more strategies to consider. However it’s never as difficult as say…the older, NES Castlevania games.

Alucard levels up, upgrades his weapons (he can have a single weapon/shield/item in each hand or use a two-handed weapon), learns spells, transformations, and vampire techniques, gets money, and purchases items and strategies. However, as RPGish as this sounds the gameplay is all real-time. You have to think fast and play strategically to succeed. It’s challenging yet also extremely fun.

There’s quite a bit of backtracking and running around trying to find out where things are but considering the great quality of the graphics, sound, and gameplay itself it’s hardly troublesome.

Graphics:
The graphics for this game, even by today’s standards, are simply stunning. The art direction is terrific, in its sort of Roman/Gothic way. Your character flows with seamless animation and the enemies you fight are animated well too.

Sound:
The sound effects are good and the music is outstanding. The voice acting though is often laughable, especially the librarian who sells you goods. You’ll be able to forgive this minor fault though in the midst of this audio/visual work of art.

Violence:
Some of the death animations are exaggerated. One of the monsters bends in half, yells, turns into a flame and disappears. This is kind of gory but considering the perspective it doesn’t appear all that detailed. Some of the monsters bleed when attacked. When Alucard learns some spell like “Dark Metamorphosis” it allows him to gain health by attacking blood-letting monsters, which adds to the strategy of the game. There’s no biting or anything like that on your character’s part. Some of your enemies will use brutal measures to attack you. In that case you’re guy will let out some blood if he is unable to evade the attack.

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Adult Content:
none

Other Offensive/Commendable Material:
There’s some occult stuff around the game which can be used against you or to aid you. You can have a familiar like a flaming skull that helps you out. You fight demons and witches, amongst other monsters. There’s quite a bit of this stuff. However there’s also things like holy water, crosses, an item called “Joseph’s cloak” (which changes to the color of your liking), an area that resembles a Chapel, etc… there’s even a confessional where you can sit down and have a ghost priest hear your confession! Personally I think this is awesome but some might be turned off by this. It’s not meant to be taken seriously but to compliment the story and setting of the game. It’s obvious that the people who made this game weren’t theologians.

Overall:
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, minus its minor objectionable elements, is an excellent game. I highly recommend it. The story has to appeal to you as well as the traditional 2D gameplay but if you want a unique, non-linear 2D side-scrolling game with a great music and graphics it’s hard to find a better game.

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Year of Release — 1997

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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