Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Release year - USA:1997
Company: Konami
System: Playstation
Genre: Platformer
Players: 1

Review by: PrimeOp

For any fan of 2-D platform/adventure video games, the word Castlevania brings a chill to the spine, a smile to the face and a glow to the heart. Gameplay that was difficult and challenging, yet fair. Memorable music. Life-replenishing meat hidden in blocks of stone, flying Medusa heads and irritating little Flea Men. This and much much more are the ingredients that made Castlevania great. 'Castlevania: Symphony of the night' just may be the greatest instalment in that series.

The adventure begins with the final boss battle from Dracula-X, with Richter Belmont and Dracula locked in battle. One day, four years later, Richter disappears without a trace. As his friend Maria Renard sets out to find him, she makes a startling discovery: Castlevania has rematerialized much, much earlier than expected. Enter Alucard: the son of Dracula. After the events of Castlevania III, he placed himself in an eternal slumber to spare the world of his potential bloodlust. Something ended that sleep at the same time Castlevania returned, and he knows that only the reappearance of Castlevania could've done it. What follows all this is one of the most beautiful sprite-based games in the entire history of human civilization.
Some of the gears in this clock tower hold a secret or two.

The bosses in the game are some of the most mindboggling and disturbing enemies that you'll see in a video game. There are also a few that you'll wish would just put on some damn pants.
Instead of being separated into linear, unconnected levels, the game is played inside the one large map of Castlevania itself that is broken up into areas to explore. There are no bottomless pits in this castle, so the emphasis is placed on exploration and applying powers and skills in the right places. You'll slowly regain Alucard's stolen powers as you battle your way through Dracula's minions. Regaining your vampiric strength grants you further abilities, like restoring health from the blood of your foes, stealing their souls for more energy to even throwing a barrage of fireballs like the old man himself. Along the way, you'll also build a large inventory of weapons, shields, armor and items, each with their own attributes, quirks and bonuses. The Shield Rod produces various special attacks based on what shield you're equipped with at the time. The Walk Armor's defense is based on how much of the castle you've cleared so far. There's even a Gem Sword that turns the remains of your foes into gems that can be sold to gain more items from the library, where one of your only allies in Castlevania resides. As you kill the fiends of the castle, you gain experience and powering up will increase your statistics. You'll also obtain Familiars, little creatures or objects that travel with you and assist you in different ways and power up like you as they gain experience.

Castlevania is crawling with more monsters than ever before. No, not a zillion palette swaps, but different unique enemies. Almost every classic Castlevania monster is represented up in here from Medusa heads to those Gorilla skeletons. Then they added about a gazillion more for good measure. Some of these creatures are so massive and tough that they could easily be mistaken for bosses! The bosses themselves are even more awesome. Some are old familiar faces, and I know of at least three that will suprise you if you know your Castlevania history. Every one of these enemies are heavily animated and most of them have unique death sequences that are better than the death animations for other games' bosses! Skeletons shatter into a rain of bones, mermen burst in a spray of blood and Karasuman, a crow/man demon, explodes in a highly-animated shower of feathers. This game has some incredible animation and you'll find yourself wanting to kill them again over and over again (especially if you're trying to get the rare items). This game also continues the Castlevania tradition of excellent music with incredible mix of different styles, courtesy of composer Michiru Yamane. The game is worth buying just for her soundtrack alone.
In many games, an enemy that huge would be a boss. In Castlevania: SOTN, it's just a drone.

It's hard to believe that this game, which went on to become a Playstation Greatest Hit, almost never reached the U.S. thanks to an anti-2-D mindset. If you are a fan of Castlevania, 2-D games, old-school gaming or just gaming in general, you need this game in your collection. Even if you're just a horror fan, you'll enjoy the atmosphere and seeing what new creatures will pop up in the new sections you explore.

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