Zero Lives Left – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Game: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Released: 1997
Available On:  Playstation, XBLA (Review), PSN
Genre: Action Adventure

Playing this game for the first time earlier this year I had no idea it was from 1997. I knew it was an older game but I had no idea that currently it’s 15 years old. FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. That is insane. This game has aged beautifully, it rivals games that are released today in terms of scope and playability. Currently, the best place to find this game is either on the Xbox Live Arcade or through the Playstation Network. If you have either of those and you’ve never played this game, let alone a Castlevania game, you need to go and pick this one up now.

I have a feeling I might be spoiling the rest of the review already. I’ve really been praising it to hell and back, huh? Whatever, let’s get on with the rest of the review. Yes, it’s going to be filled with me foaming at the mouth with positivity, so if that isn’t your sort of thing turn back now and go read my Jurassic Park review from last week.

This is like some sort of bad sitcom.

The story follows Alucard going into his father’s castle to defeat him and end the curse he has plaguing the mortal life, or something similar to that effect.. His father is Dracula (Alucard, Dracula, get it?) and the whole point of the game is tracking him down and beating him to death. Or as dead as Dracula can get. Doing so you travel through his castle fighting an endless amount of enemies and boss fights. Also, when I say an endless amount of enemies I pretty much mean it. You’ll be fighting creatures from every stretch of your fantasy imagination. All the way from skeletons, to giant wolves, to Cthulu (who unfortunately isn’t as menacing as you’d think he’d be.)

The game plays wonderfully and the amount of depth that exists within the combat is astonishing. Every weapon you can equip to Alucard plays differently than the last. Of course the differences aren’t extreme in most cases, but there is enough diversity to notice. There was one sword I was using for the majority of the later half of the game and it wasn’t until about a few seconds before the final boss did I accidentally realize it had a secondary function that provided a new and extreme method of ass-kicking.

That’s just a small example of how deep this game can get. Another is that later on you can find some familiars that follow you around and help you. Each familiar has their own level system and they gain abilities depending on how high they level. They’ll do this all on their own without any input from you and they are incredibly helpful. Even further, like a true RPG, certain equipment combinations give Alucard hidden abilities too. It’s pretty much nigh impossible to do everything on your first playthrough of the game.

“Stay a while and listen.”

The game is gorgeous. Every sprite and every environment is just a treat to look at. The castle you explore is huge and every section of it is unique and fun. A problem, however, is that the game doesn’t really spell things out for you. After completing the first castle there is a whole second castle that you won’t know about unless you find two random items and bring them together into some random room. Furthermore, if you didn’t travel into the second castle the ending for the game is considered the bad ending.

In the second half of the game, essentially the second castle, the difficulty takes a huge spike. This isn’t a bad thing, this is a welcome thing. Games these days have become much too easy so anytime I am even remotely challenged by a game I take it as a welcome invitation. When I started the Inverted Castle I died quite a few times and admittingly I was getting quite frustrated. Of course this was the good frustration because the reason I was dying was because these enemies were hitting harder and I was being stupid and treating them like the pathetic enemies from the first castle. Punishing stupidity, who would’ve thought?

Looking back on this review I don’t really know if I did anything other than babble on about the positive aspects of SOTN. That is probably because this game is absolutely wonderful. I recommend that everyone who is into gaming go and get their hands on this game. If I remember correctly, I bought it for 400 points ($5) on sale and it’s regularly at 800 points ($10). It’s worth the 800 but if you’d rather wait for it drop there’s nothing wrong with that. This is one of the few games that I would consider in the league of the ‘must play games’, an honour I don’t like to bestow often. Castlevania: SOTN is worth every second and leads to a huge amount of replayability. I mean I challenge you to get 200.6% completion and not enjoy it, no matter how frustrating it is to find that one last room you’re missing.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: 9/10

Alucard vs The Dreaded Lord of Plates.

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