Retro Review: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

File Size: 356 MB
Price: $9.99
Developed By: Konami
Published By: Konami
Original Release Date: October 2, 1997

Short Review

One of the most frequently requested PS1 titles finally hits the PlayStation Store, with Konami releasing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The title holds its age remarkably well and clearly shows why it is considered one of the finest titles of the original PlayStation era. The graphics look surprisingly sharp and colorful on the PSP and hold up nicely even when displayed on a 52" HD TV via the PS3. The gameplay is the real selling point here though, as you romp through a fairly non-linear castle, with a full RPG-like leveling system, magic, special moves and colorful monsters, the lengthy campaign is well worth paying the higher-than-normal cost of this retro title. Overall, Castlevania: SotN is a fantastic addition to the PlayStation Store's lineup and should not be miss by any Castlevania or 2D platformer fans.

Full Review after the jump.

Ever since Sony announced that they were releasing PS1 classics over the PlayStation Network, one of the most requested titles has been Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Considered one of the best titles from the original PlayStation days, the game's deep and rewarding gameplay helped relaunch the Castlevania franchise and paved the way for the style of gameplay of all the GBA and DS sequels that followed. Mixing the classic platforming gameplay that the series was known for with a full RPG leveling system with experience, stats, loot drops and new equipment, Symphony of the Night breathed new life into the 2D platforming genre.

The game takes an almost immediate departure from the Castlevania norm by having you play most of the game as Alucard, the son of Dracula -- and not as a Belmont at all. In another change to the formula, you also don't use a whip, instead having a vast selection of swords and daggers to choose from. The game has you tracking down a lost member of the Belmont clan and also attempting to destroy Dracula's Castle before the Daddy of all vampires awakens once again to cause havoc across the countryside (and maybe nibble on some farmgirls' necks).

You'll spend your whole time in Dracula's Castle; a huge non-linear area with hundreds of rooms and multiple pathways snaking all around. It's almost entirely open to exploration and the game rewards you for searching about by hiding goodies all over the place in little nooks and crannies over the levels. You will be limited in your progression though by either lacking the appropriate power to proceed (i.e., Mist or Bat form) or by the monsters in that level beating your ass into retreat. As with any large non-linear style of game, it's possible to get lost, but with a fairly detailed map accessible at anytime via the Select button you can generally find your away about without too much hassle.

Alucard levels up by defeating enemies in classic action RPG fashion. The monsters drop money or loot with both being tied directly to the type of monster, which means you tend to find different kinds of items in each area of the Castle. Alucard eventually unlocks additional abilities like being able to change into a bat, a mist form, a wolf form and more, as well as having access to spells that are cast via fighting game style input commands. The gameplay really offers a complex and rewarding experience and it is a blast to wander around the Castle, solving puzzles and beating down hoards of undead. The game also has four different endings, and entire quasi-secret second Castle, and a couple new playable characters after beating the game -- which all translates to a whole lot of gameplay in a cheap package.

Graphically, the game looks great. The sharp 2D sprites (and sweet low polygon effects) hold up surprisingly well in this age of bloom lighting and fill rates. Alucard looks unflappably cool at all times and the dozens and dozens of monsters are detailed and entertaining. The bosses in particular are great, with some of them so huge you only see the very bottom of them while on the ground. The emulation itself is spot on and the graphics appeared to be faithful renditions of the original PlayStation version. The game looks particularly nice on the PSP, whose sexy screen really makes the game look sharp and colorful. Thankfully though, the game even looks good when blown up to the large screen on the PS3 and is very enjoyable to play on either system.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night really is a fantastic title and a worthy pickup even at $9.99. The graphics hold up very favorably and look good on both the PS3 and PSP and it's gameplay is as timeless as ever. Also something worthy of note is that with the recent ability for the PS3 and PSP to swap save files back and forth, Sony's made it extremely easy to progress on the same save file -- no matter where you are. Playing a game on your big screen home theatre system, then walking out the door and playing the exact same game and save file while on the bus is an incredibly fun little feature and a great bonus for people who own both systems.

Now here's hoping for more games like this, and less games like this.

PS Fanboy Retro Review: 8.5
See all Retro Reviews

This article was originally published on Joystiq.