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Developer:
Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: PlayStation and Dreamcast
Release Date: September 30, 1997

by Josh Ferguson




Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the first game in the series to be released for a PlayStation console. While the game certainly is dated, it is still one of the best in Konami's popular series. Not only is it one of the best in the series, but one of the best games to be released for the original PlayStation console.


The story in Symphony of the Night revolves around Alucard, the son of Dracula, who appeared in Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse. After the events of Dracula's Curse, Alucard decided to go into an eternal sleep, but was awoken after his father's castle suddenly reappeared. Alucard has once again vowed to stop the evil that exists in Dracula's castle.


With Symphony of the Night, Konami changed many of the aspects of the Castlevania series. First of all, this was one of the first times that your playable character is someone outside of the Belmont clan. While there are hints that Alucard is somehow linked with the Belmonts, this is one of the first times where players do not take on the role of an actual Belmont. Also, Alucard doesn't wield a whip that has become ever popular in the series. Instead, Alucard uses a wide variety of weaponry, including swords, daggers, and clubs, and can even use his fists to attack enemies. That's not all either, some of the weapons Alucard can equip have special skills attached. For example, one might drain the life of an enemy and another might summon the dead to fight alongside you for a time. Symphony of the Night features a large inventory of weapons, other then the predecessors that only carried a whip, and many have their own unique abilities and stats.


Symphony of the Night is also the first time that a Castlevania game has been mainly focused as an RPG. By defeating enemies throughout the game, Alucard will gain different amounts of experience. As he obtains a certain level of experience, Alucard will level up and his stats will increase. While leveling up is quite different than the games before it, this makes Symphony of the Night's difficulty level much easier than the earlier games, as well.


Throughout Dracula's castle there are also relics that must be acquired in order to progress in the game. There are many different types of relics that affect Alucard in many different ways. Some relics enable Alucard to take the form of different objects, allow him to walk in water, allow a super jump, and much, much more. There are also relics that give Alucard a different familiar. There are a few familiars that include a fairy, a winged demon holding a spear, and a large sword. The fairy is strictly used for healing and protection, while the other two have the ability to attack. Only one of these familiars can be equipped at a time, but as you gain experience, so does the equipped familiar. As these familiars level up, they not only become stronger, but also obtain the occasional new abilities.


For those of us who are familiar with the Castlevania series, we all remember that in Dracula's Curse, Alucard was able to launch fireballs and take on the form of a bat. Symphony of the Night takes those ideas and adds some extra. Not only can Alucard take on the form of a bat, but he can now also transform into a wolf and mist. All of these forms have their own advantages, and in order to complete certain parts of the game, will probably have to be used. As Alucard transforms, his magic bar will begin to decrease. However, it can be restored by going back into your normal Vampire form. Alucard can also perform several more magic spells including one that steals life from enemies, a spirit that will damage all enemies on the screen, and the same fireballs that were available Dracula's Curse.


Other than the introduction of spells, leveling up and so on, the actual gameplay in Symphony of the Night hasn't changed much from the earlier games. In Symphony of the Night, Alucard will travel through certain points of the castle and will basically do all of the fighting that the Belmonts did before him, but with a different weapon. But, the main difference between Symphony of the Night and the earlier Castlevania games is the actual controls. While the earlier Castlevania games featured controls that didn't seemed very sluggish, Symphony of the Night flows well and looks great. The controls have definitely improved and are much easier to use.


Like I said earlier, graphically Symphony of the Night is definitely dated, but for its time the graphics look great. The actual characters, especially Alucard look great, and the backgrounds have an excellent gothic style that has made the series so great. The game also features an absolutely amazing soundtrack which, to this day, is one of the best that I've ever heard in a videogame.


Symphony of the Night also has a little bit of replay value along with it. Not only does the game feature a few different endings, but after completion you can replay the game using Richter Belmont! However, Richter's play through is quite different than Alucard's, and doesn't feature the option of equipping all of the weapons that Alucard could. In fact, the game is pretty much changed into an original Castlevania game, with no leveling up, no stats, no inventory, and so on.


In regards to the Dreamcast version, Richter Belmont is a playable character from the beginning of the game, and does not need a completed save file. Also, this version features Maria Renard, sister-in-law of Richter's, who was seen in Dracula X. This version also features extra equipment and a few more familiars, but on the downside, it doesn't have any English voice-acting. While some of these extras might sound nice, you might want to stick with the PlayStation version.


Overall, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of the best games available for the original PlayStation. With all of the new features available, Symphony of the Night is very different from the previous games in the Castlevania series, but it also stands out as one of the best. If you are an RPG fan, or just a fan of the Castlevania series, this game is highly recommended. And even if you aren't a fan of the series or of RPGs, I still recommend the game.


Final Grade: 94%




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