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Developer:
Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: March 21, 2007

by Jason Ferguson




Itís sort of amusing to think that one of the most highly anticipated Xbox 360 games was a 10-year-old PlayStation game. Of course, when that game happens to be Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, then it all begins to make sense. Symphony of the Night is arguably the best game in the Castlevania series, and took the series to the next level with non-linear gameplay and plenty of RPG elements. The recent release of the game on the Xbox 360 manages to capture the magic of the original Symphony of the Night while enhancing the overall experience.


Youíll play through this adventure as Alucard, the son of Dracula, who Castlevania fans may recognize as a playable character from Castlevania 3. Unlike his father, Alucard has turned his back on his vampiric legacy and thrown himself into an eternal slumber in order to escape his heritage. However, when Draculaís castle reappears, Alucard awakens and storms the castle, eager to put an end to his fatherís tyranny!


It all starts out pretty good as you battle your first few enemies. However, shortly into the game, one of Draculaís minions will appear and take all of your belongings. From there youíll have to fend for yourself, and search every nook and cranny of Draculaís castle in order to find the right equipment to take down the dark lord.


For those that arenít familiar with the title, Symphony of the Night is a 2D action-adventure game that has you exploring and fighting enemies throughout Draculaís Castle. The game successfully blends together elements from multiple genres, with the fast-paced combat and intensity of an action game, and the exploration and character building of an RPG.


Thereís a very surprising amount of depth here. As you slay foes, youíll gain experience and level up your stats. Youíll also find a wide variety of weapons and armor to equip, and learn new skills as you collect relics. You can do everything from double jump to walk under water with the power of these relics, so youíll become quite formidable if you spend the time to seek them all out. Among Alucardís coolest relics are those that allow him to transform into a bat, wolf, or mist. These different transformations can even learn new abilities, making them even more useful.


Alucard will even recruit familiars during his journey, such as a bat or a fairy, that will fight alongside you. The fairy, for example, will follow you and use healing items on you when youíre injured. Youíve also got a few special skills that can be performed by pressing certain button combinations. These combinations are a bit awkward, but the resulting powers can be pretty useful, such as Soul Steam, which steals HP from foes.


Draculaís castle is pretty huge, and youíre free to explore it as you wish. There are plenty of puzzles that youíll have to solve, epic boss battles, and more secret areas than you could imagine! A lot of areas are cut off to you until you manage to get a certain ability or item. For example, once you learn how to transform into a bat, you can fly into all sorts of new places that you couldnít reach before! As you learn more and more abilities, youíll find yourself able to explore more and more of the castle. There are actually two entire castles to explore, including an inverted castle that youíll have to unlock.


The size of the castle and the many different directions to choose from can be a bit of an annoyance to some gamers. After a few minutes into your journey, the game will stop giving you any real direction, and youíre free to pretty much do what you want. Once this starts, youíll probably find yourself wandering around, not sure exactly where to go. Of course, the openness is also among Symphony of the Nightís best features, because you can do as much or as little as you want.


For the many times when you get lost, the game features a map that will display the areas of the castle that you have explored. Itís not the most detailed map, so itís not going to point you exactly in the right direction, but it might give you an idea of what areas require further exploration. If the massive castle and hidden areas donít provide gamers with enough replay value, beating the game allows you to play through as Richter Belmot, who actually plays very differently than Alucard. All of this is topped off by multiple endings to the game, giving you even more reason to keep playing this deep, lengthy adventure.


Symphony of the Night on Xbox 360 provides an experience that is totally faithful to that of the original. However, there are a few differences that enhance the experience, and the diehard fans will surely appreciate it. For starters, the graphics have been improved, along with new high-definition support. Audio and sound effects have also been modernized. The improvements might not be enough to really stand out, but theyíll still heighten the gaming experience. Lastly, 12 achievements have been added to the game for a total of 200 points. Some of the achievements are actually pretty challenging, and will have gamers exploring every last inch of the castle in order to get the points. Should you not want to play the enhanced version of the game, old school players can choose to play the original, unaltered game. Itís a bit disappointing that none of the extra content from the Japanese version managed to make it to this version of Symphony of the Night, but there's already more than enough content here to keep gamers busy.


While Symphony of the Night is still a beautiful game, after 10 years it canít help but show its age. Obviously the graphics are pretty dated, but considering this is an original PlayStation game, they donít look half bad. Thereís a lot of detail in Draculaís Castle, from the very uniquely designed enemies to the beautiful environments. With the move from the PlayStation onto the Xbox 360, load times have been eliminated, so you can explore the entire game with very little interruption. The music in Symphony of the Night is one of its strongest points. The soundtrack is simply beautiful and fits the game perfectly, setting an eerie mood throughout much of the adventure.


If you missed out on the original Symphony of the Night, then this is a great opportunity to finally play it. Even if you have played it already, the enhancements and low price of $10 certainly make it worth consideration. Symphony of the Night is a classic, and was one of the best games ever to appear on the PlayStation.


While this version of Symphony of the Night may not be as original, innovative, or graphically modern as the original version was back in the day, itís still a very solid game, with great enhancements and a price that you just canít beat. If youíve got an Xbox 360, this is a game I highly recommend.


Final Grade: 90%




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