TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Symphony of the Night’ transformed ‘Castlevania’ franchise for the better
I’ve always believed that, in any form of entertainment, you must reinvent yourself sometimes to prevent becoming stale, predictable, and boring. In the mid to late ‘90s, established video game franchises were almost forced to take a look in the mirror and grow up, as it were, as more mature audiences were turning out in droves to play the hip new console, the Sony PlayStation while, in turn, gamers from the ‘80s video game boom were no longer kids and wanted that something extra.
Today, we finish off our month of “Castlevania” franchise titles with arguably the best of the bunch, or at least the best at representing the franchise’s growth in many areas. There was a changing of the guard, as it were, with this one – “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night!”
“Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” (PS1)
With one of the most breathtakingly fitting soundtracks of any “Castlevania” game, “Symphony of the Night” is a fitting title for a game with ethereal orchestral music with deep moody tones that fit like a glove. There are also voiceovers that are actually pretty good, along with an ample amount of sound effects that work well with these sweet pieces of candy for your ears.
For me, the best part of this soundtrack is how all of the music is original; it isn’t tied to any established and iconic “Castlevania” tunes of the past, and this is just one of the many ways that “Symphony of the Night” sets itself apart from the pack.
Stunning and elegant graphics capture the true aura of the game despite the fact that notable characters are faceless in appearance, with little detail aside from hair. Of course, the dialogue boxes have a closer view of them, and this faceless thing is but a mere gripe in a gloomy late 18th century world of huge enemy and boss sprites, thunderstorms seen from towering bay windows, and stunning environments, chief of them being a corridor with two displays of the sky, above and below you.
“Symphony of the Night” is a prime example of what has become known as the “Metroidvania” style of games – titles that task you with seeking out items in order to open a new portion of the game while throwing rooms of enemies at you and, this is most important, not tasking you with doing it in any firm linear fashion. While certain rooms could not be opened at first, the fact that there is no specific order in which to achieve success was mind-blowing for the time in this franchise. When you add a compelling storyline and RPG elements, you get a game that, while not embraced at first by the masses, quickly built a cult following that would place it on the top of many fans’ Top 10 lists.
Also keep in mind that this was the first “Castlevania” game to not star a member of the Belmont family. In their place is Alucard, son of Count Dracula, who has some serious decisions to make as he plods along in this huge castle chock full of enjoyable gameplay and replay value. Items help in many forms along the way, as various transformations and skills are obtained to help Alucard in his quest.
As of press time, prices for “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” vary widely, with copies selling from as low as $23 to as high as $85, but you’ll most likely pay anywhere between $40-$60 for a complete copy of the game. The variance in price shows just how much people want this game and will pay whatever they can afford to buy it!
Whether you fall into the camp of those who believe this is the definitive “Castlevania” game or those who prefer the classics, one thing is certain – if you love “Castlevania” games, or even games that fall into that “Metroidvania” style of play, then you owe it to yourself to play “Symphony of the Night.”
Well, that’s another October in the books, which means that I will be here with you for my third year on Saturday! Time sure flies when you’re playing games!
Next month I look at games that I am personally thankful for, so stay tuned and game on!