Symphony of the Night is not just hands-down the greatest Castlevania game of all time, but I also consider it one of the top 5 greatest video games of all time. It is not just the original Metroidvania, but it’s the pinnacle of subgenre. Great looking backgrounds and enemies, incredible level design, a large array of interesting locations and a crazy boss for each of them, an amazing soundtrack, and more items than you’ll ever find no matter how many times you play. Seriously, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve beaten this and I’ve still never gotten that damn Crissaegrim (the ultimate weapon in the game, only found through random drop), which angers me to no end, because I let a friend play my copy of this back in high school and he literally found it by accident within minutes. Someday…
People complain about the voice acting, but I love it. It’s cheesy and overdramatic in all the right ways. That opening speech by Dracula is just classic.
I’ve played this so many times back on PlayStation 1 (it’s also the game that made me go out and get a PlayStation in the first place), bought it again when it came out on Xbox 360 and maxed all the achievements, and again when they included it as an unlockable in Dracula X Chronicles for PSP, and AGAIN for Vita (is this the last time? WHO KNOWS?)!
If you still haven’t played this yet, you are doing yourself a great disservice. You don’t need to have played any other games in the series to jump into this one. It’s on just about every system imaginable now so there’s no excuse at all! Just doooooooo it!
And then there was Castlevania Legends, a game that went mostly overlooked because who the hell was still buying new Game Boy games in 1997?
It’s very much like the previous two Game Boy Castlevanias. So much so that it feels a bit repetitive and redundant. They added some new sub-weapons and the musics decent for what it is, that’s about all it has going for it.
It’s not a bad game for what it is, but there’s really nothing memorable about it. Well, wait, there is one thing. The boss health bar is broken and doesn’t ever decrease for any of the boss fights in the game. Hooray!
Castlevania 64 is actually the reason it’s been so long between this and Part III of this series. I knew this one was next in line, but just kept putting it off because I haven’t touched it since it came out and I didn’t have very good memories of it at all.
To be more accurate, I had played the original Castlevania 64, but this time I played the Legacy of Darkness version, which has added new characters with their own campaigns, updated the graphics, and allegedly fixed some problems with the original campaigns. Having finally played it, I can say that it isn’t quite as bad as I remember, but it still has some serious issues, and the “improvements” added in this re-released version are of questionable quality.
The new characters and their campaigns aren’t quite what you would think. The first (and you have to play this one first in this version) is Cornell’s campaign. He’s a guy who can turn into a powerful werewolf, except you’ll quickly find that you can’t really use this form very often because it has no off button, and so it just keeps going on until it drains your entire heart supply. His “new” campaign is also actually just a selection of random levels from the regular campaigns. He’s slightly more powerful than the standard characters, but other than that there’s really nothing new about any of it.
Next up is Henry, who is a knight…with a gun. Henry also only visits the same old levels from the main campaigns, but this time you need to find and rescue 6 hidden children before the time runs out and you lose. Keep in mind that you need to have won with Cornell to start Henry and you can’t play the original 2 main campaigns in this version until you beat Henry’s. Why in the world you would put a weird challenge mode like this as a pre-requisite to the main game and call it an improvement is beyond me.
And then there’s the main campaigns of Reinhardt and Carrie. I notice they removed the stupid motorcycle skeletons from the first boss fights (though you still have to fight them in Cornell’s campaign, so this seems like a pointless change), but I couldn’t tell you what else was different about it. The camera and controls are still every bit as unpleasant as you would expect from an early 3D 3rd person game, and like most other similar games of the era it has a really heavy amount of the thing it’s absolutely worst at, 3D platforming. It’s extremely unforgiving platforming too, with the majority of missed jumps resulting in instant death.
Complicated mazelike levels full of backtracking and puzzles that seem to be aping Resident Evil in many ways (that mansion in the beginning has some really familiar rooms even), yet there’s no map at all.
It still has that weird time system which doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than to annoy you. Occasionally you’ll find a door that can only be opened during either night or day. You can use sun or moon cards to make the time jump to the proper time. These cards are really common, so the whole system seems kind of pointless. There was only one other place that time was a factor, when one character tells you to look for another character in a certain room, which you assume will find you the key to the locked door that has you stuck in the area. As it turns out, this lady will only appear between 3AM and 5:59AM. The sun card moves the clock to 6:00AM. I arrived at around 8AM. I had to sit there doing nothing for 30 minutes until 3AM came. WHAT GREAT GAME DESIGN.
P.S. If you don’t get to the end of the game quickly enough, you can’t fight the final boss or get the good end and the clock in the game only tells you what time of day it is, not how many days its been or anything else that would help you measure how long you’ve taken. I think I remember why I disliked this game now. It has some interesting ideas, but the execution of most of them is just a mess. Don’t touch this one unless you’re feeling masochistic.
Thus ends another chapter of the Castlevania saga. Stay tuned for the next adventure, featuring Chronicles and the beginning of the Game Boy Advance era.