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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Developer: Konami | Publisher: Konami
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/02/97 | Genre: Action/RPG

In this age of video games, developers seem to always make 3d games instead of good, old fashioned 2d games. Although three dimensional games seem to create better environments for gamers to explore, they are still very unpolished and lack the depth of a two dimensional game world. So far during the 32/64 bit console wars Konami has just sat on their franchise Castlevania series. When they first leaked word out of another 2d Castlevania game with Dracula as the main villain, people began to wonder if Konami had lost their magic touch... Not only has Castlevania: Symphony of the Night shown everyone how to make a great 2d Action/RPG game, Konami has basically perfected the genre and has made a strong statement that 2d is not a dead genre of gaming--but shows how poorly most 3d games are designed compared to 2d titles.

The graphics in SOTN are nothing short of breathtaking. The hand-drawn comic style artwork is the most animated 2d Action/RPG I have ever witnessed. Your main character, Alucard, moves with lifelike grace as he walks through the castle of his father Dracula. When Alucard walks, his hair swings back and forth, enemies bob up and down as they scout out for their prey, and the scenery sings out details galore as every inch of the entire game shows greatness in the graphics. While all the above is good, the Playstation is really pushed to the limits in terms of how much animation it can do without slowdown. Sometimes, when your character has a familiar (a type of friendly monster NPC) equipped and a boss is destroyed or lots of enemy monsters are present on the screen, some slowdown will occur that makes movement seem sluggish. Now this slow movement makes you seem as if you are treading water and only lasts a brief few seconds until either the boss you are fighting explodes or when some of the multiple monsters on screen are destroyed. Although it is a bit annoying, it is only a minor flaw due to the limitations of the Playstation system itself.

Next, the music and sound in Castlevania: SOTN are the best ever heard of in a game. Musically, SOTN is the greatest work of video game music ever. Full orchestra ensembles have been used to create a sense of an epic story. Just like Hollywood uses music to capture emotions--so Konami has used it as well. What makes the music even better is the fact Konami didn't take the route other companies tend to follow. That is, make great music--but only about three or four different tracks. Over the course of the game, SOTN has a new music track for each portion of the castle! Even though Konami spent lots of time and resources on the music alone, they did not allow the sound effects to be below par. Splashing water, swinging weapons, voices from the story acting out their respective parts, monsters yelling when they are hit, magic spells that are cast, Alucard moaning when he is hit, and many others show that when it comes to sound effects, Konami doesn't mess around!

After being wowed by the spectacular visuals and the pleasing music and sound effects, I was amazed at the depth of SOTN! Not since Final Fantasy 3 have I found a game that is so huge with so many things to do! By placing an experience point level into the game, random items that come from killing enemies, countless secrets, a huge map to explore, various game endings, totally non-linear game play, the best bosses ever encountered, a NPC Familiar system that gains levels with you, and a story that, while not the greatest, is interesting enough to play through countless times. Not only that, but Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the feel of a great game. You know the feeling you get when you pick up such classics as: Legend of Zelda 1, Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers 3, Mario 64, Super Mario Kart, Final Fantasy 2, Final Fantasy 3, Doom, and countless others? SOTN itself contains this feeling you get when you pick it up and play. A feeling of being in a new world that is easy to pick up--yet hard to put down. This feeling along with the depth of the title really promote SOTN as one of the greatest titles of all time!

Finally the challenge of Symphony of the Night coupled with a high replay value round out this awesome title! The latest chapter of Castlevania has one main thing in common with its predecessors: challenging game play. SOTN can and will most of the time leave you frustrated and angry due to the difficulty. While some may think it was wrong for Konami to create such a long, challenging quest, they were quite smart. The fun in the game is overcoming the very large challenge. Destroying the boss, killing the monsters that surround you, and outsmarting your environments by using new body forms you acquire (wolf, mist, and bat). When you add a replay value such as the one the newest Castlevania game has, you have a masterful mix of challenge, fun, and desire to replay it all again.

In conclusion, you can see I thoroughly enjoy Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While I have never been a very big fan of past Konami or Castlevania games, (with the exception of Dracula X for the PC Engine and Castlevania 2 on the NES) I completely and totally recommend this game to anyone who loves Action or Role Playing Games. SOTN, in my humble opinion, will go down as not only the best game to grace the Sony Playstation thus far--but also one of the greatest games ever made. Next time someone tells you two dimensional gaming is dead, load up Castlevania: Symphony of the Night! It looks like 2d gaming is here to stay!

By Kaleb Rutherford - 09/15/00
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Screenshots for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

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