Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

2294_frontThis is one of the games that made my childhood. I loved the Castlevania series, even if it was just too difficult. The first Castlevania, for the NES, was a source of perpetual frustration – I can’t count how many times i made it to Frankenstein before getting killed over and over again. Castlevania II: Belmont’s Quest was a funny RPG and I have some vague memories of getting to the end of it with the help of a strategy guide. Castlevanis III was a milestone with new characters, an assortment of possible paths to complete the game, and deployability. Castlevania IV, for the SNES, was a graphical update – but never really sang with me.

The next game – for me anyway – was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and I remember it knocking my socks off. (There were other games, but I didn’t have a Genesis and I didn’t live in Japan.)

This was the game that redefined Castlevania. Taking the best elements of the RPG Castlevania II with the split paths of Castlevania III and adding a very healthy dose of Super Metroid, the game was immersive and insane. I remember the castle seeming huge, the “surprise” reveal of a second, inverted, castle is one of my strongest memories from video games of that era.

How does it hold up while replaying it today? Fairly well, actually.

I had forgotten how difficult the game actually was. There are almost no clues to tell you where to go; you just randomly explore. I pity you if you wander into a boss room without finding the closest save room! Eventually, you can discover a shop and purchase a map, but even with that there is a seemingly infinite amount of exploration to do with just a tad of repeating yourself as you try and open up new areas that you couldn’t get to on the first time around.

The voice acting is… poor. The translation is… poor. The random “polygon” effects that are scattered around are more of a distraction (“Look what we can do!”), but somehow overall it just comes together.

But all that said, the game holds up. It’s still insanely fun. And as I sit here and stare at the “Game Over” screen (again), I want to pick the controller back up. If that doesn’t say “classic”, I don’t know what does.

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