Developer(s) – Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo & Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya
Publisher(s) – Konami
Director – Toru Hagihara
Producer – Toru Hagihara
Symphony of the Night is often regarded as the commercial and artistic pinnacle of the entire Castlevania series. At the time of its release, 2D gaming was going out of fashion, and 3D gaming was considered the next best thing; the future of the industry. For a lot of people, Symphony of the Night served as a reminder that traditional 2D side scrolling video games can still be played and enjoyed regardless of what style might be the more popular. It also left a lasting legacy behind, as the release of the game prompted the coinage of the term Metroidvania, for the style of play that involves 2D open-word exploration. After finally playing this game, I can say that I haven’t been disappointed, although it did leave me wanting more at the end.
Symphony of the Night also sent out a significant message to do with visuals in video games; that they should be judged not by their level of graphical advancement, but by their artistic merit. And this game certainly delivers on artistic merit. The environments in this game are wonderfully designed and add to the atmosphere very effectively. A lot of gloomy and scary-looking locations such as the library, as well as the outlandish roster of enemies throughout certainly make the game look original as well as excellent in terms of conceptual design. I think the most annoying enemies in the game are the flaming ghosts that make particularly annoying sounds when they die, but that’s not down to visuals at all, but the sound. And the game certainly makes up for that in it’s stellar soundtrack.
As this game coined an extremely popular gaming term, it was always going to have at least some depth to it and I wasn’t disappointed. As I said, it’s rare that I’ve seen this level of freedom in a 2D side scrolling game, it makes me regret that I didn’t try when it first came out. In terms of combat the game is fairly challenging in lieu of the franchise’s tradition, but the true satisfaction to be had is from levelling up the character as the player progresses. It’s that RPG element that the makes the game evermore appealing to me. Although it can seem repetitive at times and that it does get somewhat easier later on, I’d rather have it that way than it be impossibly hard like the original trilogy was.
In terms of controls, I’m happy to say that there are no problems with them. Players should not experience any difficulty with them as far as I’m concerned. This game was released at a time when countless 2D side scrolling games had been released prior, so it was to be expected that there would be no issues with the control scheme, and there aren’t any.
In my opinion, Symphony of the Night doesn’t last anywhere near long enough, and like Batman: Arkham Asylum and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it left me wanting a whole lot more. A first playthrough may take around 15 hours to complete, which to me, for the amount of depth there is in gameplay, is unacceptable. Although that is fairly long for a 2D side scroller, I’m confident that more could’ve been more added to it.
Whilst most entries in the series before focused solely on the Belmont family resolving to defeat Dracula, Symphony of the night follows Dracula’s son, Alucard, who is questing to stop Dracula’s resurrection and finds himself in various different situations throughout Dracula’s castle along the way. It’s a positive departure from what was typically found in previous entries in the series in that the story has a lot more depth to it. The one bad thing I would say about it is that the voice acting is pretty bad in some instances; even in the latest versions of the game, which were re-dubbed by different actors and actresses.
A portion of this game’s staggering level of uniqueness can be found in its conceptual design and in the multitude of different enemies to fight, but of course, the main reason why this game stands out well among other is in it’s gameplay. The reason why it has left behind such a legacy is that its considered its own genre by some; Metroidvania. Although Super Metroid, the other game that this term stems from, came first out of the two, Symphony of the Night in effect kept the 2D side scrolling genre alive and helped to inspire the development of many future games of its kind after it had been abandoned for some time.
To summarize, whilst it doesn’t last anywhere near as long as it should have done in my opinion, Symphony of the Night is most definitely worth playing through at least once or twice. It’s an important piece of gaming history as well as a particularly enjoyable title.