GameSpite Quarterly 2, #10: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

So I managed to upload GameSpite Quarterly 3 last night. A proof copy will hopefully be in my hands by the end of next week, with orders open the following week. I’m going to hold off on showing the cover until I’ve seen it in-hand — I like the concept, but don’t know how well it’s going to translate into an actual finished product. I suppose we shall see. Meanwhile, back in issue two….

10. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
This is probably the last time I’ll ever need to write about Symphony of the Night: My definitive statement, in much the way Symphony is the definitive Castlevania experience (for me). The article is about 40% personal experience, 40% research, and 20% speculation — though it seems my speculation was even more dead-on than I originally realized. Anyway, I love this game. The end.

30 thoughts on “GameSpite Quarterly 2, #10: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

  1. Great article, it really makes me want to play the game. I’ve played almost all the main Castlevania games except this one, now I know that when I do play it I’ve saved the best for last.

  2. It’s funny, I’ve been replaying this game and just got to the upsidedown castle. It truly is a masterpiece.

  3. You do know that you’re the best gaming journalist around, don’t you? You’re the Ebert or Azerad of this craft, seriously – stuff like this just proves it.

  4. Interestingly enough, this is one of those old games for the Playstation that I’ve actually completed (I didn’t have a Sony console to play on until sometime in the last few years, and I’ve bought a few PS1 games to eventually play). I’d completed pretty much all of the GBA and DS versions of Castlevania beforehand, too.

    The game was alright.

  5. This is the only Castlevania game I’ve played to date – and it sounds like I picked a winner. You didn’t really say anything about the music, but SotN is on the very short list of games I enjoy listening to. Wish I had a copy so I could play it again.

  6. Tears of joy, or…?

    Something like that. The game is beautiful in every way—too weird to live, too rare to die.

  7. I downloaded SOTN from PSN and started playing it (for the first time) 2 weeks ago after hearing how awesome it was on an old Retronauts podcast. It really is a great game for all of subtle the reasons that you pointed out in this extremely well thought out write-up. I agree with all of the other posters – this is exactly the reason I visit GameSpite daily.

  8. Absolutely spectacular game. I enjoy the recent entries as well, but this game is my second-favorite of all-time, succumbing only to the greatness of Chrono Trigger. And if you ask me on the right day, I might even transpose the two.

    Also, there’s a retranslation available, so it’s a good excuse to play through the game again. I know I used it as such.

  9. I find it odd that people need to buy this game to play it. I own like 4 copies (XBLA, PSP extra on Dracula X Chronicles and at least one or two black disks somewhere)…

    I do wish there were a less self-gimping option to make the Alacard play harder, though. Just something as simple as a name entry to drop all your weapon damage bonuses a bit and lock out level ups. You can’t really enjoy a good challenge and at the same time the great depth of the game, and that’s a shame.

  10. Great article Parish. It makes me want to buy the game for a third time (PSOne, XBLA and now PSN) so I can play it on my PSP.

    I think that’s a good sign of a well made game.

  11. What was your final verdict on how to handle the additional content? Two volumes or was half the content removed?

  12. Personal anecdote: I actually played Dawn of Sorrow first, which I loved. Later I played SOTN; throughout my playthrough, I kept thinking “Man, this is great and all, but I do think I prefer Dawn of Sorrow.”

    Then I got to the Reverse Castle. And, well, SOTN took its rightful place at number one in my book.

    Oh, and the music is fantastic.

    Dawn of Sorrow is pretty good too, though! One of the better games on the DS.

  13. Definitely agreed on the details and references to past games. The other things, not quite as much.

  14. Symphony of the Night: Okay, but overrated. The reverse castle is terribly designed, and if anything like it came out these days it would rightly be lambasted. But since it’s the focus of nostalgia for every single Castlevania fan, we get articles like this instead.

    Basically what I’m saying is that SotN is the FFVII of Castlevania, except it’s less cool to hate.

  15. I didn’t play Symphony until 2005, after I already had almost all the other games in the series under my belt, and it’s still obvious to me that it’s the best one. Nostalgia doesn’t enter into it at all.

  16. I guess it’s one of the more controversial things amongst diehard Castlevania fans. Though I would liken Symphony to Zelda: LttP more than I would FF7. Still great, yet eclipsed by various following games.

    And of course the best summation of the series for me has been Rondo of Blood.

  17. Great read Mr. Parish! This has been at the top of my all time favorite games list for a long time. You’ve nailed pretty much every reason why that is.

    @Destil: You don’t need to equip items… you can punch with Alucard. :)

  18. Nice article!

    i always believed IGA was the responsible for the stagnantment of the series, but it seems Konami, putting someone like him on charge, is pretty much the real killer of the series…

    is anybody else thrilled with Lord of Shadows?
    I hope Kojima would read your article Parish :)

  19. I wouldn’t call IGA being in charge of the Castlevania series a cause of stagnation so much as I would call it the point where it stopped changing, for the most part. Which doesn’t mean subsequent entries didn’t evolve for the better.

    I mean, it’s not like there weren’t already people who caught on to IGA being part of SotN midway through. And it’s those people who really love to rag on the latest entries it seems.

  20. This is the first game I remember farming for something. Sure, I’d level-grinded in my console RPG’s before, but I was going to get that runesword, damnit, no matter how many times I had to kill that dodo.

  21. This really is a game that gets better with age, as I discovered on a recent play through. I had been getting burnt out by the various later Metroidvania games, and I was wondering is SotN was really as good as everyone said it was (since I had only played through it once several years ago). I was absolutely floored as a rediscovered it was really that good.

    An added bonus was that I had played Rondo a bunch shortly before it, so I could recognize all the specific callbacks to that game (one of my favortie moments was the slow realization that the clocktower stage was decrepit version of the one from Rondo, and you could even visit Annette’s cell and find food in the same places).

    Still I do think the Inverted Castle is much weaker compared to the first half of the game. It’s cool to fight the original Castlevania bosses, but most of them are much less interesting to fight then the earlier bosses (compare Orlax to Ramses II in the inverted area). Also the number of unique BGMs takes a nosedive for some reason, with the main one getting a little grating after a while.

    While the later games by IGA get a lot of flak, I have to admit part of it is understandable because they really aren’t quite as good or fresh feeling as SotN. Some of them do come close, but even Dawn of Ecclesia felt a little phoned in at times. So while SotN may not be absolutely perfect, I feel it has yet to be truly surpassed.

  22. Ecclesia felt a little phoned in at times? You’re being too generous. For my money, the only Castlevania games that have come close to SotN are the two Sorrow games: Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow. Both are quite excellent, though I can forgive someone who does not like them as much since their “gotta catch ’em all” feel to souls isn’t for everyone.

  23. Later Metroidvanias beginning with Aria streamlined the castle design and upped the number of warp points, reducing the amount of backtracking, the important of which cannot be understated, since even at the point of my highest regard for the game, I got bored at times with those moments in SotN, and to this day I’d rather replay the Sorrows or OoE. The latter may have been phoned in at certain places, but the combat is the best of any of the Metroidvania entries, and almost makes up for the lack of old-school Castlevania. And the Training Hall? Pure concentrated awesome.

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