|XBLA "Box Art"|
Castlevania is one of the oldest series of games that’s still being made today, with the latest game Lords of Shadow having come out a few years ago and a sequel to it – the ingeniously named Lords of Shadow 2 – coming out next year. The original Castlevania was, to put it simply, hard. But then a lot of Nintendo games were back in the day to extend their lastability, whether we liked it or not. Now, I personally wasn’t born early enough to play the original Castlevania when it had first come out in the late Eighties, but I have played the original and Simon’s Quest on ROMs.
And before I go too much further into the review, I’m not a horrendous fan of either of them. Don’t get me wrong, I like them both in their own ways (the original more than Quest), but I’m barely past twenty and I’d like to keep all my hair in my head to a ripe old age. And so I naturally jumped for this game when it came out on the Xbox Live Arcade, and with Halloween right around the corner, I figured it might just be time to take a trip into Dracula’s castle one more time.
The story picks up with Richter “Die Monster! You Don’t Belong In This World” Belmont, a descendent of Simon and Trevor Belmont, learning of Dracula being resurrected once more by the evil priest Shaft (you’re damn right). For the prologue level of the game you control Richter with the traditional Castlevania whip and trusty secondary weapons at your side and you battle Dracula and defeat him. Really, a rather short game, though kind of enjoyable and even in its short time…
…and then awesome ensued.
I was introduced to Alucard, the son of Dracula himself, who decided to come to his father’s castle and put an end to Dracula’s reign of terror once and for all (until the next game). Instead of a whip, Alucard wields a kickass sword and just tears his way through his old man’s front door and starts taking apart the legions of the damned like a hurricane of complete and utter badass…only to run into Death who takes all his equipment and scatters it to the four winds. Alucard’s awesome is not at all diminished though as, awesome equipment or not, he remains focused upon his task to take down whatever the malignant force that has taken over the Castle.
One criticism I will give for this game is that the combat can get very repetitive very quickly. Unlike the old games where non-boss enemies would take a few hits before they died, Symphony runs on a damage system. This doesn’t become too much of a problem until later, where enemies will take less damage and subsequently more and more hits in order to bring them down. When I have an Infinity Sword +1, things should not take upwards of nine to ten hits to kill.
And, in a contrast to the Belmont family’s style of combat – e.g. the whip – Alucard has a limited range with his sword, and so it requires you to get in close to hit anything. This, largely due to the aforementioned enemy placement and movement, can be quite the hair-puller in some situations. Mind you, this isn’t bad per se…most of the time, at least. You can’t just brute force your way through the game, and you really have to think about how you’re going to approach your enemies and take them out in some places.
Another thing I will say is that the music is the stuff of awesome, every single track was memorable from the moment I first set foot into Dracula’s Castle. It really made the atmosphere at times when the creepiness needed to be turned up and when it wasn’t needed, it was all still very memorable and made the experience all the more awesome for it. Even the ambient music roaming around Dracula’s Castle was nice and memorable almost everywhere.
Top tip for playing this game: get a walkthrough and stick to it. I had the fortune of having the internet and thus such a walkthrough was available to me, but I really want to give credit where it’s due to people who played this back when it first came out and the internet was a not so widely available thing, so walkthroughs weren’t exactly just floating around. Some things are self-explanatory, but certain things in the game (such as the various power ups you get throughout the game) give you no indication of how or where to put them to use. So it takes a bit of running around and experimenting with, something that you don’t see very often in modern games.
So, does this game get a recommendation? You bet. True, the combat can get very tedious at times and the roaming around to find everything you need and how to use it can be the cause of many a hair-puller, but in the end, it is a very fun game that’s not dragged down by those shortcomings. So, have fun storming the castle!
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is now available for download from the Xbox Live Arcade.
This review is based on...well, the Xbox version.