Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is quickly becoming one of the games that that I play on an annual basis along with Final Fantasy IX.  While it’s an older title, there’s something that’s always satisfying about the experience that entries in the series prior or subsequent that just wasn’t the same for me.  Perhaps future entries (of the 2D variety), having realized the success of Symphony of the Night, became too focused on that success and tried to tweak the formula without entirely understanding it.  I’d wonder if maybe I just felt nostalgic for a game from two generations earlier, but I only played it to completion after the PSP edition of Dracula X Chronicles was released.  I completed it once more this past summer, and then made it about half way through the game as Richter.  If I had to guess what makes the game so memorable, I would say that it would be for the same reason that’s made Bioshock so memorable (even if I didn’t quite care for it): both games had great worlds and atmospheres which speak to the player by virtue of them just being there.  Final Fantasy IX is much the same way, the scale and richness of these worlds make them fun places to just be in.  Bearing that in mind, Dracula’s Castle in Symphony of the Night is like running through a series of haunted houses and collecting all sorts of old monster movies.

The gameplay isn’t perfect (nor is the voice acting) but that doesn’t get in the way of finding different ways to traverse the castle and unlock its secrets, all the while enjoying some great music and art.  Furthermore, I can hardly think of a platform that the game isn’t available on.  It feels like a natural fit on the PSP, but I would have a hard time envisioning it on iOS or Android.  It’s a game that I don’t hesitate to pick up for multiple platforms either.  Just this past week, I bought it once more on XBLA while it was at half price, and while I didn’t complete SotN until I owned a handheld edition of the game, I still had it sitting on my shelf for years prior.  Dracula’s Castle is a big playground for the game’s verbs, for which there are plenty to be mixed and matched throughout the normal and inverted castles.  If you haven’t played through it before, Halloween is the perfect season to pick it up and give it a go.  It’s a game that’s retained its entertainment value over the years and demonstrates the value of building an enjoyable game world, first and foremost.

What? Are we playing jeopardy here, or something?


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