Sunday 2 August 2009

Battle of Castlevania

Over the last few months I've finally been able to spend some serious quality time with both the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation versions of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The original game was released in 1997 for the Sony Playstation, and then released in 1998 for the Sega Saturn, only in Japan as Akumajo Dracula X: Gekka no Yasoukyoku. I first bought the Sega Saturn version in February of this year, but since I had never played the game before, I had a fair amount of trouble navigating the item menus (everything is in Japanese). I could have downloaded the X-Box live version to get the english language game, but I decided to look for the original Playstation version on Ebay. About 1 month later I scored a very reasonably priced "greatest hits" version of the game, and started playing through that. I still haven't beaten the game, but I know it well enough now that I can go back to the Saturn version and now have no trouble navigating the item/spell menus etc. I've read quite a bit about this game on discussion boards and other web sites, and there is quite a bit of back and forth as to which version of the game is better, Sega Saturn or Playstation. I thought that it would be fun to compare the two, and let every one know at the SJY which version I like better. So let's get started shall we....

Cover Art: The Playstation version has a picture of Dracula's castle, whilst the Saturn version has a really nice hand drawn picture of some of the game's characters. Winner - Sega Saturn

Graphics: The Sega Saturn is supposedly the better of the two systems when it comes to 2D games, so why are the graphics of the Playstation version better? Overall the games look very similar, but the Playstation has better partical & transparency effects, and does not have any slow down. I'm not gonna lie, the Saturn version is plagued with slow down. Why this game did not use the 4Meg RAM cart I will never know. All of the other graphics, i.e. bad guys, level backgrounds, magic, looks nice on both systems. The FMV in the Playstation version looks much crisper than on the Saturn. And don't get me wrong, the Saturn version still looks great, but just not quite as nice as the Playstation.
Winner - Playstation

Gameplay: Both versions play awesome. With respect to control etc, both versions are very similar, and neither system has an advantage. The Saturn version has some extra areas to explore, additional bad guys, and allows for more playable characters from the beginning of the game. The Playstation version makes the game map accessible during game play, whilst the Saturn version makes the player enter the item menu, and then load the map. Since this game requires a lot of map checking, the advantage definitely goes to the Playstation here. The Saturn version also takes a lot longer to load between different areas, and menus.
Winner - Tie

Sound: Again, both versions are very similar. I don't really have a great TV either, so it's hard to compare the detail in the level music or sound effects. The voice acting in the Playstation version is pretty bad, and since the Saturn version is Japanese, it's hard for me to tell if it's cheesy or not.
Winner - Tie

Overall Winner: Playstation Version

Sad but true, even with the extras, the Saturn version does not stand up to the Playstation. The main reasons the Playstation version is better is 1) no visible slow down; 2) slightly better graphics; 3) more accessible game map; and 4) shorter load times. Both versions are awesome, and I'm really fortunate to own them both, but I'll be playing the Playstion version more often. If the RAM expansion had been implemented on the Saturn release I think it would have been a whole other story, but sadly, that's not the case. If you have a PS1/2/3 , XBox 360 , or a Saturn that can play imports, you should definitely pick up this title. No matter what system you play it on, it's one of the best, if not the best, 2D platformer out there.


Ujn Hunter said...

In all fairness you should be comparing the Japanese PS1 cover to the Japanese Saturn cover.

Because the US cover is horrendous. So in reality your not saying the Saturn cover is better... your saying that Japanese cover is better than the US cover.

I agree the winner is the Playstation overall. This is one of my all time favorite games. The Xbox Live Arcade port & PSP ports are both based on the Playstation version. And are both recommended as well.

The Plushiest said...

You're right, the Japanese PS1 cover is the same style of hand drawn art as the Saturn, and it is not a fair to compare both those versions....the US cover is really bad though!

I do own the PSP version from "The Dracula X Chronicles", and it is great to have on the road. It's too bad that they didn't recode the game to use the entire screen of the PSP, and that you have to find a special item while playing Rondo of Blood to unlock the game.

NebachadnezzaR said...

That's a damn fine article you got there! Seriously, I love this kind of articles because when searching for multi-platform retro games a lot of the times I got access to two or more consoles and I never know which version is the best.

Castlevania was one such title, actually. Haven't gotten around to play it yet, but I had thought about it already, about which version to get. I was already keen on the playstation because of the obvious fact that it's in english, but it's always hard to say no to a Saturn game.

Now I'm definitely going to settle for the PS version, both my time and money are far too scarce to play both or just the inferior version, even with a couple of novelties such as the extra areas.

Thanks plushiest! :D

Tom Charnock said...

Interesting comparison there. I played the PAL version of Symphony of the Night on the PS1 and had great fun with it. I would have expected the Saturn version to be superior considering it's 2D powerhouse status. Top article.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that this website isn't too Saturn biased. Great job.