Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - A Miserable Pile of AWESOME!!!


Castlevania, for us oldschool gamers, was a serious victory for gamers and horror fans alike! Who wouldn't love to go through Dracula's castle, defeat horrific creatures and take on demons of a terrifying nature? It had a successful run on the original Nintendo system and has gone into the 16-bit era nearly unscathed. It did not have a successful 3D run, but that's further into the future than we're going to be going. No, instead, we're talking about the game that brought together both 2D and 3D elements into one of the pinnacle games of the genre and the franchise. This is the game that many call the greatest platformer right alongside Super Metroid, hence the mixing title "Metroidvania". Fans will never let this title go, and after playing it for about ten or eleven hours, it is clear to see why. 

The problem is that many perceive the Sega Saturn version of Symphony of the Night (Or Dracula X: Nocturn in the Moonlight in Japan) to be the lesser version of this game, add in the fact that it never released in America an you can see why this title never really hit as hard as the PSX version, which became a landmark title and remains a legend in its own right. As someone who has played both versions of this game, I am here to tell you, loosen up! Yeah, there are some noticeable differences but there is also so much to love about the Sega Saturn title, namely that they put in a ton of extra features, including characters that were unlockable for the Playstation port that are given to you from the beginning. 

Now, there is a catch when it comes to these two new characters. I never played as Richter, but I did play a full run with Maria and, wow, the differences are quite stark. First off, there is no story for her. There is only story for Alucard, the main protagonist. Maria also makes the game ridiculously easier. Her range attack added with the items you can use for weapons makes her an absolute powerhouse of a character and gives her some abilities that almost break the game, almost. It's still got its sections that make it very challenging, even with a runthrough with Maria. 

I am not going to go into the differences between the two systems. Sure, the graphics aren't as good and the level design is a bit more wonky but oh well! It's still a fantastic time! The gameplay, the controls, the graphics and the adventurous journey elements are all addicting to the gamer brain. This will make you want to play the game for hours upon hours on end. 

The real strength in this game lies in its boss battles. They are seriously some of the most fun and frequent moments of joy in this entire game. There are large monsters that you would struggle to identify, even when you know monster lore, some of them are just bizarre. That's a good thing! These look so outlandish and otherworldly that you find nothing but joy in bringing them down because you'd be terrified of them in real life. The character designs are outlandish and the satisfation in bringing them down still gives you that wonderful blast of brain endorphines you crave when you play a title such as this!

But let's be fair here, it's still a better game when you play with Alucard, rather than the other two extra characters. Without the story and without the added challenge of leveling up your abilities, it does take away from the experience as a whole. Yes, if you don't speak/read Japanese, you can't really get that story's full effect, but there are plenty of ways around that. 

Now, there are some noticeable differences in the Saturn port that are not so great. The Cursed Prison portion with all of the ghosts and the floating blue flames got more than a little frustrating. Then there are the framerate drops which, yes, are a bit of a nuisance. I've also heard that the loadtimes are more frequent, but that never bothered me to begin with. When you die, you don't have to wait through the Game Over screen, thankfully, and you can load your save state in a quick fashion. 

Let's be honest, was this really a BAD port of Symphony of the Night? I really do not think so. It may not be quite as good as the Playstation port, because it's rumored the Konami rushed through its production, only to release it exclusively in Japan. It has its faults, but if that's what you're thinking about as you run and slice down skeletons, zombies and ghosts, then you're missing the point. 

No comments: