Journey back to 1792
and the Transylvanian countryside of Romania
Nostalgia time, gamers! Today is the 20th (yes, TWENTIETH) anniversary of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Twenty years ago, we assumed the mantle of Alucard, and fought the denizens of a creepy castle, and defeated the likes of Death and Shaft (no, not that one).
While SOTN didn’t do well initially, it quickly became one of the best games of the era, and one of my favorite Castlevania games ever. I mean, think about it: this game had a fantastic not-quite-linear style (which some have come to call “Metroidvania”), RPG elements allowing gamers to boost Alucard’s stats, and a logically-built map. So many aspects of this title have held up so well, and it’s still JUST as fun to play now as it was back in 1997.
When compared to the previous games in the franchise, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night also took a leap forward in its controls. The lackluster jumping & stiff movement from the days of controlling the Belmont clan were gone, this time replaced by a smooth and very responsive flow in controlling Alucard. This was a HUGE thing for Castlevania fans at the time, as a lot of us had become frustrated at how a minimal movement could spell death for us in previous games. Alucard’s new control system made us feel way more in control, and allowed us to focus on actually enjoying the game.
Then, there were the animations. That beautiful 32-bit cape billowing behind Alucard as he walked so determinedly down the candlelit hallways of the castle, and the flow & grace of his sword slashes as they cut through enemy after enemy…ah, good times. I loved the fluttering look as Alucard leapt from platform to platform, as well as the level of detail that went into the character models during in-game conversations. This really was such a gorgeous game for the time, and made very good use of the PlayStation’s power & ability to show off color so well.
On a personal note, this title also heralded some very interesting times in my own life, and left me with one of the funniest quotes of my early 20’s. In fact, I remember coming home one day, to find that my roommate had left me a note on the PlayStation which simply read: “Drac’s a [expletive]. Cool jazz blows dead goats, and I have proof.” Apparently, he had beaten the game before me, and was quite proud of his achievement. I promptly sat down, beat the game that night, and proceeded to show off how much more of it I had gotten done than he had. Yeah, we were all young & full of ourselves once, folks…admit it.
Did the game have its flaws? Sure. Some repetitive backtracking, and a bit of cheesy dialogue was there. In my opinion, however, that’s just a bit of what gave SOTN its charm. It was an overly-dramatic game with a few ‘too-long’ parts to it, but this was at a time when games for the original PlayStation console were really trying to push the limits of what a disc-based console could do. Frankly, I’m glad they did.
Do you remember Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? What are some of your favorite things about it? Let us know in the comments!