Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Fast-paced, vampire hunting action.
Theophilus - Guest Reviewer
Content at a glance:

<p><b>Violence:</b> Mild blood is shown in most cases when damage is given or received; more is usually shown when damage is received or when the player dies. Some enemies decapitate before dying. Two different kinds of zombies decapitate in a gruesome way; one zombie spurts blood and yells as it splits in half, the other continues to fight while being decapitated into two halves.</p> <p><b>Adult content:</b> Some enemy monsters are exposed; there is one that is half monster/half woman who is bare-breasted. Other suggestive monsters include a succubus and harpies. As in <em>Order of Ecclesia</em> the detail is lacking in their physical features and the careful positioning of limbs makes them less revealing.</p> <p><b>Spiritual Content</b> : A lot of demonic, occult, pagan, and other references are included. They are there in most cases to compliment the setting of the game (many are derived from Dracula myths); occult references are included primarily as some occult serve Dracula and are responsible with him being raised from the dead. Witches, monsters, and demons are fought while magic (and magical items) are sometimes used. Some boss enemies may be disturbing, including Beezelbub, Granfalloon (or Legion), etc. Weapons, items, and sub-weapons include a pentagram, holy water, holy rod, a cross, etc. It is up to the player to choose which of these will be used; you are not forced to use any of them. The player’s character (Alucard) is a vampire that has to sleep in a coffin to save the game and/or regain health. Some spells and weapons allow Alucard to regain health while damaging the enemy. He may also acquire familiars over the course of the game including a fairy, a mischievous demon, a flaming skull, a bat, and a sword. Which familiar is used (if any at all) is determined by the player. </p>

Please note- some of the information for this review has been obtained from the following websites:

http://castlevania.wikia.com/wiki/Alucard_Tepes

Also, thanks to all who commented on my previous review of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I was inspired to provide a revision of my review after considering your comments and upon reading Michael Caleb Liam Garrett’s review of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. Also, the new design for reviews on G2G has made it important for me to emphasize certain things in my reviews that I otherwise may have downplayed before. Finally, my opinion on certain things in this game has changed upon playing it again with more consideration of the spiritual content of the game. In other words, I believe this review to be more accurate and of higher quality than my previous review, and I owe many of you thanks for your contribution to making it better. Enjoy!

castlevania-sof-3.jpg

Since the 8-bit NES days there has been one series that players could look to for some fast-paced, vampire hunting action: Castlevania. Each Castlevania game has had its own share of ups and downs in terms of gameplay but among all of them there is one that is generally agreed upon as being not only one of the best of the series but also one of the best games ever made. That game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Each Castlevania game has usually been linked to the other not only in terms of gameplay mechanics (like the classic weapons and sub-weapons that have become a staple of the series) but also story. Symphony of the Night allows players to play the entire game as Alucard- a good vampire character first introduced in Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse for the NES. Also a nice feature introduced in SOTN is its non-linear mode of exploration, following the example of the 2D Metroid games in terms of overall 2D level design. This makes the game quite fun for many new and old Castlevania fans who especially like the adventuring aspect of these games.

There are many other positive changes that Symphony of the Night brought to the series for the first time. However, that is not to say that the overall content, setting, and story of the series have become any lighter in or because of it.

Story:

(Note: This game has multiple story endings)

You play the game as Alucard, a vampire born of the unnatural union between a human woman and Dracula. Alucard’s past is a little vague but the important thing to note is that he has become a warrior for the forces of good over time. It may have something to do with one of the Belmonts releasing a curse on him in Castlevania 3; I’m not sure.

 **************Spoiler Beginning*************************

What the game does make clear though is that he is fighting for good according to the influence of his good mother, who died at the hands of humans who mistook her for a witch.  When his mother died she encouraged Alucard to keep on protecting humans against Dracula.

**************Spoiler End*************************

Apparently his new name “Alucard”- a reversal of the spelling of Dracula- is supposed to show his opposition to Dracula. His original name was apparently Adrian Farenheights Tepes.

In general (and according the Castlevania games) when Dracula is risen from the grave it is usually up to a whip-toting member of the Belmont clan to go out and slay him and his minions. In Symphony of the Night Dracula gets risen from the grave (again) but instead of having a Belmont go out to slay him again Richter Belmont goes missing and its up to Alucard to rise from a long slumber in his coffin in order to ensure that Dracula and his forces are stopped.

castlevania-sof-2.jpg

Gameplay:

Initially you play as Richter Belmont who kills Dracula in some sort of ported version of an older Castlevania game. You start at the end of that game where all you do is fight Dracula. After doing that you get the details about Dracula being resurrected again and Richter’s disappearance, and then you assume the role of Alucard.

The game plays very well and is easy to get into due to relatively simple controls and 2D side-scrolling gameplay. Alucard gains more abilities through time which means more strategies to consider. However it’s never as difficult as the older, NES Castlevania games. In fact, with the new save feature, level design, and abilities that Alucard can aquire over the course of the game it can get to be somewhat easy after a while.

Alucard levels up, upgrades his weapons (he can have a single weapon/shield/item in each hand or use a two-handed weapon), learns spells, transformations, and vampire techniques, gets money, and purchases items and strategies. However, as RPGish as this sounds the gameplay is also real-time. You have to think fast and play strategically in most cases to succeed. It’s challenging at times yet also quite fun and addicting.

There’s also quite a bit of backtracking and running around trying to find out where things are but considering the great quality of the graphics, sound, and gameplay itself it’s hardly troublesome.

Graphics:

The graphics for this game, even by today’s standards, are quite good. The art direction is very nice and supportive of the gothic setting of the game. Alucard is well animated and the enemies you fight are animated well too.

Sound:

The sound effects are good and the music is outstanding. The voice acting though is often laughable, especially the librarian who sells you goods. It is a minor fault though when you consider the overall aesthetic quality of the game.

Violence:

Some of the death animations are exaggerated. One of the monsters bends in half, yells, turns into a flame and disappears. This is kind of gory but considering the perspective it doesn’t appear all that detailed. Some of the monsters bleed when attacked. When Alucard learns some spell like “Dark Metamorphosis” it allows him to gain health by attacking blood-letting monsters, which adds to the strategy of the game. There’s no biting or anything like that on your character’s part. Some of your enemies will use brutal measures to attack you. In that case you’re guy will let out some blood if he is unable to evade the attack.

castlevania-sof-4.jpg

Adult Content:

Some enemy monsters are exposed; there’s one that is a half monster/half woman who is bare-breasted. Other suggestive monsters include a succubus and harpies. As in Order of Ecclesia the detail is lacking in their physical features and the careful positioning of limbs makes them less revealing.

Other Offensive/Commendable Material:

There’s some occult things in the game which can be used against you or to aid you. You can have a familiar like a flaming skull that helps you out. You fight demons and witches, amongst other monsters. There’s quite a bit of this stuff. There’s also Christian symbols and objects like holy water, crosses, an item called “Joseph’s cloak” (which changes to the color of your liking), an area that resembles a Chapel, a confessional room, etc. I personally wasn’t that offended by these references but some might be. While I was playing the game I didn’t believe in most cases that the references were meant to be taken seriously but were there to compliment the story and setting of the game. In many cases the game’s references to other things (whether good or bad) are brought in to provide humor (sometimes dark humor) and light-heartedness with the end result of making the game less serious then it may appear to be. However it still was a little disturbing to me at times when I played through it again and I thought it could have gone without some of its dark imagery and references.

Overall:

I would say that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, minus its objectionable elements, is a good game. However I can’t now recommend it to every Christian gamer as I have in the past. Some may find the game too dark and disturbing, and reasonably so. I enjoyed it for its classic 2D gameplay, cool features, its connection to the classic Castlevania series, and its good graphics and excellent orchestrated music. But I also found it disturbing and dark at some times. I would say though that if you’re able to look past these issues you should be able to find an ultimately good-natured game that provides good gameplay and great replay value.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

About this game