Having been a huge fan of the GBA and DS Castlevania games and the Metroidvania genre as a whole, it was criminal that I had never played Symphony of the Night. Unfortunately since SotN formed the foundation for all recent Castlevania games, the game does not feel tremendously different than the other games in the series. But let me make this clear: in no way should that dissuade you from playing this PSone classic.
There is a reason SotN is considered one of the best games of all-time; not only did it define a genre, it is a damn good game. On Retro Encounter I have been traditionally the biggest naysayer when it comes to the games we play, but honestly I don't have any major complaints with Symphony of the Night. Sure, I would have liked the game to be harder and yes, this 18-year-old game isn't in HD (gasp), yet those are nothing more than nitpicky complaints.
Symphony of the Night shines with its tight controls, fun combat and extensive content. Ultimately though, it is the Kojima-worthy opening and inverted castle that transforms my like for this game to outright respect.
Symphony of the Night... what a neat little game! I've admitted to having no prior experience with the Castlevania franchise, since I'm assuming the Lords of Shadow 2 demo doesn't count (because that was a great game, amirite?). Hence, I found myself slightly overwhelmed at the beginning, getting a feel for Alucard's slightly wonky hitbox and trying to reconcile prior experience with action and role-playing games with the 2D side-scroller I was being presented with. But, eventually, something clicked. I couldn't tell you what, but all of a sudden, the curtain was lifted and I was obliterating enemies left and right, taking in the sights and sounds of Dracula's Castle, and rocking out to some truly excellent music. Now I find myself wanting to check out other Metroidvania titles, all thanks to the formative experience I had playing Symphony of the Night for Retro Encounter.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night truly is a special game. From its great soundtrack, enjoyable (but slightly broken) progression system, the castle hiding countless secrets in its nooks and walls, and its beautiful art design, there is so much stored in this title to be loved. Sure it isn't perfect, and the combat can be a turn off to many, but even after a handful of playthroughs over the past few years, it is Symphony of The Night's castle that brings me back, begging to explored again. It is impeccably designed, made magnificent by that beautiful 2D art.
Symphony of the Night is a classic because of its strength in design: The art style gives it a timeless appeal, even as the industry changes and advances, the art design is still striking and a joy to behold. And that castle and its inversion, with all its wall meat and assortment of items to discover, is a must for any retro gamer.
I was fortunate enough to have played many of the previous Castlevania games prior to Symphony of the Night, so I was content with the lore that I brought with me to this game. Sadly, I came late to party, having only played it when it was ported to the PSP within Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. That's okay, because when I finally got a chance to play it, It left a very strong — and positive — impression on me. I enjoyed the RPG elements, the platforming/back dashing tomfoolery, and especially the music composed by Michiru Yamane! Many years later, Symphony still manages to hold on to that charm I was captivated by when I entered Dracula's castle for the first time. I think that I can file this game under the same category I have Final Fantasy Tactics under: mindless entertainment I can return to! ;)