Expanded Memory: Castlevania Symphony of the night

By: Jason Bryant

Nostalgia

In 1997 when Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SotN) was released, I didn’t own a Playstation.  I rectified this by getting a Playstation 2 in college.  I have fond memories of my friend Ben bringing the game over in 2002 and watching while I played through it for the first time.  By then, I had gone through Super Metroid several times, so I was familiar with the Castleroids (or “Metroidvania” if you prefer) genre.  But SotN took it to whole new levels.  After exploring for what seemed like forever and finally making it to Dracula’s keep, I defeated Richter and Ben exclaimed “Congratulations.  You just got the worst ending.” 

This blew my mind and stands out to this day as my key memory of that play-through.  I thought I had been everywhere in this sprawling castle, but there was a puzzle that I had missed and wasn’t even expecting.  After Ben dropped some heavy-handed hints, I finally figured out the puzzle and discovered one of the greatest twists in video games: THERE WAS A WHOLE SECOND CASTLE TO EXPLORE! I went through this castle as well and finally experienced the true ending.  Since then I’ve played SotN several times and I always find something new or some item I missed previously.  

Present Day Replay

For this Expanded Memory replay, I played SotN on the Playstation 4.  It is part of Castlevania: Requiem, along with Rondo of Blood, its predecessor.  Based on the PSP game, Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, this version uses a different script and voice acting than the original, something that can take some getting used to.  Gone are many of the mistranslations and dialog quirks, which is unfortunate from a nostalgia perspective.  The graphics have been smoothed out and the game is as beautiful as ever.  The gameplay hasn’t been touched and the muscle memory for things like back dash cancelling (quickly alternating the back dash and dodge buttons for faster movement speed – although backwards) and the gravity boots quickly comes back. 

The original game’s difficulty is maintained too.  There are no automatic saves or health recovery, so if one isn’t careful and saving regularly, an unexpected death can lead to a lot of replaying the same area again.  I did notice a few slowdowns when saving and loading new areas, though these too were present in the original.  The addition of achievements call out what were once urban legends and rumors from the time when GameFAQs was the only resource for walkthroughs (Did you know that if you revisit a certain room several times, you can watch the entire life cycle of a family of birds?).  I did my best to 100% this play through.  I explored the castle to 200.6% completion and in doing so found several rooms and items I had no idea about from previous play-throughs.  I grinded $2000 money bags for an hour to afford the ridiculously expensive duplicator item.  And I beat the game’s super boss, Galamoth (though I did still cheese him with the game-breaking Shield Rod / Alucard’s Sword combo). 

The only part of the game I didn’t fully explore is the more difficult Richter Mode, where you play through the entire castle as Richter Belmont, complete with limited health and powers and without the ability to use items or level up your stats.  I made it 25% through the first castle, got frustrated at dying over and over, and quit. Overall, however, this game remains a joy to play even 23 years after its initial release and after several play-throughs!

Going Forward

SotN has appeared on several consoles since its initial release.  Much of its charm is preserved with each iteration.  I’m not a fan of the retranslation and new voice cast, but that is because of 18 years of nostalgia biasing my judgement.  If the game is released again in the future, an option to pick which version of the script and voice acting is used would be my one suggestion for improvement.  Sometimes a vampire hunter just wants to hear that mankind is nothing but a miserable little pile of secrets…But enough talk.  Have at you!

If you enjoy Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you might like these other great Castleroids:

Hollow Knight

Timespinner

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night


You can play along with Jason as he revisits his favorite retro games by joining our Mega Dads Discord channel and visiting the “Expanded Memory” Channel! bit.ly/MegaDadsDiscord

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