About the Game
SONY PLAYSTATION 1
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a Playstation 1 action/RPG by Konami, released in 1997. It's the direct sequel to Dracula X: Rondo of Blood on the TurboGrafx16-CD. Symphony of the Night steered away the Castlevania series from the typical stage-by-stage platformer to something new and different. Think of it as Metroid meets Final Fantasy; elements of an RPG are incorporated into a style a gameplay where you explore Dracula's castle in an open-ended process. The development of these features can be attributed to Koji Igarashi, the game's director and one of the team's newest members. Igarashi was instrumental in refining the game's control scheme. His primary motivation for the abrupt design change was seeing dozens of Castlevania games in the "used" bargain bin in Japanese video game stores, as linear Castlevania games offered limited replay value after completion. He also established an official Castlevania canon, in an attempt to tie up several loose ends in the series' time line during Symphony of the Night.
In Japan in 1998, Symphony of the Night was ported to the Sega Saturn. This was more of an enhancement-port of the original PlayStation version, rather than just a direct port. It included extra features. They include an expanded weapons and items list and two map areas (four if you count the reversed areas) that are unavailable on any of the other releases. You can also play as Maria or Richter! Unfortunately, this version remained a Japan-only release.
X-BOX LIVE ARCADE
In March 2006, Konami announced an Xbox 360 port of the PlayStation version of the game to be distributed via Xbox Live Arcade. It was the first Xbox Live Arcade title to exceed the 50 MB restriction placed upon Xbox Live Arcade games (The limit has since been increased to 2 GB). The exception was made for Symphony of the Night to "ensure that the gameplay experience is the best it can be". With most Xbox Arcade games, it features Leaderboards that track players progress throughout the castle and features 12 achievements worth 200 points. Click here to view the profile for this release on the Xbox website. And I have all the content of this profile page archived in this zip (5.47 MB).
DRACULA X CHRONICLES
In October 2007, Konami announced a port of Symphony of the Night would be included in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the Sony PlayStation Portable. The English translations outside of the Japanese release features a redone (not quite re-translated) script and new voice acting. The PlayStation Portable version of the game, as an unlockable part of The Dracula X Chronicles, is generally a port of the PlayStation version, but contains some additions and changes. As in the Sega Saturn version, Maria Renard is also a playable character and a boss in the PSP version. In contrast from her Sega Saturn appearance, her gameplay style is closer to her Rondo of Blood counterpart. She uses owls as her primary means of attack and her four animal friends as subweapons. Her sprites are also redrawn, though her original sprites are still used during cutscenes.
You still go through "stages", battling typical Castlevania enemies and bosses along the way. But special items or abilities need to be obtained in order to proceed to new areas. It has everything you'd expect from an action/RPG: level gaining, equip weapons/armor, collect money for a store, HP/MP stats, etc. You often need to backtrack through areas you already walked through in order to travel to other areas or discover secrets you couldn't reach before.
You gain abilities like a double jump and super jump. You gain spells like Hellfire (shoot fireballs) and Soul Steal (steal HP from enemies). You gain the ability to transform into a wolf, mist and bat. Furthermore, you gain abilities for the wolf/mist/bat forms. Some abilities allow you to uncover secrets or proceed further into a stage. For example, the double jump lets you reach high platforms, and the bat's sonar allows you to see in dark areas.
The game takes place during the year 1797, five years after the events of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. The story begins as Richter Belmont defeats Dracula at the ending of the previous game. Four years later, Richter vanishes and is later revealed to be under the control of the dark priest Shaft, who was killed in Chi no Rondo but was revived. Richter claims to be the lord of Castlevania. Castlevania is revealed to be more than a simple castle - it is an entity of Chaos, evidently with some level of consciousness, that continually shifts and changes to confuse trespassers with each different incarnation.
The shift in the balance of good and evil causes the son of Dracula, Alucard, to awaken from his self-induced sleep. Not fully aware of what is happening, he discovers that Castlevania has once again manifested itself and sets out to discover what has transpired while he slept. At the same time, Maria Renard goes to Castlevania to find Richter. Maria and Alucard meet inside the castle and encounter one another throughout the game.
Wow, where should I begin. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night needs no introduction to any Playstation 1 enthusiast. Many consider it to be the #1 game on the Playstation 1, or at least one of the best ones. It's a true masterpiece. Gaming enthusiasts reference it as a standard in quality. Its *excellent* soundtrack is eerie, yet soothing. Adding the RPG element was a FANTASTIC idea. It gave the game a crazy amount of replay value! And at a perfect time too, because the game came out during the rise of horror/sci-fi themed video games. Symphony of the Night is highly entertaining and incredibly fun. I would recommend it to any gaming fan. It's so good that it can still shake a stick at current Castlevania titles on the Nintendo DS! Especially since the series is still mostly 2D and the quality in graphics/animation/gameplay isn't very far from Symphony of the Night.