Konami resurrects the classic Castlevania franchise
Genre: Adventure/ Platform
Konami's Castlevania series is one of the most enduring and expansive in the videogaming market. Appearing first on NES, Castlevania and its vast number of sequels have appeared on virtually every gaming system released since then. Now it has finally made it to PSX, and I must admit that, having played and enjoyed its many predecessors, my anticipation for this all-new 32-bit version was at fever pitch.
For those Trappist monks amongst us who have managed to miss out on the last ten years of videogaming, Castlevania and its sequels are traditional 2D side-scrolling platform arcade adventures that have always followed the same basic premise. And it is this: the player is cast as the hero who s armed with a whip that can be progressively powered up and a variety of extra weapons that are found throughout the game. The objective is simple: battle through a massive, horror-themed gaming environment that s populated by the spawn of the devil s trumpet and find, confront and destroy the final boss to save the day. Simple, straightforward, classic videogaming.
The game series has always been renown for its incredible design, hidden secrets, outstanding visuals and top-quality gameplay, so it was with much anticipation that I loaded this all-new 32-bit version. My first impression was one of immense disappointment. It looks like the same old 2D platform action as before. The graphics are initially similar-looking to SNES and Genesis incarnations of the game, the character animation isn t particularly smooth and 3D is resigned to limited background effects and the odd special effect. Apart from the various PSX arcade compilations out there, games don t look much more retro than this.
But knowing the age-old maxim that it s not how it looks, it s how it plays that matters, I started to play... and played... and played.
The proverb, don t judge a book by its cover has never been truer than with this game: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a classic. Featuring the same type of gameplay and plot premise of previous titles, but taking them to a whole new level of depth, this is an awesome game, deserving a veritable thesaurus of praise for its top-notch platforming action. Its environment is vast, there are an absolutely unbelievable number of weapons available to the player, the bad guys are varied and many and the game features more secrets than the Pentagon.
And once you get over the shock that this is a retro-2D game, you begin to really appreciate the detail and subtleties of the graphics. They re not in-yer-face effects-laden super lens flare 3D eye-candy. Instead they re gothic, atmospheric and, when it comes down to it, perfectly suit the game. The music is brilliant too - sometimes daunting, sometimes rousing and always doing what music should - enhancing the action.
All those things work together to create what is one of the finest 2D platforms game yet seen. It takes up the mantle of 16-bit classics like Super Metroid, Super Mario and - of course - other Castlevania games, and goes beyond the restrictions of cartridge memory to reach new heights of depth and quality gameplay. And if you cherish that over snazzy 3D graphics (and, to be honest, if you don t then you re missing the point of videogaming).