|System: X360 (Xbox Live Marketplace)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 21, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a classic 2D adventure game. It is one of very few games that actually flew in the face of the popular gaming trend and not only survived, but thrived. SotN debuted when 3-D gaming was the rage, and nearly every publisher was afraid to waste time, money, and effort on anything 2-D. Along comes Alucard, proving once and for all that a game doesn't have to have three dimensions to be great. Xbox owners that have been gaming for a while were excited at the prospect of Symphony of the Night on Xbox Live Arcade when it was announced, and after months of waiting, the verdict is out: It is just as fun as it always was.
Symphony of the Night places the player in the shoes of Alucard, Dracula's half-human and rebellious son. As Alucard, the player explores Dracula's castle Metroid style, gaining new items and abilities as he progresses. New items and abilities give Alucard access to different areas, and the exploration area is huge, so there is always something to do and another nook or cranny to uncover. Add to this the numerous equippable weapons, armor, and items as well as various secrets (including an entirely upside down castle), and SotN shows why its addictive gameplay has kept the heart of adventurous gamers ever since it was released on the original PlayStation a decade ago.
Like the best of the Metroid series, the best part of SotN is the exploration. There is a large castle for Alucard to explore with areas that are only accessible once he learns certain abilities, like turning to mist, shifting shape to a wolf, or even relying on the instincts of a familiar. As Alucard gains a new ability, the player begins to mentally revisit areas of the castle, wondering if maybe now they can get through that wall that was impenetrable before, or maybe now they can jump high enough to reach that teasingly distant ledge. Beyond even the massive castle are secrets, such as the inverted version of the castle that can also be explored to give 200% completion.
SotN remains largely unchanged on the Xbox 360 and that is a good thing. Everything from the original has made it to Xbox Live intact, including the infamously hokey dialogue. The graphics, while still simple 2D, still look good despite the passing of a decade, and this version has been cleaned up just slightly, sharpening up a lot of the jagged edges. However, purists will find the option to leave the graphics untouched in all their original jaggy splendor.
The soundtrack to Symphony of the Night has been lauded as one of the best ever, and it makes the translation intact. There is a lovely orchestral score permeating the game, adding atmosphere at every turn. The voice acting, however, is laughably bad, but at this point, is beloved for its hokeyness. Dracula's quote of "What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!" is revered almost as much as the infamous game quote "All your base are belong to us". It almost wouldn't be the same game if the dialogue had been updated or corrected.
Alucard controls very well on the 360, at least as well as he did on the original PlayStation. The player can choose to use either the analog stick or the control pad (thankfully) and Alucard moves smoothly using either one, although some of the magic attacks are a little difficult using the analog stick.
The Xbox Live version of Symphony of the Night adds, like all Xbox Live Arcade games, the ability to track others on leaderboards and to earn achievement points. The leaderboards score players on how swiftly they accomplish certain tasks, like meeting Maria for the first time or finishing the castle. The achievements run the gamut from defeating ten foes without getting hit to finishing the entire game using Richter. Both add replay value to the game, giving mini-goals within the main game.
Symphony of the Night is a momentous addition to the Xbox Live Arcade family, both because of its incredible depth and the fact that it is the first game allowed to break the 50 MB size restrictions. Be thankful that Microsoft did break their own rule because SotN is worth it. If you've never played Symphony of the Night, definitely download it from the Marketplace as soon as possible. It is a great game that still proves fun, even so many years after its initial release. For fans of the game, if you don't still own the PlayStation version and are looking to try it again, it's definitely worth a download. Even if you own the PlayStation version, this version might still interest you with its cleaned up visuals, leaderboards, and achievement points.
CCC Co-Site Director