Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - Reader Retroview  

Now Without Crappy Voice Acting!
by JuMeSyn

15-30 hours


Rating definitions 

   Ports are an interesting issue in the RPG world. Recent ports to the Game Boy Advance in particular have features almost nothing new added, with all the faults of the original game in high detail. Dracula X for the Sega Saturn is a different breed of port, however. A fair amount of content has been added to this title since it was called Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the Playstation. These additions are not without minuses however, and the minuses are in the form of technical difficulties that should never have existed on the Saturn at all.

   The overall structure of Dracula X is the same as its Playstation forbear. This means after the opening story bits the player will find him/ or her/self in control of Alucard, son of Dracula, while wandering through Draculaís castle in a bid to destroy him. As Dracula X exists only in Japanese, the story is difficult to follow without a working understanding of the language: in Castlevania tradition this does not matter much however. The storyís few intrusions into the playerís focus are sufficient to advance events and little more. If judged by itself the story would be lacking even to an elementary-school English teacher.

Anybody else noticing a strange resemblance to the insignia of  > Imperial Germany?  Your secret is revealed, Maria! Anybody else noticing a strange resemblance to the insignia of > Imperial Germany? Your secret is revealed, Maria!

   Castlevania is an action series, and Dracula X is the first Castlevania title to mould the series into an action-RPG type. The title owes quite a bit to early Metroid titles with its completely open-ended exploration. The player is able to go anywhere s/he is able in Draculaís castle, with the only limitations being the need to acquire certain abilities to progress further such as the ability to transform into several beasts or a double-jump. As an action-RPG controls need to be good, and they are. Jumping is intuitive, transforming is easy, and attacking with the equipped weapon will happen whenever the player commands it. In Castlevania tradition sub-weapons are available throughout the castle, though the cross is (as usual) most useful. Equipping of items and different weapons, along with switching between familiars (which Alucard will discover throughout the castle and aid him by attacking enemies at a distance) are done through the menu screen. All of this is in Japanese, meaning quite a bit of trial is involved to find the best effects. Aside from this language difficulty the interface is easy to work with.

   Actual combat proceeds in a fashion to be expected of a Castlevania game, meaning the playerís action-gaming skills must be reasonably sharp. Items to restore health can be purchased and found, the killing of sufficient enemies will garner a level-up, but there are limits to both of these approaches. Absent sufficient action skill a player will see the Game Over screen often. Also, once Alucard has reached a certain level in relation to an enemy, the enemy will give no experience, forcing the player onward. While not the hardest action-RPG ever by any stretch of the imagination, certain enemies and bosses will give the thumbs a workout and most players will probably die at least once.

   Differences between the Playstation and Saturn versions of Dracula X must begin to be addressed at the graphical stage. Despite being designed as a 3-D machine first and foremost, the Playstation achieved superior visuals in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. These are mostly replicated for the Saturn, but in a fashion displaying all the signs of programmers being rushed; many effects have been toned down for the Saturn. This is inexplicable in light of the Saturnís superior 2D processing power compared to the Playstation. Slowdown will sometimes show itself also, which apparently was not an issue with the Playstation version. Two (or four, depending upon how one counts) extra areas are also extant for the Saturn, along with two extra bosses. These are all animated well and in keeping with the rest of the castleís layout.

This is representative of what happens when one gets between a  > gardener and the gardening area.  I speak from experience. This is representative of what happens when one gets between a > gardener and the gardening area. I speak from experience.

   Musically the difference between the versions is unquestionably in the Saturnís favor. All tracks extant on Playstation are reproduced in equal quality, while an additional 9 musical pieces exclusive to the Saturn are present here, and are just as high-quality. Voice acting is present in all story scenes, and is also of higher-quality than the English Playstation version. It is true that all voice acting is in Japanese, but not understanding precisely what is being said can be judged superior to hearing the cast sounding akin to mentally deficient asylum inmates.

   Completion time varies widely depending upon which ending the player seeks. There are 4 possible endings, and each is achieved via different circumstances. The endings apparently do not vary between the versions. Extra playtime can be eked out from the option of playing the game with Richter and Maria also, both of whom can be selected at the beginning of the game if for some reason one does not wish to play as Alucard. These two vary in their playing tactics vastly from Alucard, and are more in keeping with traditional Castlevania games. Maria it should be noted is exclusive to the Saturn, and wields a few interesting techniques likewise exclusive to her such as a triple-jump.

   One other item is unfortunately exclusive to the Saturn: lengthy load times. These show up whenever the player leaves an area, or shifts to the menu. They are not insurmountable but their existence is most irritating, particularly when a simple look at the map also brings one forth.

   A consensus does not exist upon the superiority of the Saturn of Playstation versions of this title. If pressed I would declare the Saturn version superior thanks to its extra content, but the lengthy load times and bungled graphical effects may spoil the experience for another player. Whichever version of this title it is, any RPGamer with even a hint of interest in the first Castlevania title to incorporate RPG elements owes it to him/ or her/ self to play this title, which is assuredly of the highest quality.

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