Everything You'd Expect a Castlevania to be.
There was a lot of debate about whether or not Castlevania: Symphony of the Night should be considered as an Action-RPG, but our readers have responded with almost daily e-mails asking why we didn't cover it. The people have spoken, and to be honest, I couldn't be happier. SotN is perhaps the last of the 2D games in the long-running Castlevania series, and represents over a decade of fine-tuning. You'd be hard-pressed to find a gamer who doesn't have fond memories of the Castlevanias, and as such, most have come to expect nothing less than excellence from the games bearing the Castlevania monicker. Symphony of the Night not only lives up to these expectations, but far exceeds them on many levels.

First off, you should know that the graphics in SotN are not the usual super-slick, pre-rendered fare, as is the case with most of the latest 2D games. In it's stead, Konami has opted to use a more classical, hand-drawn look. The upside to this is that the graphics have style and variety to them, but the trade-off is that they do have a slightly dated look. Whether that's actually bad thing, however, I leave to you to decide. Also, you have to keep in mind that this game is more of an evolution for the series, and while it does have a lot of new features to offer and a few tricks up its sleeve, it's not the most terribly original game in existence.

With that said, these minor concerns are far outweighed by SotN's many fine points. First off, and most importantly, the gameplay is flawless. From the instant you pick the controller up you will quickly get used to the game's responsive controls and intuitive button lay out. The control is dead-on, and whenever you die you know its your own fault. You will never find your self getting angry over eratic behavior due to a slip in control. As such, the fighting in this game is excellent. Being an Action-RPG, all the battles take place in real time, and you can and often will find yourself being attacked from all sides, leading to a frantic and exciting battle. The enemies are many and varied, with every one having extra-special care devoted to giving them peronality and behavior. In fact, the only time you'll ever feel as though you've seen something similar is when you run across one of the series' reoccurring foes, such as the Medusa Heads and Skeletons.

Being an Action-RPG with the heavier emphasis on Action, SotN's plot is a mixed bag. The thing is, when there is character interaction and plot development, it's excellent. The voice acting is done well (With the exception of Richter. I've heard better voice actors on, well, just about everything...) and the story is mysterious and intruiging. It's a pleasant delight to the few people fortunate enough to play the Japanese-only Dracula X: Rhondo of Blood for the TurboDuo/PCEngine, as it is a continuation of sorts.

Then there's the music, ah the music. If I had to pick one single area that stands out the most in this game, it would have to be the musical score. The style of music varies greatly, from rock to classical, and all scores are done to perfection. The music is catchy and atmospheric. Ever area has a fitting musical theme, and I almost gaurantee you'll inevitably find yourself humming music from SotN to yourself. And the sound is done every bit as well as the music. From the sound of your feet as you land a jump to the shattering of vases, every sound bite fits and fits right.

To sum it all up, Symphony of the Night is an atmospheric, well laid out game that will keep you coming back again and again for more. You'll notice that the average play time is pretty varied. Well, if you can figure out how, Konami has added one of the greatest bonuses in gaming hisroty to those intreped enough to find it: An entire second castle. And once you finally finish with that, you can still go through again as Richter. I've had this game since the day it came out, and I still play it several times a week. Not only is there a lot to accomplish, but you'll enjoy every minute of it. If you haven't already picked up this game, for whatever reasons, I can't reccomend enough that you do so.

Review written by Drew Cosner- RPGamer Writer
Review Breakdown
   Battle System9.5
   Replay Value10.0
   Time to Complete15-35 hours 
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