1997 was an important year for video games, Final Fantasy VII was released that year, and we all know the impact that particular game made. As did Quake 2, GoldenEye and Megaman Legends. There are similarities in the games that were just listed, as they were all in 3D. This was the trend back in 1997, hardware was becoming capable enough to add that much lusted after extra dimension. Then came along Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – a 2D platforming title. In this 3D era, would this game really make an impact?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Symphony of the Night is a game where you play as the son of Dracula, Alucard, trying to stop his father from being brought back to life. It starts you off by throwing you into a HUGE castle, and doesn’t really give you any more instructions beyond that. A type of gameplay known nowadays as “Metroidvania”, akin to how the original wave of Metroid games play. There’s really not much to the story apart from some terribly voiced dialogue and some text at the start. Though, out of the small amounts of dialogue there is, one of the most well-remembered pieces is: “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.”
This particular Castlevania title was also the start of a new era of Castlevania games that no longer followed the level-by-level approach, with the older games now being referred to as ‘Classicvania’. This game wasn’t a one-off type of Castlevania game – there isn’t enough memorable moments in the newer titles that make them as brilliant as Symphony of the Night either. So what exactly WAS the impact of SOTN?
Well, it spawned a cult following for starters. It wasn’t expected to sell as well in all territories, despite receiving a high amount of critical acclaim. Originally it was released on the PlayStation 1 and the Sega Saturn (Japan only), and didn’t have much hope for an American release, thus it had a much lower budget over there, which is really reflected back in the US advert. Nowadays it has been re-released on the PSN, Xbox Live Arcade, and came bundled with the PSP title “Dracula X Chronicles”, in which you need to do a convoluted task in order to unlock it – but it is there and it’s worth it. It also won multiple awards, including 4th best game ever made on EGM, and 16th on IGN’s list. Which isn’t bad for a black sheep game of its time.
The Metroidvania games are amazing titles, all of them offer their own little bit of uniqueness, but as of late, there’s not really been any releases of this type. The last Castlevania game released was the monstrosity known as Lords of Shadows 2, which is 3D… No. Just no. Bring back the Metroidvanias, please. There’s a whole Facebook group dedicated to the continuing development of these types of games, well, 2D Castlevanias in general. It’s called Operation Akumajo, so if you’re like-minded, check them out. For now we have Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to look forward to in 2018, and we all know that’s the closest we’re going to get for quite some time.
And if you haven’t checked out the Netflix show, that’s worth a go too…