PSX Mania – 040 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Completion time: 11:38:35

Originally we had The Legend of Dragoon slotted in as game #040. Every time we came around to getting ready to stream it, something came up and took me away from streaming for weeks. Believing that the game was cursed (or at least in that position), we did some swaps around, since PSX Mania has the flexibility in doing so, unlike Dreamcast Mania. Before the move, I had already swapped Xenogears to #120 and took out Twisted Metal 2 from there for a TBD time, and I had moved Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to #050. I then did a little swapping the day before I was going to try and stream more PSX Mania, and put SotN at #040 and Dragoon to #050 in hopes that it would break the curse. Apparently it did, and having Symphony of the Night replace what was apparently a jinx of some sort in that spot, proved wonders, as I got to revisit an all-time gaming classic sooner than anticipated.

It’s absolutely crazy how well Symphony of the Night has aged. Other than the voice acting (which, come on, it’s charming in its own right), every single aspect of the game has aged gracefully. The slick, well animated visuals were a feast for the eyes, with each area of the castle having its own distinct look, feel and theme. For a console that had some struggles with 2D titles in comparison to the vastly superior Sega Saturn’s 2D library (ironically enough, the Saturn port of this game was a mess), the frames of animation were fluid, slick and seemed even more impressive than I last remembered.

Gameplay wise, this is a lot like Spider: The Video Game, where the gameplay as a whole is built in such a way, that any mishaps that come about during your travels, is solely due to player error. I’ll go as far as to say that it trumps the aforementioned in that regard; there’s nothing unfair about your travels and encounters. There’s always a save room when you need it, and if you failed to get to one, that’s all on you for not discovering one that might have been close by. The difficulty isn’t overbearing like many of the classic Castlevania titles could be. Everything is fair, but challenging. You’ll be challenged, even on boss fights you didn’t expect, who have simplistic enough patterns. Every aspect to Symphony of the Night‘s gameplay is wonderfully constructed, that even some metroidvania titles coming out in 2021 still don’t hold a candle to the originator.

Even after nearly 25 years, the soundtrack can be considered one of the greatest of its era, maybe even all-time. Even the lesser enjoyable compositions help set the mood, and just fits each area and situation like a glove. It’s one of those gaming soundtracks that will forever stand the test of time, and challenge all games in general, to come even remotely close to this masterfully composed suite of songs. Having headphones for this playthrough, I think it added that much more to how damn amazing these compositions were.

The last time I played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was at least a decade ago, with the Xbox 360 port. It had been maybe 15 years at the very least since I did a full playthrough. This is as good as it was all those years ago. It spawned a subgenre that has become the favorite of many gamers out there, with instant classics such as Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, and so many other games that have built upon, and maybe even helped better perfect, the foundation that SotN built. I guarantee you that if 1`5 years time, this will be as epic and satisfying to play as it was today, just as it’s as epic and satisfying to play it today as it was nearly 20 years ago. There’s a reason why Castlevania: Symphony of the Night garners more acclimation and praise from gamers than most of the other big name PS1 classics – it’s flat out one of the best games of its era, and one of the greatest games to have ever been released. The franchised peaked IMO with this one, even though the portable entries have mostly all be fantastic.

But do yourselves a favor and get ahold of this masterpiece, preferably for the PS1. This is definitely my favorite game thus far from this whole PSX Mania project, and although we still have over a thousand games to go, there won’t be many games to come close to the experience this one gives.

Rating: 10

Twitch VOD:
Part 1/2: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1042216935
Part 2/2: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1043290650

YouTube video:

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I've been writing about gaming off and on since 1998, and a gamer since 1983. After an extended hiatus (and then a hiatus on top of the hiatus), I've decided to open up my own Wordpress site and get back to what's felt like my lifelong passion - writing about anything and everything gaming related. I'm always looking for new opportunities to extend my reach and share my work. If you like what you see, please email me at galariandotcom@gmail.com

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