Released in 1997 for the Sony PlayStation, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is quite simply brilliant.
While it wasn’t the first game in the series to feature non-linear level design and role-playing elements (that would be Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest), it integrated them so masterfully that it may as well have been. But the reason the game is still remembered by many to this day is because of its fantastic music and wonderfully hammy dialogue.
“What is a man?” Dracula asks during the game’s dramatic opening. Anyone that’s played the game will know; it’s “A miserable little pile of secrets”. Yes, the game’s dialogue is unbelievably heavy-handed and corny, and its delivery by the game’s voice actors leaves a lot to be desired, but it has stuck in players’ minds. Years later, it has now almost become iconic, with even the most recent Castlevania titles, the Lords of Shadow series, shoehorning some of Symphony of the Night‘s dialogue in somewhere.
Like many others, I was overjoyed when I learned that Symphony of the Night was to be made available on PS4, bundled with its predecessor Rondo of Blood to form Castlevania Requiem. Promised that it wasn’t going to be just a simple port, expectations were raised that it would offer the definitive version of Symphony of the Night, something that many of us have wanted after a trio of ports that weren’t quite up to scratch.
While the 1998 SEGA Saturn port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has some additional content and features, for example, it needs to load more often and has some graphical issues. The Xbox 360 port released in 2006, on the other hand, is missing cutscenes due to size limitations placed on downloadable games at the time of its release. Some players are also put off by its inferior sound quality. And then there’s the PSP version included in The Dracula X Chronicles, which inexplicably features a new script and voice acting. Because why not?
Unfortunately, Castlevania Requiem‘s version of Symphony of the Night is based on the PSP port, meaning that it’s not definitive by any stretch of the imagination. Beyond rumble features being added and some 3D elements being spruced up, there’s little to excite those who hold the game close to their hearts. And many will be dismayed that it doesn’t feature the original voice acting and dialogue. What’s more, it even introduces some new issues, such as audio cutting off when transitioning to new areas instead of fading out.
Needless to say, it’s a sorry state of affairs when the original version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, released in 1997, is still the best. For convenience, it’s easy to make do with the Xbox 360 version, which is also playable on Xbox One, or the new PS4 version found in Castlevania Requiem, but it would have been nice if the most recent port had been given the respect it deserved; if we didn’t just have to make do.
You can still pick up an old PlayStation and play the original version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night if you wish, but with the secondhand value of the game remaining sky high, it’s not an option for everybody. I mean, who wants to spend about £200 on a PlayStation One game? It’s just inexplicable and thoroughly disappointing that over 20 years later, it’s still the best way to experience one of the greatest games ever made.