Adrian “Alucard” Tepes, Son of Dracula
Konami thought I wouldn’t notice their quiet release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on Android and iOS, a near perfect port of its original state. For those of you who missed the original release on the PlayStation 1 back in 1997, you have the opportunity to experience what is arguably the father of the “Metroidvania” style.
The first time you boot up the game you’re greeted with headbanging heavy metal. However, the opening sequence is actually the very end of the previous title, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. The real game begins when Dracula is defeated.
You play as Alucard, a dhampir—a creature created from the union of a male vampire and a mortal woman. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night marked a huge departure from the franchise’s formula because previous titles always had the player controlling a member of the Belmont clan, a family of vampire-slayers. You aren’t whipping demons into submission: you are the son of Dracula himself. And bondage just isn’t your kink.
Defining a Genre
The reappearance of Castlevania traditionally marks a time when Dracula returns. When he does, a Belmont wields the Vampire Killer and banishes him. Richter was the last known member of the Belmont clan to send Dracula back to whatever Hell he came from. In fact, you played Richter in the opening sequence. But Richter has mysteriously disappeared, and Dracula’s Castle still stands. The task falls on your shoulders to explore the castle and find the missing Belmont.
True to the Castlevania franchise, platforming is alive and well. Exploring the castle isn’t without danger. Hidden in every nook and cranny is a demon, zombie, or creature of the night which will attempt to stop you on your quest. Of course, you aren’t without weapons. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night drops the whip and instead adds a treasure chest of weaponry. Wield fist weapons, swords, clubs, daggers, ranged weapons, two-hand weapons, even shields, all with the intent of destroying everything in your path.
In previous installments it was advantageous to ignore monsters that weren’t in your way. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, on the other hand, adds RPG elements such as experience, levels and stats, encouraging the slaying of all manner of creatures. With that said, a few older mechanics are still intact, such as breaking candles for hearts and money. Expend hearts by using sub-weapons, like holy water and throwing daggers; use money to purchase items, like potions and food.
An Unholy Bloodline
Being the son of Vlad Tepes himself isn’t all that bad. The unholy bloodline does come with its own set of perks. You’ll need all of them if you are to uncover every secret that Castlevania has, secrets that have long been forgotten.
Throughout the game you’ll come across relics, which grant you additional abilities such as shapeshifting, double-jump, familiars, and bonus stats. Take the form of mist to pass through barriers. Turning into a bat will allow you to reach ledges. The form of the wolf, unfortunately, is underwhelming. Dashing and charging can be useful, but otherwise under-utilized.
The game feels very linear at first, as some areas are unreachable. Earn the bat form and that immediately changes. Areas and bosses can then be reached in different orders, especially when the castle is literally flipped upside down. All of these skills combined make exploring feel so good. Konami was smart to rip a page from Metroid’s book and add a map.
Controls Could Be Better
I’ve never been a fan of touchscreen controls and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night doesn’t change my opinion. It isn’t that the controls don’t respond well, quite the contrary, it’s that they take up a large portion of the screen. If you have a small screen, god have mercy on your soul. Forget about resizing on-screen buttons or moving them.
An even worse aspect is performing a few of Alucard’s secret abilities, like Hellfire and Soul Steal, is a pain. You cast them by using a fighting-style button combination, like Left, Right, Up, Down, Attack. Without a controller’s physical feedback, I was constantly bumping other buttons and screwing up abilities. Thankfully, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night supports controllers and I highly recommend you use one. Aside from the controls, the main menu is exceptionally clean with an entire rework for a mobile environment.
So Much In One Port
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is full of bonus content, which is expanded upon in the mobile version. The option to play Richter Belmont is available by inputting “RICHTER” on the name entry screen. Likewise, Maria—you’ll meet her in-game—is also a playable character by inputting “MARIA” instead. Originally, they were available after completing the game, but are now accessible right from the beginning.
Maria Mode and Richter Mode were always a part of the game, but a unique feature of this mobile port is Time Attack. That is a speedrunner’s dream. You can check timestamps after defeating a boss, meeting important character and interacting with key events.
All of what Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has to offer is condensed into a near perfect port. The wonky controls bring it down just a smidge. For the price of $2.99, witness 2D gaming at its finest. Play it and you’ll see why it’s considered one of the greatest games to grace the original PlayStation.
Is is Hardcore?
Everything about this port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has been lovingly polished. Sprites are sharper, the music is excellent, and the controls are tight if you use a controller. Aside from wonky touchscreen controls, this game should be a part of your library.