What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!
Welcome to Part 2 of our Castlevania retrospective! In our previous installment, we discussed a brief history of the Castlevania series up until 1997’s Symphony of the Night …
At the start of the series, the games were more focused on intense arcade-style action against the backdrop of the Transylvanian countryside, with a bit of movie monster myth and macabre thrown in. As the series evolved, however, things changed for the better: The world became more open, RPG elements were thrown in and the series began to follow a singular, overarching plot.
The adventures of the Belmont clan would come to a head with the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 installment, Rondo of Blood. The protagonist of Rondo, Richter Belmont, stars in the prologue of Symphony and acts as the catalyst for the adventure. You can watch the entire intro sequence, along with cheesy dialogue and voice acting, here.
Following the defeat of Dracula at the hands of Richter, the game opens with Alucard running into Dracula’s castle. Alucard will meet up with the incarnation of Death in one of the first sections of the castle. Here, he is vaguely threatened to rejoin the darkness and engages in battle with two monsters from Super Castlevania IV, Slogra and Gabon.
This is the first of many such encounters with giant bosses, both old and new. Throughout the game, Alucard faces a slew bosses, gains numerous incredible weapons, meets up with Richter (in a unique plot twist for a CV game) and learns several magic spells. He eventually gains the ability to transform into a wolf, a bat or a mist form. All of these mechanics would pave the way for certain character abilities in later games.
Alucard will show up later in the series as well, in unique ways. Richter also makes sporadic appearances in later titles.
For more in-depth information, screen shots, weirdness, etc…, check out the superb Castlevania Dungeon page for Symphony. To hear the soundtrack, simply search for the game on your favorite streaming service or right here. Alternately, if you still have your PlayStation version of the game, pop it in your CD player (if you still have on of those). That’s right; the game included the soundtrack on the game disc! The soundtrack features some excellent tunes, which are perfect for home, work, exercise, play or even during your next Dungeons & Dragons game.
My memories of this game are quite positive. I recall during my junior year of high school (early 2002), I played Symphony of the Night and Final Fantasy VII constantly, often playing into the wee hours of the morning. Prior to learning about Symphony from a friend, I was strictly an old-school Nintendo player. I never truly got into any other PlayStation games, either, until the PS2 arrived. If this were released for a system I own now (Wii U and 3DS), I would buy it in a … heartbeat.
Just one year later, the Nintendo 64 saw the release of Castlevania 64, the first 3D, polygon-based Castlevania adventure. The game was short at only 13 stages and featured some rudimentary 3-D graphics. The play control left much to be desired. It’s direct follow-up on the N64 was, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness which, with it expansion pack support ad better attention to detail, was much more fun to play than CV64. Unfortunately, Legacy of Darkness did very little to improve upon its predecessor.
Neither game featured the Belmont family in any capacity. The most interesting thing about the N64 titles is the variety of characters you can control. Only one of them is any fun to play as: Cornell, the werewolf/beast man character. He’s actually the star of Legacy of Darkness. Among players and fans of the series, the 3-D titles are often ignored or actively disliked, though there are fans. Later systems basically took the 3-D approach while Nintendo stayed with the Metroidvania-style on its handheld systems (more about that later).
Somewhere in between these two released, a third Game Boy title, Castlevania: Legends, saw the light of day. The game focuses around newcomer Sonia Belmont and her journey to defeat Count Dracula. Per the instruction manual, Sonia Belmont is “a country girl possessed of an incredible power” and is the first member of the Belmont family to take on the evil Count. That would make this game the first, chronologically, in the storyline. Alucard makes an appearance and the game is quite good, albeit short.