It Carried the Torch for 2D Games in an Increasingly 3D World
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Platform: PlayStation | Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Konami | Developer: KCET | Released: 1997

Coming at a time when 3D games were beginning to establish a firm foothold in the industry, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night proved that 2D gameplay and sprites still had a place in the video game world. Part of what made Symphony of the Night such an engaging experience was the fact that the development team, headed by Koji Igarashi, successfully adapted the Metroid gameplay structure to the Castlevania universe, resulting in the richest and deepest Castlevania experience to date. To top it all off, Symphony's soundtrack is not only the best in the Castlevania series, but it's also as one of the greatest soundtracks in the history of the industry.

Unlike previous Castlevania games, which primarily featured characters from the Belmont clan, Symphony of the Night placed you in the role of Dracula's son, Alucard, who traveled back to his father's castle to determine the whereabouts of Richter Belmont and ultimately destroy Dracula. Like his Castlevania III counterpart, Alucard was capable of turning into different forms, including a cloud of poisonous mist, a wolf, and a bat. These different forms were not only necessary for traveling to parts of the castle that were originally inaccessible in Alucard's original form, but they were also quite effective against regular enemies and even bosses. Alucard could also equip a variety of different weapons and types of armor--some of these weapons would have beneficial effects on some of Alucard's statistics, such as strength, but some would have detrimental affects as well. This added an interesting RPG-like element to the game that let you experiment with different weapon, armor, and item combinations until you retrieved Alucard's original equipment, which was stolen by the Grim Reaper at the beginning of the game.

There are plenty of memorable moments interspersed throughout Symphony of the Night, starting with the opening scene, which showed Richter standing at the bottom of the staircase leading to Dracula's tower with an enormous moon and a 3D clock tower in the background. Other great moments include Alucard fighting the main characters from Castlevania III and the skeleton named Yorick, who had trouble keeping his skull attached to his body. Then there was the upside-down castle, which, as the name suggests, was simply an inverted version of the regular castle.

While it didn't necessarily have the technical flare of a full 3D game (something that became an issue for Sony in the early production run of the game), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a shining illustration of the fact that 2D games were and still are a major part of the video game landscape, and that great games don't have to rely purely on graphics to garner interest.

It's not only one of the greatest games in the Castlevania series, but I think it's also one of the best games available for the PlayStation. Symphony of the Night gave new life to the Castlevania series, and it also introduced the franchise to an entirely new audience. Its incredible soundtrack and excellent level design, gameplay mechanics, and 2D style helped create an immersive experience that kept me and everybody else playing for hours on end.