Exploring every inch of this game is one of the biggest draws of Symphony of the Night. What is really impressive is how well this game is put together, every new room looks different and even the most basic hallway is full of character. Best of all, you are rewarded for filling in the entire map, which is no easy feat. There is a lot of backtracking involved with Symphony of the Night, but that's hardly a bad thing when the castle is so full of life and interesting.
And just when you think the game is over you realize that (surprise, surprise) you're only half way done. Seeing as the game is a decade old I can only imagine that the big "secret" about Symphony of the Night is out of the bag, but if this is your first experience with this game then prepare to go through this game again in a completely different way (believe me when I tell you that Konami literally flips the game on its head after you've beaten the last boss). All told there's a good 12 - 15 hours of game play here, especially if you're the type of person that wants to find all 200.6% of the game.
Once you've beaten the game your job isn't over, like the original PlayStation version this Xbox Live Arcade game gives you the opportunity to play the game a second time with Richter Belmont. Unfortunately Richter's quest isn't nearly as developed as that of Alucard, but it's still a lot of fun (if not a whole lot more challenging). There are a lot of people out there that will want to do this if only because it's attached to a 45 point achievement.
Speaking of achievements, this is really the only thing new about the game that makes it feel like an Xbox Live Arcade game. Since the quest is exactly as it was on the PlayStation and there's no online mode (outside of some leaderboards), Symphony of the Night feels kind of out of place on Microsoft's system. That's not to say it's great to see it there, but the game hasn't changed a whole lot since we first played it ten years ago. It's worth noting that this version of the game offers slightly improved graphics, but they are hardly noticeable and only help to smooth out the pixel look of the original game. The good news is that the game didn't require a whole lot of help in the art department. The graphics in Symphony of the Night may be 2D, but they are among the best 2D sprites ever drawn in a game like this.
I wish I could say the same about the sound in Symphony of the Night. Don't get me wrong, the music is still fantastic and the sound effects are good, but the voice acting is just awful. It's not just the voice acting either; it's the entire localization of Symphony of the Night. Just like the PlayStation game released ten years ago, this Xbox Live Arcade version features painful dialog that sounds like it was written with crayon. I can't decide if the voice acting is bad or if it's just the material they had to work with was no good. Either way, the story elements that feature spoken words are cringe inducing and if Konami was going to fix anything I wish it could have been that. Having said that, Konami is planning on redoing the voice acting when the game is re-released in the Dracula X Collection being released on the PSP this fall … but little good that does us now.
What we have here is easily one of the best action/adventure games of all time, a masterpiece from beginning to end. It shouldn't surprise anybody that ten years later Castlevania: Symphony of the Night holds up remarkably well, it's just one of those timeless games that will be fun no matter how old it is. I have gone through this game at least a dozen times, there's just something about it that keeps me coming back. The level designs are flawless, Alucard is an amazing hero, and I never get bored of killing these cool bosses. As a $10 Xbox Live Arcade game it's a no-brainer, this is easily the best game released on Microsoft's download service since Geometry Wars Evolved. It wouldn't shock me to find out that most of the people that own the Xbox 360 have never experienced Symphony of the Night, and here's hoping that this inexpensive port will show those people what they've been missing.
One of Konami's greatest accomplishments is now one of the best games on the Xbox Live Arcade. Symphony of the Night is full of imaginative gameplay, great level designs, outstanding music, and some of the greatest action you've ever seen. It's also a steal at only $10!
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