Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (known in Japan as Akumajou Dracula X: Gekka no Yasoukyoku, which loosely translates to "Devil's Castle Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight") is a 2D horror-fantasy platformer-adventure game developed by KCE Tokyo and published by Konami for the Sony PlayStation on March 20, 1997 (in Japan), on October 2nd, 1997 (in North America), and on November 1, 1997 (in Europe).
The thirteenth installment of the Castlevania franchise, Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to the 1993 Japanese-exclusive PC Engine game Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and takes a radically different approach to the series' traditional platforming while introducing the dark, gothic, painting-like art style of character designer Ayami Kojima.
The game is known for being an epitome of what is known as the "Metroidvania" sub-genre (sharing its name alongside Super Metroid), which trades the level-by-level linearity of traditional platformers for free-formed backtrack-focused exploration of one large 2D open world (a concept previously only seen in the Castlevania franchise from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, and to a lesser extent, Vampire Killer). The game also introduces numerous RPG elements to the series, including attribute, inventory, and experience systems.
The story of Symphony of the Night starts with a reprise of the final fight between vampire hunter Richter Belmont and the vampire lord Dracula at the end of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. The game then fast forwards four years later, in the year 1796, where Dracula's castle reappears out of the mist and Richter mysteriously disappears. Players then begin the main game as Dracula's dhampir son Alucard, who awakens from his self-induced sleep (sometime after the events of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse) to investigate. On the way, he encounters Maria Renard, Richter's sister-in-law and fellow vampire hunter who is also searching for Richter.
The game received a Japanese-exclusive port to the Sega Saturn on June 25, 1998, adding unique features (including new items, two exclusive areas, and Maria as a playable character). It later received a port by Backbone to the Xbox 360, released digitally on March 21, 2007. This version was notable for being the Xbox Live Arcade game to exceed the original 50 megabyte size restriction. The original game was also digitally re-released as a "PSone Classics" title for supporting PlayStation Network platforms in North America on July 19, 2007, with later releases in Japan (on December 16, 2010) and Europe (on December 12, 2012).
The game was later included as an unlockable part of the 2007 PlayStation Portable compilation Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. This version contains some bonus content (including Maria as a playable character, albeit with a different playstyle) and features re-recorded English voice acting (with an updated script). This version was later included in the 2018 PlayStation 4 compilation Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a non-linear, Metroidvania-style, side-scrolling, action-adventure platformer game. Alucard, the main character, will navigate the many sectors of Dracula's castle with flexibility in his progression. The castle is maze like, with many hidden passages, deadly obstacles, and increasingly difficult enemies. The game incorporates the classic Castlevania platform gameplay, and mixes it with the exploration of titles like Super Metroid and Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. To progress, Alucard must gather powers, defeat bosses, and discover the secrets of Dracula's domain.
Symphony of the Night is the first Castlevania title to allow players to use other primary weapons besides whips, which was traditional in the series prior to this game. Alucard's repertoire, however, is mostly based on edged weapons, such as axes and swords. Other weapons, such as fist weapons and single use, expendable weapons, are available though much less common. Symphony of the Night's alternate characters, Richter and Maria, have unique weapons. Richter plays like characters in the previous titles, wielding the legendary Vampire Killer and utilizing classic sub-weapons. Maria uses energy-based projectiles and kicks to do battle. Armor and accessories could also be equipped, granting the player bonuses to all of their characters stats. The Sega Saturn version expands on the items in the game, and has many bonus weapons and armor sets.
Players could also pick up other items, such as food, to help replenish health and hearts. Items such as the classic Castlevania haunch of meat will replenish health, while sweet treats like ice cream generally refill Alucard's hearts. Players must be wary, however, as not everything is good for the character's stomach. Poison mushrooms, rotten meat, and other unsavory goods will cause status effects, among other harmful effects. These items do not have effect upon contact, as in past Castlevania titles. Rather, they will be placed in the inventory, and must be equipped to one of Alucard's arms. Once equipped, pressing the button the food is assigned to will throw them out, and Alucard can use them.
Sub-weapons also make a return in Symphony of the Night, including old favorites like Holy Water and the Throwing axe. These sub-weapons consume hearts, which can be regenerated by picking up additional hearts, dropped by enemies, as well as lights sources once Alucard obtains the Cube of Zoe. Item crashes return from the previous game, which are special powered up versions of the equipped sub-weapon. Only Maria and Richter can perform item crashes. Each weapon has different effects depending on what character uses them. Along with sub-weapons, special creatures could be equipped as aids in combat. These creatures, called familiars, include fairies and demons. Familiars have a variety of different effects in combat, including healing, fighting, and defense. These familiars level up along with Alucard, becoming stronger with each level.
Symphony of the Night also introduces a magic system to the series. Players can perform various spells for attacking and healing by pressing secret button combinations. There are a number of attack spells, such as Hellfire, and others that heal, such as Dark Metamorphosis, which heals Alucard any time he spills blood from an enemy. The player can buy Incantation Scrolls in the Library, but they are not needed to unlock the ability to perform the spells.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is vastly different from previous entries in the series. There are still candles that contain hearts and sub-weapons, but they are functionally different. The game also deviates from the traditional linear level format, much like Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. While progress is still limited by items and abilities granted by defeating bosses and exploring the map, the player can choose where to go (A number of tricks and glitches also allows them, with enough know how, to get into places they shouldn't be). In another break from tradition, Symphony of the Night introduces an entire armory allowing Alucard to wield anything from a standard sword to brass knuckles to sticks of dynamite. Previous Castlevania titles only allowed for the whip and two upgrades for it, never allowing alternate equips. Upon finding certain relics, the player can choose to have a familiar follow them. The Fairy provides healing when damaged and antidotes when poisoned. The Bat, Sword, Ghost, and Demon are all combat-oriented. Some of them are necessary to access hidden areas. The active familiar will gain experience with every monster you kill, increasing that familiar's skill in battle or in support.
Relics are hidden throughout the castle which provide or upgrade Alucard's abilities . Relics will allow him to jump higher, collect hearts and items from light sources, equip familiars, and open sealed doors, among other things. These can be turned on and off in the menu screen. Some relics will allow Alucard to transform into beasts or mist. The first transformation is the wolf, who can run faster, and make long, running jumps. The wolf attacks with a short ranged bite. The second transformation is the bat, similar to Alucard's power in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, which can fly freely around the stages. Finally, the mist power will allow Alucard to float around, through grates and other obstacles impassable by other states of matter. The mist can also be upgraded to a poison mist, which damages enemies. When in these forms, Alucard's MP will slowly be drained. Each for becomes necessary to advance in the game, and obtain many hidden secrets.
Symphony of the Night was the second Castlevania game to feature RPG elements, after Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Enemies give experience points when killed, and Alucard will level up after gaining the required experience. Alucard can also gather Life Max and Heart Max upgrades. These RPG elements have become a mainstay mechanic in the series since, as have many other elements of Symphony of the Night.
Richter Belmont Gameplay
In most versions of the game, it is possible for the player to take control of Richter Belmont, the vampire hunter. After satisfying certain conditions, the player can enter their name as "RICHTER" and they will be put in his shoes to explore Castlevania. Richter does not collect items, cannot equip anything, does not find relics, cannot use familiars, and does not level up. Playing as Richter is very much like previous games, with more limited character mobility. He does not have any MP, and his heart maximum capacity is 99. Heart Max items only replenish hearts. He can, however, increase his life maximum when he collects life max up items. His only primary weapon is the vampire killer, which cannot be powered up (save his whip item crash and increased power in the inverted castle). Richter wields the same sub-weapons as Alucard, but has the ability to perform and item crash that eats up a large number of hearts, and performs a strong attack.
- Dagger: The weakest of all sub-weapons, yet very fast, and costs a single heart.
- Axe: Alucard tosses a round axe into the air. A great weapon for taking out airborne foes.
- Holy Cross: Alucard will throw a spinning cross a short distance in the air before returning like a boomerang, damaging enemies on the way.
- Bibuti: Alucard will throw holy ashes onto the ground, which do damage to anything that touches them.
- Holy Water: The character throws a bottle of holy water on the ground, which will burst into blue flames, damaging anything that touches them.
- Watch: Freezes time. It has no effect on many enemies.
- Bible: A bible will come out, and rapidly spin around Alucard, acting as a sort of shield before flying off.
- Rebound Stone: Alucard throws a single diamond that will ricochet off of walls and damage enemies. Best used in tight spaces.
- Agunea: Shoots sacred lightning at enemies. It can be continuously used if the player holds down up and the attack button.
- Crucifix: The ultimate sub-weapon, attacks like Richter's cross item crash, bringing a large cross on screen to damage everything. Will eat up 100 hearts.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1998 exclusively in Japan. Since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was designed to accommodate PlayStation's virtually non-existent 2D capabilities (most graphical elements that appear to be 2D are actually textures that were applied to front-facing 3D polygons), the Sega Saturn port resulted in some trade-offs, mainly slowdown instances, longer loading times, and modified graphical effects.
The port, however, includes more content than the original version. In addition to two exclusive areas (the Cursed Prison and the Underground Garden, each with their own inverted version) and various exclusive enemies and items, the version also includes a new playable character, Maria Renard, and a character select screen that allows you to play as Alucard, Richter, or Maria without any need for cheat codes.
Xbox Live Arcade
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was ported to the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade by Backbone Entertainment and was released for 800 msp ($10) on March 21, 2007 in North America and July 25, 2007 in Japan. The game features achievements, leaderboards, background wallpapers for widescreen televisions, and a graphical filter that blurs the visuals for a finer image. It was the first XBLA game to exceed the original size restriction (50 megabytes) placed upon XBLA games. To save on space, all FMV cutscenes were removed (though re-added to the Japanese release). The ending music was later replaced in a patch with a song from Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.
A direct port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was included as a bonus unlockable in the 2007 game Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PlayStation Portable. Maria Renard is included as a playable character, though she plays differently than the Sega Saturn version. She uses owls as her primary means of attack, with four animal friends as sub-weapons. The English versions of the game feature new voice acting and a re-translated script. Similar to the Xbox Live Arcade version, the ending music from the original version was replaced with a new song.
A port of the game was being developed for Tiger Electronics handheld system the Game.Com. This port of the game was announced with a handful of screenshots shown, but with the console being discontinued the game was never able to be released.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has one of the most highly regarded soundtracks in video game history. Following up her soundtrack for Castlevania: Bloodlines, Michiru Yamane used the larger capacity of the CD-ROM format to produce higher quality audio with a large variety of instruments. This lead to a greater variety of music styles throughout the game, including jazz, rock, baroque, and classic, along with more atmospheric songs and even some vocals. Remixes of songs from previous Castlevania games were used as well, including "Dance of Illusions."
The soundtrack is available as an import only, called Akumajou Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight Original Game Soundtrack. None of the extra tracks written for the Saturn version are available, as the soundtrack was released prior to that. Also, the Master Librarian song is not on the CD as the track used the PlayStation's internal music chip.
Name: Akumajo Dracula ~Gekka no Nocturne~ Original Game Soundtrack
Total Length: 68:28
- "Metamorphosis" – 1:04
- "Prologue" – 1:27
- "Dance of Illusions" – 1:20
- "Moonlight Nocturne" – 1:45
- "Prayer" – 0:58
- "Dracula's Castle" – 1:53
- "Dance of Gold" – 1:53
- "Marble Gallery" – 1:24
- "Tower of Mist" – 2:47
- "Nocturne" – 2:20
- "Wood Carving Partita" – 2:44
- "Door of Holy Spirits" – 1:28
- "Festival of Servants" – 1:51
- "Land of Benediction" – 0:17
- "Requiem For the Gods" – 2:09
- "Crystal Teardrops" – 2:03
- "Abandoned Pit" – 2:14
- "Rainbow Cemetery" – 2:47
- "Silence" – 0:19
- "Lost Painting" – 1:41
- "Dance of Pales" – 2:31
- "Curse Zone" – 1:16
- "Enchanted Banquet" – 2:08
- "Wandering Ghosts" – 2:51
- "The Tragic Prince" – 4:04
- "The Door to the Abyss" – 1:47
- "Heavenly Doorway" – 1:51
- "Death Ballad" – 1:41
- "Blood Relations" – 1:34
- "Metamorphosis 2" – 0:37
- "Final Toccata" – 5:12
- "Black Banquet" – 2:54
- "Metamorphosis 3" – 0:48
- "I am the Wind" (Cynthia Harrell) – 4:37