Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a 2D side-scroller with RPG elements that was released on the Playstation in 1997. As in many of the Castlevania games, your goal is to traverse the castle fighting demons and the undead until you reach the end and defeat Dracula. In a unique twist, SotN starts with you as Richter Belmont fighting the final battle of the previous game, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. Then the story switches to a mysterious new character, Alucard, as he enters Dracula's castle. After a close encounter with Death, Alucard is stripped of his equipment and items, left to face the castle with only his wits and courage. Throughout the rest of Alucard's journey, he unravels the mystery of Dracula's castle and confronts not only Dracula, but an unexpected servant of evil.
Castlevania: SotN is a triumphant resurrection, widely regarded as one of the greatest games in the Castlevania series. It introduced RPG elements, like leveling up to gain stat boosts and additional health and magic, and helped pioneer the "Metroidvania" genre. As Alucard, you learn how to transform into a wolf, a bat, and a mist cloud to enter new areas in Dracula's castle. One of the things I most enjoyed about this game was the huge map. There are so many hidden areas to explore and, if you meet certain conditions, you can even open up a whole new second castle to explore.
Symphony of the Night is an all-around great game. The story is excellent; the voice acting superb. There is a large variety of enemies to vanquish and equipment to unearth. Exploring both castles is a gripping challenge and finding all the hidden items and abilities was a thrill. Adding in the level up system encourages you to kill as many enemies as possible, and makes for a more satisfying experience. I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys the Castlevania series or even RPGs in general.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has since been released for the Xbox 360 and also appears on the PSP as a part of the Dracula X Chronicles.
Images: Konami, boingboing.net