Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a platform-adventure action role-playing game developed and published by Konami in 1997 for the PlayStation. It was directed and produced by Toru Hagihara, with Koji Igarashi acting as assistant director. It is the direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, taking place four years later, and is the 10th entry into the Castlevania Series. It features Dracula’s dhampir son Alucard as the protagonist, rising from his slumber to explore Dracula’s castle which has re-appeared after Richter Belmont vanished. It marks a break from previous games in the series, introducing exploration, non-linear level design and role-playing elements.
Initially, the game’s commercial performance was mediocre – particularly in the United States where it was meagerly publicized – but thanks to praise by critics, it gained sales through word-of-mouth and became a hit. It has been re-released on several consoles and is considered a sleeper hit, a cult classic, and one of the best video games of all time.
Symphony of the Night uses 2-dimensional side-scrolling gameplay. The objective is exploring Dracula’s castle to defeat an entity who is controlling Richter Belmont, the self-proclaimed lord of the castle and hero of the events which took place in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. The entity can only be seen with a particular item obtained during gameplay. Once it is defeated, the second portion of the game is revealed, eventually leading to the final battle with a newly awakened Dracula.
The game is non-linear, but most of the castle is inaccessible until various items and abilities are collected, including shapeshifting into a bat, wolf, or mist. As the player uncovers more of the castle, a map is updated to show progress.
While player characters in previous Castlevania games typically used a whip, the player can find and use a wide variety of weapons. The game includes an inventory and other RPG elements.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night incorporates elements found in role-playing games. Alucard’s hit points determine the maximum amount of damage he can withstand before dying while his magic points decide how frequently a magical attack may be cast. Alucard has four other attributes: strength – the power of his physical attack; defense – his resilience to damage inflicted by the monsters; intelligence – the recovery speed of magic points; and luck – the frequency that items are dropped by enemies.
Defeating monsters provides Alucard with experience points and he will level up after reaching a predetermined amount, increasing his attributes in the process. Alucard may cast eight different spells, which requires the player to input directional combinations and will use up varying amounts of his magic points. During the course of the game, Alucard can acquire the ability to summon familiars, which function as complementary entities, aiding him in battle and exploration. The North American version of the game includes the Fairy, Demon, Ghost, Bat, and Sword familiars.
Alternative modes of gameplay can be unlocked after completion of the game. By inputting Richter Belmont’s name as the user name, the player can play as Richter, who uses a whip as his main weapon and various sub-weapons. In the Sega Saturn version, the port included in the PlayStation Portable game Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, and in the PS4 port, Castlevania Requiem, Maria Renard is also playable.
There are several areas in the game that may or may not be necessary to complete it, such as, Dracula’s Castle, the Alchemy Laboratory, the Marble Gallery, the Outer Wall, Long Library, the Coliseum, and the Royal Chapel.
Versions and re-releases
PlayStation and Saturn
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was released in Japan on March 20, 1997, in North America on October 2, 1997, and in Europe in November 1997. The Japanese release was packaged with an art book containing a small manga based on the game and a soundtrack compiled from most of the previous Castlevania games.
The North American and European version’s localization was handled by Jeremy Blaustein, although he was not present for the voice recording. Blaustein added the lines “What is Man? A miserable little pile of secrets,” which were taken from the novel Man’s Fate by André Malraux. Other changes made in localization included AI improvements, the addition of a sound test, and the correction of a game-crashing bug found in the Japanese release. The game was low-balled as a prospect for release in the United States, given relatively little advertising, received limited funding for its North American production, and was initially not a major financial success.
The game was re-released in Japan on the “PlayStation the Best” label on March 19, 1998, and in North America on “Greatest Hits” in 1998.
—Koji Igarashi, June 2007, on the Saturn port
In 1998, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was ported to the Sega Saturn in Japan. In this version, Maria Renard is both a fully playable character as well as a boss fight (she fights Alucard before giving him the Holy Glasses item), and Richter is available to play at start of the game. When playing the game as Alucard, a “third hand” is available, but only for usable items and not weaponry. Alucard can use exclusive items, such as the Godspeed Boots, which grant Alucard the ability to run like Richter. New areas – the Cursed Prison and the Underground Garden, which had new bosses – can be visited. The port also contains remixes of previous Castlevania songs.Because of poor coding, loading is more frequent and takes longer in the Saturn version than in other versions. Because the Saturn has limited hardware transparency support, transparency effects such as the mists and the waterfall were replaced with dithering effects, though partial translucency does exist in a few areas such as with Saturn exclusive enemies and one of the final boss fights. Rather than taking advantage of the Saturn’s increased resolution, the graphics were stretched to fill the screen, causing some sprites to be distorted. The overall quality of the Saturn port’s video is said, according to Igarashi, to be lower than the PlayStation version because it is a simple port handled by another team and was not recoded to take advantage of the Saturn’s 2D capabilities. Igarashi overall expressed disappointment with the Saturn version.
A version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night planned for the Game.com handheld console was canceled.