Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – 360 Review
I’ve been so excited about this game ever since it was first announced as coming to the 360′s Xbox Live Arcade system. I was even banging on about it on a forum because I didn’t think I was going to have to write about it professionally. It wasn’t until late last night I got an e-mail through asking if I’d review the game for Eurogamer. Thankfully I’d had a few hours of playing single-player multi-player with my friend Robert Howells (rules: you both play the single-player game but have live chat on so you can talk to each other as you’re playing the same bits – it’s completely awesome).
Anyway, it was a bit of a surprise to get the review – especially when Kristan asked if I could get it done for this morning. This is without doubt the shortest turnaround I’ve ever had on a review – and possibly the first time I’ve played through a game without knowing I was going to have to review it first. It was certainly exhilarating if nothing else. I hope the finished critique doesn’t feel rushed.
Even in 1997 this was an anachronism. Videogames’ bright new horizon was three-dimensional and Sony’s first console wunderkind the only viewing tower worth climbing. The PlayStation future was all about Lara Croft’s curvaceous polygons, Gran Turismo’s reflective bonnets and screen-filling Tekken sucker-punches. It was the Chemical Brothers serenading Wipeout races and the Designer’s Republic packaging. Aspirational pixels backed by aspirational music promoted by aspirational faces; not much room for two-dimensional gothic oddities in this too-cool-for-school marketing vision.
As such, Symphony of the Night, with its dank 2D walls, brooding orchestral soundtrack and Street Fighter-esque special moves stole across videogaming’s busy vista mostly unnoticed the first time round. But not completely unnoticed. Those with eyes to see its exquisite design, extraordinary scope, aesthetic elegance and coherence were quick to evangelise. The game’s underground following bustled and grew until copies of the game were changing hands on ebay for £60 and upwards. Symphony of the Night had made the celebrated canon and every discerning games player wanted a look.
And that, in short, is why Microsoft’s been so keen to accommodate this, the Castlevania series’ debated highpoint, tripling the 50MB size restriction of all its Xbox Live Arcade games specifically to allow it into its line-up of mixed importance. Symphony of the Night is to action-adventure fans what Mario 64 is to platform lovers, Monkey Island is to point and click autistics or Final Fantasy VII is to incurable geeks. It’s important, beloved and, crucially, it expands XBLA’s remit to include fan-favourite console titles as well as those arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Defender and, er, Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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