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Today in Retro Gaming – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)

Maybe you were one of those slow adopters. You weren’t about to throw money at whomever released their 32-bit system first. You weren’t some die-hard Nintendo fanboy, you didn’t crap yourself with joy when Sega’s Saturn arrived on store shelves four months early, and you weren’t about to give that Sony upstart the time of day until they proved they had what it took to be a contender. In short, you were what can only be described as the smartest gamer on the block. Without blind loyalty, and with the patience of a saint, you waited until you saw a killer app that most appealed to your inner gamer, and you pounced. For an awful lot of you, the waiting stopped on October 2nd, 1997. Because that was the day Castlevania: Symphony of the Night arrived on the PlayStation and the so-called “Metroid-vania” genre changed everything.

Title Screen

There’s nothing at all left for me or anybody else to write about Symphony of the Night. You either know this as one of the best titles ever released for the PlayStation or it’s time to see a doctor about getting that pine cone un-wedged from your sphincter. In the ever-growing onslaught of lists purporting to showcase the best games of all time, SotN keeps showing up despite turning seventeen today. More importantly, Konami proved that 2D gaming was not only alive in the newly-dawning 3D era, but that the sprite-based visuals could easily eclipse the beauty of anything depicted with polygons thanks to the storage capacity of the CD-ROM.

Telescope Outpost

Symphony of the Night is damn near perfect in every regard. Its soundtrack, composed by Michiru Yamane, is gothic orchestral beauty. Finding and collecting all of the hundreds and hundreds of weapons, armor, and sub-items can keep your inner OCD gamer busy for weeks. Boss fights are larger than life, and on occasion larger even than your screen. You can ding it a few points for sub-par voice acting, but even that starts to grow on you after a few hours. Dedicated speed runners are working on improving their runs right now, trying to figure out new ways to shave seconds off their best efforts (seriously, watch the Awesome Games Done Quick streams to see some of the most impressive feats of gaming you’ll never hope to duplicate).

Smacking Skeletons

So rather than blabber on about how great the game is, we’re just going to stop here. You already know everything you need to know about Symphony of the Night. In addition to its original PS1 incarnation, you can find it on the 360, and can even download it off the PlayStation Network and enjoy it on your PS3 and/or PSP. Virtually every Castlevania game since has based its design off this template. And its theme of exploring an ancient castle, slaying Dracula, and confronting all manner of malevolent foes along the way fits perfectly with an October theme. So grab your holy water, ready your sword, and venture back into the vampire’s castle. It’s gonna be a long night.

Michael Crisman

In 1979, Michael Crisman was mauled by a radioactive Gorgar pinball machine. After the wounds healed, doctors discovered his DNA had been re-coded. No longer fully human, Michael requires regular infusions of video games in order to continue living among you. If you see him, he can see you. Make no sudden moves, but instead bribe him with old issues of computer and video game magazines or a mint-in-box copy of Dragon Warrior IV. If he made you laugh, drop a tip in his jar at http://paypal.me/modernzorker (If he didn't make you laugh, donate to cure his compulsion to bang keyboards by sending an absurdly huge amount of money to his tip jar instead. That'll show him!)

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