It's late June, and we have a new Essentials completion!  Truth be told, this one was reported to me a long time ago, and I've simply been too busy to write it up.  This time around, we have one man taking on the gothic platforming classic that proved an old series had what it took to stay fresh and capture the jugular veins of gamers everywhere.  Many fans of the series' consider Symphony of the Night the quintessential Castlevania game, and it has stood the test of time remarkably well.  Does Wolf have what it takes to take down the Lord of Night?!

Tell us, dear Wolf: Have you played much from the Castlevania series?

My only experience with the Castlevania series before this was playing the demo to Lords of Shadow one time. That's actually why I chose this as my essential, because I had come across some really cheap copies of two of the DS games recently and finally decided to give the series a chance.

What convinced you to try Symphony of the Night?

Just the fame that it's gotten through the years, particularly in how it changed the direction of the later Castlevania games, which were the games that always interested me the most from the series.

What did you think?

I loved it. I thought it deserved all of the praise that it got. There was something so satisfying about finding a new relic that would allow you to finally get into that section of the map that had previously been off-limits. It's definitely easy to see how a genre spawned out of it. Not to mention that graphically and soundwise the game was just so well-done. The spritework, the backgrounds, and the music were all consistently impressive.The gameplay was fun and so refined, with hitboxes and hurtboxes seeming to be done down to even the smallest pixel. Also, while nowhere near as important, as a fan of monster-catching games I quite enjoyed the familiars, especially with how each of them added their unique benefits without any of them just being a better version of another one. At least, that's how I felt about the first half of the game.

And the second half?

Going through the inverted castle was such a drag. I don't mind the reusing of the assets, especially with the new enemies, but it took away a lot of the magic that exploration had had up to that point. Not to mention, the fact that all of the important relics are found in the original castle means that there is no substantial change to gameplay to be found in the inverted castle to prevent the gameplay loop from getting stale. The only real thing blocking progression are the enemies, who are much stronger than the strongest enemies from the original castle to a frustrating degree. There were a few places where I just went through rooms in mist form, because there was no way for me to actually kill all of the enemies there without getting hit out of the room, causing them all to just go back to full health anyway. Of course, the worst part about the difficulty in the inverted castle wasn't how frustratingly cheap it felt, but how much randomly it fluctuated to the other end of the spectrum after I happened to get two accessory drops that almost doubled my defense. After that point, there was barely anything that could do more than 1 point of damage to me. Even Dracula, THE FINAL BOSS OF THE GAME, was only capable of doing from 1-16 points of damage on me. I didn't mention the difficulty of the original castle before, because ultimately, it wasn't really something that affected me one way or the other. The challenge dropped after the very beginning, but after that initial drop, it stayed at a pretty average level, unlike the 100 to 0 that happens in the second castle. In every place where the first half of the game shines, the second half of the game not only drops the ball, but also proceeds to stomps on it before firing a few rounds into it for good measure. Where the original castle was a joy to explore every nook and cranny, the inverted castle was a chore that had barely anything to reward and further the exploration, apart from some better equipment.

There are undoubtedly a few iconic moments in SotN. Do you have a favorite?

I really enjoyed anytime Dracula was talking, especially at the end when he was quoting the Gospel of Matthew. It was enjoyable for all of the wrong reasons. For actual gameplay moments, I really enjoyed when I got the bat form for all of the places that it opened up and the boss fight against Trevor and his companions. Hearing people gush about the old games really made me appreciate that reference, even if it wasn't very personal to me.

A lot of people praise SotN's soundtrack. What did you think of it?

I thought it was really good, but there were only a few places where it struck me like it seems to a lot of other people, such as the music for the caves, the top of the castle, the ending music, and the boss themes.

Now that you're finished, would you call Symphony of the Night Essential?

Yes, I would, for the first half at least. As for the inverted castle, I'd say that since the best parts of the game have already been exhibited before then, it's not really necessary to complete it for anyone who dislikes it as much as I did.

Excellent work, Wolf.  You found out, once and for all, that the blood is the life.  Tune in next time, dear readers, as we interview another poor *** forced into playing a terrible game.