The lights are on
Konami’s classic vampire-killing series changed gaming when it arrived on the PlayStation in 1997. It combined a gigantic, sprawling, Super Metroid-style castle with light RPG elements. The huge castle is littered with crazy enemies, room-filling bosses, and tons of weapons to experiment with. But just when you think you’ve explored everything the game has to offer and slain an important boss, you get to do the whole thing again, upside down.
Less thorough explorers could miss out on the second half of the game entirely if they don’t find a special set of eyewear. Players need to wear Holy glasses during a battle with Richter Belmont in order to see and destroy the evil force possessing him. Defeating this entity – the dark priest Shaft – freed Richter from his evil influence. If players kill Richter instead of Shaft, the game ends prematurely. Some gamers watched the credits roll, not knowing how much more game was in store for them.
And what a powerful feeling it is when you enter the portal to the inverted Castle Dracula and realize the entire game was designed to be played upside down. Staircases work in reverse, chandeliers jut up from the ground, and once inaccessible nooks are easily spelunked. New enemies and items populate the mirrored castle, giving familiar rooms an unique vibe from the first time you trekked through them.
The upgrade and exploration-based formula established in the Metroid series was already fantastic, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night only improved upon it. The visual variety of the castle and astounding, reversible map design is enough to keep Symphony of the Night high in any “greatest games of all time” conversation.