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Retro Let's Play: "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" (1997)

Discussion in 'Retro & Arcade' started by elvis, Jun 1, 2022.

  1. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    Was some good commentary attached to that thread about how magazine game reviews of the late 90s and early 00s were full of teenage angst and cringey attitude that was considered edgy and cool at the time, but just comes off as quite terrible with years of hindsight. As I mentioned in the OP, because this game wasn't all about bleeding edge graphics, it reviewed very poorly on release.

    And with that in mind, it's exactly how most commentary from the general public about video games today will be seen in years to come (see your usual "lazy game developers making crap games" or "no bleeding edge graphics at 144FPS" comments attached to any new game release - and indeed even recent events like this week's E3 announcements). Sadly not many people writing have the foresight to see that, however.

    The wheels of time keep turning.
     
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  2. Vanne

    Vanne Member

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    Meh I still like the Zzap!64 reviews.. JR was mostly spot on..
    IMG_20220613_135317.jpg
     
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  3. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    Julian "Jazz" Rignall had retired from game journalism and moved on to a marketing gig in the US by the time "late 90s angst" magazine reviews became popular.

    He and his team (DIgital Foundry's Richard Leadbetter was a co-worker of Jazza) did amazing work, and for me, set the tone for late 80s / early 90s journalism. It was sad when the mass-produced garbage overtook from their expertise, and I'm super happy to see Rich still doing his thing quietly and successfully, demonstrating that a stern view and an objective mindset are still worthwhile.

    Rich, Jazz and co went on to make amazing magazines like the later CVG (post "C+VG") as well as Mean Machines. I have complete physical collections of these magazines (thanks to my amazing wife who hunted down the missing issues I had some years back as a gift). Brilliant publications, and they service doubly as fantastic research material of games industry goings-on with data that's long been forgotten or is often misreported based on rumour and old wives' tails today.
     
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  4. CRTified

    CRTified Member

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    I remember C(+)VG as a high point in the early 90s. The good old days of standing there in a newsagent's aisle for 10 minutes while quickly paging through the highlights. Bought, and disposed of, quite a few in the 90s. I'd have them back if I could, but they can join the end of a long line in that respect.
     
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  5. Grant

    Grant Member

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    Just got my arse kicked by Galamoth, I hope I've missed something...
     
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  6. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    He's the hardest boss in the game, and the solution to beating him early is something I NEVER would have figured out on my own.

    No shame in Googling that one.
     
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  7. Trizae

    Trizae Member

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    Both of these are the correct question to answer ratio LOL I didn't figure it till years later hahaha
     
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  8. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    "What if they had just made a 3D Castlevania?", screams the crowd. They did! Started around the same time, but not coming out for another 2 years after SOTN, "Castlevania" (referred to as "Castlevania 64", despite not being the actual title) saw a rather poorly received release on Nintendo 64 due to some gameplay flaws in 1999.

    Later that same year, "Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness" was released - essentially a fixed, improved and expanded version (you'd probably call it a "patch", maybe even a "DLC" in modern terms, although no such thing existed in '99). A real shame too, as another 6 months in the oven could have released a version that was far less terrible than the original version.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlevania_(1999_video_game)

    The Digital Foundry good guys John and Audi via their "DFRetro" segment played through it and offered some great commentary along the way. Fast forward to 10:30 to see the 2D/3D comparisons I made in the original post.

     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2022
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  9. Grant

    Grant Member

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    Ok I've now got a "clear" message so I think I defeated the final boss. I went in blind and took the advice to "explore every inch of Dracula’s castle" to heart, and did several laps to try to find everything - sometimes I'd go on an exploration detour because I thought I'd definitely missed something, only to give up and find it slightly ahead. Got some help in this thread but other than that didn't look up any guides. Galamoth remains at large, I need a break before going back for that :wired:

    castlevania-sotn-196.jpg

    The voice acting never got better, and I listened through the worst ending theme ever for TWO endings... but still, the rest of the game is a 10/10 game.
     
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  10. hutts24

    hutts24 Member

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    When I bought my Playstation in 1996, I was using an online Playstation game review web site to research my purchases. I wish I could remember the name of it, and it probably doesn't exist now in any form. I was a very primitive looking site even by 1996 standards and used a 5 star rating. There was some point where they changed all the 4 star ratings down to 3 stars because new and better games were being produced for the console as developers improved their skills and tools/software became more powerful etc.

    One of the things that attracted me to this game was the fact it was 2D, sophisticated and looked more beautiful than the mostly primitive looking 3D games of the time and I was still hooked on old school gaming, growing up with the likes of C64 and arcades. The reviewers of that website must have been the same, for they didn't use teenage angst style writing and gave a very positive review of SOTN, ending it with "Konami may have another classic on their hands". I still love this game so many years later.
     
  11. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    Indeed you have, well done! Great time for a first run without looking stuff up.

    Some slight spoilers but we're over half way through the month. He's a completely optional boss, and only really just gives you a new item that is (a) fun to use and (b) makes the game way easier.

    There's two ways to beat him easily. One is with the Alucard Shield + Shield Rod combo (check out the speedrun video posted earlier in this thread, and watch them take on any of the bosses from about half way onwards). The other is with two special items hidden in the early stages of the game, which you'll need wolf and bat forms to get. As I said earlier, I would NEVER have found that particular combo without Googling, so don't be ashamed if you have to. It really was one of those "you need to read magazines that the developers leak info to" type tips, which was all par for the course with these old games.

    Same, and I still profess that the Saturn and PlayStation's real power was as a 2D gaming powerhouse, with effects like scaling, rotation, warping, transparency, and basic 3D for backgrounds that more than rivaled things like the SNES with a million add-on chips.

    It's a real shame that more developers didn't take advantage of this, and in the same breath with all of the modern retro-styled 2D around today, a shame more developers don't use this sort of mixed "mainly 2D, supplemental 3D" approach. (Although Kudos to those who do, like "Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth", which is an amazing homage to SOTN, and a game I'll cover later in this thread).
     
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  12. Trizae

    Trizae Member

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    elvis I think you're the only one here who has played/owned Lodoss War Labyrinth on here besides myself so far Team Ladybug do awesome work and looking forward to your breakdown on it as this month comes to a close :)
     
  13. Grant

    Grant Member

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    This was ridiculous, but even the explanations I found online were mostly incomprehensible and shrouded with inaccuracy. Same thing with some of the secrets I found about the Librarian.

    The current world record is just over 16 minutes, which is
    just 3 frames off 16:26 from Dracula's random bible quote as he dies.

    The world record for this game is actively being pushed, the current WR just uploaded within the last day: https://www.speedrun.com/sotn/run/yddnqrxy
     
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  14. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    Agreed.

    Yeah, between when GameFAQs was at its peak, and a more modern Internet, there was a lot of BS in between where people made wild and inaccurate claims that end up getting referenced and re-referenced, breaking SEO, and pushing them to the top of Google searches.

    Most of the highly rated all-text guides on GameFAQs are ok, with the downside that you have to search a literal wall of text to find the bit you care about.

    But, at any rate, most Castlevania games modelled on SOTN end up in this same pattern - find "unbeatable" boss, read FAQ to find the "unbeatable-boss-beater-macguffin", go back and swiftly beat the now beatable boss. A bit trite, but what game series doesn't have its quirks?

    As we're getting to the end of the month, over the weekend I'll start writing up a few recommendations for people if they enjoyed this sort of game (also recommendations for people who DIDN'T enjoy it, as there are some related ones out there that do away with the back-tracking and provide a more linear experience, which some people enjoy far more).

    As I mentioned in the first post, this game was very much "genre defining", and lots of titles have spawned from it as a result. Not all of them good (most bad, in fact). But there's a handful out there that scratch the itch, if you want to play a more modern approach.
     
  15. Grant

    Grant Member

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    Just in time for the end of the month!

     
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  16. power

    power Member

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  17. Grant

    Grant Member

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    That's so cool! The obvious comparison would be to Metroid 2, which was a native GB exclusive on release. Compared to SotN (or even Metroid 1) it's much more linear, which helps with the limited screen and room size on the Game Boy. You could still easily get lost in Metroid 2, but I was completely lost in SotN before figuring out how to bring up the map with my controller :Paranoid:
     
  18. power

    power Member

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    the lack of scrolling makes it perfect imho.
     
  19. OP
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    elvis

    elvis OCAU's most famous and arrogant know-it-all

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    I hope you all enjoyed this month's game. As mentioned in the OP, it's a pretty pivotal game in the "Metroidvania" genre, but there have been numerous games that have copied it's design over the years as a result of its popularity (and a few that even came before).

    So I'm going to do a couple of posts from here detailing some options folks can try. They'll fall into two categories:

    1) If you liked this game, I'll cover a bunch of great options you can try for more of the same.

    2) If you DIDN'T like the game, I'll cover some games that are similar in "side-scrolling 2D action" theme, but do away with the back-tracking and puzzle elements, and focus more on the pure action side of it (more like traditional Castlevania pre SOTN).

    So let's dive into a few right now of the "did like" category:

    1) Wonderboy III: The Dragon's Trap:
    https://forums.overclockers.com.au/threads/wonder-boy-monster-world-monster-boy.1202797/
    https://www.gog.com/en/game/wonder_boy_the_dragons_trap
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/543260/Wonder_Boy_The_Dragons_Trap/

    Originally on Sega Master System, this got a port to the PC Engine, and more recently an AMAZING modern re-make by the author of the "Meka" SMS emulator who teamed up with the same folks who made "Streets of Rage 4". All three ports are excellent choices.

    This game takes place directly after "Wonderboy in Monster Land", and sees Wonderboy cursed by the Meka Dragon (final boss of Wonderboy II). He gets mutated into all sorts of animals, and has to travel the land seeking out other dragons and eventually his cure. A game well ahead of its time, and a HUGE adventure for an 8 bit title.

    2) Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom:
    https://forums.overclockers.com.au/threads/wonder-boy-monster-world-monster-boy.1202797/
    https://www.gog.com/en/game/monster_boy_and_the_cursed_kingdom
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/449610/Monster_Boy_and_the_Cursed_Kingdom/

    Starting out as a indie title, and then eventually convincing the original Wonder Boy creators to jump on board, this game is a modern take on Wonder Boy III, and a very similar and satisfying adventure with lots of secret finding, puzzle solving and back tracking.

    3) The 2D "Metroid" series. The other half of the "Metroidvania" name. I recommend the following (no need to play these in order. Jump in anywhere you like):
    * Metroid 1, via "Metroid Zero Mission" - originally on Gameboy Advance. Available on Virtual Console on 3DS and WiiU. Easily emulated.
    * Metroid 2, via "AM2R" on PC/Windows (ports exist for Linux and RPi too). Homebrew release that Nintendo attempted to take down. Far better than Nintendo's own remake. Google will tell you where to find it (or PM me).
    * Metroid 3, "Super Metroid". Originally on SNES, it's been re-released on 3DS, Wii, WiiU and Nintendo Switch Virtual Console and Nintendo Switch Online. Easily emulated too.
    * Metroid 4, "Metroid Fusion". Originally on Gameboy Advance, re-released on 3DS and WiiU Virtual Console. Easily emulated.
    * Metroid 5, "Metroid Dread". The most recent game, available on Nintendo Switch. Made by the devs who did the rather poor 3DS "Metroid: Return of Samus" (remake of Metroid 2), the devs came back and fixed all their poor design choices to make an excellent Metroid 5.

    If you want to try Metroid in first person 3D, the "Metroid Prime" series is just that. Quite different in 3D, but a hoot all the same. There's even a mod to make the third title in the series play like a PC FPS without the need for WiiMote.

    4) Hollow Knight:
    https://www.gog.com/en/game/hollow_knight
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/367520/Hollow_Knight/

    Aussie devs Team Cherry delivered an amazing title here. Dark and eerie graphics set in an underground world of bugs. MUCH harder than SOTN, with some very tough combat to get past, but a superbly rewarding experience all the same. If you found SOTN too easy, Hollow Knight is just for you. The sequel, "Silk Song", is expected to be announced very soon (maybe, possibly....)

    5) Ori and the Blind Forest:
    https://www.gog.com/en/game/ori_and_the_blind_forest_definitive_edition
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/261570/Ori_and_the_Blind_Forest/

    Another modern title with some fantastic presentation, Ori is a small forest guardian spirit who does the usual metroidvania thing - exploring, back tracking, unlocking. Amazing visuals, audio, and solid gameplay.

    It spawned a sequel, which the AM2R develeoper worked on, titled "Ori and the Will of the Wisps":
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/1057090/Ori_and_the_Will_of_the_Wisps/

    5) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Knight:
    https://www.gog.com/en/game/bloodstained_ritual_of_the_night
    https://store.steampowered.com/app/692850/Bloodstained_Ritual_of_the_Night/

    Koji Igarashi, aka "Iga" who is credited with the "Igavania" style of action platformer mixed with RPG elements (starting with SOTN), went on to do numerous excellent Castlevania games on handheld devices (I'll cover some more later, rather than flood this post). After leaving Konami, he decided to have another crack at the formula, this time using 3D assets. "Bloodstained" is the result, and is VERY similar to SOTN, right down to some of the map locations, weapons and items. Initially this game had some performance issues, but patches have fixed that up (so don't stress if that's what you read online - very outdated information there). A really fun title that scratches all the SOTN itches if you liked this title.

    That'll do for now. I'll cover some more of the traditional action-platformer options later today for the "did not like" folks.
     
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  20. Trizae

    Trizae Member

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    As someone who loved what the community did with Metroid 2 and AM2R (which is available switch btw through hax) Samus Returns (Metroid 2 Remake) has higher highs gameplay boss and lore wise especially with Super Metroid and Metroid Dread last year, which is to be expected that tipped it over the fan remake.

    With Ori will of the wisps is awesome but the first one is much better and cohesive as a metroidvania.

    Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Knight is actually low key amazing and puts more of a castlevania of a metroidvania consider Kogi Igarashi was at the helm. I'd also recommend Bloodstained Circle of the Moon 1&2 which hit that sweet spot of Castlevania: Rondo Of The Blood & Symphony of the night. The sequel to Ritual Of The Night should be out next year with better backing and inbetween titles like Circle of the Moon 1&2.

    Outside hollow knight with adelaide crew, the most iconic and notable personally are Dead Cells, Record Of Lodoss War: Deedlight labyrinth (based off the anime more Symphony of the night than anything) Tohou Luna Knights, Shin Megami Tensei(Persona): Synchronicity Prologue (Free game which Atlus/Sega released during Persona 5: Royal which had an english patch a few moons ago which you can get here: Shin Megami Tensei - Synchronicity Prologue v1.01 [PC]+English Patch : Ladybug Team) last three games are by Team Lady Bug. & F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow.
     
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