Castlevania is a series that traces it’s vampirical themed roots way back to the NES, an age of darkness, no internet, no smartphones and very little in the way of guidance when it came to video games.
As someone born in the mid 90’s, I’d grown up hearing the tales of Castlevania. YouTubers like the Angry Video Game Nerd and SomeCallMeJohnny are well known for their coverage of the series, with Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest being one of the most infamously “bad” sequels in the gaming sphere. Despite this, however, I’d never played a Castlevania game. Until now.
Feeling like the perfect time for a horror-themed release (Spooky Month!), Castlevania Requiem: Symphony Of The Night & Rondo Of Blood is a collection package that came out on PS4 with the hopes of introducing new players to the series and giving the old guard a spooky trip down memory lane.
As you’d probably gathered from the title, the Requiem package includes both the SNES classic Rondo Of Blood and the highly praised PS1 title Symphony Of The Night, ported to PS4 with minimal changes, plain and simple. That being said, one of the first things you’ll notice upon booting it up, is that the games look great. A wise man by the name of Colin Moriarty once said that Pixel Art is a lost art form and Castlevania makes me inclined to agree.
The style, intention and atmosphere are brought to life flawlessly with the aid of a rocking, distinctive soundtrack that manages to simultaneously make you feel like a badass, but also cautious of the road ahead.
In time I spent with the collection, Rondo Of Blood struck me with its classic NES formula. Something akin to Mega Man or Shovel Knight. You get a good degree of control over your character and their move set but the real challenge comes from platforming around enemies and striking them when the time is right. Meanwhile, Symphony Of The Night feels way more akin to something like Metroid, which is fitting when you consider it helped birth the term “Metroidvania”.
Of the two, I found my preference heavily leaning toward Symphony, with it’s greater focus on actual stats, levelling up and equipment/gear systems providing a deeper, more thoughtful approach to gameplay.
Word of warning to new players: go into these games prepared to have your ass handed to you. I got sent to the game over screen multiple times when starting out, especially when it came to the boss fights, although I also found a great degree of pleasure in overcoming said bosses after numerous failed attempts, strengthening my earlier comparison to the Mega Man titles.
Players will find that Castlevania Requiem offers some classic, tough as nails gameplay in Rondo Of Blood alongside a deeper, more open experience in Symphony Of The Night. Two experiences that whilst sharing a common name, theme and tone manage to compliment each other with their differences in gameplay.
Ultimately, the experience I had with the Castlevania Requiem collection has given me some insight into why people enjoyed these games too begin with. They feel very atmospheric and provide players with a challenge.
I’d recommend this collection to anyone with a bit of the old retro-morbid-curiosity, especially if you enjoy the likes of Mega Man, Shovel Knight or Metroid. There’s enough connective DNA in those titles that you should find your feet fairly quickly.
With that all said and done, I think I’m gonna explore more of Symphony Of The Night. (When I’m done with Red Dead Redemption 2, that is!)
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*