Friday, July 3, 2015

"Super Castlevania IV" VS "Symphony of the Night"

I love video games, of that there is no secret. Another thing that isn't much of a secret is my love for one franchise in particular: "Castlevania". Since I was a kid with my NES, the "Castlevania" franchise has been a staple in my life, and through the years as the series would evolve (and in some cases, de-evolve), my love for it stayed forever the same.

That being said, I recently got into a debate with someone about what the best game in the whole series is. For a majority of gamers, the clear favorite seems to be "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night", which is a more than worthy choice. For me personally though, and feel free to call me out on this, my all time favorite in the franchise is "Super Castlevania IV".

Yes, you read that right.

Even though both games are part of the same franchise, both are quite different in their own ways. So, I'm going to analyze these two ball-breaking classics for your reading enjoyment. And if you don't know how to read, that's fine too.

"Super Castlevania IV" was released in 1991 as an early title for the then new Super NES. A 16-bit remake of the original NES "Castlevania", this game completely re-worked a lot of the flaws (or charms) of the original games. The awkward jumping mechanics and stair climbing pains in the ass were gone. Instead of only being able to fire your whip in front of you, you could now whip in 8 different directions. In essence, the control was absolutely perfect, which is about the only time in the history of ever you can say that about a fucking "Castlevania" game. Not to mention the fact that the game as a whole is a beautiful sight. It was designed to show off just what the Super NES could do graphically, and it succeeded wonderfully. Every so often I still pop this game in, whether it be the actual Super NES cartridge or the Virtual Console version on my Wii-U. This game is a classic and I always find myself going back to it.

"Castlevania: Symphony of the Night" was released in 1997 for the PS1, and is a direct sequel to the PC Engine "Castlevania: Rondo of Blood" (which was ported over here to the Super NES as "Castlevania: Dracula X"). Instead of playing as one of the Belmont's, you play as Dracula's so Alucard, most notably a playable character from "Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse". Also gone from this installment is the traditional whip-wielding action (until you unlock Richter Belmont that is) which has been replaced by a platforming, RPG-ish "Metroid"-style of gameplay. Now this game was a massive hit when originally released, and helped set the stage for nearly every "Castlevania" game to come after it to adopt the same style, especially ones on portable systems. The hype here is real though, "Symphony of the Night" is an amazing game and truly timeless, but as much as people tend to love it, I've always preferred "Super Castlevania IV" over it for a variety of reasons.

From a personal standpoint, I've never been much of an RPG fan. Don't get me wrong, I've played my share of RPGs and games with RPG elements, but it's rare that I stick with one all throughout that holds my interest. It's also rare for me to want to dedicate that much time and effort and energy into a game as well, whether it was back then or even now. That being said, I did enjoy playing through "Symphony of the Night" and uncovering all the secrets and shitting my pants when the castle was flipped upside down. The boss fights were epic and the voice acting is beautifully awful. That being said, and I'll probably get called out here for being lazy, but navigating through the castle and finding and equipping various items, etc., always seemed kind of troublesome to me. Maybe that's more reflective of the kind of gamer I am as opposed to the game's mechanics, but I digress. "Symphony of the Night" always made me feel like there were ways to cheat a little bit to get around the game and come out on top without requiring too much skill like the "Castlevania" games of the past.

"Super Castlevania IV" on the other hand, has none of that shit. That game is a tried and true whip-wielding action blast that makes you rely on your reflexes and your wits to get through the game. Not to mention the fact that the whole game doesn't take place in the castle (in all honesty, when games in this series take place exclusively in the castle, it puts me off; I miss the graveyards and haunted forests) and really wonderfully illustrates some amazingly gothic environments, which adds to the game's creepiness factor.

To close things up, it's really just personal preference that I prefer "Super Castlevania IV" over "Symphony of the Night". Both games are wonderful and beautiful examples of the franchise at its absolute best. You really can't go wrong with either, and if you've never played either game, or any of the classic "Castlevania" games of years before, you done fucked up and missed out on some of the most just plain awesome, and frequently frustrating, video games to ever see the light of day.

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