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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – My coolest moments, part two

This article goes into heavy spoiler territory for the game. If you haven’t experienced it yet, I highly, highly recommend you do so before continuing!

I’m writing this hot on the heels of finishing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SOTN). I don’t want to use the word “masterpiece”, because I feel this term is overused and conjures images of a flawless work of art. “A brilliantly handcrafted experience with minor blemishes” is a more accurate description in my book. What a bloody good game though!

What follows will conclude this two-part series of my own “coolest moments” from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – interesting plot points and pieces of gameplay.

The version of the game played was the original NTSC Playstation game on Retroarch, so the end theme and script is still the same as it was back in 1997.

Part 1 in this series of articles can be found here: https://hevimetaru.com/2019/04/07/castlevania-symphony-of-the-night-my-coolest-moments-part-1/ – It details events until ending #1 with Richter (the one where you haven’t received the Holy Glasses from Maria).

Cool Moment 14: Finding the fake purple save room and entering the Nightmare area

Upon entering the Underground Caverns, I noticed that the save room was different – the coffin was purple. Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I attempted to save the game as usual, only to be transported to the “Nightmare” realm (presumably whenever the player saves, they sleep in the coffin, except this time round they delve into Alucard’s nightmares). In the nightmare, you see the fate of Alucard’s mother as she is crucified, caught up in the witch trials of Europe from 1580 – 1630.

Alucard’s mother passing on sage advice to her son.

Alucard and his mother have a tender conversation before it is revealed that he was not talking to his mother after all; it was in fact a Succubus: a demon which can shapeshift into the opposite sex to attempt to drain the life energy from their victims. The preceding fight was a little disappointing (I was very overpowered by this point and the Succubus’ attacks were very well-telegraphed). Upon defeating the Succubus, Alucard returns to the real world with a gold ring in hand.

Cool Moment 15: Opening the secret area of the Room of Clocks with the Gold and Silver Rings

When playing through the game, you receive two rings which don’t seem to have any status effects. These are the Gold and Silver Rings: the silver one is obtained from Maria in the Royal Chapel and the gold one is attained as mentioned above after the Nightmare area. After nabbing the Silver Ring, the inscription read “…In…Tower.” With this information, I put on the Silver Ring and ventured all around the upper areas of the castle, hoping to activate a secret door or something similar. My ventures bore no fruit, so I continued on exploring other areas. Then once I procured the Gold Ring, the inscription read “Wear…Clock…” Puzzled, I couldn’t for the life of me work out what the description was pertaining to. After some time, I equipped both rings and quickly flicked back and forth between the items, revealing the following description: “Wear In Clock Tower.” Feverish with excitement, I donned the two rings and headed straight for the Room of Clocks, whereby the great clock’s chimes out a mournful sound and the floor opens up to reveal a hellish room full of pentagrams. And who do I find waiting in this room? Maria. What a mysterious woman indeed.

The atmosphere of this room is so creepy when combined with the music and the demonic broach-eye in the centre.

Cool Moment 16: Finding out that Richter is not actually evil and is being controlled by Shaft, the dark priest

Of all the names you could give a dark priest, why on earth would you pick “Shaft”? So once I unlocked the Holy Glasses after the meeting with Maria, I put those trendy bad-boys on and went to the Castle Keep to battle Richter.

If you fight him without wearing the Holy Glasses, the same dialogue plays out as before. However, once the fight commences, it is a very different scenario. A strange mind-controlling orb can be found floating above Richter. It’s a fantastic fight, as you have to strike the orb without doing damage to Richter, while he is throwing everything AND the kitchen sink at you. The variety in his attacks also makes this fight quite memorable.

The green orb in the centre is what controls Richter.

The orb eventually shatters to reveal Shaft, the dark priest and mastermind of resurrecting Count Dracula, using Richter as his puppet! An FMV of the surrounding landscape starts playing and the clouds part to reveal the Reverse Castle. In the first ending of the game, the original castle is obliterated like an Ion Cannon had been fired from space, yet in this ending, it is unveiled that an alternate castle exists.

Cool Moment 17: There is another castle to explore – essentially a whole new game!

As a child back in 1997, I didn’t realise the colossal secret that this game has. As an adult, this revelation still blows my mind; the fact that almost an entirely separate game is kept hidden from the player puts many modern games with all of their money-grabbing DLC to shame. I can only imagine the fervour surrounding this once people started uncovering this secret castle back in the day. I asked the reddit/r/castlevania community on what their initial thoughts were upon unlocking the Reverse Castle and here are some of the replies:

Bob_Billans said “On my second playthrough, it just clicked with me. I enjoyed the challenge of harder enemies and a new set of bosses.”

TheOrphanmakersaga replied with “I defeated Richter and finished the game but then I realized that my file was only at 96%. I loved the game so much I decided I should tackle the remaining 4%. I was so stoked when I found the holy glasses, but I was baffled when the inverted castle appeared. My prayers had been heeded”.

SoloJiub was a little more negative “Interesting at first but looking back, it’s really lame, the game forced you to backtrack a lot in the regular castle already. Storywise[,] it’s too weird, maybe if it was a different looking Castle or place (could even be smaller if needed). Love the game but yeah, it’s not perfect.”

And my favourite one from The_Captain_Jules: “Aw shit here we go again”.

The vibe I felt from the Reddit users was 50/50 on their feelings surrounding the Inverted Castle. Some loved it as it was almost an entirely new game with additional items and monsters to find, whilst others struggled with the added backtracking which was already heavily prominent in the normal castle.

For me personally, the Inverted Castle provides a familiar yet fresh atmosphere, as it is a place you know intimately from exploring the base castle so much, but (literally) turns the game on its head while inserting new items and bosses for the player to find.

The Reverse Castle map. A Hell-like place indeed.

Cool Moment 18: Being brought back down to earth with the increased difficulty of the Reverse Castle

Upon entering the Reverse Castle and saving at the Reverse Castle Keep, I dived into the nail-biting gauntlet of Medusa Heads, Harpies and Nova Skeletons to reach the Reverse Castle’s Outer Wall. I arrived at the save room just by the skin of my teeth. The Nova Skeletons in particular were really dangerous, as their elemental beam is the strongest attack in the game (… and that’s including bosses)! All of the enemies did so much more damage than in the normal castle that it made me much more careful on how to approach each encounter (in the normal castle, I would just mash the square button and everything in my way would be slain). In addition, I felt the need to use Alucard’s transformation abilities much more than before, either for avoiding very difficult sections or to dodge enemy attacks (the Mist ability was very useful against a certain boss which I will detail in the next section).

I entered this room, saw Cthulu and said “Stuff this, I’m not fighting that abomination! Mist time!”

Cool Moment 19: Beating Galamoth – The Great Dark Lord

This boss is straight out of Dark Souls, only in 2D. See, I managed to get a Dark Souls reference in here! But in all seriousness, this was one tough boss to conquer. In fact, I found it to be the hardest boss in the game for me. You come upon Galamoth in the Floating Catacombs. The boss is so large that for much of the fight you can only see the bottom half of his body. It was a grueling trial of transforming into Mist, dashing in for a few hits and repeat. With my currently equipped items, I was managing 38 damage per hit. However, since Galamoth has 12,000 HP, that meant I would have to hit him over 300 times. Every single offensive item in my inventory was consumed in an effort to take this guy down. I lost count from the number of times I died from his lightning attacks or from his kicks. This battle was a true test of determination and patience. However, I eventually prevailed and defeated the beast!

Meet Galamoth – The Great Dark Lord.
Bow before him and tremble! The game foretells your death from the RIP sign beneath his foot.

Cool Moment 20: Obtaining the Crissaegrim (one of the most powerful swords in the game) from a random enemy drop

Making my way through the Inverse Castle’s Long Library, I was casually killing all of the enemies, when a Schmoo (a disembodied floating head) drops a Crissaegrim – a multi-hit sword. Equipping this made all of the following bosses very easy to beat (even Dracula). While the sword itself doesn’t do a ton of damage, the multi-hit aspect meant with my current build, I was absolutely wrecking enemies. Funnily enough, the Schmoo can also drop Ramen, which while tasty, isn’t quite the same as picking up the best sword in the game.

It is a little bit of a shame that the sword kills the bosses so quickly, as a lot of love and care has gone into the bosses’ artwork, animation and attacks, which you don’t really get to see by killing them so quickly.

Instantly killing Akmodan II with the Crissaegrim.

Cool Moment 21: The final fight with Dracula is so metal!

As mentioned before, I had picked up the Crissaegrim, so the final battle was a bit of a cakewalk. Nonetheless, what I found cool about this fight was the dialogue before and after Dracula’s death metal album cover mixed with Alien-esque transformation. Alucard and his father have a nice friendly chat about defeating each other, with Dracula sitting elegantly on his throne. They then finish with Dracula telling Alucard that he will remake the world. Dracula then fades into the darkness, the background becomes this hellish distorted vortex, lightning appears and what comes into view is an aborted homunculus-like creature, a concoction of Lovecraftian horror, H.R. Giger’s unsettling artwork and metal music influences all in one. I really love this fight, because it truly is the most metal thing in this game! Dracula’s appearance is so horrifying, what with his three skulls, claw-like hands and contorted arms. Once the fight is over, Dracula starts misquoting Bible references “For what profit is it to man if he gains the world, and loses his own soul?,  Matthew 16:26 I believe.” and Alucard simply replies with “………” which I interpreted as “I have no idea what you’re talking about, father!”

Seeing this makes me want to put on Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and start headbanging!

Cool Moment 22: Finishing the game after 22 years!

Defeating Dracula prompts a cutscene and the same Ion Cannon of light comes crushing down from the sky to destroy the castle. Unlike the first ending, Alucard is now joined on top of the obliterated castle with Richter and Maria. Here they wish their final goodbyes to each other and go their separate ways. The screen fades to black and “I Am The Wind” starts to play while the credits roll. I must admit that I did tear up at this part, the game was a big part of my childhood and to finally finish it at the age of 28 was very special for me.

The band comes back together one last time.

One last thing I would like to mention is the music in this game. As a fan of metal and videogame music in general, the soundtrack completely rocked me from beginning to end (although ‘Finale Toccata’ does overstay its welcome in the Reverse Castle – it plays in no less than 6 different areas!). Michiru Yamane’s compositions really knocked it out of the park here. I sometimes didn’t even need to check the map, as I knew the area I was in from the sound of the music, “‘Dracula’s Castle’ is playing. Okay. I’m back at the Entrance area” or “That’s ‘Tower of Mist’. I must be in the Outer Wall area”. Every time ‘Prayer’ played at the save screen, it genuinely gave me goosebumps of nostalgia. The choir portion grips your soul and refuses to let go. It was because of songs such as ‘Dracula’s Castle’ that made me pick up my guitar and play videogame songs.

So that concludes my two-part series of my coolest moments from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I had so much fun writing these articles and revisiting a true classic of a game. Even now in 2019, this game is still incredibly fun to play. It has aged a little bit here and there in the gameplay department (not being able to attack in all directions is an “interesting” design choice) and the amount of times you revisit old areas does wear thin after a while. However overall the gameplay, story and castle design are still great to this day. These elements are further complemented by the sprite art, sound effects and music, which added together make a game that seems almost timeless. The fact people are still talking about this game regarding its game design is a testament to SOTN’s eternal greatness. A true “Vampire Killer” of videogaming.

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