Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 27.10.2018 2

Review for Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood on PlayStation 4

The year was 1792 and, as always, Dracula was being a colossal jerk. His minions invaded a village, burned it to the ground, and even captured a few women. Apparently, the Dark Lord sought a wife. Too bad for him he picked the wrong ladies to mess with. Anette is the fiancée of Richter Belmont, wielder of the legendary Vampire Killer, and it's safe to assume he's not too happy that a Vampire kidnapped his betrothed. Then there's Maria Renard, who crushes bloodsuckers with her army of birds, cats, and other cuddly creatures. After being defeated by Richter, Dracula was supposed to lay down for one of his century-long power naps, but was resurrected less than a decade later. Now, his own son, Alucard, has arrived at the castle to beat some sense into him.

Symphony of the Night is one of the most talked-about games of its kind. After arriving at his father's castle, Alucard collects numerous weapons and abilities, while slaying every fiend that crosses his path. In time, he acquires traversal powers that allow him to access new areas, and discover secret items. Although the difficulty is pretty unbalanced, there are ways players can challenge themselves, such as by limiting themselves to certain weapons. It's been over 20 years now; each and every aspect of this classic has been discussed in painstaking detail. Is there really anything left to be said?

In order to discover some additional insight, people must be willing to look beyond. With that in mind, consider this title's feel. When it comes to videogames, just the way they feel can mean so much. Having good controls is one thing, but when it feels right, there's this sort of natural chemistry. The avatar becomes an extension of the player. Everything smoothly clicks into place, and it creates a level of immersion that even VR technology hasn't quite managed to figure out.

To really figure out what makes a game feel good, there is a need to account for not just the player-character, but everything around them, as well. This includes all of the typical objects, such as walls and platforms. Enemies are also a major factor; they may not have advanced AI algorithms governing them, but they all respond to Alucard's presence. These enemies come in a myriad of sizes and shapes, all of them having their own tools for dealing with invaders. No matter their circumstances, none of them exist to "cheat" the player out of health or resources. There is always a way around them or through them. They don't have cheap hit-boxes that cover overly large portions of the screen, nor do they move too fast to react to. Everything that happens feels very natural.

Screenshot for Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood on PlayStation 4

What makes this beloved goes beyond RPG mechanics and rare drops; it exudes confidence. Anyone who plays this can take comfort in that everything that occurs does so in a sensible manner. They are fully aware of when things go right, and when they go wrong. Not once will they ever think "How was I supposed to know that would happen?!" and that's because nothing inexplicable ever happens. This creates a welcoming environment, one that veterans love to explore.

Next time you play Symphony of the Night, take the time to appreciate the denizens of Dracula's castle. Instead of immediately laying them to waste with a Crissageim, consider finding other ways to get past them. Alucard's diving kick, which he unlocks along with the double-jump, is a fantastic move that is really underutilised. Pretend the floor is lava, and see how far you get just bouncing off of candles and enemies. When a game has a good feel to it, the simple act of playing becomes joyous.

Rondo of Blood is every bit the traditional Castlevania that fans adore, and yet, it's also strange and wonderfully unique. Yes, it's still a side-scrolling action game with stiff jumps and hard-hitting monsters, but it isn't afraid to play around, either. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, this title strays from the pack, but in a slight manner. It's just enough to catch the interest, but not too much that it becomes distracting or annoying.

Screenshot for Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood on PlayStation 4

As with Dracula's Curse, this features alternate routes. The key difference is that these paths are not obvious. It's not simply a matter of choosing to go to the clock tower instead of the forest. There's a surprisingly high amount of interactivity in this world. If something looks out of place, then it's probably a good idea to whip it and see what happens. Not all pits are bottomless, either. This touch of exploration lends quite a bit of replay value.

Of course, all of this wouldn't mean anything if the game wasn't fun to play, but this is '90s Konami. If there was one developer that could do no wrong during that era, it was indeed Konami. Perhaps its success is attributed to one simple fact: it makes a lot of action-platformers. It's a difficult genre to get right, especially when the games are as punishing as those in the Castlevania series. Simple mistakes tend to be very costly, so it's on the developer to make the level of difficulty at least relatively fair. This is a talent that the pros at Konami have been honing for several years. The company's mastery over the genre allows it the freedom to go in new directions.

The true greatness of Rondo of Blood is not just in its precise controls, tight pacing, and thrilling encounters; it is how every element comes together naturally. Nothing is ever unnecessary or out of place. This holds true even when playing as Maria. Sure, she's a little girl in a stereotypically cute pink dress that kills the undead with trained birds, but that's part of the brilliance of it all. She double jumps, sings, and even throws a little temper tantrum when sliding. Her presence changes the entire atmosphere of the game, but in a fun way, not in a "Why is a little kid fighting monsters?" way.

To sum it all up, these two titles are excellent, and they deserve nothing but the finest re-releases imaginable. Sigh… It's nice to dream isn't it? Castlevania Requiem bundles both together, but they didn't get the tender loving care they deserve. First off, these ports aren't exactly new. They were originally part of The Dracula X Chronicles, a PSP compilation that also included a full 3D remake of Rondo of Blood.

Screenshot for Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood on PlayStation 4

For what it's worth, the PSP ports are pretty solid. They are not completely accurate, especially with regards to sound and resolution, but there's nothing that stands out as truly terrible. Also, it's worth noting that Maria is playable in this version of Symphony of the Night, and she's quite a lot of fun. Her air-dash gives her wonderful manoeuvrability, and making the most of her feathery and fluffy friends requires a bit of thought. She can't just "Hydro Storm!" her way through everything like Richter. That said, there is plenty of room for improvement, and it would be expected for the PS4 release to do just that. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case. It's a pair of the classics on the big screen, but there are a number of baffling decisions that keep this edition from being the slam dunk it should be.

Over the course of Alucard's quest, he learns how to turn into a wolf, mist, and a bat. Each of these transformative powers has their own shoulder button on the PlayStation controller. Due to the PSP's button limitations, the only way to turn into mist is by pressing L1 and R1 together. Sadly, this issue wasn't rectified in Castlevania Requiem. R2 and L2 simply aren't used for anything. There aren't any options for mapping commands onto those buttons, either.

Instead of giving players a feature that's actually useful, they are instead treated to the wonders of a vibrating controller. Almost everything that happens in both games causes the controller to shake. If Richter grabs a heart, the controller shakes; if Alucard back-dashes, the controller shakes; when a Dhuron is killed, and its skull bounces across the floor, the controller will shake every single time that skull touches the floor. Basically, the controller is almost constantly vibrating. It's enough to drive even the most hardened vampire hunter insane. Admittedly, this critic has never been a fan of force feedback, and will turn it off whenever the option presents itself. Unfortunately, no such option is presented in this compilation.

Speaking of aggravating things that can't be turned off… Whenever any of the three heroes picks up an item, the appropriate sound effect is played through the PS4 controller's speaker. What purpose does this serve? These sound effects can still be heard coming from the TV, so what advantage does it serve to have them also play on a tiny speaker? This is another mindboggling design decision. The only purpose it serves is to annoy the player. Take this advice: in the PlayStation 4's main menu, go to the device manager, and then disable the controller's vibration and speakers. It makes a world of difference.

Screenshot for Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Bundling two of Konami's most beloved games should have been the easiest sale in the world. Instead, what is here is something that doesn't quite hit the mark. The ports are competent, but they could have been so much more. Instead, it seems like effort was spent on including meaningless features that don't really benefit anyone. Introducing force feedback to old games just seems like a bad idea in general. Still, Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood are classics. They deserve to be played, even if it is through Castlevania Requiem.

Developer

Konami

Publisher

Konami

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Did you try the Konami code?

The gba games were great, every one of them.

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