Saturday, May 21, 2011

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night



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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Developer - Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Publisher - Konami
Release date - March 20, 1997


Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a platform-adventure action role-playing game developed and published by Konami. It is the sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and features Dracula's son Alucard as the protagonist.



Plot


Castlevania: Symphony of the Night begins during the ending of the previous game in the series, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, where Richter Belmont confronts and defeats Count Dracula. Four years later, Alucard (Robert Belgrade; Yuri Lowenthal in the redub) arrives at the castle. Inside, he meets Dracula's servant Death (Dennis Falt; Travis Willingham in the redub), who warns him to stop his quest to destroy the castle and strips him of his equipment. He also meets Maria Renard (Kimberly Forsythe; Michelle Ruff in the redub), a seventeen-year-old vampire hunter who fought alongside Richter and is now searching for him, and the castle's librarian, who sells items and equipment to Alucard. Periodically encountering Maria throughout the castle, Alucard also meets Richter, who claims to be the new lord of the castle and forces him to battle with two monsters.

Gameplay

Like many installments of the Castlevania series, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night uses a 2D side-scrolling style of gameplay. The objective of the game is to guide the main player character Alucard through the undead-filled castle as he sets out to defeat the vampire Dracula. The game uses a non-linear style of gameplay; however, at the beginning, Alucard can access only certain areas of the castle. By obtaining the three forms (wolf, bat, and mist) that he can shapeshift into, he gradually explores the castle. A map carried by Alucard is automatically updated to show the player's progress through the castle.

Protagonists in previous games of the series use whips as their main weapon. In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Alucard can find and use weapons ranging from edged weapons like swords and knives to knuckles and expendable items such as bombs or javelins. He can also obtain health restoratives, equipment and items that boost his attributes; these are located on an inventory. Relics found throughout the castle provide Alucard with abilities, such as the ability to double jump. A bestiary kept by the castle's librarian, who also functions as a shopkeeper, shows the monsters encountered by the player and the items they drop when defeated.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night incorporates elements found in role-playing games. Alucard's hit points determine the maximum amount of damage he can withstand before dying while his magic points decide how frequently a magical attack may be cast. Alucard has four other attributes: strength – the power of his physical attack; defense – his resilience to damage inflicted by the monsters; intelligence – the recovery speed of magic points; and luck – the frequency that items are dropped by enemies. Defeating monsters provides him with experience points and he will level up after reaching a predetermined amount, increasing his attributes in the process. Alucard may cast eight different spells, which requires the player to input directional combinations and will use up varying amounts of his magic points. During the course of the game, Alucard can acquire the ability to summon familiars, which function as complementary entities, aiding him in battle and exploration. The North American version of the game includes the Fairy, Demon, Ghost, Bat, and Sword familiars. The original Japanese version also includes the familiars Nose Devil (functionally identical to the Demon but with a Tengu mask) and Pixie.


Alternative modes of gameplay can be unlocked after the completion of the game. By inputting Richter Belmont's name as the user name, the player can choose to play as Richter, who uses a whip as his main weapon and various sub-weapons. Two alternative modes have Alucard as the player character with certain items and increased or decreased attributes. In the Sega Saturn and PSP remake of Rondo of Blood, Maria Renard is also playable, by selecting her before starting a game in the Saturn version, or by inputting her name in the save file naming screen after beating the game with Alucard once in the PSP version.

Music

The music used in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was composed by Michiru Yamane. The soundtrack contains elements from music genres classical, techno, gothic rock, new age, jazz, and subgenres of metal – including thrash metal and black metal. "I Am the Wind", a vocal ending theme written by Rika Muranaka and Tony Haynes, and performed by Cynthia Harrell, is played during the credits.

The soundtrack contains arrangements of pieces from Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, particularly "Dance of Illusions", the final boss theme in Rondo of Blood. There is also "Blood Relations", a variation of the piece heard in the first stage in Rondo of Blood.

Development

The game was directed by Toru Hagihara, while assistant director Koji Igarashi had creative influence and was involved with the story-writing and programming. From the outset, the game was intended to represent a new direction for the franchise. According to Igarashi, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night began development as " ... something of a side story for the series, we were able to break alot [sic] of Castlevania conventions and introduce a lot of new elements that we still use today". His primary motivation for the abrupt design change was the sight of dozens of Castlevania games in bargain bins of Japanese video game stores; linear Castlevania games offered limited replay value after completion. A noted fan of 2D games, Igarashi was instrumental in refining the game's control scheme.The game was originally intended for the Sega 32X.

For Igarashi, regular action games were too short; he wanted to create a game that "could be enjoyed for a long time". Consequently, the development team abandoned the stage-by-stage progression of the previous Castlevania games in favor of an open castle that the player could freely explore. Igarashi looked to the The Legend of Zelda series, which involved much exploration and back-tracking to extend the amount of gameplay. The development team used inspiration from Zelda and Super Metroid to make the most of the castle areas initially inaccessible to the player. The player would gradually obtain items and vampiric powers that progressively opened up the castle. Their idea was to reward exploration while retaining the hack-and-slash action of the previous games.

Role-playing mechanics were added because Igarashi felt the classic Castlevania games were too challenging for average players. To change that, the team implemented a leveling-up system with experience points, which rewarded players with better attack and defense statistics as they beat enemies. This system, combined with a variety of items, armors, weapons and spells, allowed the exploration to become less difficult for unskilled players.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was artist Ayami Kojima‍ '​s first appearance in the video game industry. She worked on the game as a character designer, conceptualizing the game's main and supporting cast. Her designs for the game are heavily influenced by bish┼Źnen-style art. These illustrations were popular with the Castlevania fan base, prompting Kojima to produce similar designs for later titles.

The game is presented using 2D visuals, mainly sprites animated over scrolling backgrounds. Effects such as rotation and scaling are used liberally. Sprites range from small to filling an entire screen. Parallax effects attempt to simulate depth in backgrounds and can be seen throughout the game.

Occasionally, the 3D capabilities of the PlayStation try to embellish the largely 2D world. For example, cloudy skies in the Royal Chapel area are rendered as 3D textures moving towards the player's perspective. A polygonal clock tower visible from the Castle Keep rotates as the player moves. Enemies and spells also sometimes render 3D elements as part of their special animations. The game contains some short full motion video (FMV) sequences, most of which showcase the castle from different angles. This technique was widely used at the time of the game's production.

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