It’s no secret that Konami has been mishandling Castlevania for years. With the last major release being 2014’s forgettable Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 and no announcements of a new title, fans have given up hope that the series could ever return to its glory days. However, the one area of the franchise that has worked well as of late, the animated Netflix series, has proven that there’s still life in the Belmont versus Dracula saga. One way Konami has capitalized on that renewed interest by bringing back two of the series’ best entries in one package on PlayStation 4.
With Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood, the title literally tells you what you’re getting. Players can jump into the previously longtime Japan-only Rondo of Blood or play one of the most celebrated action-platformers of all time, 1997’s Symphony of the Night. Both titles offer perhaps the best look at two different gameplay styles used in the vampire-killing franchise, with the former playing like the original Castlevania and the latter ushering in the era of Metroidvanias. It’s a perfect idea for a collection and the best gift Konami could have given to dedicated fans. The only problem is that apart from these classics, there’s not much else to Castlevania Requiem. Don’t expect a collection chock full of modern updates or a comprehensive look behind-the-scenes of either entry. Instead, it’s just two great ports inside of a missed opportunity.
Starting with what works, both Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood are just as fantastic as ever. As I said before, Rondo of Blood represents what fans would call classic Castlevania: extremely high difficulty, semi-linear exploration, and precision platforming, with Richter only having access to simple movements and attacks. While short, the experience will test most players’ patience and require them to practice to see any success. Once the old-school mechanics click, though, Rondo of Blood‘s visual style, rocking soundtrack, and tight controls still make it a worthy entry in the series and a real challenge for platformer aficionados.
Of course, newcomers to Castlevania will likely be turned off by Rondo of Blood‘s steep learning curve, which makes Symphony of the Night the clear star. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve completed this PlayStation classic dozens of times since I was a kid, a story that most longtime Castlevania fans probably share. Symphony of the Night takes everything that worked so well in Rondo of Blood and swaps out the linear platforming and basic controls for free exploration, some of the best music in the series, and innovative role-playing elements. Exploring Dracula’s castle as his vengeful son Alucard to take on powerful bosses and unlock new abilities is just as addicting as it was in 1997. It’s also the title that newbies will likely gravitate toward due to its easy to master controls and lengthy story.
The only downside of both games is that they’re not ports of the originals. Instead, Konami used the PlayStation Portable translations of Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood (without the 2.5D graphics) from Dracula X Chronicles. While most aspects remain the same between the original versions and these ports, the considerable difference comes down to the voice acting and scripts. That means Symphony of the Night doesn’t have its iconic lines, such as Dracula’s opening monologue about man being “a miserable little pile of secrets.” The PSP actors do a fine job, and the rest of the dialogue is serviceable, but fans of the original will surely miss the campiness of the original.
The more prominent issue comes down to what Castlevania Requiem offers outside of the ports. Several display options affect both titles, such as a stretched screen mode, smoothing, and a collection of interchangeable wallpapers, but that’s about it. Players have the option for an interlace mode, which essentially makes the screen flicker, but I’m not sure who would ever want that. The usable options are nice to have, but they seem tacked on and largely unnecessary.
However, what takes the prize for “what were they thinking?” has to be the collection’s main menu. Please don’t take this as an exaggeration: Castlevania Requiem‘s menu is the most confusing and ugliest I have ever seen. When picking between Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood, players must navigate the cursor up or down to pick one, with a red indicator over the game name to let you know that’s the one you have chosen. When you move the cursor, though, the busy background changes and for some reason, the official logo for each game is seen off to the side of the game name, making it look like there are actually four games available. Plus, when Symphony of the Night is selected, the Rondo of Blood logo covers up the Exit option. It’s not as if it’s impossible to navigate. It’s just… lazy.
Overall, Castlevania Requiem is fantastic because it brings two of the best games in the series to a modern platform, but it lends credence to the argument that Konami doesn’t care at all about its future. The collection feels more like Konami knew fans would jump at the chance to pick up Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood again and therefore didn’t feel any pressure to gloss up the collection’s presentation or add meaningful features. In short, it comes off as a blatant cash grab. And unfortunately, this isn’t the first time a Konami collection was a letdown, as the Silent Hill HD Collection was riddled with bugs and controversial voice acting changes. So, yes, Castlevania fans should definitely pick up Requiem, but just know that it will be a reminder that this series deserves much better.
Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood offers two of the best experiences from the long-running Castlevania series in one convenient package. While both games still hold up extremely well, the collection as a whole doesn’t introduce anything new to fans, making it feel like nothing more than a slapped together port. Still, both titles are worth the time of fans and newcomers.
T – Teen
|Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood is available on PlayStation 4. Primary version played was for Play. Code/hardware was provided by Konami for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|