The Playstation, an iconic system, one launching a brand-new style of console war and one that decimated the competition on so many levels. Now don’t get me wrong, by the time the Playstation was released I was a dedicated Nintendo fanboy, in fact I knew next to nothing about the new system from Sony and one day (while mom and dad were on vacation as this is usually when my brother or I would spend more money than we should) my older brother convinced me to go out to SEARS of all stores and pick up the system. I’m not even sure how he knew about it to be honest because he wasn’t a huge gamer though him and I did play a lot when we were younger (for reference, my brother is about twelve years older than me so when the PS1 was released he was 25 and I was 13), anyway, I digress.
Where was I, oh yes, we’re at SEARS and we picked up this new fangled system and we were going to get a game but SEARS didn’t have anything worthwhile so we went to Best Buy and they were having a deal of sorts where you bought “x” amount of games and got like two free or something along those lines. I don’t remember the exact deal or how many games we bought but I know that both Descent, Wing Commander 3, and Rise 2 Revolution were among the games we bought, though I should point out we didn’t get the system day one…which is why there were probably deals on older games at the time.
Anyway, I’m getting away from my point, what’s my point you ask? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, that’s my point, mostly this was all a set-up to get here, to talk about one of my top three PS1 games, if not my all-time favorite for the system overall. Now prior to playing this installment of the famous series I hadn’t really played anything more than a little bit of the original and didn’t understand it, so I didn’t exactly get deep into it. To be perfectly frank I don’t remember why I picked this game to rent one night at Hollywood Video, it could be that everything else I wanted to play was already rented, or that I looked at it and it seemed good so thought I’d give it a try I mean come on, that artwork is pretty damn impressive. Regardless of what the reason was, that was the game of choice…for the next several weekends, no joke it pulled me in almost instantly and I rented weekend after weekend for several weeks before finally convincing my mom to finally buy it when we saw it cheap not long before it went to the “Greatest Hits” green label.
Now like I said, I’d played this for weeks in a row but what I didn’t mention was that I had yet to beat it so what happened right after my mom bought it for me? I beat it. That’s right, all that money down the tubes by renting it for weeks on end only to beat it within the first hour of actually owning it but what stands out more than anything else is the fact that I managed to beat it in a way that unlocked the inverted castle without ever knowing it existed. I know it seems strange, but I had gotten in the habit of using my weapon when jumping over enemies and it just so happened, I hit the invisible orb floating above Richter by complete accident and was paying enough attention to keep trying. The next thing I know Richter is screaming and a replica of Dracula’s castle is popping out of the sky faster than a space shuttle on reentry. I can’t even describe how excited I was, first off, I thought I found an awesome secret which I guess technically I did, but more than that is the fact that I had another castle to explore and that was way more important. Naturally after I found the second castle I ended up getting the strategy guide (both that and my black label copy of the game are now gone sadly, borrowed by a friend and never returned and every time I think I’ve found the guide on Ebay it turns out to just be a PDF) and realized how I could unlock the inverted castle every time without relying on dumb luck as well as a wealth of other secrets to try out.
I’ve said that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of my top three favorite PS1 games but, truth be told, it’s one of my all-time favorite games period. Everything about this game is just pure perfection to me, from the soundtrack to the graphics, yes even some of the cheesy lines (but to me the voice acting was still awesome, I’ll take that Alucard voice any day of the week). Even beyond all of that, just the way the game played was perfect to me, everything flowed so well and when played just right Alucard almost danced in his movements as he explored both castles, it was magical in a way and still to this day I get lost in the game and nearly always transported back to high school, I get that same feeling, that tingle of excitement every time I play it now.
Another wonderful memory in the books, now if you’ll excuse me, I really should start a new game of Castlevania, all this talk has me excited to explore the drafty castle again.