It’s that magical time of year when the bumps in the night are on full display and everyone chooses to embrace the darkness. For that reason, it should come as no surprise that it’s also the perfect occasion for Konami to trot out their most long-standing bankable star: Dracula. That’s right, it’s time to talk about some Castlevania. In the publisher’s never-ending quest to wring every cent from the decomposing corpse of their back library, they are trotting out Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood respectively, for yet another go-around.
Dead, But Not Forgotten
Honestly, the release of Castlevania Requiem should come as a surprise to no one. It feels like eons since the last proper release in the series (I don’t count Lords of Shadow as a proper entry, so come at me) and let face it, Konami’s struggling to remain relevant in the eyes of gamers. So how can someone revive a lagging franchise while simultaneously doing a little work as possible? Re-releases, that’s how.
Without a proper way to consume either Symphony of the Night or Rondo of Blood on the current generation of PlayStation console, this dual-headed, Belmont-led beast is a fantastic recreation of both classic releases. They both stand on their own as testaments to the quality of game design that Konami was once so synonymous. Though products of very different eras, the lineage between the two is readily apparent.
Rondo of Blood, for one, is a hard-as-nails platformer that will punish anyone who dares to not suck for long enough to beat a stage. Due to the hardware limitations of the era, I’ve always found the action to be very reminiscent of NES release Simon’s Quest. Movement is a bit more plodding and deliberate, the controls are a bit less forgiving, and the action requires a pinpoint attention to the continuous chaos happening onscreen at all times. Obviously, it takes a bit of time to grow accustomed to the high difficulty curve. However, once you settle in, expect to be treated to nine stages of the most refined PC Engine (and later SNES, and PSP, and Virtual console, etc.) gameplay in existence.
A Bloody Good Time
It’s probably better to take a whack at Rondo before partaking in the buttery smooth animations and combat of Symphony of the Night. Simply put, the differences are stark. It’s like transitioning from driving a Mustang to the luxury of a Rolls Royce. They are both amazing vehicles, but it’s hard to go back to slumming it in the carpool lane once you’ve had a taste of the high life. Virtually every aspect of the experience is superior in Symphony, hence it being continuously upheld as one of the greatest games of all time.
As you might imagine, Symphony more than lives up to the hype. Despite the fact that it’s over two decades old, its art style has been effortlessly gorgeous in every console generation. Every pixel looks intentional and meticulously rendered in a way that will pop on the PlayStation 4. Now, that isn’t to say that anything has been vastly improved upon since the Dracula X Chronicles on PSP, but that is more a testament to how well the visual style has aged.
The game is just so much damn fun to play that it’s hard to grasp why the series’ blueprint has ventured so far from what made this experience so genre defining. The immense scope of the level design and countless rewards for exploration are easily some of most gratifying aspects, even for those that are on their umpteenth playthrough. If you’ve somehow managed to miss this classic now is the time to dive in.
Tale of Two Ports
For all of the praise that can be heaped upon the two games in this collection, the one notable ding against both would be that they are actually ports of the PSP outing, as opposed to their initial releases. The original PlayStation incarnation of Symphony of the Night was well known for its notoriously janky localization, which was cleaned up in the subsequent re-releases. The perverse campiness was replaced with a far more earnest interpretation of the subject matter, which has been understandably met with a mixed reception. On the other hand, Rondo of Blood never had a proper English release back in 1993, so dipping into one of its subsequent domestic releases is a bit more excusable.
At the most core level, Requiem is a glorified port. Sure, there are achievements and a pretty frame that goes around the outside of the standard aspect ratio screen size, but there is very little else that would set this apart from a downloadable PS1 classic. There are no bonus features of any sort, and it has a very poorly implemented user interface to boot. When compared to the likes of any of Capcom’s recent Mega Man collections, the sheer volume of differences are goddamn embarrassing. Konami’s lack of effort is prominently on display, front and center. Make no mistake, this was done to make a buck, then get the hell out of Dodge.
The target audience for this product are either shameless zealots or complete newcomers. Given that there is no other legitimate source to play both games on a current generation console, either group will ultimately end up satisfied. However, if you are looking for fan service, you’ll be gravely disappointed. Imagine that: Konami phoning something in? Why does that sound so familiar?
Castlevania Requiem review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.