Oct 29 2009
Alright, I know I’m really late on this one, but please allow me to explain. This past summer, I really enjoyed playing Shadow Complex, a game from Xbox Arcade that was time and time again compared to Metroid and Castlevania. In fact, many people dubbed Shadow Complex as a “Metroidvania” type of game. I was and still am a huge fan of the Metroid series, and I had played and loved the first three Castlevania games for the 8-bit NES, so I knew pretty much what type of game to expect. I never owned a Playstation, though, and so I missed the boat of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Playing Shadow Complex reminded me how much fun those old 2-D action-adventure games were. Obtaining new weapons and items, gaining access to areas of the world previously unreachable, and leveling up are always a thrill. Luckily, C:SOTN was available on Xbox Arcade, and so I decided to download the game that – according to many – helped inspire Shadow Complex. I was not disappointed at all.
Like Shadow Complex and Metroid (or Super Metroid, if you prefer), C:SOTN is a game that does not have to be played linearly and enables the player to explore the game’s world – in this case, a giant castle – in pretty much whatever order he or she desires. You begin the game as Richter Belmont, but very shortly after defeating Dracula a la the original Castlevania, you’re Alucard, son of Dracula. Instead of a whip like the Belmonts use, Alucard uses a variety of weapons, mostly consisting of swords. If you’ve played a Castlevania game before, then the gameplay itself should be quite familiar. There are tons of different enemies that Alucard encounters, and the different areas of the castle are pretty diverse. The real gem of this game, though, are the various upgrades sprinkled throughout.
At first, much of the castle is unreachable. A platform may be too high, spikes block your path, or there may be a considerable gap that you can’t get across by jumping. Knowing that somewhere in the castle there is an item that will enable you to reach the unreachable areas is half the fun of C:SOTN, and seeking out and finding that item is perhaps the other half. Alucard will find relics that enable him to transform into a wolf, a bat, and mist, as well as items that will increase his offense, defense, and other statistics. Backtracking becomes somewhat tedious, but fortunately there are several “warp points” throughout the castle.
There’s a definite role-playing element to the game, too, as Alucard can level up and gain more hit points, in addition to strengthening his other statistics. Like in prior Castlevania games, hearts are used to allow your character to use special weapons – like holy water – and leveling up will increase the amount of hearts Alucard can carry, too. If a certain part of the castle is too challenging, you can mess around gaining experience just like you would in any other RPG, eventually becoming powerful enough to make that part of the castle a breeze.
The game itself is challenging, with annoying enemies – a Castlevania trademark – and a vast castle to explore. I tried my best to avoid all walkthroughs and hints, and as a result, it took me a long time to “unlock” all areas of the castle. Eventually, I defeated Richter Belmont, and I figured my quest was almost complete…until the castle itself completely flipped upside-down and I realized that I now had to being my explorations all over again. Not that I minded – the game’s graphics are good enough and the sound and music are great. This is a game that was released about 12 years ago, and the fact that I’ve enjoyed it more than most “new” games speaks measures about its lasting power. Simply put, C:SOTN lives up to all the hype.
I’m still not done with the game yet; I haven’t yet defeated Dracula and the inverted castle enemies are HARD. I can see why video game fans went crazy over this game, and it’s a shame that there aren’t more like it. Shadow Complex was an impressive homage of sorts, and I’d like to see some of these “next-gen” games drop all the online, multiplayer features for some good old exploration. Like I mentioned above, the fact that C:SOTN is an immensely enjoyable game in 2009 tells you just how great of a video game it is. I’m glad I finally got to play it.
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