Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as RPG

If I didn’t already have a notion of what genre Castlevania: Symphony of the Night belongs in, I’d probably invent the category “Platform RPG” for it. It’s simply got more RPG-genre signifiers than any other metroidvania I’ve played. It isn’t just that you earn experience and level up; there are a bunch of games go that far without seeming particularly RPG-like otherwise. (I think of Blood Omen 2 as a good example, although it probably only comes to mind right now because of its long-haired vampire protagonist.) It’s the little influences, like the choice of stats (which use stantard D&D abbreviations like STR and CON), as well as their initial values, which fall squarely into the middle of 3d6 range. And the whole layout of the status and inventory menus is not just RPG-like, it’s distinctly Final Fantasy-like.

The specific powers of the items you can equip include gimmicks of the sort I particularly associate with JRPGs. For example, there’s a suit of armor whose protective power increases with the amount of the castle you’ve explored. Several other items that provide substandard protection make up for it with other powers, such as recovering health, mana, or “hearts” (ammo for special weapons) faster than normal. That sort of thing has been rare so far, though. Most of the weapons, armor, and trinkets you find just increase your Attack and/or Defense ratings to various degrees, and possibly give a stat bonus. Special gimmick items seem like more of a late-game thing, something to give you options beyond maximizing numbers once you feel like you’ve got them maximized enough. (And that’s a phenomenon happening to me already, when I get a new exploration-enabler and go back through earlier sections to reach previously-inaccessible areas: suddenly I find that I’m killing everything in one hit and only taking one point of damage at a time, just like in the intro.)

So I spend enough time contemplating equipment for the game to feel very CRPG-ish, but every once in a while it goes and does something just flat-out old-style coin-op platformer. I thump a crumbly tile of wall with my thumping-stick and out pops a roast turkey: suddenly, I feel like I’m playing Black Tiger. It’s a peculiar mix.

1 Comment so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 3 Jun 2011

    Incidentally, I think Symphony of the Night gets all the cred due to historical inertia, but I find the 3rd GBA game (Aria of Sorrow) to be just as good.

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