Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is as bloody brilliant as ever on iOS [Review]

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Castlevania- Symphony of the Night
The classic PlayStation vampire game finally arrives on the iPhone.
Photo: Konami

Classic video game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night landed in the App Store last week and, boy, is it great!

The 23-year-old side-scroller pits Dracula’s half-son Alucard against the evil count himself. The game, widely regarded as one of the best video games of all time, has made its way onto various games platforms over the years. Now you can finally play it on your iPhone. Frankly, that’s the best news I’ve heard in ages.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night review

There are basically two parts to any review like this — and seasoned gamers will know to jump straight to the second. The first is, “Is this game any good?” The second, more crucial question is, “Does the port do it justice?”

Is it any good? (Spoiler: Yes)

I won’t spend too long on this first part. The answer is that, yes, of course Symphony of the Night is good. It’s great, even. It’s one of those games that many of us were lucky enough to play almost a quarter-century ago — and that still stands up. Asking if Symphony of the Night is worth playing is like asking if Jaws is a halfway decent shark-attack movie.

Castlevania, for those new to the series, is an action-adventure gothic horror game. You play a vampire hunter, hacking and slashing (well, whipping) your way through a castle. Along the way, you fight an assortment of monsters, en route to taking out the biggest, baddest vampire (that’d be ol’ Dracula himself) at the end.

Symphony of the Night marked the 12th (!!) installment in the series. And it was probably the best, too.

A classic PlayStation game

The game first landed on PlayStation (yes, youngsters: the original PlayStation) back in 1997. At the time, Konami’s Castlevania franchise was a decade old. Side-scrolling action games were getting a bit long in the tooth. Everyone was excited about the possibility of new 3D (or, at least, faux-3D) games. Symphony of the Night was going to have to do a lot more than just improve the graphics for a game series we’d been playing since the NES.

Symphony of the Night did exactly that. It kept the monster-bashing, candle-breaking, castle-crawling beats the series was known for, but added new RPG elements. Players could use multiple weapons and items in an RPG-style manner with an inventory subscreen. You could gain experience from killing your enemies and learn new skills along the way.

Exploring the game’s creepy castle wasn’t linear, either. You used a map system like the one in Super Metroid (this game spawned the “Metroidvania” subgenre), which added an exploration aspect to the gameplay. New parts opened up as you traveled through.

The results perfectly blend action and exploration. If you’re even slightly a fan of this type of game, you can’t go wrong here. Every similar game that followed was probably directly influenced by Symphony of the Night.

A rock-solid Castlevania: Symphony of the Night port

So how about that second question? After all, some ported games sound promising when they come to iOS but fail to deliver on the epic status of the original versions. Many problems can bring down these promising ports, from massive, unwelcome doses of in-app purchases to dodgy controls that feel, in the words of another famous (and NSFW) vampire-related property, like you’re trying to ice-skate uphill.

No such concerns apply here. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on iOS looks and plays as great as ever. The brooding pixel-art graphics shine like they did in 1997. (That’s not a dig: The game looked awesome in 1997 and it looks awesome, albeit slightly more retro, today.) The music sounds superb, even coming out of the comparatively small speakers of an iPhone.

Having only played the PlayStation and Sega Saturn versions of Symphony of the Night, I’m not familiar with the intricacies of every different version of the game that’s come out over the years. As I understand it, this is a port of the PSP/PS4 version, which added some extra content and updated the voice acting. None of this diminished the playing experience for me. In a neat touch, you can enter either Richter or Maria’s name in the file-entry screen to play as those two Castlevania characters without first completing Alucard’s quest.

The game’s default on-screen touch controls work well enough. If you’re really not a fan, though, you can opt for any of the controllers that work with an iPhone.

The highest of recommendations

At $10 or $20, I’d consider Castlevania: Symphony of the Night a great recommendation. (Original copies sold for far more than that on eBay over the years.) At $2.99, it’s a “must have.” Whether you’re revisiting Symphony of the Night for a nostalgia boost or you’re a first-time player, this is a can’t-miss prospect.

Stop reading this review and go download it now.

Price: $2.99

Download: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night from the App Store (iOS)