We Castlevania fans all love Symphony of the Night. And if we didn’t play the original, we’ve probably either all bought it on PSN, XBLA (or even bought it again) or played it on the PSP’s Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles.
We Castlevania fans all love Symphony of the Night. And if we didn’t play the original, we’ve probably either all bought it on PSN, XBLA (or even bought it again) or played it on the PSP’s Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles. For true Castlevania fanatics, at least one of these is a given.
But how many times have you said to yourself, “Damn, this would be so much better if they just replaced the actual platforming and action with puzzle sequences?”
Never, you say? Well then, has Konami got a confusing new surprise for you.
Yes, that’s right—Symphony of the Night, the classic, non-linear 32-bit Castlevania that more or less evolved the series’ core arcade mechanics into that of an exploration-heavy RPG/adventure series—has been retouched and released (for the iPhone, no less) as a puzzle RPG.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than exploring the castle manually, the aptly titled (and ridiculously named) Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is basically a brick-by-brick recreation of Symphony, only instead of actually platforming and fighting baddies, you take ’em all on in puzzle combat.
Instead of exploring Castlevania‘s vast layout, blindy uncovering every nook and cranny of each room you pass through, the game’s map is made up of, well, the level’s maps. So, instead of seeing the front of the castle, the long library, the underground passage, the chapel, the clock tower and the rest of the castle as the architectural monstrosities they are, Encore looks more like a board game or an old-school strategy guide, with a zoomed-out thumbnail of each room appearing as you enter it.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Castlevania without combat, which is where the puzzle battles come in. If you’ve played any puzzle game in the past, say, 15–20 years or so, the system should feel familiar: colored, rotatable blocks come down in pairs. Match three blocks of the same color and they’ll break, and you can set off chains with multiple sets of three.
Any blocks you break fall on your opponent as solid blocks, which can only be broken if placed next to a set of three. Meanwhile, Alucard does battle with whatever beastie inhabits the area of the castle you’re in, and as time ticks down, both parties attack and take damage. Odd, yes, but I haven’t seen fan service of this kind since Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.
Unlike a lot of other puzzle games, filling your block rows to the brim of your battle screen doesn’t mean instant death, just a heavy blow to your health. Luckily you can cull items from your inventory to heal you, though they have to be unlocked just like solid blocks.
When you’re not caught in random or non-random battles, it’s sort of like playing Symphony as a pen-and-paper game. You move Alucard from room to room, finding items, equipment and leveling your stats.
Unlike Symphony, though, you can choose what stats you want to upgrade rather than it just being predetermined by level, allowing you to pick your affinities, which in turn changes the pattern of colored blocks you’ll drop on your enemies.
And the game can be just as brutal as Symphony if you rush into a situation without deliberation—although a lot of the many monsters you fight aren’t too bright with blocks, some of them can be pretty damn formidable.
You would think with such basic design that the game would get old fast, but for some reason Encore has some staying power. Maybe it’s the power of nostalgia getting to me, since for all intents and purposes it lets you re-explore the castle. Maybe it’s the addictive puzzles, or the great soundtrack, which has been crammed into the game with minimal sacrifices. Even Symphony‘s paper-thin storyline is here, basically word for word.
In any case, Symphony‘s charm is present in (more or less) full force. Given the lack in quality of so many iPhone games, fans and puzzle fans could do a hell of a lot worse for $5.