This review is going to be.. complicated. I’ve always longed for the warm, wine-tinged embrace of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I played the demo on Xbox 360 as a young lad with a broken arm, but never bought the full game. So I waited, not having owned a PSP, for it to be ported to a system I owned. That day has finally come, along with a port of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, in the form of Castlevania Requiem.
What’s so complicated about this review, then? Well, I think these are near-perfect games. If I had to review them on their own merits, I would likely give them both an excellent score. Plus, they’re here just in time for Halloween, so you can really immerse yourself with a nice glass of red wine while soaking in the cool night air. The port, however, is what’s on trial here. And the port is not very impressive.
Castlevania Requiem is almost a rehash of a previously existing title, The Dracula X Chronicles, released for the PSP. This is somehow more barebones, with no extras, no 2.5D mode for Rondo of Blood, no art galleries, nothing. You can change some display settings, add scanlines and interlacing (for God-knows-what reason), and you can quick save. Those are the only features here besides the core games, which run perfectly fine and are faithful to the originals – sans some new voice overs and script rewrites for Symphony of the Night, which I’m sure will displease fans.
As far as the games themselves go, they are absolutely fantastic. As someone who’s just played Symphony of the Night for the first time in 2018, let me tell you, it holds up. A huge map to explore, wonderful enemy and weapon variety, and slick movement make it just as enjoyable today. You’ll do a lot of backtracking, and Alucard’s fastest form of movement is sliding backward. They really thought of everything.
Seriously, though, Symphony of the Night stands up against every modern retelling of the genre. The aesthetic, the music, the feeling of playing it is so meditative that I can see myself returning at least annually around this time of year to experience it all over. While it’s a bit on the easy side, enemies are fun to fight even when they’re being one-shot, satisfactorily bursting into cartoonish flames as they’re defeated. The map is filled to the brim with secrets, and RPG mechanics are abound, meaning replayability is high.
If Symphony of the Night is a little too easy, Rondo of Blood is a little too hard. The classic difficulty is sure to appeal to long-time fans, but I found myself butting my head against a few bosses before I really nailed their attack patterns. Then again, the whole experience would only be about an hour and a half long if you really knew what you were doing, so half the fun is memorizing patterns and finally overcoming each stage. It’s ‘classicvania’ through and through, and it’s remained elusive to Western fans long after release, so one more port never hurt anybody.
But we all know these games are great, so we’ll circle back to the port analysis. It’s not very good — while it’s a faithful rendition of each title, it’s lacking any extra bells or whistles. The quick save feature in each game is pretty screwy to figure out, so I didn’t even find myself using it for fear of ruining my save. Even the game selection menu looks like it was thrown together by an overworked intern in about 20 minutes. The text even overlaps on itself – it’s just a horrible-looking screen.
So how do I rate this sucker? Like I said before, the games are near-flawless, but the port is lacking. If you’re anything like me, and you haven’t played these before, then I urge you to waste no time giving this one a go. Konami may be on the s**tlist of everyone in the gaming-media loop, but that’s no reason to deny yourself the experience of these two classic games. If you’re a longtime fan, however, you may want to steer clear. You’ve no doubt played a better version of both of these games, and you’re not missing anything by skipping out here. Castlevania Requiem is an ultimately lazy port-job, best suited to allowing Konami to weasel their way back into the public conscious.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided by Konami.