Castlevania Requiem was a surprise compilation by Konami consisting of two classic Castlevania games, Rondo of Blood (originally released for PC Engine CD 1993) and Symphony of the Night (originally released on PlayStation 1997). For longtime fans of the series, these games likely need no real introduction.
Castlevania Rondo of Blood was also known as Castlevania Dracula X for the SNES. This inferior version of the game was what most westerners got to experience. It was the game that bridged the classic, semi-linear sidescrolling Castlevanias with the more open exploration oriented Symphony of the Night style--coined "Metroidvania". You play through eight levels to beat the game, but levels have multiple paths and certain characters and levels can be found by exploring and solving puzzles.
Castlevania Symphony of the Night was where the series really changed into a more open castle style. The combat and platforming are generally easier in exchange for a bigger challenge in finding the secrets in Dracula's Castle. The game included various weapons, leveling up, and tons of secret items and areas.
Castlevania Requiem can currently be purchased on the PSN store here for $19.99.
These two classic Castlevania games do have a connection and share similar characters and areas. Rondo of Blood begins the timeline in the 1790s, with Dracula being revived, supposedly due to the greed and weakness of mankind. Richter sets off to go to his castle and defeat him. Though the old Castlevania's aren't generally known for heavy plots, the PC Engine CD technology was used to create fully voice-acted FMV scenes. They are primitive, and by today's standards, completely outdated, but this was the first Castlevania game to really try to mesh a plot into the actual gameplay. It is semi-successful, but I have to admit, as a huge retro gaming fan, I really love these old anime style cutscenes that existed before CD technology really took off.
Richter also seeks to find his wife before Dracula feasts on her, and there are a few other NPCs to rescue in the castle including one other playable character. While the story isn't anything truly magnificent, it does add to the charm and nostalgia factor of early 1990s technology and storytelling.
Symphony of the Night begins with Richter's battle with Dracula, but the player controls Alucard, son of Dracula. who is half-man, and half-vampire, for the majority of the game. Again, story bits are scattered throughout the castle as you run into NPCs, including returning characters, but it plays second fiddle to the gameplay and exploration.
While it is cool to play these games back to back and see the links between them, the plot isn't nearly as engrossing as the gameplay. However, when the gameplay is this great, you don't really need a plot anyway.
Both of these games differ a fair amount, so I will talk about each game more individually, but first, I will briefly mention a few changes Konami has added to Castlevania Requiem.
There is a quick save feature, which allows you to save anywhere, but as soon as you load it again, it's gone.
The rumble feature is used heavily, especially in Rondo of Blood. I noticed my controller shaking as I picked up hearts and items; voices also came out of the controller during certain scenes from both games. I presume Konami sought to modernize the experience a bit, but I didn't find it enhanced anything in the end.
There is also a variety of cool display options. You can choose your screen size and whether or not you want scan lines. You can also choose different borders for the game. I liked the basic black borders since it kept me more focused on the game, but there were some gorgeous options showing off more Castlevania themed stuff.
Rondo of Blood
Rondo of Blood initially feels like any of the first four Castlevania games. You control Richter Belmont, a vampire hunter who wields a whip. You gain secondary items like knives, axes, and boomerangs etc. which are powered by hearts you get by whipping lamps found around the stage. When it comes to combat and platforming this game doesn't deviate very far from the NES original.
Rondo of Blood really sets itself apart from its predecessors by giving the player more room to explore the levels in a less straightforward fashion. There is no time limit, and you won't always be following one path to the end of the level. Falling in a pit may not kill you; instead, it may take you to a completely different part of the stage. It may also cut you off from another area of the level.
It's impossible to see this whole game on the first playthrough. Some doors require keys that need to be found in the stage. Certain areas of the castle are locked behind puzzles where you are given only one attempt, and the third to fifth stages each have two entirely different levels. This also means you cannot see every stage on your initial playthrough.
Even with all the exploration, Rondo of Blood is still a traditional Castlevania game at its core. Regardless of how you explore a level, you get through the stage and fight a boss then advance to the next stage.
The platforming in Rondo of Blood is downright brutal. This is old school, and you will likely need to experiment and remember enemy placement to beat most stages. Stage seven was especially nasty with an intro that featured a crumbling bridge and endless bats that kept coming from behind you. Getting hit could cause you to fall to your death, and not getting hit or falling down felt nearly impossible during my first few attempts. Luckily you have unlimited continues, and the levels become very short when you memorize an easier path through them.
The bosses in this game aren't any easier. You really need to learn their patterns and try to bring an effective secondary weapon. Certain later stages have multiple bosses, and you really need to unleash every move you have to beat them. Richter will feel sluggish to younger players, and stuff like backflips, quickly turning with the d-pad and whipping while constantly dodging projectiles is essential to surviving a lot of the later bosses.
There are a few extras included in this game. You can select any stage to play from the main menu, and you can use money found in stages to watch boss fights. This actually helped me a lot with the "Death" boss fight. The game will even tell you what percentage of the game you have completed; branching stages and the addition of Maria, another playable character with her own playstyle, adds a lot to the replay value; not to mention Maria has her own moves and ending.
In the end, this is a really neat title that blended the traditional Castlevania playstyle with a taste of the Metroidvania style that would dominate later entries in the series. This is a very solid platformer with a lot of charm, astounding atmosphere, and it's really great to finally get to play the superior PCE version of the game.
Symphony of the Night
Castlevania Symphony of the Night is often cited as one of, if not the best game, in the long-running series. This was the first game to completely open up Dracula's castle, and it is immense. There are entire areas that are optional, portals to help you get around the castle, and tons of cool upgrades and weapons to find.
Alucard moves a lot faster than any of the older Castlevania protagonist. he jumps higher, is easier to control in the air, and he doesn't use a whip (he isn't a Belmont after all). Instead, Alucard can use any of the various weapons you find around the castle. He has stats, and getting better weapons and armor is essential to surviving. The RPG elements in this game were inventive for the time period, and it's really fun to explore and try out any weapon you find from a sword or ax, to even a malice or your bare fists.
Some Castlevania staples do remain. There are secondary weapons like the knives and the ability to stop time. It's still a 2D adventure, and some of the areas remain almost the same as in Rondo of Blood.
Alucard is a dream to control, and the castle is so much fun to explore. You can turn into a wolf, a bat, or even mist to get through certain puzzles and beating the game opens up an inverted castle. The platforming and combat elements will be familiar to Castlevania veterans, but this game is huge compared to any of the older titles.
The difficulty is definitely scaled down a bit too. Certain areas are harrowing, and the bosses can be downright merciless, but save points are frequent, and the ability to level up and change out weapons makes things a drop of blood easier than the older entries. That doesn't mean this is an easy game. I am a veteran, and I still got a few game overs throughout the game.
This set the standard for the series and the entire genre of 2D sidescrollers and open world 2D games. I dare say in 2018 this still ranks among the best in the Metroidvania genre. Nothing outside of the menu system, which is fairly standard anyway, feels very dated, and the polish really shines in every aspect of this game. It's amazing to be able to return to Alucard's adventure and one of the best games ever made.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
It's impossible to not talk about aesthetics when it comes to Castlevania, the original gothic video game franchise. The graphics still hold up well to this day, mostly due to both of these games being 2D juggernauts for their respective time periods and consoles.
Rondo of Blood utilized the fancy PC Engine CD technology, and the graphics are a definite step up compared to Dracula X. The environments come to life, stuff moves in the background, and little details like seeing an undead appear in a mirror you pass by or a skeleton crumble into dust on the floor if you touch it to bring the experience to life.
Symphony of the Night is utterly gorgeous. Each room and area is unique and detailed. I loved the horrible statues, gorgeous backdrops of the full moon and the lively gothic palate present in each area.
The Castlevania aesthetic is strongly represented in these titles, and both titles, but especially SOTN, still hold up to most 2D games today. Sure, some textures reveal their age, but the array of colors and attention to detail in each area will quickly make you forget it.
The music is always one of the highlights to playing a Castlevania game. The terrifying pianos, roaring guitars, zealous choirs, and atmospheric dirges all meld together to make some of the best music found in any video game. Classic Castlevania tunes like Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer return and the soundtrack will never fail to frighten you or leave you headbanging (probably both). I listened to both complete soundtracks as I wrote this review, and I daresay there isn't a bad track amongst either game (excuse me while I howl at the moon). I can find no words to describe how utterly awesome these two soundtracks are, and they stay with you long after you stop playing, like a beautiful curse drawing you back to the series.
I would argue that the $19.99 price tag is worth it for Symphony of the Night alone, but the fact that Rondo of Blood is included just makes it that much sweeter. If you already played these games, this version is faithful to both original titles, and you will have a great experience returning to both games.
For those new to the series, just know that Rondo of Blood is a very old school game, and like any of the original games in the series, it's tough as stakes. Konami added a quick save feature, but this game will mop the floor with you before you can beat it. That said, it's an interesting bridge between the linear original games and more exploratory SOTN. If you have patience and like 2D platformers, it could be right up your alley, and it's certainly a great entry in the series.
SOTN is just as stellar as it has always been. The castle is huge, and exploring it is a marvelous spectacle for the eyes and ears. The difficulty is very manageable and actually easier than many recent Metroidvania games. The RPG elements work well, and players can choose just how much they want to explore and get out of this game.
Castlevania Requiem is a beautiful surprise. The price tag is fair, and there is plenty of content and replayability here. You get the best of both worlds with two different styled adventures that represent two amazing eras in Castlevania history. This is a must play for fans old and new. The night is still young.
|+ Two amazing games||– No difficulty options for Rondo of Blood|
|+ SOTN is still near perfect|
|+ Faithful ports with no technical issues|
|+ Aesthetics have aged well|