Konami's classic 2D adventure game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, will be 10 years old this year. Unlike a lot of older games, SOTN hasn't seen a multitude of updates and rereleases. The first of two releases planned for 2007 is an emulated version of the original PlayStation game for Xbox Live Arcade. It marks a couple of firsts, such as the first emulated console game to appear on Microsoft's download service. It's also the first game to go over the now-outdated 50MB limit for downloadable Xbox 360 games. Considering the size, scope, and sound contained in Symphony of the Night, that larger size makes sense. It all adds up to a faithful version of a classic game that's just about as fantastic today as it was when it was first released.
The bulk of Symphony of the Night puts you in the shoes of a man called Alucard. He's Dracula's son, but he's turned his back on his vampiric legacy, instead choosing to slumber for an eternity. But Alucard wakes to find that Dracula's castle has risen, and someone is trying to resurrect the vampire leader. You take control of Alucard in Dracula's castle and attempt to figure out what's going on. While you'll enter the castle fully armed and armored, you'll quickly lose all of your items and abilities. From here, you'll start with nothing and have to collect items and explore the castle.
Symphony of the Night follows the same classic 2D action adventure blueprint that the first two Metroid games stuck to, so you'll explore, fighting enemies all the while, but you'll notice that plenty of areas seem just out of reach. As you acquire various items, you'll gain new abilities, such as double-jumping, transformations, and so on. Unlocking these powers, then, as you might expect, lets you explore more of the castle. The game never really points you in any specific direction, but it gives you a map that will often at least show you where you haven't been yet. This sort of exploration leads to a bit of trial and error as you look around the castle for where to go next. Since you're constantly fighting and earning experience points that increase your statistics, wandering around and fighting has its uses, as well. Of course, if you're one of the legions of players who have already memorized the layout of the castle, you can whip through this version just as quickly as you could the PlayStation version.
There are multiple endings in Symphony of the Night, and two of them cut the game's length in half. To truly see what's going on in Dracula's castle, you have to acquire specific items and handle the "final" confrontation a little differently than seems apparent at the outset. Doing this sends you to the inverted castle, which, just as it sounds, is an upside-down version of the castle you just explored. This is like a "second quest" of sorts, but in order to get the best ending, you'll have to explore every nook and cranny of both castles.
As you explore, you'll get a lot of items to play with. You have an equipment screen where you can outfit Alucard with different weapons, shields, armor, and other items. Each weapon type has different properties, and a few even have special abilities that let you cast spells with the weapon. Alucard has a magic meter that governs his spell use. In addition to his casting abilities with weapons, Alucard has a few spells of his own, including the ever-handy soul steal, which drains life from everything on the screen and uses it to replenish your health.