Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - Reverse Castle


The Twelve Days of Halloween concludes with the end of Symphony. ...come to think of it, this probably would have made a lot more sense as the "Thirteen" Days of Halloween.

Fun? Fact: This post and the previous Symphony post both have exactly 66 images, and this wasn't even necessarily intentional. It just shook out that I had 132 images total that were good enough to post, and I evenly divided them. An even crazier coincidence is that the exact midpoint is the Reverse Castle arrival. Weird. Very weird. Almost...spooky.

In any event, time for our favorite half-vampire Alucard to take on the dastardly Reverse Castle. It takes talent to design a game world that still functions just as well if you turn it upside-down. 

The worst new thing in the Reverse Castle: Green skeletons that fire DICK LASERS. You take like a hundred damage if you get hit by one of these DICK LASERS. Is this some kind of glitch? These things are more dangerous than some of the bosses.

A lot of enemies in this game inflict the Petrify status effect, and depending on the enemy that hits you, Alucard can actually take on some weird statue forms. The giant gargoyle is definitely the coolest one.

The objective in the Reverse Castle is to defeat a bunch of bosses to collect the body parts of Dracula, then assemble them and fight the guy to finish the main game.

There are specific bosses that have Dracula's body parts, like this generic giant bat. Most of them are pretty easy fights. Then you've got a few very cool hidden bosses that are easy to miss, but really shouldn't be missed. The game is WAY less linear at this point and you can pretty much go anywhere in the Reverse Castle from the get-go. It's the World of Ruin principle.

The whole castle is full of new enemies, and the Library now has Wizard of Oz reference enemies. There's the lion knight...

...these weird pole-vaulting scarecrows, who I make sure to just mist my way past, and last but not least rolling tin man robots.

We also have these flying ghost condoms called Schmoos, and they're very very significant. They're the farm target for the best weapon in the game, a weapon so good that it breaks the rest (not that the rest is hard either way).

Here's a good spot close to the entrance to the library. The only issue is that Schmoos have 50 HP, and if you can't one-shot them the farm is a pain. They'll hit you, fly off the screen, etc. You want to be able to step in here, bat them out of the air with one swing, leave, repeat.

When I first got here I was only hitting for 40ish damage, so I had to go gain another level or two and get a better weapon equipped to bump it up to 50. From there the farm was pretty elementary.

The biggest threat is muscle memory, and making sure you don't turn around and walk off the screen when the sword finally drops. And there it is!

"Dice" is right. It took a little while but it was actually a fun camp, and worth it. The only downside to this weapon is that the rest of the game really doesn't have a chance against you. It makes going for the platinum or full map completion easier, since it's a weapon you can spam while running (unlike almost everything else).

With that in hand, I go a few rooms to the right and find an even better camp where two Schmoos rush you (plus a Scarecrow). So you're doubling your drop rate here and getting some EXP. Why am I doing this, you ask?

To get a second Crissaegrim! Because...

...you can dual wield this thing and spam it even faster by alternating button presses between square and circle. This gets rid of the wait period between attacks entirely so you can just maintain a constant damage output. The weapon is actually more like a shield because it fires in a floating arc in front of Alucard.

Next is one of the crazier bosses in the game, Legion (Granfaloon in this translation). It's literally a ball of Wels and they're constantly falling off of it to attack.

Crissaegrim makes this an exceedingly fun fight, as you can completely shred this thing while Wels fall everywhere.

Next up is a mysterious river, home to...

...The Boatman. This isn't the River Styx though.

Was wondering if this game would have a Speed Booster like Super Metroid, since we see Alucard dashing during the intro scene. Well, he doesn't have that power, but he CAN turn into a wolf and book it really fast through an area like that. It's pretty situational though.

This particular armor is awesome, and might even be the best armor in the game for pure defense stat (physical damage). Since I've been intent on covering as much map as possible, it's already well beyond my best pre-existing armor. There's only one armor I've found that might be better, and it's...

Alucard Mail is just slightly behind Walk Armor (at the moment) on defense and significantly cuts elemental damage. This is HUGE. I'd say if you max out the map, the Walk Armor is better because the defense gets so damn high. However, until the map is like 90% done, Alucard Mail is probably the best choice. YMMV.

The next Vlad Body Part fight is The Creature, which I think MIGHT be Frankenstein's Monster? Hard to say. Doesn't really look like it, but FM is the only real 'Vania series mainstay I haven't seen in the game yet.

He becomes THE ROLLING MONSTER and barrels through Alucard like a rolling pin.

Alucard leaps through the castle!

Gotta say, I love the second half of this game. I got lost quite a bit in the first half trying to find whatever item I needed to get next. The second half, though? You have pretty much all of the required items and it just turns you loose to explore. You can't get lost and there's no wrong way to go. Just run around, beat all the bosses, collect everything.

This clock room is pretty much the center of the universe in this game. So much important stuff happens here and branches off of it, including the final boss room.

That plant is part naked woman!

I barely get past the deadly naked women plants to reach Death, the guy who stole Alucard's powers at the beginning. Would be cool to get them back, except I'm pretty sure he's gotten all of them back now anyway. Except that Speed Booster that you can't actually get! This fight should have been what gave you that power, and I'm surprised it didn't.

Death's first form is his standard reaper persona. Much easier than it is in most 'Vanias, due to low HP and low volume of flying sickles.

His second form is a bit worse, getting more corporeal and throwing giant sickles. Still low HP though, and Crissaegrim makes this a joke. It's kind of funny to fight such an easy version of Death after how vicious he was in Rondo of Blood. They could have switched the fights around, given how much stronger Alucard is than either Rondo protagonist.

Next boss is super-annoying. It's Beelzebub and his army of flies. Just getting up high to hit this guy is a chore when the damn giant flies are everywhere. Also it's a very unpleasant fight. Got all of the Vlad Parts now, but there are a few optional things to do.

I need to get these boots. Also, great "I Wish" reference by the trophy.

These boots actually DO make Alucard taller. It just makes him a slightly bigger target, though.

Upside-down stainglass windows. This game really is the pinnacle of the Playstation 1 and that era of game visuals.

Here's Galamoth, the villain of Kid Dracula and arch-enemy to Alucard.

This thing is basically an uberboss in this game. The fight is totally optional, doesn't really give anything crucial, and has a TON of HP. He also spams nasty electric attacks that cut right through your HP, so it's good that I've got that elemental resist armor.

This was the closest I got to a loss in the second half of the game, and had to drop several potions to survive. However, getting on the right side and spamming Crissaegrim with both blades did mega-damage.

Downed him. That one fight actually justifies getting dual Crissaegrims, because it'd be real nasty without them. Much worse than everything else in the game. Considering Death took like 5-10 seconds to beat in each of his forms, it was good to have a real fight with something.

...and now I have to play Kid Dracula to get some context. It's regarded as a hidden gem nowadays. The titular character is actually Alucard as a kid which is kind of cool. It has him going up against Galamoth (erroneously translated as Garamoth). There's a Japan-only NES version, and the more commonly-known Game Boy version that's actually a sequel to the NES version. I'll probably check them both out.

Next boss look familiar? It should: It's the reanimated (by Shaft) corpses of the Castlevania 3 cast. Grant Dynasty, Trevor, and Sypha respectively.

This fight should have REALLY had some dialogue beforehand, and some different music, considering it's Alucard having to kill his friends from earlier in the series. The English version renames them "clones", probably to try and explain why they don't do anything with this. They're not clones, though, they're implied to be the actual reanimated characters. That damn Shaft!

It's a pretty easy fight at this point, but it's also a lot of fun. Sypha blasts ice everywhere, Trevor launches devastating whip attacks, and Grant...kinda crawls around on the ceiling.

Trevor's whip attacks really are nasty when they're directed at you for once. If the Galamoth fight made me want to play Kid Dracula, this fight makes me want to revisit Castlevania III. I'm too old and slow for that wildly-difficult game, though.

This fight is also great for people who have watched the Netflix adaptations, since it's got the characters from there. Except they left Grant out of the show for some unknwon reason. F Grant, I guess!

After doing everything I can in the castle, I head for the center chamber. Shaft functions as the game's underboss before you fight Dracula.

It's a pretty basic fight, where you slash up green control-orbs like the one that was controlling Richter.

Here we go. Alucard and his father meet at last. This guy ain't exactly the father of the year.

Weird thing is, Dracula doesn't seem to have a first form like every other 'Vania game. He just goes straight to this monstrosity of a final form. I guess his first two forms were in the intro of the game so they just didn't bother repeating them.

I unleash everything I've got, spamming axe-throws and Crissaegrim swings.

Also leveled up quite a bit before this so I have a ton of HP. There are a few rooms around the center chamber where you can fight Guardians, which give MASSIVE exp compared to everything else (something like 5000 to 100 compared to the runner-up). This is where you grind out your levels. Went from 40ish to 60ish real quick in those rooms which is sufficient enough. Also the exp slows way down after 60.

Once I get a breather and he's low enough, I find the right spot and WAIL AWAY.

Crissaegrim is SO MUCH FUN. Though I do advise that people beat the game without it their first time though.

Alucard has no time for Dracula's war against humanity, which isn't what his mother would have wanted.

That's it for this game. Great, great game, almost without a doubt the best game in this series. It spawned no less than six similar Metroidvanias on the GBA and the DS and they're all worthwhile. The only one that might debatably reach the heights of his game is Dawn of Sorrow, the first on the DS and fourth overall out of the six. However most agree that this game edges out Dawn. It's great that this is available on PS4/5 now along with Rondo.

But wait! The game isn't over yet. Not only can you stick around and get the platinum trophy / 200.6% map completion (not sure where the .6% comes from...) but you can also now unlock some interesting side-games. Starting a new game and entering Richter or Maria as your name lets you play an alternate version of the game as said character.

"Maria Mode" is pretty damn awesome. In some versions of the game she can equip things like Alucard, but not this version. She plays just like her Rondo version and can't equip anything.

She moves very quick and has a double jump right off the bat, in addition to being able to use all of her special attacks from the previous game.

Maria attacks by FLINGIN' BIRDS. As is tradition. The key thing is that she can attack while moving, like the Crissaegrim. The birds are way less fast/furious/damaging, but it's a similar playstyle to what I was doing before.

Since she can't level, strong enemies are gonna be a roadblock. And death means re-traversing areas in a game that doesn't have the most abundant save points to begin with. This mode might even be tougher than Rondo, hard to say.

She has a sweet ground-slide move, like Mega Man. Except way hotter.

The objective here is to just make your way through the (normal) castle and defeat all the bosses, culminating with Shaft. No special powers to get and very little by way of Metroidvania components. Only real limit to your forward progression is your ability to get through these areas without dying. It's like a two hour version of the game that feels more like a Rondo sequel than the main game does.

There's no leveling up in this mode, so you're stuck with your extremely weak life meter. It may be a much shorter version of the game but it's considerably harder than the main game.

Maria does have some advantages though. She can not only use her special attacks from the previous game (and carry two of them at a time instead of one now), she can also use a super version of each power that consumes quite a few hearts.

The super version of the mini-phoenix is particularly cool, and summons this beast to unleash fireballs all over the place.

Next we've got Richter Mode, which is...the same thing as Maria Mode, from what I can tell, except that you're playing as a different character. Much like in Rondo, it's considerably harder to play through as Richter. So if Alucard is the easy difficulty, Maria is normal and Richter is hard mode.

He has a much tougher time traversing the castle with his slower movement speed and less jumping ability, but it's still very satisfying to play this mode and crack the whip. And nope, since Shaft is the final boss there isn't a Richter mirror match.

Last but not least, entering AXEARMOR as your name gives you yet another optional mode: Axe Armor mode! Yeah, you play as the Axe Armor enemy. Kind of random.

He's slow, lumbering, and swings a giant axe. This mode doesn't seem to be a special mode like Maria and Richter, but rather just the normal game except Alucard starts with a bunch of gear. You can take the Axe Armor off and just play normally, or leave it on and lumber around.

From here there wasn't much left to do except go for the platinum trophy, which is a fun time so far. Here's a particularly weird trophy involving watching birds grow up. I don't know why this is here, but I'm kinda glad it is.

Welp, that's it for Symphony of the Night and the 12 Days of Halloween. This is the only game I know of that tells you to go out and have a life if you game over, so I'm gonna go ahead and take that advice and go outside.

But wait! Speaking of the platinum, I decided to finish that off. The hardest fight in the whole thing was, surprisingly, getting the bad ending by defeating Richter at the end of the normal castle (instead of getting the Holy Glasses and fighting his control orb instead).

This fight is a total slobberknocker and Richter hits incredibly hard. It's pretty obvious that you're not really supposed to fight this battle in this way.

Getting 200.6% is something I wanted to do when I first played this in 2011 and I finally got it this time.

And of course the plat, which also includes Rondo of Blood. These two back-to-back have made me want to play the entire series, no joke. They really are the high points of it. In the past I'd have always put Super Metroid well above this game but now I'd put them a lot closer together. The SNES game probably still has the advantage due to its overwhelming polish level.

Finishing Richter Mode and Maria Mode were the last ordeals for this game. Maria doesn't count for the map or the plat, but you kinda have to do it because come on.

Final fight between Maria and Shaft was another fast and furious battle and I barely got through that one. Have to pretty much spam abilities and optimize every second before his lightning inevitably takes out Maria. The fight wasn't designed for this character and you can tell.

Here's the whole trophy lineup. Really fun platinum to get. Haven't done a platinum in a while but this was worth the trouble.

Castlevania III

Other Castlevania Posts

1 comment:

  1. The monsters holding Dracula’s body parts aren’t generic; they’re the bosses from Castlevania I. The Castlevania I bosses were also those in the boss rush before Shaft in Rondo of Blood. Surprised you missed that.

    This is a great game that still holds up. The first time I played, which was my freshman year of college a few years after the game’s initial release, I missed the upside-down castle completely. Also, I missed Crissaegrim until my buddy found it and then the game broke wide open.

    Another fun mode that adds some needed challenge you don’t need to finish the game to access is “luck mode”: enter X-X!V''Q as your name and Alucard starts with severely nerfed stats, but 99 luck and an item that increases luck further sk you get better item drops more often. I have not beaten SotN in this mode, but I’ve played around in it for a few hours and it really adds a fun wrinkle.

    Great reviews. I’m always happy to see Castlevania being discussed. I’ve only played up to Circle of the Moon (I’m old) so I’m curious to see your takes on the later games. Hope you had a good Halloween man.