Konami has definitely seen better days. They used to be an untouchable company that produced some of the best games in the world. Contra. Silent Hill. Gradius. Metal Gear. Dance Dance Revolution. Bomberman. Konami was a name that was synonymous with quality and fun game experiences. But they’re just a shell of their glorious self these days as they focus on mobile gaming and plastering their franchise names on pachinko machines. From one of the best gaming publishers, Konami is now known for being the biggest sellouts.
Even with all that, I still have very fond memories of playing Konami games in the past. One series that comes to mind is the Castlevania series. And it looks like Konami knows how to tickle my fancy as they recently released Castlevania: Requiem, a package that bundles together two classics from the franchise’s heyday, the PC Engine Rondo of Blood and a reworked version of PlayStation’s Symphony of the Night. But, with Konami being Konami, is this miserable little pile of classic games actually worth your money?
Oh, please take note that I will be reviewing the PlayStation 4 version of the game. Also, while I have played the original Symphony of the Night on the original PlayStation, I have never even touched Rondo of Blood before getting Castlevania: Requiem. Just letting you know these things off the bat.
Technically, you can break down Castlevania: Requiem into three parts. The first two would be the two games, Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. The third thing would be the actual interface and extras as this is also important to the overall experience. The last one is the first thing I’ll be touching on and, honestly, Konami, you suck for not even trying here!
As a compilation, it already sucks that Castlevania: Requiem only comes with two games. It would’ve been great as a trilogy if you included the SEGA Genesis-only Castlevania Bloodlines, another game, like Rondo of Blood, that never got that much time in the limelight. Yes, these are probably two of the best Castlevania games there but, really? Just two? You could’ve given us a little more for your $20 asking price, which breaks down to $10 per game!
Konami also gave us the bare minimum regarding options. There are the requisite scanlines option and you can configure what borders to put in to fill in the empty space that all retro compilations of this sort has. The only “new” option is the ability to switch between the English and Japanese voice acting. Strangely, the Japanese voices sound muted when compared to the English recordings.
Also, some of the “options” even make the game look worse! Turning on the Interlace feature just adds a whole bunch of flicker that’ll hurt your eyes. Oh, you also can’t turn on the scanlines and interlace options at the same time.
The probably biggest sin here is that Konami didn’t include any extra features! No artwork. No behind the scenes features. You don’t even get pics of the box art or of the manual! Oh, and the “menu” system where you pick which game to play is laughably sparse. If you scroll through the two games, it just changes the wallpaper! Konami just cobbled the laziest menu systems I have ever seen! These games and fans definitely deserved better.
But no one bought Castlevania: Requiem for the menu and extras (but they would’ve been highly appreciated). We got it for the classic Castlevania games! So, how do both games hold up? Pretty good, actually, even if you take off the nostalgia glasses off.
Let’s go talk about Rondo of Blood since it’s the older of the two. The game itself has become some kind of a legend in its own right since it wasn’t released in Western territories before. Some call it the greatest Castlevania games of all time and that’s a little hyperbolic but not that far off. It’s definitely one of the better games in the franchise and does a lot of things right. Let’s just say that.
Rondo of Blood puts you in the vampire hunting shoes of Richter Belmont, the latest line of the Dracula killing Belmont clan. The game definitely harkens back to the “good old days” where Belmonts can only whip right in front of him, which may frustrate players who would want more control over where their character can strike. Unlike other Belmonts in the past, however, Ritchter has a few tricks up his sleeve as he has some limited control over his jump arcs and he can even do a backflip. Even so, traversing the various stages can be challenging thanks to some well design hazards and enemies he’ll encounter. Some may say unfair but I call it just infuriating enough to be fun.
Rondo of Blood takes some inspiration from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse but in a protracted way. There are multiple paths you can take through Dracula’s castle but they’re usually hidden and you need to access them by smashing through walls or falling through pits. The latter can be counter intuitive for veterans because, in previous Castlevania games, they grind it into the player’s head that falling in the pit means instant death! So, it’s a weird surprise when being knocked into a pit and find yourself fighting through a totally new level.
Richter Belmont isn’t the only playable character in Rondo of Blood. You can unlock his distant vampire hunting cousin Maria Renard and playing as her definitely is easier. While she does take a little more damage than Richter, she has more skills in her arsenal, such as a double jump and a slide that makes going around much easier than the really stiff Richter. Her attacks, which involves a variety of animals, are also more potent as she can walk and jump around without having to stop to attack like the whip wielding hero.
I will say Rondo of Blood is definitely a fun game and a throwback to sidescrollers of old but will probably frustrate today’s gamers as the level of difficultly does feel much higher than games released today.
But the real meat of Castlevania: Requiem is definitely Symphony of the Night. A lot of fans, such as myself, was incredibly disappointed that Symphony of the Night wasn’t one of the games included in the PlayStation Classic as this was one of the defining games of the series and the console. Fans have speculated that it wasn’t included because of this game package, which is a silly reason. But I digress. This just goes to show you that people hold Symphony of the Night in high regard. Is all of it deserved? Heck, yeah!
Symphony of the Night was a turning point in the Castlevania and comes off as the fully realized version of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. It’s more of an “open world RPG” than a traditional sidescroller. Symphony of the Night’s focus on exploration became the standard for Castlevania games for a long time. That’s how good it was!
This time around, you take control of Alucard, one of the heroes of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and Dracula’s half-human half-vampire son. Dracula seemingly has been resurrected just 4 years after the events of Rondo of Blood instead of the prophesied 100 years and Alucard rushes in to investigate.
Symphony of the Night is definitely a bigger experience than Rondo of Blood. You can explore the castle any way you want but you will need to obtain new equipment and learn new abilities, like the skill to turn into a cloud (!) to get to the later areas. This is probably the most intriguing and the most frustrating part of the game as there are going to be times where you’ll be stuck trying to find that one room that has the item that’ll give you the ability to advance.
Controlling Alucard is very straightforward and very easy to get used to. But, like way back when I played it on the PlayStation, there are some problems. Some rooms are enormous and having Alucard walk (or slide) through a room can be tedious, especially if you’ve gone through the same area a dozen or so times before. Alucard can also learn some spells, such as one where killing something heals him, but executing the motions can be finicky. Luckily, there really isn’t a need to use them at all. I sometimes forgot I could even cast spells most of the time!
The biggest contention fans have with this port of Symphony of the Night is that it isn’t the PlayStation version. It’s the later PlayStation Portable port found in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles. The PSP port, in terms of gameplay, is actually much better than the original PlayStation version as you can play both as Richter Belmont and Maria Renard after finishing the game. The biggest quibble comes with the new vocal performances as Konami excised the “classic” bad writing from the original. No more “miserable little pile of secrets” for you!
It is rather disappointing that Konami didn’t include the original cheesy voice acting from the PlayStation version as it was one of the reasons why Symphony of the Night is so beloved by many. But, in hindsight, I would rather have more game. I still don’t see why Konami didn’t allow for the option to select the PlayStation voices, though.
So, is Castlevania: Requiem worth the $20? Actually, that isn’t something that’s easily answered because Konami scrimped on content and just went with giving us direct ports without any extra bells and whistles.
If you already have some way of playing both games, Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night, there really isn’t any incentive to get this package as it doesn’t come with any extras because of Konami’s laziness. If you just want to get one of these games, there are so many ways, legal or otherwise, to download them at a much lower price than $20.
But if you’re really a die hard fan and you really want to get both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night, 20 bucks is a good deal. I fall on the last category so I’m good with my purchase but the folks that belong to those other groups, you can safely skip it.
Have you played both Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night? Do they still hold up today? Let me know in the comments below!