Castlevania as a franchise has a long history behind it. Originally started all the way back on NES, it is now considered a cult classic. Sadly, the future of the series was uncertain because of a lack of new games, and the transition to 3D also contributed to its demise. This is why when Konami announced Castlevania Requiem for the PS4, it was a pleasant surprise to see a Castlevania game on a current generation console.
Castlevania Requiem is basically a repackaged release of two prominent games in the series: Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood. The first one is easily considered one of the best games released for PS1, which itself is an achievement because of the strong competition. Rondo of Blood is a prequel to Symphony of the Night and lays down the groundwork, so in a way, it has some historical significance. It was originally released for the PC Engine CD and a 2.5D Remake was later published for the PSP.
Castlevania Requiem collection offers some great games, but this is simply not enough for the re-release. There could have been some effort made here to help bring these games with some minor modern upgrades, but as it stands, the presentation is uninspiring and there is even some content cut since this is a port of the PSP version. If you haven’t played Dracula X Chronicles on PSP, it featured Symphony of Night as well as a 2.5D remake of Rondo of Blood. The classic version was also playable along with it. This is missing for the PS4 release, which seems like a strange decision.
As far as this port and its quality go, I will say it is barely serviceable. The games are good, and you are getting most of the original experience as intended by the developers, but the pixelated artwork doesn’t look that great on a big screen. If the plan was to bring these games to modern platforms, there could be an effort to make some simple but quality-of-life changes. The budget price makes it clear that it was not on the agenda when deciding these ports. Still, it is nice to replay these classics on a more modern console even if they don’t scale well to a big screen.
As far as gameplay goes, the outdated one in the package is Rondo of the Blood. Compared to it, Symphony of Night feels a lot more modern, even offering some light-RPG elements with it. The story is also far better in Symphony of the Night, even if it is a direct sequel to Rondo of Blood. The characters are more likable, combat plays out at a faster pace and the exploration is just sublime. There are so many great Metroidvania design elements featured in Symphony of the Night that continued to influences modern game design. It is a reminder of the golden age of Castlevania series when it was at the peak of its quality.
If you have never played a Castlevania game, there is a good chance that the stiff animations will turn you off. They are a trademark of the series though, and the gameplay design complements them. There are always many ways to approach each fight during combat. Dodging the enemy attacks needs some serious platforming skills. The main story offers multiple scenarios to take so it doesn’t exactly feel like a linear experience. The most satisfying part of the journey is when you figure out where to go next or backtrack to a new area to discover secrets. Symphony of the Night has easily one of the best maps in the series.
To get over any upscaling, both games render in the middle of the screen with corners showing various backgrounds. Most of the rendering options feel obsolete and don’t help in any way to enhance the experience. You basically get the original games but in a new packing. I also experienced some odd random crashes, but they weren’t that frequent. At least they went through the efforts to change the controls to the DualShock 4 layout, otherwise, it is the same thing with low quality pre-rendered intros, story cinematic, and pixelated text. Trophies are available, though, if this is something that you like to earn for classic games.
For the fans who are returning to his collection, there might be an issue with how it removes the more comical but classic translation for Symphony of the Night with a modern version of it. The audio is also different, based more on the PSP version of Dracula X Chronicles. There is no choice available to switch between the old or new translation, so, unfortunately, it feels forced. It is a minor nitpick but one that is worth pointing out here.
The issues with Castlevania Requiem simply boil down the lack of efforts on Konami’s part. Perhaps they have some grand plans later for the series, so this was more of a quick effort before announcing something a little more ambitious. I do feel like it will happen since even Netflix has invested in the series with the Castlevania TV Show which is generating some buzz around it. Castlevania characters are part of the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, so this also points towards something brewing at Konami, but only time will tell what it actually means for the Castlevania series.
Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night & Rondo of Blood Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: 'Castlevania: Rondo of Blood', first released in 1993 and 'Castlevania: Symphony of the Night', first released in 1997 are now available in one combined package for the PS4!
Final Score - 7/10
It is a shame that there was not much effort spent on bringing back two of these classic Castlevania games to the current generation. Despite the dated look, they are still fascinating to play thanks to the masterfully crafted level design and an engrossing story.