Yes, we know we've missed Halloween, so we can't take the 'spooky' angle on this one, but this week's CIBSunday is Konami's seminal smash hit, Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night – a game so good that we're actually featuring it twice.
You see, although the PlayStation version is the one everyone remembers, the game also got a release on the Sega Saturn back in the day – although Saturn's dismal commercial performance in the west meant that it never got localised outside of Japan.
Released in 1997, Symphony Of The Night took the Castlevania template and fused it with Super Metroid, creating the 'Metroidvania' genre in the process. While the focus was still on platforming action, Symphony Of The Night gave you a non-linear fortress to explore as well as countless items to collect – including weapons, armour, spells and much more besides.
On top of this, it used an RPG-style experience system, so your character grew in power as you progressed through the castle. In short, it was (and still is) a fantastic video game and one of the best titles on both PlayStation and Saturn.
The original Japanese PlayStation release (shown here) came with a fancy art book and music CD – two goodies that would also be present in the European version (but not the North American one). It's one of the great ironies that, although American gamers missed out on the freebies and had to endure an absolutely terrible cover design, Symphony Of The Night was a resounding commercial success in that region – while in the UK, it was reported at the time that it had only sold around 15,000 copies (and it had the superior Japanese cover art). Tsk. There really is no pleasing some people.
The Saturn port, handled by Konami's Nagoya studio, is a bit of a mess, admittedly – so much so that Koji Igarashi, who acted as a programmer on the original and would later become the producer for the whole Castlevania series, told Play Magazine:
I understand why fans who've never played the Saturn version would be interested in those features, but I really, really don't feel good about them. I couldn't put my name on that stuff and present it to Castlevania fans.
Even though it has slowdown and lacks some of the nicer visual elements, it's still a great game and well worth picking up on Saturn – if you've got deep enough pockets.