Classic Castlevania as we once knew it has been lying dormant now for quite some time. The last games to bear the name of Konami’s iconic franchise were the trio of Lords of Shadows games from developer MercurySteam that attempted to reboot the series. Now, like the Dark Priest Shaft bringing Dracula back to life, Konami has resurrected two of the most beloved entries in the classic series with the surprise release of Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood, exclusive to the PlayStation 4. While each game featured in Requiem is well represented here, and both are worth either replaying or experiencing for the first time, the package that houses the two leaves a lot to be desired, especially when compared to other classic video game compilations from this generation.
The two games that make up Castlevania Requiem are Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night. Originally released in 1993 for the PC Engine exclusively in Japan, Rondo of Blood is the culmination of the linearly designed entries in the Castlevania series of the 8 and 16-bit era. The controls are tight and responsive, listening to the soundtrack is pure bliss to the ears and will assuredly give you goose bumps, and the stages that make up Rondo are begging to be explored.
The first linear Castlevania that experimented with alternate routes, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse on the NES, did so by giving players two choices on where to go before a level. Rondo instead rewards those who explore with things like new levels, bosses, even a second playable character by taking leaps of faith or whipping walls to uncover secrets. No matter what character you use: the whip wielding Richter Belmont or the small but nimble Maria Renard, keep in mind that Rondo of Blood is a VERY difficult game and demands you study every stage layout and enemy pattern to see it to its conclusion.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night requires far less introduction. Arriving in North America in 1997, it was the first major shift the Castlevania series had ever seen, blending the tight controlling action the series was known for with RPG elements and an open-ended design like Nintendo’s Metroid franchise. The term “Metroidvania” exists because of Symphony of the Night, and even with the glut of games on the market today that are inspired by Konami’s classic, it’s still a masterpiece that stands out, due in large part to its intricately designed castle with a plethora of secrets hidden within its well and iconic soundtrack.
As a collection, Rondo and Symphony complement each other wonderfully, and not just because the ending of the story of one game leads directly into the other. Both game’s are completely different from one another in their design, but still feel like they come from the same franchise. On the one hand you have the game that ended an era of some of the best designed 2-D action game ever made, and on the other is the title that chartered a new course for the franchise and brought in a new player base who may have been intimidated by how punishing previous Castlevania games were. This isn’t the first time, however, that Konami has bundled these games, and therein lays the problem with Requiem.
The first time Rondo of Blood was released in North America was alongside Symphony of the Night in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PlayStation Portable, and it’s from that version that this latest rerelease is based on. Both games came fully intact in that package for the most part, and the same goes for Requiem as well, but there were some minor changes made to Symphony of the Night that didn’t sit well with fans of the series in The Dracula X Chronicles – mainly to the game’s localization – that sadly return here.
Perhaps more so than its stellar castle design, beautiful soundtrack and controls, Symphony of the Night is remembered mostly through cheesy lines delivered bombastically like “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” When Symphony was brought to the PlayStation Portable, it came with newly rewritten dialogue as an attempt to make Symphony less silly, but in “correcting” this, Konami eliminated part of Symphony’s personality, for better or for worse. It doesn’t make the game any less playable, it just can be compared to something like the changes made to the original Star Wars trilogy: you’re still getting the same series of movies, just not in the way you want them. It’s also strange that some trophies are named after the cringe-worthy lines from Symphony’s original translation, so Requiem both celebrates its legacy while at the same time being ashamed of it.
A selling feature of The Dracula X Chronicles was that its base game was a 2.5-D remake of Rondo of Blood and that’s something that’s unfortunately not included in this package. While the original Rondo and its update were more or less the same, there were differences in how the difficulty of each version was balanced and secret paths well known to those who had played Rondo of Blood to death were moved around. The inclusion of Rondo’s remake would have done a lot to make this a better overall package while also allowing people who missed out on things exclusive to The Dracula X Chronicles a chance to experience them for the first time.
This also brings up another major problem with Castlevania Requiem: it’s a very basic collection, missing features that have now become standard in classic video game compilations. You can play both games in their original 4:3 setting or full-screen with various borders filling out the rest of the screen. You can also apply various filters like adding scan lines to emulate a CRT television, but all of this can only be done outside of the game’s themselves. For example, if you start with a 4:3 setting and want to try the other aspect ratio, you have to save your game, exit out to the main menu and apply them in a menu before you can see what they look like. On the filter and size application screen you can somewhat get a sense of what things will look like, but it’s also covered in the menu you select from and is not ideal. Though it’s minor, Requiem also has a very ugly menu system that makes it somewhat difficult to see what game you’re picking, and there’s only two.
Those looking for things like the save state and rewind features that have become standard in things like Capcom’s Mega Man collections this generation will similarly be disappointed. This isn’t so much an issue with Symphony of the Night, but Rondo of Blood is a very tough game that many will perhaps not see all of because of how challenging it is. Rewind was added to things like the Mega Man Legacy Collection so new players could easily fix their mistakes instead of having to go back to a far away checkpoint or start over from the beginning of a level. Those hungry for a challenge love classic Castlevania because it more than offers one, but those who only played Castlevania from Symphony onward or are new comers may be turned off by how tough a game from the series origin like Rondo of Blood is. Requiem is also devoid of any special features with not even an art gallery or a way to listen to each game’s soundtrack to speak of.
Castlevania Requiem is an easy and inexpensive way to play two of the best video game ever made, and in the case of Rondo of Blood, it’s the only way to play it legally on something that isn’t a handheld device since the Wii virtual console went away. While it’s great to see Konami once again releasing anything at all Castlevania related, these games deserve a far more comprehensive package than what has been built here. Should Konami continue mining their back catalog, here’s hoping they’ll look at the many collections from other companies that have been released this generation as the standard they have to at least meet, if not exceed.
Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood is available now for Playstation 4. This review is based on a code provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.
Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood
- Two unique, classic games for the price of one.
- Tight controls and superb level design.
- Some of the best music ever composed for a video game found in each title.
- No bonuses to speak of.
- Inexcusable poor interface for simple menus
- Where’s the Rondo of Blood remake?
- No considerations made for new comers in Rondo of Blood