Symphony of the Night

… My vacation started friday, and since I am not done with “completely meaningless” just yet (I’m aiming for “pointless” by the end of the week), I decided that I should download and play the titular game since Microsoft/Konami are nice enough to have it on XBLA. That was roughly 20 hours ago, and 2 hours ago I turned off the 360.

What I wanted to say was that my mind is a little muddy at the moment, so this might be even less coherent than usual. This also explains I write insanely long sequences without even getting to the point until the next paragraph – even moreso than usual (damnit, now I’m doing it again)

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Symphony of the Night is one of those games that everybody adores – not necessarily because it is a timeless classic, but because it took a big step forward and did something different (“different” only from it’s prequels in this case, but I’m getting ahead of myself). It was an action-adventure game, an exploration game in 2D when everybody was busy trying to figure out how it should be done in 3D. I always planned on getting SotN back then. I spent unhealthy amounts of time bitching on forums (or “messageboards” as we called ’em back then) about Nintendo’s lack of a Metroid title in the pipeline, and everbody said SotN was perfect to fill the gap. I don’t know why I didn’t (lack of money seems plausible), but at least it’s nice to finally conclude a chapter of doubt and say that yes, indeed, I should’ve played SotN ten years ago instead of today.

Symphony of the Night is exactly what I wanted back then; it’s Super Metroid with more features, prettier graphics, and exactly the sort of deficiencies I wouldn’t mind then but that bother me now.

First of all, the controls are unresponsive and lousy, getting used to them takes awhile. I’m willing to accept some of this is due to bad emulation, but why bind “special weapon” to up+attack where you’ll accidentally waste ammo trying to do combinations more often than you actually have to fire, especially since there is a completely useless “back dash” feature bound to it’s own button? Yes, I am aware that up+attack was how it worked in the earlier games, but the NES controller has 2 spare buttons. The PSX controller has 8. That’s not really my biggest gripe (who needs special weapons anyway), the controls also are slow so it gets very tricky to do precision jumping before you get used to it.

Second, it is kind of uneven. First it was maddening since the savepoints were the only way to regain what little health you had, and trying to hit some enemy with a slow-moving thrust, only a few pixels of width, failed more often than it succeeded. Then, a quick inquiry to GameFAQs revealed that there did in fact exist a spell to steal HP from all the enemies on the screen and take it yourself, and suddenly the game became almost embarrassingly easy. Not that I’m against that – the game should be about exploration, and forcing the player to replay parts is probably the best way to destroy that. What bothers me is that it seems the designer wanted to compensate for this and disregarded the progression curve for some of the last few bosses and just made them insanely more powerful than the rest of the enemies. Or maybe it was just me starting to get tired, but keeping all the bosses at an ever-so-slightly-increasing level and suddenly make one eight times as powerful seems a little off.

Third – and now we’re really moving into opinion terroritory – what is the deal with the flipped castle? some games flip levels around to create interesting puzzles – gravity or objects lining up create paths to places that were previously unreachable, and that’s pretty cool. In SotN you can fly more or less how much you like, so there is no reachable point on the first map that can’t just as easily be reached on the second one. I’m aware that lots of games – even new ones – throw the players on semi-random bughunts throughout the explored world in an effort to extend gameplay, so I probably shouldn’t hold it against SotN. This is more of an open remark to all the reviewers and fans that seem to think it is a stroke of genius instead of just a small fix to make the excuse to squeeze out a few extra hours of game feel better.

But – and it’s sad that I rant so much, since no-one will bother to read this far – I still think I should’ve played this when it first came out, because there’s a nice game in there. From the time when you get the hang of the controls to the time when you reach the upside-down castle, it’s a really exciting and good-looking game. Sure, the story and how it’s presented is corny, but this was 97 and non-RPG titles didn’t have decent storylines back then.

So don’t play SotN, play the sequels where all of the annoying stuff has been sorted out.

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Posted on Oct 01/07 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »