Feature: Nocturne in the Moonlight

The Japanese box art is infinitely better.


Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Konami’s Castlevania series of games has long been a crown jewel of the platformer genre of video games. The first title in the series, Akumajo Dracula (lit. Demon Castle Dracula) was ported to the NES and localised in North America as Castlevania. In the intervening years, the series has been the site of numerous innovative and genre-defining advances. As a result, Castlevania games have become known as much for their Gothic Horror setting and J-rock soundtracks as for their farsighted approach to the genre as a whole.

As a result of its genre-pushing development, the Castlevania series occasionally stumbled along the way. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest attempted to incorporate an open world and RPG-style elements with indifferent success, and Castlevania 64 was a clubfooted attempt to unite the series with advancements in 3D game design. These games were failures not of vision but of realisation, and the principles they advanced were eventually brought successfully to fans in later titles. In 1997, the promise of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was at last realised in the Koji Igarashi-directed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a game which was an immediate critical success in Japan. Despite the limited funding afforded its Western release, Symphony of the Night nevertheless garnered numerous awards. Even today, it routinely features in “Top Ten Games of All Time” lists.

Castlevania

Adrian Farenheit “Alucard” Tepes

As with all Castlevania games (and, as is typical of early platformer games), the plot set-up is relatively formulaic. The supernatural castle of Dracula, Castlevania, reappears approximately once every one hundred years. It is at this time that the descendants of the Belmont family must take up the holy whip of their ancestors and, armed with such vampire-slaying implements as they devise, travel deep into Castlevania to defeat Dracula and the minions who serve him. The first Castlevania titles all chart the experiences of the Belmonts–Simon, Trevor, and Richter–in their effort to defeat Count Dracula.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which centred on Richter Belmont’s quest to stop the dark priest Shaft’s efforts to resurrect Dracula in 1792–and to save girls whom Shaft intended to sacrifice, including Richter’s girlfriend, Annette, and a little girl named Maria Renard. Five years after Richter’s successful defeat of Shaft and Dracula, Castlevania inexplicably reappears. Determined to uncover the mystery of Castlevania’s sudden manifestation, Richter enters into the castle; he does not return.

Now a teenager, Maria Renard also makes her way into Castlevania in search of the man to whom she owes her life. Without the presence of a Belmont to put an end to the evil taking place in Castlevania, Dracula’s son, Adrian (commonly known as Alucard), rises from the supernatural slumber which he had imposed upon himself after aiding Trevor Belmont in 1476. Alucard proceeds to his father’s demonic castle, there to uncover the mystery of Castlevania, and the fate of Richter Belmont.

The Inverted Castle

Count Dracula

Use the comment thread below to discuss your approach to the game, challenges you have faced, tactics you are employing, and what you are getting out of your playthrough. Do you feel that the presentation of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has held up since its original release in 1997? Are there aspects of the game that you would change, or that you would hold up as an example for modern game developers to emulate? How have your experience with other platformers, adventure games, and IGAvania-style titles released after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night changed your impressions of the game? Tell us all about it and join in our discussion below!

The aim in this playthrough is to complete the entirety of the game in two weeks. In the first week, the goal is to complete the first half of the game (up to accessing the inverted castle). In the second week, the goal is to complete the second half of the game (after accessing to the inverted castle). Feel free to join in, even if you are behind on the playthrough. Anyone and everyone is invited to participate, regardless of speed of play or familiarity with the series. Tell your friends!

Without further adieu, it is our very great pleasure to invite you now to join the Lusipurr.com staff members, guests, and readers as we once again traverse the halls of the haunted castle, seeking to end Dracula’s reign once and for all in Nocturne in the Moonlight: A Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Playthrough!

37 comments on “Feature: Nocturne in the Moonlight”

  1. I will be playing the PS1 version on my Vita. And, I would recommend this for others. The PS1 version, although it has some limitations (you can’t play as Maria, you can’t get the nose goblins), has the ‘superior’ original English localisation and voice acting. And trust me, it is worth every minute of it.

    Alucard’s voice is excellent. And the rest are truly delightful in another way!

  2. Hard mode: name your character file X-X!V”Q to start with all base stats bottomed out and Luck increased to 99 (this is how I play).

    Remove the Q in the name to get somewhat reduced strength and increased intelligence (mage mode).

  3. Well, I have quite an itch to play a Metroidvania title while waiting for a release of the Vita version of Axiom Verge. What better game to satisfy that than the definitive game of the genre?

    I’ll be playing the PS1 version on the Vita as well. I wish all PS1 classics were available to play this way.

    I haven’t played this in about a decade. I remember trying to completely explore the map, getting stuck on 199.8%, and never being able to figure out what or where I was missing the last little bit. The atmosphere, soundtrack, and sense of progression were all top notch for the time, and I don’t have any doubts that the game has aged wonderfully. The only blemishes that I can recall were pretty minor. The difficulty is a bit on the easy side. I changed weapons as infrequently as possible, as I found navigating the menus and searching through the many, many weapons to break the immersion somewhat.

    Time to get started…

  4. @DefChaos: There are a lot of tiny little extra rooms scattered around, some of which are very arcane. I’ll be listing a few of the early ones in my first ‘playthrough notes’ tomorrow.

    A perfect is 200.6% as I recall, although it is possible to cheat and get a bit more by filling in the areas just ‘outside’ of the map by using some glitches. This can crash your game and offers no benefit, so I’d avoid it.

    I will add that in hard mode you will need to be cautious at a few points in the game: very early on, you will need to gain a few levels before reaching the first boss. I usually do this by fighting fish men up to L.7 whilst I still have Alucard’s starting equipment; and then later I kill Axe Knights to gain a few more levels before the fight with Slogra and Gaibon. Later, when you first reach the inverted castle, the difficulty spike will likely make you very vulnerable until you’ve gained a few more levels. Finally, Galamoth can prove tricky if you are not properly defended against his attacks.

    All of this can be significantly mitigated with good use of defensive abilities/potions/gear appropriate to the monster attacks, and by getting certain gear and using it effectively: the jewel knuckles can be obtained via a secret elevator relatively early on, and these will be the best weapon for quite a long time. Later on, you can get a Terminus Est from Nova Skeletons, and this sword can be used to slaughter Guardians (who are weak to poison) for very good experience. Anything that increases your Luck still further will be a boon to you because Luck *also* increases your Crit chance, and with your str being fairly low, you’ll want to be doing crits where possible.

    There are some useful things beyond this, but they require a special kind of clear file already on your memory card. Good luck!

  5. Oh! One more thing: I think most (if not all) PS1 classics now work on Vita. I’m not sure which ones, if any, do not. I do know that not all of them show up in the Vita store. But, once purchased, they can be downloaded from your download history and played on your Vita. I own 30 PS1 classics on PSN, and all of them work on my Vita now.

    This is not to say that there aren’t PS1 classics that *don’t* work–only that for me, everything I’ve got is Vita compatible (finally!)

  6. I haven’t played SotN in quite some time so I will definitely try to participate.

    Potentially precluding me is the fact that I have just started replaying Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne this past week after extolling its virtues to a co-worker (which is sort of weird, given your name choice for this playthrough). Don’t know if you have ever played it Lusi, but if not you really should! It’s every bit as fantastic as I remember it being. Next site playthrough after Chrono Cross? It’s on PSN…

    Anyway, I apologize for the digression. I still have my ps1 copy of SotN, so that will be the version of choice for me assuming I can tear myself away from Nocturne. Good thing SotN is so amazing. And short.

  7. I had actually played this for the first time about half a year to a year ago. And I immediately wanted to start again, but I had other things (and games!) to get to. This will be a fine excuse to return to this classic.

    I probably won’t mess with the starting stats, though.

  8. I can’t wait to play Symphony of the Night!

    [Spelling corrected. -Ed.]

  9. I have been playing the game since I returned from the doctor’s office this afternoon. One thing I am noticing in especial is the pixel art. This game has some of the most beautiful pixel art that I have ever seen. In particular, I have been very impressed by the marble gallery. The statues here, in various attitudes and poses, demonstrate a dedication to this games artistry. It would have been easy, and ordinary, to simply use the same statue graphic over and over again.

    Now for a secret: when you first arrive in the outer wall, go down one screen. On the left will be a purple knight. Defeat him and go to the room behind him. In this room, break the left wall. There is food there. Get the food and then stand in the hole that you made in the wall. Put down the controller and wait. After a minute or so, a secret elevator will take you to the room below, which can normally only be accessed with mist form. Grab your reward: a mirror cuirass which prevents being turned to stone, and the jewel knuckles, by far more powerful a weapon than any to which you will have access for some time!

  10. Another secret: once you get the soul of wolf and the soul of bat, use the teleporter to return to near the start of the game. Go to the room with all of the Fishmen. Here, you can create a passage through the stone which is below the bats on the ceiling, but above the water below. Once again you will find food here. Now, turn into a wolf and walk through the newly created passage and out the other side, then turn into a bat and fly back through the tunnel to where you started. A secret door will open in the bottom left corner of the room. Tada!

  11. Hey! Good secrets, Lusi! I’m gonna try em out right now!

    Also, obligatory reiteration about FF7 remake, etc., etc.

  12. Thank you for the tips! I’m not sure where I missed rooms previously, but I definitely don’t recall the bat/wolf form secret room (though I did get the food). Using fast weapons like the knuckles for extra critical hit chances makes perfect sense. I never really liked using those weapons in my other playthroughs as I generally prefer a bit more breathing room than what those offer.

    I went into the Gaibon/Slogra fight at level 4. I died a couple times due to careless mistakes – not much margin for error on hard mode. I won by using the environment to my advantage, fighting Gaibon on the left platforms, moving about as needed but staying off the floor. Once he’s gone, Slogra is easy – duck, swipe, move in, repeat.

    The score is wonderful and plays no small part in setting the tone in each area. Definitely one of my favorite soundtracks, love the boss music.

    Unfortunately, there are still a handful of PS1 classics that won’t work on the Vita. Silent Hill is right next to SotN on my download list, and it doesn’t give me an option to download it on the Vita.

  13. Alright, played a good deal for the day. Got those jewel knuckles early, that makes things move a lot faster lol. Not too interested in a challenge, since I’ve already beaten the game without any guides or foreknowledge of tricks like this. The magic system was largely lost on me, although I did tinker with it on a second save file just to see what it was all about.

    Also, I love the amount of customization this game affords you. It’s so forward thinking in that regard. Even the powerups, banal as some might be, can be toggled on or off for… no reason. Preference. Challenge. Any reason. But importantly to me, the controls can be changed. I think the defaults are nice, but I’ve found it works best for me when I map Right Hand to R1 and Left Hand (shield) to L1. Otherwise I find it difficult to swap quickly between a shield and by sword. Admittedly I don’t use the shield very much, but it’s nice to have it more accessible than not.

  14. That bat/wolf room thing is something virtually everyone misses.

    Another secret!: In the clock tower, there are gears along the walls which, when struck, make a clank noise. However, they occasionally make a click noise. Hit them until they click and then do not hit them again. If you do this to all of them (there are 4 or 5 spread across two, tall rooms), they will open a secret passage at the bottom left of one of the tall rooms.

    This works in the inverted castle, as well. If you accidentally hit one and move it from click to clank, keep hitting it over and over again until it clicks once more.

  15. The only spell you really need is Soul Steal, which is a fast way to get your life back and to damage an enemy (or enemies) at the same time.

    The controller pattern for it is a bit wonky but, with practise, you should be able to pull it off consistently. I use it instead of potions.

  16. On Monday I cleared (that is, completed: all items, all rooms) the entire normal castle.

    This game is too, too short! It is a wonderful game, but there needs to be more of it. Much more. Thank God for Bloodstained!

  17. I downloaded SotN on my PSP today. Wish I could play it on the Vita, but I own the game on the wrong account. Oh well.

  18. @Lusi: I remember that locked room on my first playthrough being the ONE area I didn’t get to. Thanks for the info!

  19. Most of the secret rooms in SotN are just a matter of breaking walls, but those two are kind of tricky and are very easy to miss.

  20. I completed the game last night (200.6%, which is a full clear).

    Some things: first, I had forgotten just how short this game is. It is really short. I completed each castle in a single sitting during an evening’s play.

    A complaint, albeit a very minor complaint: the music in the inverted castle is (in general) less well-written than that in the normal castle. And there’s less of it, oddly. In the normal castle, every area has its own music. But in the inverted castle, several areas each share the same music. I expect that, like the menu, this was down to a matter of time. The inverse music is not bad by any measure, but the tracks in the normal castle feel more polished.

    A balance issue: Galamoth has far more HP than the final boss and (assuming you don’t know tricks for either boss) is harder than the last boss as well. Dracula only having one form is, also, a bit of a sadness (although you do get to fight him twice at the very beginning, I suppose, but you cannot lose that fight).

    Now some tricks: Galamoth is super-easy if you have found the Beryl Circlet, which restores HP on lightning damage. If you know where to stand when fighting him, Galamoth will just do his lightning storm (not the circular bolts) attack over and over again, which will restore your HP. Basically, if you are standing somewhere and he starts doing lightning storm, continue to stand there. You should be able to hit him with your sword as he uses lightning storm and because that is all he will do, and it heals you, you’ll be invincible. Otherwise, this is an annoying fight because Galamoth has a lot of hp (12,000 in fact), and so it takes a lot of hits to kill him, in which time you’ll be taking damage from his attacks.

    Dracula is ridiculously easy. You can just sit in the left hand corner of the screen and hit him with your sword over and over again. He’ll die before you do unless you are very underlevelled and underequipped.

    One final note: the music that plays during the credits (“I Am the Wind”) is genuinely terrible. This is not a perception which has arisen over time–it was terrible in 1997 as well. Remember to stick through it and get back to the title screen by pressing Start so that your file will be noted CLEAR.

    Having a clear file means that you can play through the game as Richter by creating a file named RICHTER. You can also start with the Axe Armor by creating an AXEARMOR file. Richter mode is quite difficult by comparison with Alucard, although it is easier in a few other respects.

    Having a clear file allows some other things: all cutscenes and dialogue can now be skipped by pressing Start. Time attack becomes available, showing you how long it took you to kill bosses. The sound test becomes available at the Librarian. And the Librarian’s entire inventory is available for sale at once. The Librarian will also now sell the Duplicator, which allows infinite use of items without their consumption (opening up still other ways to play through the game). In the DXC version (and other such releases) of the game, Maria will become playable by creating a file called MARIA.

    I recommend giving Richter mode a try (and Maria mode if you’re playing a version of the game where you can use her).

  21. Finally, the famous Sword Brothers glitch for those who want infinite money.

    Once you have the Sword familiar, you can do the sword brothers spell. (Look up on the internet how to do Alucard’s spells, since I don’t want to try and work out how to type the button directions here.)

    You will need at least one salable ring. Go to the Librarian and sell all but one of your most valuable ring. Then exit the librarian menu and move a bit to the right, but in the same room.

    Now, perform the sword brothers spell. As soon as you do that, go talk to the Librarian whilst the sword brothers spell animation is still going on. Go to the sell gem menu. Now, press start. You can now go to the game menu despite being in the librarian menu, which is not normally possible.

    Equip the one gem that you had left. Now, exit the game menu, but do not exit the Librarian’s sell gem menu. You’ll note that the gem is still up for sale on the Librarian’s sell gem menu, even although you have it equipped. Sell the gem. Exit out of the librarian’s menu and go back in. You now have 255 of that gem, and can sell as many as you need to hit the money cap of 999,999. Always leave yourself one gem so that you can repeat this process as necessary.

    This is a really easy glitch to do, as you see. It also means you can get the 500K Duplicator without running in and out of that room in the coliseum where the 1K gold bag is.

    One more thing: this doesn’t work on any non-PS1 version of the game. So, it will work on the PSOne classics version on PSN, but it will not work on the DXC version for PSP. Enjoy!

  22. One thing I used to do early on for a lot of experience– in the Chapel area, in the stair room with the bone dragon and the spike ball at top, if you come in from the room on the left, you can “kill” the spiked ball. It can cheese the game up though, if over exploited.

  23. @Fumunshu: That’s a good one! (Note: works best with really fast weapons like daggers/fists)

  24. @Lusipurr: Lack of additional cards and funds to spend on luxuries.

  25. The last major ability I acquired was bat form. Trying to get more of the map explored before I approach Shaft and Richter. I’m at lvl 24, with 77.3% of the map explored. Haven’t spent any time grinding, though I do generally kill everything I encounter and rarely skip through an area. Aside from the tips here, I’m not consulting any references. There are a few things I have forgotten how to do (ex. how to not get stabbed in the confessional booth in the royal chapel), and things I randomly remembered from years ago (freezing time to open the upper right in the central room with the big clock, some random secret passageway in the colosseum that is opened by throwing axes at the ceiling). After gaining a few levels and life ups, hard mode isn’t much different, though the low HP can make it tough when save points are further apart.

    I should be on to the inverted castle tonight.

  26. @Def:

    In the royal chapel, basically it is down to the colour of the clothes the lady is wearing. One lady stabs you, the other cries for a bit and leaves you some grapes. If you see the wrong lady approach, hop out of the chair. The same thing is true with the two priests. I forget what iitems they all drop, but none of them are particular noteworthy.

    You’re quite right about difficulty. The one major thing is that in luck mode it is good to stack luck and go for enemies which drop useful items. This requires some knowledge of enemy drops of course, or a list telling you what to go for. It’s clearly nonessential. For the most part, the struggle does come from low hp totals and low defence to attacks/ Galamoth is difficult on hard mode for this reason–he has so much hp, you will do even less damage, and he will do even more.

    The Shaft/Richter fight ix really, really easy. The difficulty comes in going to the inverse castle where there is a sudden jump in enemy strength. This is what you should be most aware of when you cross over–hurry to the save point in the castle keep and remember that if you go into the clock tower you’ll be walking directly into a boss fight (there are bosses in all the usual places).

    Apologies for typos, I am typing this without glasses so I cannot see what I am writing.

  27. Well, I had been hoping to not need to consult a map for this playthrough, but I completely forgot where the catacombs entrance was located. I also lost once to the catacombs boss, as I also forgot that if you take down all 9 parts of his shield of bodies before destroying the core, you get mercilessly pummeled. Finally, I had to look up how to progress through the darkened spike room. I don’t think I ever used the bay sonar at any other point during the game.

    Speaking of the catacombs, I really like the shadows cast in the background of Alucard and the enemies through the fiery tunnels. The while game makes nice usage of foreground and background scenery, but I liked this in particular. I also noticed your color in bat form depends on
    what color your cape is.

    While progressing through the inverted chapel, one of the archer enemies on the mechanized stair lifts dropped a Vorpal Blade, my new favorite weapon. It’s faster, slightly stronger, and has better range than the jewel knuckles, and can also hit enemies slightly above your horizontal plane, which can really come in handy. I will most likely be using it throughout the rest of the game. Not sure if it’s a low drop rate that I just happened to get incredibly lucky on, but if it’s not then it’s well worth farming for it.

    Minor complaint – I wish there were a means to autosort the inventory. I’d experiment with different weapons more often if it want such a pain to relocate my original equipment when switching back. I don’t like having to sift through a bunch of food and disposable weapons to look for a specific sword. Selling or just dropping unwanted weapons and armor would be nice too.

    By the time the inverted castle is reached, all of the needed navigation skills and forms are acquired, so progression is much more straightforward, even if the enemies are somewhat tougher.

    Any favorite familiars? I tend to stick with the bat.

  28. Usual disclaimer about typos (still no classes).

    There are some great weapons that drop from enemies, but near the end of the game the Alucard Sword is easy to find, guaranteed, and excellent. My personal favourite until that is the Runesword, which drops from the Dodo Bird in the Inverse Foyer. It is a sword that is thrown forward in a huge arc, and then swoops back. It’s a great weapon. There is also a samurai blade which creates a whirl of damage in front of Alucard–also useful, obviously!

    The beams from the center of the Catacombs boss can be predicted–they have an animation which shows they are about to deploy, and they fire in predictable places.

    (This reminds me that the best subweapon in the game is the Axe, and it is really teh only thing that anyone should ever use.)

    There is a way to autosort the inventory. If you press Square or Triangle when you are on the slot you want to sort, it will bring up a sort menu. You can also reorder the categories on that menu. I always do this to put short swords at the top, then swords, clubs, fist weapons, two handed swords, thrown items, food, and medicine last of all. Then, to resort after you have the list the way you want, hit triangle x or square x. I cannot remember exactly, but you’ll figure it out.

    Unfortunately weapons and such cannot be sold. Only gems.

    Best familiar is the sword because, at L.50, you can use it as a weapon. It gains new skills and, at L.70, becomes very useful indeed as it starts attacking with very straight, direct attacks. Otherwise, I’d stick with the fairy. The sword power increases with sword level, by the bye.

  29. Catacombs boss – I found the large white beams to be telegraphed far in advance and easily avoided. What did me in the time that I was a quicker set of smaller beams that fire simultaneously. The main body of the boss was off screen when these hit me, so they could be animated just as clearly as the other larger shots, I just figured that I would expose the core early and beat the boss before all hell broke loose again.

    Subweapons – I completely agree about axes. They hit a large portion of enemies outside of melee range, and are dirt cheap to fire.

    Inventory screen – Thanks for the explanation. I had been going into each slot expecting to be able to auto sort there; doing so only allows you to move items about manually.

    Familiars – I forgot about the sword. I haven’t found it just yet, but I’m sure to come across it pretty soon. The level bonuses sound pretty useful. I used the fairy for a little while, it did point me towards a couple secret passages that I would have overlooked otherwise, and helped me in the inverted clock tower, healing me from the petrification inflicted by the Medusa heads that are just everywhere. The bat does some minor damage that can useful against low hp enemies that stay out of melee range like imps, gremlins, and fleas. Basically all the little enemies that impede navigation and are generally a pain in the ass to have around.

    Weapons – I actually found the Alucart sword some time ago and found it surprisingly lacking at that point, much less as a viable endgame weapon……kidding, kidding. :) All of those sound useful, hopefully I’ll run into a few more of those playing on luck mode than I would otherwise. I’ll try out whatever I come across and post if I find more that seem particularly effective.

    I’m going to hopefully have the game cleared tonight, then will go back for whatever I need for 200.6% throughout the rest of the week here and there.

  30. @Def: The Sword Familiar is in the Normal Castle (click Alucard’s picture above for a pop-out map).

    Equipping all the Alucart Items gives you a large Luck Boost and changes your status to ‘alucart’. :)

    Good luck!

  31. Thanks. I defeated Dracula last night, giving me a percentage of 199.1% with my time being just under 9 hours.

  32. Such a fun thread!

    Some things I like to do: the first time you go to the library, kill the skeletons holding their own head over and over until they drop a rapier. Do a hadouken motion to do a sweet multi-thrust. That will last you for a really long time and completely wreck the next few bosses.

    Hold up for two seconds then do a half circle to the right for up to down and press the attack button to do the tetra spirits spell. It’s useful throughout. I also love the hellfire spell for narcissistic flare.

    In the inverted Marble Gallery is a room with a guy riding on a big dragon skeleton bouncing across the floor. There’s also a little bird walking around. When the bird sees you it runs so you have to be quick but kill that thing until it drops the Rune Sword. At least I think it’s called the Rune Sword. It launches out a really long distance and you don’t have to stop moving to attack with it.

    When you find the Sword of the Dawn start throwing hadoukens like crazy to summon tons of light warriors to your aid. To s of fun to have there. They aren’t powerful though.

    It needs to be HARDER!

  33. Congrats DefChaos!

    @Zoltan: You are referring to the Dodo Bird, and it is a Rune Sword. See comment 32.

    If you want a harder version of SotN, see comment 2. That’s as hard as it gets.

    Thus ends the playthough! Congrats to all those who finished! And to all those who did not, you are each a miserable pile of secrets.

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