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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
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If you entered into a group of people arguing about the greatest game of all time, this game would probably pop more than quite a few times.  Not only is this game the greatest Castlevania of all time, if not the greatest action game of all time, but it also has what is arguably the greatest soundtrack of all time.  The music is a joy to listen to.  It ranges from classical to jazz to retro to rock and has a wide variety of songs encompassing different styles.  But the music isn't what makes this game so great.  The game expertly blends RPG elements with good old fashioned Castlevania action.  Like the previous Castlevanias, you get to take on a wide variety of strange and powerful creatures of the night in real time fighting.  But like RPGs, you gain experience points, get stronger, buy increasingly more powerful weapons and armor and items, and fight stronger and stronger creatures. Unlike the previous Castlevanias, instead of playing a Belmont, you play Dracula's half-vampire and half-human son Alucard, which means you get access to an arsenal of vampiric powers, shape shifting abilities, and familiars you can call on in combat.  Also unlike the previous Castlevanias, and much like RPGs, you can explore to your heart's content, going from room to room in whatever order you wish, with some rooms proving to be more difficult than others if you find yourself at the wrong level needed to attack the foes in that area.  The boss battles are spectacular, with victory yielding satisfying rewards in the vein of The Legend of Zelda.  But the true meat of the game lies in the sheer size and scope of the whole experience.  With probably a hundred rooms, and dozens of secrets, the castle is huge and will definitely require long hours of work to crack.  And if you find the right secrets, you'll have to do it all over again when one of the biggest twists in videogame history reveals itself and you have to tackle an upside-down version of the castle, with even more powerful monsters and the game's true final boss.  This game has downsides, naturally, as do all videogames.  The spells in the game can be difficult to cast, requiring Street Fighter II type control inputs.  However, when you find the poison gas morphing ability, the game becomes drastically easier and you'll forget all about the spells.  Since this game is all about action, the plot takes a backside, and let's not even talk about the silly English voice acting.  But who can complain about these minor nitpicks when the action is top notch, the graphics and music are beautiful, the game is so large, and the RPG elements deepen what is already a high production value?

Grade: Legendary

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