It was a sunny and mild Wednesday morning when I happened to check my phone to see that, among the depressing world news, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night had suddenly appeared in the Google Play and App Stores!
I loved this game as a kid, and I certainly wasn't alone. In fact, it was so monumental, influential, and memorable that it, along with Super Metroid, helped define an entire sub-genre of games that is still being replicated (and often very well!) to this day. Symphony of the Night tells an interesting story with non-linear gameplay that leaves you to explore the path forward. Even though we've seen re-releases and updated versions put out in the past for the PSP and regular PlayStation consoles, this is the first time we get to experience it on mobile. That means a whole lot more people get to play Symphony of the Night, and that's always a good thing.
Bottom line: Symphony of the Night sees new life on mobile, though gone are some of the endearing elements that made the original so funny and memorable. Still, this is a very good, no-nonsense mobile port with gamepad support from Konami. It's not perfect however, and it's definitely better played with a controller than just your phone.
- Stable and maintains most of the nostalgia
- Gamepad support
- Spoken and written language choices
- Achievements add replayability
- Touchscreen controls placement isn't great
- Janky on high refresh rate displays
- No cloud saves
What I liked about Symphony of the Night
For starters, I had my doubts when I saw the news initially. With Konami, I find it easier to err on the side of caution when it comes to getting excited. However, upon seeing that the Play Store reviews for Symphony of the Night were quite positive, I let my excitement and nostalgia lead me to push that purchase button. I wasn't disappointed.
This being such an old game, I don't think rehashing the story and discussing the plot elements are the best use of our time. Instead, let's discuss Symphony of the Night as it stands right now. Honestly, it's one of my favorite games on Android.
Playing the game itself is a great experience, especially given that it's a mobile port.
The game has two control schemes: touchscreen and controller. The latter is where it's at. I clipped on the phone mount for my Xbox One controller, slotted in my phone, and loaded up the game. It recognized my controller right away, and it's adapted quite well considering its age and the fact it was initially played with the DualShock 1.
In addition to the story, playing the game itself is a great experience, especially given that it's a mobile port. It maintains a steady framerate, and it hasn't crashed once for me. I can't stress enough how surprised I am at its stability. And equally amazing is that there is no sign of microtransactions! As of writing, you pay your $3 once, and you get to play the whole game in its entirety.
There are also several language options for the captions, which add better access for more players, and English and Japanese for the spoken voices. Those of you who played the original will notice that the hilariously bad translations are fixed now, stealing away some of the charm of the 1997 version.
Finally, Symphony of the Night syncs with Google Play Games for achievements, some of which are pretty difficult to obtain. I like it when games have something to chase (thus my Destiny 2 addiction). Achievements simply add more replayability, meaning that your $3 goes as far as you want it to.
What I didn't like about Symphony of the Night
As for what's wrong with Symphony of the Night on Android, there are a few notable things. If you don't have a controller or a phone mount, then you'll be stuck with the touchscreen controls. They're not bad by any means, but their placement is a bit awkward. They block parts of the screen, and they a bit mushed together to me. Granted, I have big hands, but I'm playing on a OnePlus 6, which isn't a small phone. You do eventually get used to the controls, but you may accidentally hit attack when you meant jump or vice versa. It can get you into some hairy situations.
If you open the Play Store description and scroll down, you'll see a small note about the Pixel 4 and disabling Smooth Display. Reading through some of the reviews, you'll find that others that played on phones with high refresh rates also experienced some jankiness, like the game moving a 2x speed. I mostly played on a OnePlus 6, but my Pixel 4 XL didn't seem to have any issues with Smooth Display (and force 90Hz) enabled that I could see. Still, if the developers say it's a problem, you should take note.
Despite integration with Google Play Games for achievements, there seems to be a lack of support for cloud saves. This is a bummer since I play games on a different phone than I use as a daily driver. That's a niche problem, I understand, but it still may be an annoyance for some folks.
Should you buy Castlevania: Symphony of the Night?
Whether you played the game before or have only heard about it, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is definitely worth the $3 asking price. I'd be willing to pay even more for this game, just to have it on the go. Not only that, but it's an excellent mobile port, all things considered.
This is your typical premium game; buy it once, and you can play it for as long as you want and as many times as you wish. There aren't any in-app purchases to unlock more chapters (or Maria), nor microtransactions to get basic game features. Even the continue option, one of the best things about the game, comes included with the asking price.
I love this game and have played it more than anything else since it landed on the Play Store. It has captured my attention as it did so many years ago, and I'm quite thrilled about it. Plus, it launched just in time for season 3 of the Castlevania anime on Netflix. Great timing, and it makes me want to watch the anime even more now that Symphony of the Night has rekindled my interest in Castlevania.
If you've got some Play Store credit gathering dust or just want a good game to sink many hours into, then I can't recommend this enough — with the caveat that I found that a controller is the best way to play, and you have plenty of options on that front. Relive a classic, regardless of whether you're a veteran or new player, and have fun (though be prepared to die, a lot).
Reborn for mobile
A good mobile port
Coming out of nowhere, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night dropped on Android and iOS without fanfare from Konami. This is a solid mobile port that doesn't have microtransactions or any other shenanigans. Whether you grew up with the original or have only heard the legends about this game, now's a great time to experience it on your phone.