Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night
Company: Konami Digital Entertainment
Release Date: July 22, 2010
If you ask a gamer what their very favorite action platforming game is, odds are very good they’ll respond with something from the now-legendary Castlevania series. In particular, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is regarded by many as being one of the best games of all time. Since its release in 1997, the game has received countless awards and been ported to the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PlayStation Portable. When I heard that Symphony of the Night was going to be “reborn” on the iPhone as a puzzle game, I’ll admit I was skeptical. How could a game known for its intense platforming action work as a puzzler? Luckily, the good folks at Konami have proven my fears to be unwarranted, and released a truly exceptional game.
Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is a terrific tribute to Symphony of the Night (on which it’s based), an excellent game for newcomers to the Castlevania series, and a very good stand-alone Puzzle RPG. For anyone who’s not familiar with the story behind Castlevania, here’s a brief overview. Once every hundred years, Dracula’s legendary castle, Castlevania, appears somewhere in Transylvania. The famous vampire hunter, Richter Belmont, is well-known for entering the constantly-changing castle and defeating Dracula in each entry in the Castlevania series. However, in Symphony of the Night (and consequently Encore of the Night), Richter Belmont has gone missing. As a result, the player controls Alucard, the son of Dracula himself, who is fed up with his father’s evil and enters the castle to put an end to it once and for all. Inside Castlevania, the player faces various monsters (skeletons, zombies, etc) as well as more imposing figures such as Death.
As stated previously, the gameplay in Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is decidedly different from that of previous entries in the Castlevania series. When playing in story mode, you do progress through Dracula’s castle as usual, gaining access to new parts of the castle as you defeat bosses and unlock new powers and items. As you defeat monsters, you’ll gain new gear for Alucard to equip, and with enough experience points you can level up your character, granting you new powers and spells. What’s different here, however, is that instead of Castlevania‘s traditional gameplay style of engaging sidescrolling combat, whenever the player encounters a monster in the castle, they’re taken to a new screen where they face their opponent in intense puzzle-based combat.
The puzzle aspect of this game is fairly standard match-three-blocks gameplay. As blocks drop from the top of the screen (in sets of two), you are tasked with matching up 3 blocks of the same color. Do this, and you will inflict damage on your opponent, reducing their HP. Get a big combo (by destroying multiple sets of 3 in one move), and you’ll really dish out the hurt on your enemies. Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night differs from traditional match-three puzzles in several ways, however. First and most noticeably, filling your entire screen to the top with blocks does not necessarily mean you will lose. Instead, doing this will deal a significant amount of damage to you and clear a few rows of blocks, giving you another chance (depending on how much HP you have left). Another difference is that you (and your opponent) have stats applied to your character, which means that depending on how you level your character you may have greater offense or defense than your enemies. Finally, you also have an arsenal of spells that you can use, some defensive and some offensive. Using a spell will take up some of your precious mana, but they are quite an interesting addition to the puzzle dynamic. Konami claims that the story mode provides 20 hours worth of gameplay, and that certainly appears to be an accurate estimate.
In addition to the story mode I’ve just described, the game includes a terrific arcade mode. This mode allows you to select a character (anywhere from Alucard to Dracula) and an opponent to do battle with in whatever part of the castle you prefer. While this arcade mode is an excellent addition to the game, it would be wonderful to see a WiFi multiplayer mode, which this game is perfectly suited for.
Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is, quite frankly, a stunning game on the iPhone. Several times while playing, I had a “wow, I can’t believe I’m playing this on my phone” moment. Many of the visual aspects are taken straight from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, as are all of the audio tracks. This is by no means a bad thing – Symphony of the Night received many awards for its breathtaking presentation and gothic music, and it looks and sounds terrific on the iPhone as well. Many of the character sprites have been retouched slightly to make them look smoother and less blocky, but not all – some of the characters are literally taken straight from the old game, which makes them look a bit out of place. This is really more of a nitpick though, and should by no means stop someone from getting the game.
If you’re a fan of Castlevania games, nothing anyone can say will stop you from getting this game, and you’re in for a wonderful treat. If you’re unfamiliar with the Castlevania universe, Encore of the Night is still a terrific puzzle game for the iOS platform providing many hours of exciting gameplay. The entry fee of $4.99 is easily worth the 20+ hours of fun you’ll have with this game. When all’s said and done, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is well deserving of