TL;DR: It's essentially a 2.5D Symphony of the Night lacking a level of polish that holds it back from greatness.
Since I’m playing on PS4 I can’t speak to the frame rate, performance, and resolution issues reported on the Switch. I can say that on PS4 there are many instances in which the frame rate will drop when enemies drop loot, as if the game itself struggles to calculate what the drop will be.
There’s a boss battle deep in the game with an inexcusable performance hit that occurs each time he issues his dozen or so projectiles. The frame rate would drop to about 1 FPS.
Sadly, the game has crashed about 4 times for me. It being rooted in classic game design, this means losing progress since my last save point. What a horrible night to have a game without autosave.
Some of the environment layouts are rather bland, and that includes many of the first areas of the castle. Entry into the castle is a moment to wow the player, and was a missed opportunity.
There’s an inconsistency to the level of quality in the art, ranging from environments to characters. On one hand you have some incredibly detailed areas, and then you have these low quality tattoo textures on Miriam that are cringe worthy when viewed from the pause menu.
The distinction between art and intractable can be muddy at times. My eyes would need that moment to adjust to many of the environments, taking time to make the distinction between enemy, platform, and background elements. There’s just a level of crispness that gets lost in 2.5D games like this. In contrast, Mega Man 11 was able to pull off this style because of the pops of color.
I wish it was 2D.
There were multiple occasions where I felt lost, and I would back track through areas until finally discovering that there was an obscure action I had to perform or item I had to equip. A few more subtle yet helpful nudges would have made me feel less frustrated, and this is coming from someone that has ample experience with metroidvanias.
Making contact with enemies and other targets, especially with small monsters and lanterns, is an incredible chore. I felt as if I was swinging through small enemies and candles. The weapon collision could be a little more forgiving. This is an area that, design wise, would benefit from a higher level of generosity and refinement. As it stands, swinging at a toad or torch is laborious.
The farther I got in the game the more enjoyable the game became. The combination of the various shards, weapons, and attribute upgrades made me progressively feel more and more like a true badass.
The music, while good, left me with no lasting impression. That is, no desire to revisit it, as I will from time to time with the Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse soundtrack or Bloody tears from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.
The real pain, in terms of audio, comes from the townspeople that repeat the same lines at noisome. “Kill those murderers dead!”. OK, I said I will, take it easy.
It’s a good game that is rough around the edges. And it’s faithful to Symphony of the Night, seemingly giving what fans want in the process. I’d love to see a sequel that feels less bound to the classics this title is so strongly tied to, adding more depth to the story and mechanics, and growing beyond its Castlevania origins. This is a great start, so please carry the torch forward.
Brian Riggsbee lives in San Francisco CA. He enjoys practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creating art, gaming, chasing adorable dogs, and spending time with his wife and boy.