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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Wouldn't Have Happened Without Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest

From a horrible curse comes a symphony.

Article by Nadia Oxford, .

I talked to Koji "IGA" Igarashi at PAX West in Seattle last weekend—after I took a minute to sort myself out (I never thought about how a dog must feel when its owner simultaneously throws five tennis balls in its face, but I guess it's like how it feels to talk to a game developer as prolific as Igarashi for the first time). We discussed how he's adapting to the indie life, the challenges of funding a game via crowd sourcing, and how Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is coming along.

We also discussed his work on Castlevania, because I can't help myself. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of my favorite games of all-time, but I've been a Castlevania fan since I played Castlevania II: Simon's Quest on the NES as a little girl.

"Ow, my eye! My doctor told me not to get stakes in there!"

Igarashi is famous for his work on Symphony of the Night, but Simon's Quest was published before he started working at Konami. Igarashi is already on-record as a big fan of Castlevania III (where Symphony of the Night's Alucard debuted), and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC Engine is also a major inspiration for Symphony of the Night. Igarashi clearly has an appreciation for retro Castlevania games, so I asked him if Simon's Quest influenced the development of Symphony of the Night in any way.

Igarashi confirmed Simon's Quest had a big influence on his breakout PlayStation title. In fact, the positive reception Simon's Quest received in 1987 helped Igarashi pitch Symphony of the Night to Konami in the first place.

"[Simon's Quest] actually played a very important role for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Before Simon's Quest, games didn't [delve] much into RPG elements like exploration," Igarashi told me through a translator. "Simon's Quest had that foundation [of exploration]. It was easier for us to let the higher-ups know [Castlevania] works with exploration, and that we wanted to put more of that into [Symphony of the Night]."

"The Atlasphere is up next on Transylvanian Gladiators!"

When Konami's big bosses were presented with evidence of Castlevania and exploration meshing well in the past, they agreed to let Igarashi walk his preferred path with Symphony of the Night. Moreover, memories of Simon's Quest helped sell Symphony's "new" exploration-heavy format with hardcore Castlevania fans who equated the series strictly with whipping, jumping, and hardcore platforming.

"Castlevania fans have very strong opinions," Igarashi laughed. "Around the time we created Symphony of the Night, there were a lot of fans of the older games who were opposed to it. But because there was Simon's Quest, it was a lot easier to change things around."

I praised Castlevania II: Simon's Quest in a piece I published here on USgamer a year ago. Though rough around the edges and often vague—like most NES adventure games, let's be honest, here—I found myself enthralled by it for the same reasons as Igarashi: I loved being able to meander around the scarred Transylvanian countryside at my own pace. I loved visiting towns and fighting monsters. Best of all, unlike most NES games developed in the '80s, Simon's Quest doesn't penalize you too badly for failure. You have unlimited continues, and when you die, you almost always re-start at the same spot you carked it.

Yeah, there was that one dumb incident with the cliff, but we burned down every bush in Zelda without complaint.

Similarly, Symphony of the Night is more interested in letting you roam Castlevania than forcing you to conduct complicated feats of platforming. I was initially surprised to learn Simon's Quest played such a big role in Symphony's development (I expected a passing comment at best), but when I compare the two side-by-side now, the shared heritage is obvious.

Not that Igarashi didn't leave at least one of Simon's Quest's more nefarious traits to languish in history:

"One thing we wanted to avoid was—well, all the villagers in Simon's Quest lie. We said, 'Let's not do that.'"

Disclosure: USgamer is part of Gamer Network, which is owned by ReedPOP, the organizers of the PAX events including PAX West.

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Comments 13

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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #1 Monkey-Tamer 2 months ago
    And then there was Castlevania 64.
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  • Avatar for marcalan #2 marcalan 2 months ago
    @Monkey-Tamer We don't talk about Castlevania 64. It never happened. Never. Happened.
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  • Avatar for WiIIyTheAntelope #3 WiIIyTheAntelope 2 months ago
    It's easy to see looking back on it how Castlevania 2 would serve as a prototype for what would become Symphony...

    But man, the game still sucked and I'm never gonna let it go. Ever.Edited September 2018 by WiIIyTheAntelope
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  • Avatar for GreatLordAbsu #4 GreatLordAbsu 2 months ago
    I loved Simon's Quest as a kid. It's the only 8-bit 'Vania I ever beat! The exploration-heavy gameplay was so new to me. All that wandering around being lost really let the game's creepy atmosphere sink in and make me feel uneasy.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #5 riderkicker 2 months ago
    The limitations of the NES and the skill of a younger Igarashi definitely didn't lend to Simon's Quest full potential, but it's still an interesting game.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #6 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 months ago
    @GreatLordAbsu Same here, and the difficulty in figuring things out is really overstated.
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  • Avatar for hdthroh #7 hdthroh 2 months ago
    I haven’t had a device that I could play Symphony of the Night on, but I’ve always really wanted to precisely because of how much it sounds like a maturation of the things I loved so much about Simon’s Curse.
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  • Avatar for vanodopepa54 #8 vanodopepa54 2 months ago
    Deleted November 4000 by Unknown
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  • Avatar for ronaldallanzamora04 #9 ronaldallanzamora04 2 months ago
    @riderkicker Younger Igarashi didn't made Simon's Quest, it was Akamatsu
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  • Avatar for ronaldallanzamora04 #10 ronaldallanzamora04 2 months ago
    @marcalan Hey Atleast it's way better than the PS2 Castlevania games
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  • Avatar for Mooglepies #11 Mooglepies 2 months ago
    I actually beat this for the first time last week, after picking up a Famicom and a few games. It's really interesting, I did need to consult a guide on three occasions though as I was without the English hints or the manual.

    There are aspects of Simon's Quest that are really interesting, but they're all let down by the lack of more iconic environments and the VERY disappointing bosses. Metroid came out more than a year before it and to my mind managed to pin down the exploration gameplay much more effectively, but I can still respect what Konami were going for with SQ.
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  • Avatar for brenttaylor61 #12 brenttaylor61 2 months ago
    @ronaldallanzamora04 I'm gonna have to disagree with that one lol. The PS2 games are good and I believe ranked higher on review score averages on every instance. If you were to say review scores don't matter, you'd be right about that too, but it's the only other thing I can point to rather than my own experience...and even then, I don't think the 64 games are that bad.Edited September 2018 by brenttaylor61
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #13 Nuclear-Vomit 2 months ago
    @Monkey-Tamer I beat that game with both characters.
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  • Avatar for notimportant #14 notimportant 2 months ago
    This game so needs a remake. The Transylvanian countryside is one of my all-time favorite video game environments, and every step forward feels like a real discovery.

    Yes, the problems with the game are real. The dungeons have no structure and repeatedly send you down paths to nowhere. Most puzzles are unsolvable without hints. The bosses barely even exist. A game that fixed those problems, but still felt like Simon's Quest, would probably be my favorite Castlevania.
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