Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, known in Japan as Akumajō Dracula X: Gekka no Yasōkyoku (悪魔城ドラキュラX 月下の夜想曲 Akumajō Dorakyura Ekkusu: Gekka no Yasōkyoku?, lit. "Devil's Castle Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight") is a platform-adventure action role-playing game developed and published by Konami in 1997 for the PlayStation. It was directed and produced by Toru Hagihara, with Koji Igarashi acting as assistant director. It is the direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood taking place four years later. It features Dracula's dhampir son Alucard as the protagonist rising from his slumber to explore the Dracula's castle which has re-appeared after Richter Belmont has vanished. It marks a break from previous games in the series, introducing exploration, non-linear level design and role-playing elements.
Initially, the game was unsuccessful – particularly in the United States where it was meagerly publicized – but thanks to praise by critics, it gained sales through word-of-mouth and became a hit. It has been re-released on several consoles and is considered a sleeper hit, a cult classic, and one of the best video games ever made.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night begins during the ending of the previous game in the series, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, where Richter Belmont (Scott McCulloch; David Vincent in the redub) confronts and defeats Count Dracula (Michael G.; Patrick Seitz). Four years later, in 1796, Richter goes missing and Dracula's castle reappears. Alucard (Robert Belgrade; Yuri Lowenthal) arrives at the castle to destroy it, meeting Maria Renard (Kimberly Forsythe; Michelle Ruff), who once fought alongside Richter and is now searching for him. Alucard also meets Richter, who now claims to be the new lord of the castle. Convinced that Richter is under somebody else's control, Maria urges Alucard not to hurt him and gives him the Holy Glasses, which allows him to see past illusions. In the castle's keep, Alucard confronts Richter and learns that he plans to resurrect Dracula so the two can fight for an eternity. During a fight, Alucard breaks the spell controlling Richter, and Dracula's servant Shaft (Jeff Manning; Tony Oliver) appears and tells them that Dracula will still be resurrected soon.
Alucard leaves Richter and Maria to confront Shaft. Shaft reveals he planned to end the threat of the Belmont clan by controlling one of them and forcing the clan to fight one another. After defeating Shaft, Alucard faces his father, who vows to bring an end to humankind because Alucard's mother Lisa (Alison Lester; Jessica Straus) was executed as a witch. Alucard refuses to join his father in his revenge and he defeats him. Alucard tells Dracula that he has been thwarted many times because he lost the ability to love after Lisa's death, and that Lisa's final words were of eternal love for him and a plea not to hate – or at least harm – humanity. Before Dracula dies, he asks for Lisa's forgiveness and bids his son farewell.
After escaping the collapsing castle, Alucard rejoins Maria and Richter. Maria is relieved that he escaped while Richter blames himself as the reason for Alucard's fight with his father. Alucard tells Richter, "the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," (a quote attributed to Edmund Burke) and resolves to disappear from the world because of his cursed bloodline. Depending on how much of the castle the player has explored, Maria either chases Alucard in the hope of changing his mind, or resigns herself to Alucard's fate and leaves with Richter.
Symphony of the Night uses 2-dimensional side-scrolling gameplay.The objective is exploring Dracula's castle to defeat Richter Belmont, who claims to be lord of Castle Dracula. Canonically, Richter was the hero of the events that took place in Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. The game is non-linear, but most of the castle is inaccessible until various items and abilities are collected, including shapeshifting into a bat, wolf, or mist. As the player uncovers more of the castle, a map is updated to show progress.
While player characters in previous Castlevania games typically used a whip, the player can find and use a wide variety of weapons. The game includes an inventory and other RPG elements.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night incorporates elements found in role-playing games. Alucard's hit points determine the maximum amount of damage he can withstand before dying while his magic points decide how frequently a magical attack may be cast. Alucard has four other attributes: strength – the power of his physical attack; defense – his resilience to damage inflicted by the monsters; intelligence – the recovery speed of magic points; and luck – the frequency that items are dropped by enemies. Defeating monsters provides him with experience points and he will level up after reaching a predetermined amount, increasing his attributes in the process. Alucard may cast eight different spells, which requires the player to input directional combinations and will use up varying amounts of his magic points. During the course of the game, Alucard can acquire the ability to summon familiars, which function as complementary entities, aiding him in battle and exploration. The North American version of the game includes the Fairy, Demon, Ghost, Bat, and Sword familiars.
Alternative modes of gameplay can be unlocked after the completion of the game. By inputting Richter Belmont's name as the user name, the player can choose to play as Richter, who uses a whip as his main weapon and various sub-weapons. In the Sega Saturn version and the port included in the PlayStation Portable game Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, Maria Renard is also playable.