CES 07: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Hands-On

We take Konami's classic PlayStation game for a run on the Xbox 360.

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LAS VEGAS--Tucked away in Microsoft's CES booth to one side of the Xbox 360 section are a handful of machines running upcoming Xbox Live Arcade content. We had the chance to log some time on them and try out Konami's upcoming Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The classic platformer became one of the pinnacles of the franchise when it was released for the original PlayStation nearly 10 years ago, thanks to a stunning combination of graphics, gameplay, and music. The game's announcement for Xbox Live Arcade garnered a hefty amount of attention. We'll count ourselves among the masses wringing their hands in anticipation of the title and also hoping nothing goes wrong with the transition to Live Arcade. Judging from the time we've spent with a work-in-progress version of the game, all seems headed in a good direction.

The version at CES appeared to be fairly complete, featuring solid visuals and boasting the enhancements that we've come to expect from XBLA titles. For those keeping score at home, Symphony of the Night is set to feature enhanced graphics and sound, widescreen support, achievements, and leaderboards. As far as the visuals go, the game features the standard enhanced and original graphics most Live Arcade games come with now. The enhanced visuals tone down the sprite pixilation that chunks up the action when you're playing on original and makes the game pop, even in HD. As gorgeous as the game was, it needed some work to help it retain its hotness. The game also lets you stretch the visuals to fill the screen.

Symphony of the Night's audio is said to be improved, but it was tough to make out in the din of the show floor. While we couldn't scrutinize it too closely, the voice and audio sound faithful to the classic game. As far as gameplay goes, the action felt spot-on. The Xbox 360 controller worked well and felt responsive. Out of habit, we went with the D pad while playing, but the analog stick also works well. We also checked out the game's achievements, which we were told were still a work in progress and could change. What we saw was fairly straightforward and appeared to be tied to normal progression through the game and how much exploration you do.

Based on what we've played and seen, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is shaping up to be a fantastic Xbox Live Arcade title that should be a must-have when it becomes available. The game is one of the finest moments in the stellar series and should be required playing for platforming fans. Better still, the game marks a big moment for Xbox Live Arcade because it represents one of the most content-rich offerings the service has ever offered. The core game is excellent, and the extras being thrown in are pretty slick additions that are the cherry on top. We're especially curious as to how the leaderboards are going to work--a timed run through specific areas seems like the most likely candidate for such support, but we'll see. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is currently slated to be available on Xbox Live Arcade later this year. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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