05/10/2016

CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT MONSTER BESTIARY

I don’t think there’s any game that I could spend more time writing about than Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It’s just so dense, packed with layer upon layer of fun, that I might never run out of things to say about it. So, here we go again with Symphony of the Night’s monster bestiary! I mentioned in the Ephemera article that I could probably write an article just about the game’s enemy encyclopedia and its strange, terse descriptions that often add more mystery than they illuminate, so now I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Well, it seems appropriate for Halloween, doesn’t it? So, here are a bunch of my favourite entries. Not every single monster – Dracula’s too invested in employee diversity for that to be feasible – but plenty of freaks and weirdoes. 
Dracula


Let’s begin with Dracula himself, (because he’s first on the list,) and that is the most inaccurate use of the word “destroyed” I have ever seen. Richter managed to mildly inconvenience Dracula, at the very most.
It’s also interesting that Dracula has no extra defence against or immunity to the “Darkness” element. He’s the Prince of Darkness! You’d think that’d buy you a bit of protection. Then again, maybe not. If the entirety of Wales decided to beat up Prince Charles I don’t think he’d have a natural resistance to it.

Bat


Are they, though? Feared, I mean. Bats are surely the very lowest monster on the totem pole, below even skeletons and the immobile thorny shrubs. I can’t imagine them being all that feared when Castlevania regularly disgorges headless knights and giant fire-wolves. Feared as an omen of evil, perhaps. When the bat population starts increasing, it’s a good indicator that Dracula is about to awaken from his latest whip-enforced nap.

Stone Skull


No wonder the Stone Skull looks so cheerful, he’s completely invulnerable when all his skeleton confrères are reduced to bonemeal the second a Belmont shows up. I know it says “Immune: none”  up there, but that’s a bald-faced lie. The Stone Skull is immune to everything. Judging by his joyful demeanour, I don’t think even harsh words and insults would have much of an effect on him. It’s up to the player to decide whether this skull is stone because it’s a statue carved from solid rock or because it’s the fossilized remains of some titanic man-creature, and I’m going with statue purely because something this cheerful can’t possibly have occured naturally.

Merman


Hang on, why is “creature” in quotes? Is the merman not actually a creature at all? Is this… is this a man in a costume? Okay, here’s my movie pitch. A peasant living in an impoverished medieval village can’t find work in any of the traditional fields – maybe his father made him swear to never become a turnip farmer or something – so in desperation he buys a cheap Halloween costume and applies for a job in Dracula’s castle. Hey, it's the only place that's hiring! There’s a montage where he jury-rigs a hosepipe so he can spit jets of water, there are farcical scenes as he tries to hide the fact he’s working for the Ultimate Evil from his family, that kind of thing. The screenplay writes itself, honestly. I call it Mer-Man Up, and it will be coming to a cinema near you never because the world is a godforsaken hole of a place.

Ouija Table


This is what I mean when I say the bestiary descriptions often raise more questions than they answer. How they hell (no pun intended) do you possess a table? Were there kids messing with a ouija board, and a demonic entity sensed its chance to strike… but it missed the kids and wound up in the furniture by accident? Blimey, that’s got to be embarrassing for the poor demon. While all the other spirits are murdering priests and making children’s heads spin around, the Ouija Table has to spend all its time scouring the web for the best deals on French polishing.

Ghost


Do you think the ghosts in Castlevania can earn promotions? Or are they stuck as a low-level ghost for all eternity, cursed to doing the menial jobs – ectoplasm generation, stunt doubles on Paranormal Activity movies, greeting adventurers with a hearty “boo” - because they simply weren’t evil enough in life for a management position? I’d like to hope it’s the former. There’s always a chance that even the smallest ghost might knock a Belmont down a bottomless pit, and that’s got to be worth moving a few rungs up the ladder.

Diplocephalus   


I think I mentioned this on Twitter, but the answer is “both of them.” It says “two-headed” right there. Is a creature with two heads is even going to register on the Castlevania weirdness scale? The real question is which head’s the Bert and which one’s the Ernie.

Bone Musket


“Look out, that skeleton’s got a gun!” See, that’s the kind of wonderful situation Symphony of the Night puts you in on a regular basis. How are you going to deal with these skeleton gunslingers? Block their fire with you shield? Turn into fog, because you can’t very well shoot fog, can you? The  choice is yours! Personally, I like to bonk them on the ol’ bone-box with the Moon Rod, because then you can pretend you’re Sailor Moon dishing out justice.

Ctulhu


Having played Symphony of the Night a great many times, I would submit that the line “seems reluctant to fight” is a load of horseshit.
You might be wondering why this relatively generic demon shares its name with H. P. Lovecraft’s most famous monster, and I think this answer is “someone made a cock-up during localisation” because, you see…

Malachi


...here’s another demon called Malachi who actually looks like Cthulhu. Actually, for the first time I’m noticing that Ctulhu and Malachi have the same sprite with a different head. This one is clearly supposed to be Cthulhu, however. The strange thing is that neither of their names in the original Japanese version referenced Cthulhu. Ctulhu’s Japanese name was simply “Devil,” while Malachi was originally called “Evil.” So, someone saw at Evil’s sprite, realised it looked like Cthulhu but accidentally applied the Cthulhu name to a different enemy. I must confess, this mix-up has always annoyed me a little more than it probably should. Still, it’s always nice to play a game where you can technically batter Cthulhu to death with your bare hands.

Skeleton Ape


What do we all think – is the skeleton ape actually a reference to Donkey Kong, or is the idea of apes – be they flesh-coated or otherwise – throwing barrels at heroes simply such a powerful notion that it could spring up in multiple places? I’ve never been able to decide, myself. Maybe the designers though that a regular human skeleton wouldn’t look strong enough to be throwing wooden casks about, but I’m not sure I buy that explanation because those same designers didn’t have a problem with human skeletons that can shoot laser beams out of their ribcages.

Toad


If you’re going to perform a demonic baptism on any animal, a toad seems like a good bet. Not much encouragement needed to get it into the water, you know? Imagine if Dracula had tried to demonically baptise a cat instead, it’d be a bloody disaster. I hope he figures it out at some point, though, because I want to fight a six-foot-long kitten.

Skull Lord


See, this guy’s strong against darkness! Understandable, given that it's an enormous floating skull. A skull that’s somehow even more attuned to the power of darkness than Dracula himself. He’s even a Lord, but sadly not the lord of Castlevania. This is how you know Castlevania isn’t a democracy, if free elections were held the Skull Lord would definitely romp to victory over Dracula, multi-time loser in the war between good and evil.

Flea Rider


I know I discussed this in the Ephemera article, but if you don’t think “specially trained war-goose” is a truly magical phrase then you’re reading the wrong website.

Paranthropus


Giant skeleton. That’s it. Giant Skeleton. What else could you possibly need to know? Dracula’s got more skeletons than the goddamn catacombs of Paris, and even if he is immortal he doesn’t have time to be coming up with detailed descriptions for every single one of them. Sometimes “Giant Skeleton” is all you need. In a shocking twist, the Paranthropus shares its name with a species of prehistoric hominid that was smaller than modern humans. It’s an ironic nickname, like if you called a miniature skeleton Stretch.

Wereskeleton


Are you sure that’s the skeleton of a were-panther? Panther, as in the four-legged big cat and not a creature with an elastic neck that walks on its hind legs and has its forelimbs forever tucked up into a mocking “chicken wing” pose?

Lossoth


He may search amongst graves and knows much wise lore, but that lore clearly doesn’t stretch to style. Come on, Lossoth, try to smarten yourself up a bit. Take a page from Dracula’s book. He might be terrible at destroying the world of men, but he always looks fabulous while he’s attempting it. There’s nothing that says the grave-searching and the knowing of lore are related – perhaps Lossoth finished his Masters degree and then went into the grave-searching business – so there’s no reason you can’t have a separate outfit for each activity.

Salem Witch


If I was a member of an all-girls, occult-themed biker gang – and it pains me deeply that I am not – I would be putting in an immediate petition to change our name to The Salem Ghost Witches. The magical powers of the witch, combined with the spookiness and float-through-walls-ability of the ghost, what a perfect combination. The strange thing about this enemy is that is implies that Castlevania takes place in a universe where those executed at Salem were honest-to-goodness witches and not tragic victims in a case of religiously-motivated mass hysteria and petty inter-family squabbling. I think I prefer the Castlevania version.

Hellfire Beast


Ah yes, the musician from Hell. What’s his favourite genre? Punk, if that mohawk’s anything to go by. Of course, now that Lemmy has sadly passed away, the Hellfire Beast will no longer be hell’s premier musician. Hopefully he can pick up some session work.

Schmoo


Man, I love Schmoo – I think it’s that sly lopsided grin, he always looks like he’s having so much darned fun. I just wish I knew more about Schmoo. Like, what exactly is it? The direct visual read would be “a grey basketball sitting on a bundle of bloody rags,” but that surely can’t be what Schmoo really is. I’ve got the strong feeling that there’s an honest-to-god pumpkin underneath that balaclava. I have no evidence for that, but it’s what I’m choosing to believe. Also, I wonder what Schmoo’s real name is, because it clearly says “Schmoo” is just a nickname. Answers on a postcard, please, but I’m fairly certain that Schmoo’s true moniker cannot be rendered in any human language.

Nova Skeleton


Earlier in this article I said that Nova Skeletons fire lasers from their ribcages, but on closer inspection that beam is definitely emanating from the skeleton’s pelvis. A fearsome weapon, indeed. You might think me strange for paying such close attention, but if you can’t stare at a skeleton’s crotch in October then when can you?

Rock Knight


There are lots of large armoured knights in Symphony of the Night. Some of them have swords, or owls, or very large knives which are basically swords, or even bombs. Not this guy, though. He gets a rock. Quite a large rock, granted, but that's still just a rock and presumably the entire situation is rather embarrassing for this knight. All those years of being a squire, following the code of chivalry,  jousting in tournaments and for what? A rock. He could be easily and cheaply replaced by a small trebuchet, the poor sod.

Sniper of Goth


So, hey, I finally got around to looking this up and there was indeed an Amalaric of the Goths. Well, of the Visigoths. He was the king of the Visigoths from 511-531AD, and was supposedly murdered by his own soldiers. Evidence that any of these soldiers were multi-limbed angelic creatures is hard to come by. On the plus side, it turns out that many of the names of the royalty of this time are childishly amusing, a personal favourite being Childebert.

Fire Demon


Look, is it Fire Demon or Flame Demon? Make your damn mind up!

Fake Trevor


At one point in the game, you fight fake version of the heroes from Castlevania 3, including Trevor Belmont here. Now I’m seeing this bestiary page again, it strikes me as odd that it’s says this is specifically a zombie impersonating Trevor, which means it’s the toughest, most agile zombie to ever exist. I always assumed the fake heroes were a magical construct of some kind, or maybe a Renfield-type human thrall in a leather skirt, but no – it’s a zombie, and it must be a ruddy fresh one at that. You can visit any British town centre on a Saturday night and see dozens of living, breathing humans that look less lively than this reanimated corpse, so whatever Fake Trevor is doing to stave off mortality must be pretty powerful stuff.

Dodo Bird


Ironically, the dodo went extinct because they didn’t run away when they saw people. Looks this one survived long enough to learn to scarper, but unfortunately it ran straight into Dracula’s castle. Please, provide your own sad trombone noise here.

Death


Again, this is something I’ve mentioned before but the idea of Death and Dracula being BFFs is just so heartwarming to me. Sure, Death is technically Dracula’s minion, but it says close friends right there and the possibilities that summons up are utterly magical. They gossip about their crushes, they try on hats in the mall, they stay up all night doing each other’s hair. Well, Death does Dracula’s hair, anyway. Dracula probably reciprocates with a nice skull wax or something.

Dracula


Finally, there’s Dracula again, this time in his massive creature of darkness final boss form. He’s picked up an immunity to the powers of darkness this time, which is helpful for him. My problem with this entry is that description. “Lord of Wallachia, Father of Alucard,” but not “colossal shape-shifting demon with ten-foot demon hands on each side and a gaggle of what seem to be xenomorph heads in the middle”? I think that merits a mention, don’t you?

24 comments:

  1. So does Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae show up in this game?

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  2. Great article! The PSP Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles is my all time favorite video game as it has the Japanese Dracula X and SOTN on the same disc.

    On my first playthrough of SOTN I killed the Lessar Demon before he could summon a Mudman for me to kill, so I couldn't get that entry in the Bestiary. I had to re-start my game so I would get all the entries.

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    1. I also did not have the mudman on my list when I got these screenshots - fortunately their bestiary entry isn't that interesting!

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  3. The Malachi/Ctulhu swap always bothered me more thqn it should have as well.

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    Replies
    1. It's just such an easy mistake to fix!

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  4. I once read somewhere that shmoos are the heads of people executed via guillotine, but I have no idea where I read that.

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    1. I can believe that, I'd be that cheerful if I could be freed from my aching mortal body.

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  5. I always wished the schmoos came in colors, because in my heart they're the Pac-Mao ghosts.

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  6. I always liked how the final boss of this game was a chair, given how that's a recurring gag in Castlevania. A rad huge multi-headed demonic throne to slouch in.

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    1. Dracula certainly does look quite comfortable in there, it must be well upholstered.

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  7. I choose to believe that schmoo's real name is actually Dracula. No relation to the Count.

    They just started calling him by his nickname after several embarrassing cases of mistaken identity.

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    1. Yeah, let's go with that. Or his name is Acula and he just received his PHD, so he changed his name to avoid confusion.

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  8. Pretty sure "creature" gets scarequotes as a Creature From the Black Lagoon reference.

    I like how of all enemies, those haunted ouija tables appear identically in Dawn of Sorrow. Like, finally, they had the hardware on a Nintendo handheld to recycle PS1 sprites, and the first thing they reach for is... a table.

    I also like how the one enemy that always looks different in every game is the basic trashmob zombie. They always go out of their way to make a completely different sprite even while the things behave exactly the same.

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    1. I think they recycled the table because honestly, who wants to sit there drawing a table when you could be drawing monsters?

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  9. One other SoTN Bestiary name thing I've always loved but I have never once seen mentioned: In the original english translation, the boss we've since come to call "Legion" was called "Granfalloon". This is a really obscure Kurt Vonnegut Reference, specifically from the book "Cat's Cradle".

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    1. Yeah, I was aware of that because I looked up "Granfallon" the first time I played SotN because it made no sense.

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  10. You love Schmoo. Everyone loves Schmoo. It drops the Crissaegrim, after all.

    If I'm not mistaken they are based on those Japanese ghost dolls people hang up on doors.

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    1. Crissaegrim is overrated. Drop rate is low enough I can beat the darn game in the time it takes to win one. Alucard shield rod combo ftw.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Oh, I'm not that bothered about the Crissaegrim, mostly because of the shield rod and Alucard shield.

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  11. What is post here! and a missible pile of secrets But enough talk! Have comment for you! :)

    ReplyDelete

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