Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Tiger Electronics Handheld Game
Review by Mike Finkelstein
Oh, Tiger Electronics. One has to imagine that, back in the day, Tiger thought they were doing good work. There were kids that couldn't afford handheld consoles, like the Game Boy, so Tiger elected to create cheap games for an under-served market. It's the only explanation I can come up with for why Tiger kept making games and why people kept them in business -- someone had to be buying their crapware, and Tiger was more than willing to continue pumping the titles out into the market until it all dried up.
It's not hyperbole, though, to say that the games Tiger cranked out were bad. As evidenced by their attempt at Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Tiger's games weren't so much remakes of previous titles, or even down-ports, but simple, button mashing affairs with vaguely similar LCD graphics. They didn't so much copy the game play of the original titles as tried to figure out how to make 2D games with minimal actions available that they could slap a logo onto. These games were punishment, not fun.
Anyone that's played the Simon's Quest Tiger release will recognize the basic game play of Tiger's Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Alucard (we have to assume it's Alucard even though he doesn't really resemble the hero of Symphony of the Night) has to venture down four long corridors through Dracula's Castle while endless waves of enemies come at him from all sides. He'll be hounded by dragon heads to the left, skeleton knights to the right, and then (eventually) witches and bats from above. He'll need to kill all of these beasts (lest they kill him) all before reaching a boss at the end of each stage to fight.
Those bosses, it's worth noting, are Scylla, Gaibon (we think), (maybe) Shaft, and then (some hideous monstrosity we assume is supposed to be) Dracula. The boss fights themselves aren't all that difficult: slash hat them monsters with your dagger or sword enough times that they die. Sometimes you have to dodge projectiles, but frankly you can just layer on the damage quickly enough that avoiding damage from bosses hardly ever matters. This is not a game that requires thought.
To the game's credit, there are a few things that change this game play up every so slightly from the Tiger Simon's Quest. Here you have two levels to play on as you run down the corridor, an upper and lower path. They both go the same direction, and you'll still need to kill everything you see. The two heights are mostly just there for boss fights (and even then its rudimentary at best). Also, the game does give you a sword upgrade after level one (which may let you do slightly more damage) and there are sub-weapons, axe and dagger, you can use in the later stages as well. It is something.
With that said, everything else about this game (if we're feeling charitable enough to call it a game) is terrible. The sound is just a single set of beeps when you're taking actions, along with the most ear straining jingle when you finish a stage. The graphics are poor, even worse than Tiger's Castlevania II, with enemies that we have to guess at to know what they're supposed to be. Was that a dragon head, or was the artist responsible for this just unable to draw a medusa head? The world will never know. It all adds up to a very sloppy, very bad package.
You do have to feel sorry for the kid that got this game after asking for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That game is a masterwork of game play, graphics, and sound design, all wrapped in a tight package. This handheld has absolutely none of that. Were it not for the logo on the game you'd be hard pressed to even realize this was a "port" of Symphony of the Night. It lacks everything that made that game special, with absolutely nothing added to make it worthwhile in its own right.
It is, in short, a Tiger Electronics game, through and through. Crapware for the sad and desperate.
Of note, this handheld device wasn't Tiger's only attempt at porting Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. They also had a version they were making for the Game.com which (sadly?) was then canceled when the Game.com when belly up. That device failed, taking this port with it, but eventually fans were able to get their hands on the code and see just how the game played. It's bad, but in entirely different ways from this basic handheld game.