Castlevania : Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Japanese: 悪魔城ドラキュラX 月下の夜想曲 Hepburn: Akumajō Dracula X: Gekka no Yasōkyoku?, 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 is the direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and features Dracula’s dhampir son Alucard as the protagonist. It marks a break from previous games in the series, which are action platformers. The game features more emphasis on exploration, non-linear level design, and role-playing elements.
Its initial commercial success was limited – particularly in the United States where it was not strongly publicized – but it was critically praised, gained sales through word-of-mouth and eventually became a hit. It has since been re-released on several gaming consoles and is now considered a sleeper hit, a cult classic, and one of the best video games ever made.
Maria Renard (マリア･ラーネッド Maria Rāneddo?) is a local village girl with the power to control the Four Symbols (China) of Chinese mythology. She appears in the PC Engine video game Akumajō Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (and its remakes Dracula X Chronicles for PSP and Castlevania Dracula X for Super NES), as well as in Symphony of the Night, Castlevania Judgment, and Akumajō Dracula: The Medal. She is a distant blood relative of the Belmont clan (no mention of that connection is to be found in Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, where she is instead said to be the daughter of a local lord). In the Super NES version of Castlevania: Dracula X, she’s also said to be the sister of Richter’s beloved Annette, a detail that’s not alluded to in the other games. She was later adopted by the Belmont family in Castlevania Judgment.
In 1792, Maria’s parents were killed, and she was captured, along with several other young women, and taken to Dracula’s castle. Richter Belmont saved Maria from Shaft, one of Dracula’s servants, who was attempting to cast a spell on her. Once Maria is rescued, she becomes playable and uses various magically enhanced animal attacks for combat. There exists an ending in which Maria confronts and defeats the Count instead of Richter. In the introduction sequence to Symphony of the Night (a retelling of the final boss battle Rondo of Blood), if Richter’s health completely runs out, a twelve-year-old Maria will appear and amplify Richter with her magic in his effort to defeat Dracula. Judgment further explains that she fought alongside Richter in defeating Dracula and has power that rivals the Belmonts. Unlike Annette, if you fail to save her in Rondo of Blood, you will not face her at the end.
Four years after the defeat of Dracula, Richter vanished. Maria immediately set out to find him. After a year of searching, in 1797, she finally found Castlevania. In the castle she learned that Richter was working in concert with the dark forces. With Maria’s help, the half-vampire Alucard was able to break Shaft’s hold on Richter and defeat Dracula. Depending on certain player actions in Symphony, the player will receive different endings. In one, Maria will admit to not being able to live without Alucard and go after him. In another, she will resign herself due to the fact that she cannot ease his torment and returns home with Richter.
Maria also appears in Judgment. There, she’s shown acting in a more childish way: she constantly trips and miscalculates her powerful magics, for comedic effect, and she acts mostly unaware of the Time Rift’s nature, for example believing that Simon and Trevor merely stole the Vampire Killer from her friend Richter. Furthermore, this incarnation of Maria is seemingly obsessed with her diminutive frame and her younger age, going so far to openly complain against Camilla and Shanoa for their more mature bodies, and claim that Sypha’s large breasts are a gift from God, lashing out to her ancestor for suggesting that her beauty may pose a liability in combat.