Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night
There is no simpler way to put it: Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night is a very odd game. A creative retelling of the original Symphony of the Night, Puzzle tasks Alucard with exploring through Dracula's castle to find, and destroy, the various evils that lurk within the darkened halls. To do this, Alucard has to venture from room to room, playing puzzle battles to defeat said enemies and clear out more of the castle.
Unlike the original Symphony, Puzzle is an action-puzzle game. While the exploration elements of Symphony still exist (Alucard still has to find items that unlock new portions of the castle, all while collecting equipment and spells and leveling up), Alucard doesn't directly fight enemies. Instead, like in games such as Super Puzzle Fighter or Puyo Puyo, the "battles" take place in a side-by-side puzzle screen. To win a battle, Alucard (via the player) has to clear blocks in combos of three-or-more, doing more damage to the enemy before the enemy can kill him.
It all sounds strange and complicated, and it honestly is. Alucard has to clear the blocks out, but the blocks don't directly hurt the enemy -- they can, however, cause unmovable blocks to fall on the enemy's screen (and vice versa with your screen). There's a "round timer" that counts down during the battle, and when the timer resets, the characters attack each other, dealing out damage based upon their RPG stats in combination with however many blocks are on each side. Items and spells can be used as well, dropping new blocks into the playing field, and giving Alucard new attacks to throw at the enemies.
As he explores, more of the map will become available to our hero. The map looks a lot like the map screen in the classic game, featuring blue blocks with white borders to represent unexplored rooms. As Alucard journeys, those blue blocks will be replaced by the level artwork from Symphony, showing the very pretty castle layouts. Alucard will find boss rooms, where epic battle will occur, and safe rooms, which he'll heal up and be able to purchase additional equipment.
Note, the save rooms are similar in function to the save rooms from the original game. That said, each room Alucard progresses through will also auto-save your data. While the save rooms heal you, death will not cause you to re-fight through any areas you've managed to explore. This is a nice nod towards the pick up-and-play nature of mobile games, but is a far cry from the original style of the classic title.
In addition to Alucard, there are other unlockable characters that you can unlock and play as well (at least in the co-op battle mode). Richter Belmont and Maria Renard, are, of course, unlockable in the title (as you'd expect), but many of the bosses, including Dracula, and even the Master Librarian are available eventually, too.
It's hard to say if Castlevania Puzzle was a successful experiment. There aren't any hard sales numbers currently available for the game, and there are no current rumors about a "sequel" to the format. For now, Castlevania Puzzle is an interesting one-off, side-note to the series, but not something that we can ever expect to introduce mainstream play to the franchise. And, sadly, with its removal from Online platforms in October, 2016, finding a way to play this game (especially legally) is nearly impossible now.