The English voice acting in this game is the most prominent aspect in this case.
The PS1 English voice work was initially flat-out reviled, but over the course of the 2000s became a popular case of So Bad, It's Good. (While fans frequently compare the English voice work in the PS1 and PSP versions over which version is better.) But during the late 2000s/early 2010s, there are a small but increasing amount of fans who think the English voice work in the PS1 version is genuinely good and underrated.
The PSP English voice work has this in spades as well... Is the PSP version's voice acting genuinely good and an unfortunate victim of the Nostalgia Filter from fans of the PS1 version? Or did the PSP version try to take the game far too seriously? Or is it really not any better than the PS1 version as they sound too generic? (At least the PS1 version tried to sound a bit more European, as just about everyone in the PSP version sounded too American.) It depends on what you felt about the voice work in the PS1 version or if you are a fan of Californian anime English dub VAs such as Yuri Lowenthal, Wendee Lee, and Michelle Ruff.
The Game-Breaker items. Some feel that having them in the game completely kills the enjoyment of the game. Others point out that they're fun to use, and that people who complain about them can simply choose not to use them.
The credits song, "I am the Wind." Some fans love the song, others hate it and think it doesn't fit the atmosphere of the game.
While everyone agrees that the Sega Saturn port is technically inferior to the Playstation original despite the Saturn being a more powerful 2D system, there's debate among the fanbase as to if the technical issues aren't that bad and if the extra content still makes it a respectable version worth your time. Others will say that the extra content isn't up to the high quality of the rest of the game and that you shouldn't even bother. There's also the third group of people who will say that it's an inferior version and the extra content isn't worth it, but don't consider them deal breakers when the core game is still fantastic.
Which version of Maria is best? The Saturn incarnation who can triple jump, throw fireballs, and use martial arts, or the PSP beast mistress that summons her familiar animal companions? This largely seems to depend on which version you've seen first. Saturn fans think she's much more badass and fun, while the Dracula X supporters decry Saturn Maria as a Game-Breaker and like that she's faithful to her original Rondo of Blood fighting style. Some even like that she's much weaker in comparison, as the game's infamous for its easy difficulty and think she's the closest thing the game has to a hard mode.
Bone Muskets aka Skeleton Gunmen. Those little bastards are able to take off around 30 HP a shot, require you to duck and wait, as well as possibly being in a room full of other enemies to hinder you. It doesn't help in that some of them are encountered early-to-mid game and while trying to input spells to deal with them, they can just snipe your ass (despite them having very low HP).
Azaghal, the strongest sword enemy in the game, who not only is hard to hit, but will probably hit you during his knockback animation, dealing high (about 60-80 when you first meet him) damage.
Valhalla Knights. Especially when you first encounter them in the Colosseum.
The Salomes. They fly around erratically, constantly put up shields whenever you try and attack normally, and sometimes when you don't, spam orbs, skulls, and CATS that do surprisingly high damage, and are just a pain in the backside. Your only hope half of the time is just to get out, fast! Oh yeah, if you do kill them, they turn into a cat and run until the room ends or they hit a wall. They can still do high damage in this form.
Guardians, who deal slightly less damage than Azaghal, but throw up a shield every time you hit them when they're not in an attack animation. And there's only one attack where you can hit it without getting hit as well, but most of the time they're too busy spamming shockwave attacks to bother with it.
Difficulty Levels: Sort of. Luck Mode offers huge bonuses to luck at the cost of all of your other stats. It cannot be accessed unless you have a clear game file saved on your card, and it's unlocked by entering a cryptic series of characters for your name.
Disappointing Last Level: The second castle. To start, it's basically just the same castle flipped 180 degrees. The same background music plays in six different areas (see Ear Worm below), very little if any story happens here (save for the final two bosses), and the game suddenly goes from linear to having minimal sense of direction. Not to mention that you can snag some Game Breakers here on your first playthrough, given enough grinding for random drops.
Ear Worm: "The Final Toccata," the music for no less than six areas in the Reverse Castle.
Game-Breaker: Many, many examples. The game is filled with overpowered weapons that can have hidden abilities on top of that. Alucard himself can perform a series of secret moves that are actually available from the beginning. There are temporary stat boosters, a series of headgear that enable you to absorb HP from fire, ice, lightning, holy, poison and cat damage, and even a bonus accessory that grants infinite use of all single-use items, although you need to have beaten the game before it's available and it costs a fortune to buy unless you use the Librarian glitch described below. No other game in the series feels like such a playground for the player.
The Crissaegrim (greatly compensates for average damage by striking several times in a row, can be used while moving and has the most horizonal reach out of any non-throwing or projectile weapon in the game), the Runesword (a powerful throwable sword), the Shield Rod + Alucard Shield combo (invincibility, damage absorption, and collision damage), the Ring of Varda (which can only be obtained after beating the game at least once), Richter's Hydro Storm, and so on.
The Mourneblade and Sword of Dawn: the former lets you absorb 8 HP with every hit, while the latter has a special attack that can be used to rapidly summon different types of soldiers.
The Beryl Circlet isn't a general Game-Breaker, but it is definitely when fighting against Galamoth, since it absorbs electrical attacks.
Even the lowly Iron Shield is used in conjunction with the Shield Rod on various Speedruns to make short work of bosses.
And the Iron Shield itself can render Alucard invincible for a few seconds when a projectile comes in contact with it.
Alucard can throw three holy waters at a time. When used properly, this can kill bosses in under 30 seconds.
The Masamune has a special attack which does 2.6x the sword's normal damage, has great range, attacks a large area, and leaves Alucard invincible for its duration. And it's possible to repeat the attack just before the previous one concludes for potentially infinite invincibility.
The Mojo Mail not only increases the damage of your magic attacks, it also increases the attack of your familiars. With a sufficiently-leveled Sword or Demon familiar, you just have to sit back as they do the work for you.
In Richter mode, the Holy Water's Item Crash, Hydro Storm, inflicts massive damage to everything on the screen. Deploying it in boss fights ensures that they're over in about five seconds each.
Gremlins/Ukobacks leave many stationary fireballs around as they zigzag though rooms, breaking your momentum.
Imps can dodge attacks and stun Alucard for a long while. This is worse than it sounds, because while he's stunned, Alucard will keep rapidly using both attack buttons involuntarily. Had a [use] item equipped to either hand? Watch in horror as your entire supply of it is expended against your will.
Armored Fleamen will prove to be an annoyance at first due to their usual jumping being combined with an axe.
And of course, the ever-present Medusa Heads, which now have a golden variety that petrify on contact.
When playing in 99 Luck Mode, Alucard can skip the conversation with Death and keep his equipment: this is thanks to the greatly lowered defense from the Luck Mode combined with the special knockback animation you get if you take half or more of your max HP in damage from a single hit, allowing you to take a hit from one of the Wargs' charge attacks and be sent flying through the room where you encounter Death. It seems that in the PSP version, you can do this simply by leaving the screen before the cutscene starts. You get the Shield Rod reasonably early in the first castle. This means you get to start owning bosses with the Alucard Shield combo early.
By using the Sword Brothers spell in Master Librarian's room to enable them to open the menu while within the Librarian's menu, the player can use a glitch that may quickly maximize Alucard's money by selling him gem rings you no longer have, with negative numbers doing funny things when not anticipated by programmers, ending up with 255 of them and then selling those. This was one of the very few bugs actually fixed in the PSP version, unfortunately.
The original PS1 version of the game has a weird glitch involving a room with Frozen Shades: if you use the wolf form to quickly dash through the room until you hit an underwater wall, avoid killing the first and last Frozen Shade, attack right when you hit the wall and then jump out of the water onto the Ferryman's boat while backdashing back to the Frozen Shade with your shield out, turn into a wolf in mid-air over it and fall on it, the game goes into slow motion until you change screens and all items in the area will respawn infinitely, allowing you to max out your HP and hearts by collecting the respective Max Ups positioned next to each other in another part of the area, along with being able to get additional copies of any other items found in the area. If it sounds too obscure and random to believe, see this.
Using the Faerie Card in a certain manner can cause corrupt save games and mess up the inventory. This isn't the good bad bug, it's the fact that using this with a very specific set of items placed in a certain order in the inventory can cause the game to arbitrarily run the hex values of said items as assembly code, telling the game to go straight to the ending — the best one, to boot. Demonstrated by speedrunner Cosmo in this video.
Growing the Beard: Following it's predecessor's example, the storytelling was revamped and given much more thought. Fully voice acted and with a driving mystery, the game also expanded Dracula's characterisation, distinguishing him from being the generic vampire lord he was prior to creating the Tragic Villain that the franchise is so well known for. This helped solidify Castlevania's own narrative identity, separate from the works that inspired it while still paying homage.
Finding the items to get into the Inverted Castle without a guide is easier said than done.
How do you open a certain secret room in the Castle Entrance? First, you break open a passage through rocks. Then you run through it one way as a wolf, and fly through it the other as a bat. At NO POINT does it indicate you have to do this. Even the "stopwatch opens a passage" trick at the giant clock has at least SOME moon logic behind it.
It Was His Sled: The Inverted Castle. Nothing in the game hints at its existence until you succeed in unlocking it — the game even tries to trick you into thinking that the normal Castle is all there is to see with the map completion percentage. Nowadays, very few players fall for it.
Most Annoying Sound: PSHWPSHWPSHWPSHWPSHWPSHW! Boy, that Tin Man's annoying, huh? Plus, its high defense, ability to match your speed, and the fact that it's pretty much always attacking make it a tough cookie to silence. But you fought hard, and you finally shut the thing up! ... And then you enter the massive room filled with them.
Granfalloon (or Legion) is a massive ball of screaming, faceless corpses that constantly drop off and attack you, making it a one-boss Zombie Apocalypse.
Beelzebub is a three-screen-tall rotting corpse strung on meathooks.
The confessional in the Royal Chapel. Instead of music, there's a somewhat eerie ambient track with what sounds like a neverending clockwork bang. There are two seats for Alucard to sit on, which will cause either the ghost of a priest or a woman to appear, depending on what side of the confession booth Alucard sits on. Either will either listen to you/tearfully confess to you or stab you after cackling, depending on the color of their clothes.
Player Punch: Dracula might have been specifically going for this in-universe. Think about the fight with the fake Trevor, Sypha and Grant in the Inverted Castle from Alucard's point of view: he is attacked by perfect copies of quite possibly the only real friends he's ever had, and forced to kill them. Damn.
Polished Port: The DXC unlockable port on the PSP. Maria as an extra boss and playable character (re-imagined from the Saturn version in that she performs much like her Rondo of Blood incarnation), some touched-up sound effects, and a semi-rewritten translation complete with a re-dub by professional voice actors to keep consistency with the PSP version of Rondo. This would apply to the Saturn version were it not a Porting Disaster.
While the Xbox Live Arcade version is a direct port, it also has the usual Arcade bonuses (pixel shading, leaderboards, achievements, ect.) while notably having almost no loading times.
Porting Disaster: The Japan-only Saturn port. While it adds some extras to the game such as a playable Maria (and boss), two new areas and additional items, the novelty is unfortunately soon canceled out by the actual quality of the port itself: the game suffers from constant slowdown when the screen is filled with enemies, most of the graphical transparency effects are lost, and the game loads before and after entering the transition rooms between areas (you know, those rooms that were there to lessen the loading times in the first place). This is because the game was originally built on a 3D engine (only noticeable in a few places like the Final Boss), and the Saturn had trouble handling 3D games.
Alucard's absolutely ridiculous Knockback if he so much as brushes against an enemy, along with his overly long hurt animation (at least compared to latergames). Coupled with hard-to-hit enemies and tight corridors and later stages can have you pinball between foes until you die, or get stun locked by a perpetual onslaught of weak attacks, or even get knocked back into another room. The knockback is so ridiculous, that it actually is part of retaining your starting gear on a luck run, among other exploits (see main page).
The way the music stops and restarts when you enter a save room, transition room or boss room can be irritating depending on how quickly you go through the maps (Or how often you get the stuffing kicked out of you), considering most of the music takes a while to get good. Consider "Finale Toccata," which is plays in most of the areas in the Inverted Castle, starts with a long violin sting, then takes over two minutes to really get going (and just over five minutes to reach the loop point from the start), meaning if you know your way around, you'll never hear the whole thing.
The way you use healing items: you open the equipment menu, set the item as one of your weapons, and then "attack" with the hand holding the item. Then you'll have to go back into the menu to equip your previous weapon again. Why not let you use items directly from the menu?
After a fashion. SotN was basically the sixth "main" Castlevania game and was released ten years after the very first game, but this is the game that informed what the Castlevania name came to mean in the zeitgeist at large. The earlier games certainly weren't unpopular, but none of them hold a candle to SotN's influence on the series or even the wider adventure-exploration genre.
This also applies to its direct predecessor, Rondo of Blood. Ask most people about Maria, Richter, or Shaft, and the older incarnations are what usually come to mind. While it's gained a lot of acclaim thanks to the Dracula X Chronicles release, it's mainly celebrated as the best Classicvania, whereas Symphony tends to get the credit for introducing exploration. Even Iga has said he feels Rondo is where the series first grew into its exploration era, Symphony just took it to the logical conclusion.
So Bad, It's Good: The original voice acting had this going for it for quite a good chunk of the fans. IGA saw to this being averted in the PSP version. In an interview he admitted that though he may not know English even he could tell that the dub was horribly awkward.
Strawman Has a Point: Possessed Richter says that he wants to resurrect Dracula so he can fight him for all eternity, because Dracula only respawns every 100 years and Richter has already beaten him. While said under possession and certainly out-of-character for a guy who's not a Blood Knight, Richter raises an interesting point. What is his worth once he's fulfilled his purpose? At best he can train his heir to take on Dracula, but even then his son/daughter probably won't get to fight Dracula either. Once he's done his part, Richter essentially becomes worthless.
Beelzebub can be trouble. He hangs from the ceiling, and is hard to attack because of it. His attacks involve summoning flies that do around 60 damage when they hit you and are annoying to dodge while trying to attack him due to how many there are.
Galamoth, without the Beryl Circlet. His lightning attacks are difficult to avoid and hit hard (which is where the Beryl Circlet helps), and it takes a long time to chew through all the boss's HP, even with the Crissaegrim.
The game is known for not being very difficult, but watch out for places such as an optional corridor in the inverted Castle Corridor with a pair of Blue Venus Weeds shooting roses all over the place while being helped by powerful Nova Skeletons.
They Changed It, Now It Sucks: As far as many purists of the PSX original are concerned, any change to the classic game is unacceptable. The re-dubbed script is particularly contentious, nevermind the original is now easier to find as a digital download.
Vindicated by History: The game is even more popular now than it was in the PlayStation's heyday, and it became a Greatest Hits title even then. It certainly helps that the game eschewed the 3D of most games in its era, meaning it's aged extremely well compared to its peers.
Visual Effects of Awesome: Alucard's sprites are some of the most iconic in the series, with a whopping thirty frames of running animation. His cape is beautifully animated, and a late-game cape item lets you change its color, too. While the addition came later, Maria's animations in the Dracula X port are also easy on the eyes in how smooth she looks.
Dracula and Richter's conversation in the original Japanese was significantly rewritten for the English version, but this led to some very memorable lines. Then the PSP version didn't actually translate the scene closer to the Japanese, instead going for a "smoother" version without said lines. The original Japanese conversation is similar to the version in Rondo of Blood (set after they fight, not before).
Out of many of the changed enemy names from Japanese-to-English, the skeleton enemy chasing its head was unimaginatively named "Soccer Boy" in the original. The localization changed its name to "Yorick," going from a bland joke to a rather clever Shakespeare reference.
Nearly all the famous swords had different names in both the Japanese and English versions; the English names were all references to Tolkien lore (Icebrand, Sword of Hador, Dark Blade, Crissaegrim and so forth), while in later games the original Japanese names stuck for the localizations.