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Adam Corn May 9, 2014

I just posted the last of my three reviews for the series reboot soundtracks.  For any who have yet to hear the OSTs and are open to an orchestral re-interpretation of the series please have a look, or better yet a listen to the lengthy samplers I've posted (see the sidebar links).  I recommend starting with the two sequels over the original.

To those who have heard the soundtracks either on album or in game, any thoughts?

The reception to LoS2 OST, just from a few random glimpses across the web, appears more mixed than I would have expected.  I'm gonna venture that the people who aren't impressed likely don't have much appreciation for cinematic orchestral scores, or interest in the idea of a Castlevania reboot that musically targets the Gothic atmosphere and storyline at the heart of the series more than the traditional Castlevania sound.  Not that there's anything wrong with people having their preferences, just that I think if you consider the soundtrack along those lines it's a very successful effort.

Ashley Winchester May 9, 2014

I got the Mirror of Fate Soundtrack back when it came out. Personally I'm really the wrong person to ask about it since I'm not a very big fan of orchestrated music in general... but the game (which I seemed to like a lot more than many others) did warm me up to a few pieces on it. The track that really caught my ear in-game immediately was "Theater" which also has a reprise in the credit roll. After getting the album "Carousel" really made some head way with me. "Reaver" is okay and the boss theme that sticks out to me the most, but that's because I had so much trouble with that fight so listening to it doesn't really bring back good memories.

I do like the main theme however and how it's sprinkled though a few of the pieces. However, that repetition seemed more effective in the context of the game to me and some of that magic is lost outside of it... but generally that's catch-22 with me and these kinds of scores.

Really, not to sound like a cheap tightwad but if this album had been a Japanese release and had a higher price tag I probably would have skipped it. However, at the same time, some of the older Castlevania tunes have lost some ground with me in recent years so that is probably these album's gain.

Adam Corn May 10, 2014

In MoF  "Theater" and "Carousel" were two pieces that stood out to me as well.  I assume these are both stage themes?  Very pretty in any case.  "Reaver" is one of several good boss themes, but the haunting, intensely evil sound in "Succubus" is what impressed me most.

GoldfishX, I moved your post to the LoS2 game thread since it was essentially about the games.  We've all discussed the drastic change in the LoS trilogy and the state of the Castlevania series as a whole elsewhere.  The rebooted trilogy is what it is; it would have been silly to try and shoehorn the old Castlevania sound into a completely different style of game, and I'm not gonna lambaste a composer for doing the best - and doing quite well - with what he was given.

GoldfishX May 10, 2014 (edited May 10, 2014)

Adam Corn wrote:

GoldfishX, I moved your post to the LoS2 game thread since it was essentially about the games.  We've all discussed the drastic change in the LoS trilogy and the state of the Castlevania series as a whole elsewhere.  The rebooted trilogy is what it is; it would have been silly to try and shoehorn the old Castlevania sound into a completely different style of game, and I'm not gonna lambaste a composer for doing the best - and doing quite well - with what he was given.

I understand that, but I responded because an ongoing theme in your reviews and in your post above is how they differ from the traditional Castlevania sound and you were saying you felt the music (particularly in the opening post) isn't being given a fair shake. The music and the games go hand in hand in that regard. Hence, why I made the post. Reality is, you can't get away from the traditional Castlevania sound as easily as you might like and expect people to judge these scores on their own merits (particularly when it's done in a style that catches a lot of flack from VGM fans and matches a lot of the negative connotations thrown at western VGM). Again, though, everything I've read about this development team indicates they are simply in it to milk the franchise to make a name for themselves and then get out, despite their subpar history, so any respect they hope to gain is lost from the get-go. Trying to distance themselves from everything classic Castlevania (including the music) is a futile attempt. Imagine if some no-name did that with, say, Star Wars and tried to get away from sounding like John Williams. You can't tell me Star Wars fans would take that kindly at all! Or that the new score would be judged fairly.

And no, I disagree with the above as well. Just because the games rely on their gothic atmosphere and (silly) undead melodramatics (I've watched some of the cutscenes...oh my god, are they cheesy!) more does not mean I agree with the sound direction given for the games either. SOTN's music and Yamane's style (for all of its numerous faults) managed to retain the familiar CV sound just enough to kind of ease in the older CV fans despite moving from a straight-up platformer to both the Metrovania and 3D action-platformer style, even it didn't quite surpass the earlier material. Same deal with the N64 Castlevania's soundtrack, it got too far away from what people expect/enjoy about the series' music and it was hammered accordingly. And Castlevania Judgement (a fighting game) proved that you can't just throw some crappily arranged classic Castlevania melodies into a game and expect it to work.

Ashley Winchester May 10, 2014

Adam Corn wrote:

"Theater" and "Carousel" were two pieces that stood out to me as well.  I assume these are both stage themes?

Yep, those are stage/area themes. As you probably know though most of the tracks are boss themes.

Adam Corn wrote:

...but the haunting, intensely evil sound in "Succubus" is what impressed me most.

"Succubus" really did help define the battle it played in (well, that and how many QTEs I had to put up with in that fight that made me feel like I was going to break my 3DS XL in half) but being played outside its context kind of hurt that one for me... listening to it outside the game makes it feel like a completely different track to me.

Adam Corn wrote:

The rebooted trilogy is what it is; it would have been silly to try and shoehorn the old Castlevania sound into a completely different style of game, and I'm not gonna lambaste a composer for doing the best - and doing quite well - with what he was given.

This pretty much. I still greatly prefer the older style of tunes (and games) from the classic and Metroidvania eras... but with the style of gameplay and world that the LoS series presented it pretty much boxed them into what they had to offer musically. I'm not saying one should allow themselves to be boxed in by such stereotypes (one I generally DO share your aversion to GX) but quite honestly I don't know how you'd even begin to fight against this kind of preconception.

Ashley Winchester May 10, 2014

GoldfishX wrote:

Reality is, you can't get away from the traditional Castlevania sound as easily as you might like and expect people to judge these scores on their own merits (particularly when it's done in a style that catches a lot of flack from VGM fans and matches a lot of the negative connotations thrown at western VGM).

I agree with both points... although I still agree and bound by what I said to Adam's quote above. Castlevania is defined by it's music as much as it's gameplay like many other franchises and yeah... I feel western VGM does take the same route way too often. That opinion of mine may be erroneous but it doesn't mean I'm complete inapproachable with that style.

GoldfishX wrote:

Again, though, everything I've read about this development team indicates they are simply in it to milk the franchise to make a name for themselves and then get out, despite their subpar history....

I know I'm going to creep into game territory (discussion) with this one, but I wouldn't worry about this to the level you are. Mercury Steam may have put themselves on "the map" with the first LoS... but if the reaction to the two following games is an indication (really after LoS2 released NO ONE I knew was talking about it and I don't think it's selling well despite getting decent reviews) I don't think MS is going to have any long lasting legacy for working on the franchise. I personally feel if Mercury Steam was going to work on games beyond this one Konami would put an end to it anyway as they seem to be losing people.

As for Oscar Araujo's music, while I'm not completely on board with it, does strike me as something that will probably live beyond the games it comes from with VGM fans. I know that last part really narrows down the scope of such a compliment but so many (too many) people treat VGM as a disposable backdrop in games... but those are people that hop from game to game and rarely reflect back on what they've played years later.

GoldfishX wrote:

Same deal with the N64 Castlevania's soundtrack, it got too far away from what people expect/enjoy about the series' music and it was hammered accordingly. And Castlevania Judgement (a fighting game) proved that you can't just throw some crappily arranged classic Castlevania melodies into a game and expect it to work.

Personally I think that's just a bad comparison. Castlevania 64 is such a different (and somewhat convoluted) beast than many of other games in the series that I wouldn't expect it to adhere to all the franchise's calling cards. I know some people liked that game but I think most considered it a failure and Konami pretty much closed the book on it accordingly.

Additionally, while I agree you can't just throw a few classic CV tracks into a vastly different soundtrack, I ironically feel this way about CV4. The reprises of Bloody Tears, Beginning and Vampire Killer are among that score's weakest moments IMO.

GoldfishX May 10, 2014

Ashley Winchester wrote:

Additionally, while I agree you can't just throw a few classic CV tracks into a vastly different soundtrack, I ironically feel this way about CV4. The reprises of Bloody Tears, Beginning and Vampire Killer are among that score's weakest moments IMO.

I agree. The original music is excellent in that game, not having these themes in there would leave room for the composers to possibly cook up a few additional classics. Ditto this for Rondo and Bloodlines. Everyone remarks the Treasure Room BGM is so un-Castlevania-like, but it works so well, both ingame and out.

Ashley Winchester May 10, 2014

GoldfishX wrote:
Ashley Winchester wrote:

Additionally, while I agree you can't just throw a few classic CV tracks into a vastly different soundtrack, I ironically feel this way about CV4. The reprises of Bloody Tears, Beginning and Vampire Killer are among that score's weakest moments IMO.

I agree. The original music is excellent in that game, not having these themes in there would leave room for the composers to possibly cook up a few additional classics. Ditto this for Rondo and Bloodlines. Everyone remarks the Treasure Room BGM is so un-Castlevania-like, but it works so well, both ingame and out.

Call me surprised... when I wrote that I was sure you were going to disagree with me.

GoldfishX May 10, 2014

That is the thing about the first 9-10 CV games or so (1-3 on NES, Super/Rondo/Bloodlines and the three on Gameboy, arguably Dracula-kun...I never really liked Chronicles that much), the music is so uniformly excellent, there's no need to re-use the same tracks. Castlevania 3 in particular sticks out with the likes of Aquarius, Riddle, Stream, Rising, Pressure, Clockwork, Demonseed and Beginning working their way into the series and being just as memorable as the first two NES games. I'm not as attached to the 16-bit soundtracks, but I feel like they could have pumped a few more classics out of them if they had checked VK/BT/B at the door. Also, same reason I'm not horribly impressed with the Castevania Rebirth score itself.

Adam Corn May 20, 2014

Never replied to your earlier post, GoldfishX, but I stand by my earlier comment that people expecting old-school Castlevania music out of Lords of Shadow are judging it unfairly.  And taking digs at the motivations of the development team or the quality of the cutscenes is distracting from the issue at hand (the music) and again judging the composer's efforts unfairly.  If anything it's a testament to a composer's efforts when he or she can make a quality score for a not-so-quality game or film.

The composer's job first and foremost is to create music that suites the atmosphere of the game and enhances the experience.  And though I haven't played Lords of Shadow 2, from what know of it and LoS1, a typical Castlevania soundtrack simply wouldn't have fit the bill.  Comparisons to Symphony of the Night or the upcoming Star Wars soundtracks are IMO off-point - SotN wasn't anywhere near the departure in gameplay, story and aesthetic that Lords of Shadow 2 is, nor are the upcoming SW sequels (not reboots, mind you) likely to be.

Anyway long story short, Lords of Shadow 2 OST is much more a Gothic action-adventure film score (think Van Helsing or Priest, except better) than it is a traditional Castlevania game soundtrack.  Listeners who can accept that I think will find a lot of appreciate about it; those who can't should no doubt focus their attention elsewhere.

GoldfishX May 20, 2014

My final thought on the matter: It's never unfair to judge based on the past when they put the brand name on the product, reboot or no reboot. If they don't want comparisons, don't use the brand name.

Jodo Kast Jun 2, 2014

GoldfishX wrote:

My final thought on the matter: It's never unfair to judge based on the past when they put the brand name on the product, reboot or no reboot. If they don't want comparisons, don't use the brand name.

That's the type of logically consistent thing I would say.

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