I've been listening to a lot of Castlevania music this weekend, and after spinning Akumajo Best 2 and the new Dracula X OST a lot I was inspired to start this thread and see what CV OSTs everyone else puts at the top of their list. Here are my current top three:
#1 - Legend of Dracula II (GB)
Even though I would say that Dracula II isn't considered one of the "classic" original CV soundtracks, it is my favorite in the series both thematically and in overall quality/vibe. First off, I love the way the GB synth sounds. It somehow manages to be crisp and aggressive, but not overbearing or annoying (side note - I still find it funny how high the quality is on the GB stuff on Best 2 from '91, but how poor the recording/synth quality is of the CV GBA OSTs). It sounds fantastic.
Then there are the actual compositions themselves. The stage themes rock pretty hard, with really energetic stuff like "New Messiah" and "Original Sin", and even the short intro themes like "Opening" and "Journey to Chaos" are really well-put together with some interesting time signatures. Then there's the absolutely ridiculous "Chromatische Phantasie" that someone absolutely needs to arrange for electric guitar. Overall, this soundtrack is definitely my fave CV soundtrack to date and is one that I can go back to over and over again. Hell, I've been doing it for years.
#2 - Akumajo Dracula (SFC)
Ah, the first disc of Best 2 - Super Castlevania IV. The overall dreary and gothic feel that this soundtrack has is awesome. It's a lot more understated and moody than the other CV soundtracks that I've heard, but I feel that's where its charm lies. I really enjoy the more progressive drumlines and bare bones instrumentation this soundtrack has going for it - there's hardly any guitar emulation in here at all. Like I said in my lame review of the soundtrack a few years ago, the way the game and OST is structured is great: the beginning of the disc is original material to go along with the new stages, but once you get to the interior of Dracula's Castle, things go classic CV again. "Vampire Killer", "Beginning", "Bloody Tears"... they're all here, with short little teases during the "Stage Map" sections that precede them. Brilliant.
And then there are the fresh (at the time, at least) goods, like "Simon Belmont's Theme" and the really well-put-together Stage 3 suite that fluctuates from slow and depressing to a more lively and progressive organ-led classical-sounding theme. And then there's the following "Trick Manor", that rocks my world. I love the off-time drumming in this song. Just like LOD II, I just don't tire of this album at all.
#3 - Akumajo Dracula X (PCE)
I feel this OST is important not only because it was the first CV OST that had CD quality, but also because it has some great renditions of the classic tunes, plus some excellent new ones. To me, this soundtrack marks the end of the classic CV era, before Yamane took over and changed things up. I love tracks like "Cemetery" and "Divine Bloodlines", and other tunes like "Ghost Ship Painting" and "Den" really give the OST some variety. I can't say that I'm as passionate about this OST as I am about the other two I've posted about, but it's a damn good soundtrack. I also have to add that the Dracula Battle versions of some of the tunes here make the originals sound a little weak in comparison, but for what they are, they're great.
Honorable Mention - Akumajo Dracula X Chronicle (PSP)
I wouldn't count this as a favorite just yet, but it does have some excellent arrangements and gives the ADX OST several new layers and examines songs from that OST from different angles. For me, "Dreams of Triumph" (Beginning) makes the album worth the purchase alone, but having other stuff like the rockin' arrangement of "Slash" and the cool samba-inspired "Ghost Ship Painting" arrange doesn't hurt one bit. I also have to give the commercial release two thumbs way up for including the original ADX OST on the second CD, making the original print of the soundtrack much less worth hunting down.