Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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Zane Nov 19, 2007 (edited Nov 19, 2007)

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.

Ashley Winchester Nov 19, 2007

Not very versed on the entire body of Castlevania music, but I can give some general thoughts on some of the albums I have/had:

Nocturne of the Moonlight: It amazing how my love for Nocturne has diminished to a "I need to be in the mood to listen to it" affair. I just can't pop it in and be completely satisfied most of the time. Strangely, I still eat it up when I play the game though.

Lament of Innocence: This worked really well in-game but it simply didn't live far beyond it in my case. Out of context I fell "out of love" with some of my favorite pieces insanely quickly and eventually sold it.

Curse of Darkness: The reverse of the above, heard it in the game and wasn't too impressed but had a feeling there was something I was missing. Still don't know what that "thing" is but I feel it's a consistent listen and is enjoyable as long as you don't think too hard about what is being presented.

TerraEpon Nov 19, 2007 (edited Nov 19, 2007)

Zane wrote:

Then there's the absolutely ridiculous "Chromatische Phantasie"

...which was written by J.S. Bach.


(And 'Passepied' is by Claude Debussy)

-Joshua

Zane Nov 19, 2007

TerraEpon wrote:
Zane wrote:

Then there's the absolutely ridiculous "Chromatische Phantasie"

...which was written by J.S. Bach.


(And 'Passepied' is by Claude Debussy)

-Joshua

Sonufabitch! I had no idea. As you can tell, I'm not up on my classical music whatsoever. smile

the_miker Nov 19, 2007

I AM THE WIND

Seriously though.. you really can't beat CV1-3 on the NES but there are some others that I'd rate pretty high.  I like what Sota Fujimori did with the X68000 Castlevania in the PS1 game Castlevania Chronicles (CV + good techno = win).  Also gotta give props to Michiru Yamane for her score to Castlevania Bloodlines on the Genesis.  Sinking Old Sanctuary, Reincarnated Soul, Requiem for the Nameless Victims, ooooh baby!  SotN is pretty much an instant classic so that rates high up there as well.  Oh yeah, can't forget Super Castlevania 4 either.  Very good, unique sounding stuff in that one.  Castlevania music is VERY hard to rank so I won't bother even trying.  Just know that the ones I just listed stand out to me.

Also.. if you throw arranged CDs into the mix, I'll go with New Classic and both Battles.  Dracula Battle and Battle II pretty much never get old and I do listen to them both quite often.

-Mike

Megavolt Nov 19, 2007

I'll give it a shot:

#1: Castlevania IV - Avant-garde might be the best way to describe this soundtrack.  It's complex, moody, and catchy, but in a very unassuming kind of way.  If you play the game, it's easier to see why it's so great.  The music just fits the context so perfectly.  I didn't play this game until 2001 and the music instantly caught my attention.  It's easily one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, and the The Trick Manor would make my top ten best tracks ever.

#2: Castlevania III - Excellent melodies and certainly a more sophisticated soundtrack on the whole when put up against its predacessors.  There's a great moodiness to many of the tracks and interspersed among those you have melodic greats like Beginning, Aquarius, and Mad Forest.  You know that a game has a great soundtrack when the music keeps you motivated through the difficult parts.  A great score for my favorite Castlevania game.

#3: Symphony of the Night - Really good soundtrack.  The boost in sound quality grabs your attention right away and there is a nice variety of tracks to be found.  This is definitely one of the better Castlevania scores.

GoldfishX Nov 19, 2007 (edited Nov 19, 2007)

My rule: If it's classic, it's probably awesome (like most early Konami soundtracks). It's post-Bloodlines (Genesis), it can range drastically in quality.

1. Castlevania III - IMO, this is where the best themes of the entire series come from. Beginning, Clock Tower, Mad Forest, The watery area theme, the sunken temple...even the ambient-ish stuff is well-done enough to listen to out of context. I use a gamerip of the US version, as I positively hate the sound of the original Japanese version.

2. Uh...after III, it gets ugly. I could easily say Dracula X (the original...I assume the new OST didn't change much from the gamerip) for "Bloodlines", "Op. 13" and "Den" as headlining acts, I could easily say the original for "Wicked Child", "Out of Time" and "Heart of Fire", I could easily say CV2 solely for "Bloody Tears" (the US NES version is still my favorite version by far...Yes, even slightly over the DB version), the GB Castlevanias, probably even COTM (though that one's from memory of playing the game). It's all good. No need to pick from the bunch. If anything, I need to pay it more attention.

I'm personally not a fan of Yamane at all, from SOTN and above. SOTN and Curse of Darkness had moments, but neither holds my attention for more than a couple tracks nowadays. Needs less atmosphere, less orchestral wuss-rock and more "Dracula Battle". And I've positively hated everything I've heard from Lament's soundtrack and just can't digest the other GBA/DS OST's at all (sorry Yuzo....I tried). So it's been a tough ride for this series over the years for me. Luckily, the classics stand the test of time.

BTW, how are the arranges on the new Dracula X OST?

Smeg Nov 19, 2007

GoldfishX wrote:

I assume the new OST didn't change much from the gamerip

You assume too much!

GoldfishX Nov 19, 2007 (edited Nov 19, 2007)

So...it's different? Other than the arrange tracks?

(I love cliff-hanger posts)

Smeg Nov 20, 2007

GoldfishX wrote:

So...it's different? Other than the arrange tracks?

(I love cliff-hanger posts)

I think you're talking about an in-game recording of Drac X PSP you've listened to, in which case I'd have to assume as I haven't heard that. Sorry, it wasn't clear to me the first time I read your post.

allyourbaseare Nov 20, 2007

For me, it would be the Demon Castle Dracula Best.  A collection of all 3 NES titles just shows how well the KKC did using such limited technology.  Plus, this is where all the classics came from:

Castlevania
"Vampire Killer"
"Stalker"

Castlevania II
"Bloody Tears"
"The Silence of Daylight"

Castlevania III
"Beginning"
"Aquarius"

...really, though, there's just too many good ones to name.  I think the best part about this CD (for me anyway) was the fact that I found it at some little kiosk in the middle of the Boulevard mall here in Las Vegas.  I mean really, what are the odds?!

A close second would be the requesite "Symphony of the Night" that spawned such classics as "Marble Gallery" "Dracula's Castle" and "Young Nobleman of Sadness".

Daniel K Nov 29, 2007

This topic comes up now and then.

It's nice to see Castlevania IV get so much accolade, it deserves every bit of it. Easily my favourite score in the series, and probably my favourite soundtrack overall from the 16-bit era. The dark, deeeep moodiness of this music is as incredible today as it was 16 years ago. When I first heard it, I could hardly believe this kind of music could come from a video game: it single-handedly elevated my appreciation for game music to the next level (a phenomenon that for me has been brought about by a few precious scores through the years, Silent Hill 1 & 2 being among them). In fact the only piece I wouldn't consider absolutely perfect is "The Submerged City", the last theme from stage 3, it just never caught me. What I like about the score above all is that it's so dark and atmospheric (the extent of this aspect varies in other CV scores). Masanori Adachi (R.I.P.) and Sotaro Tojima did a great job with this one. "The Waterfalls" and the Library theme are just too dreamy!

After the top slot, I can't really rank the rest in a clear order, but there are a few that stand out above the rest...

Symphony of the Night is awesome, IMO Michiru Yamane's masterpiece. It seems like this is one of those scores (like Final Fantasy VI) that seemed to be loved by all when it was released and a few years after, but then has gotten kind of a mixed reputation. Taste is subjective and all the rest of it, but I honestly can't see how anyone can dislike this music. The variation in styles is staggering, the sound quality perfect, and the compositions are great. There are just a few tracks I can't stand (like the second boss theme, and that blasted "Wood Carving Partita", it made every trip to the library in the game a jarring discomfort). IMO, after SOTN, Yamane has struggled inconsistently to reach the same level of excellence and only occasionally succeeded, but this was her hour to shine.

Castlevania III is another classic for the ages. I can remember listening to this music on my TV (from the sound test in the game), almost more than playing the game itself. It's a lot more driven and fast-paced than most CV music and the melodies are old school at it's best. I can hum every theme from this game. "Demon Seed" gets stuck in my head now and then.

I know most people hated the soundtrack to Castlevania 64, but, being an ambient-lover and friend of subtlety and everything sublime and atmospheric, I loved it. It reminds me of CV4, but not as dark, complex, or good, but still great music. The main theme is awesome, the tower themes are great, the cutscene music is a whole lot better than any of the cutscene music from the PS2 games in the series, and there's a whole tragic/romantic feeling running like a red thread through the entire score that really gives it personality. And the synth is great for being the poor old N64. *dodges rotten tomatoes*

Another one that gets a lot of negative criticism is Lament of Innocence. Personally, I love this one, I find it much better than the washed-out, buzz-guitar rock of Curse of Darkness. Dark, atmospheric, and moody, and the more techno-driven pieces are great. The problem with LoI taken as a whole is that there's a lot of filler, and the cutscene music is just plain soulless and obviously not one of Yamane's strengths. Where the score shines is in the stage themes (as it should be), both the faster ones ("House of Sacred Remains", "Misty Pagoda", "Lament of Innocence", etc.) and the slower, moodier ones ("Fog-enshrouded Nightscape", "Dark Palace of Waterfalls", "Ghostly Theatre", etc.). Overall a very inconsistent score, but still one of my favourites, because when it's good, it's great.



A lot of people put the Dracula X score high on their lists. I like this soundtrack, but it's not one of the best. The melodies are great and all, but the tone is too happy, bouncy and light-hearted to really work for me. The three NES Castlevanias and CV4 with their dark, gothic imagery were the games/soundtracks that created the Castlevania world for me, and DX's music just sounds too far off to give the right atmosphere, and the music lacks the depth of some of the more profound soundtracks in the series. I still love it though, and found myself - contrary to all my expectations - really digging the remake's music. Great stuff.


Well, those were my favourites, but most of the music in the series is really good.

Bernhardt Nov 29, 2007 (edited Nov 29, 2007)

1) Lament of Innocence

I like all of the dungeon themes, the themes for Rinaldo's House and Walter's Castle, and the boss battles are good, but not distractingly so. The deluge of bonus tracks on the official release of the soundtrack were a nice touch, too. Me, I'm a big fan of symphony, in case you haven't heard yet, and I'm often up late at night studying, just in case I haven't said so a million times already, and this keeps me awake, focused, and concentrated, and it's actually pretty relaxing for me when I'm taking a break, too.

2) Curse of Darkness

More action-packed, and more rock influences than Lament of Innocence, but still not obtrusively so. I can study to this one too, but the focus is still on the dungeon and general gameplay themes.

Sidenote: I find cinematic tracks so pointless; composers are rarely ever able to make  cinematic tracks exciting. There might be one or two in a soundtrack that are melodically engaging, but more often than not, they're just droning, ambient sound/noise.

3) Castlevania IV

First Castlevania soundtrack I ever partook of, first Castlevania game I ever actually played, for that matter. It's action-packed, melodically memorable and engaging, but I really don't listen to it much anymore. These days, I simply find the synth too grating; it hasn't aged for me well at all.

If I can't stand SNES synth anymore, no damn way I'm going for the older NES tunes, unless they're re-arranged.

4) Symphony of the Night

Aside from 9 tracks, I find a lot of it to be generic horror music. The 9 tracks that are there that I like are GREAT and could stand on their own as an album...maybe if you lengthened them and re-arranged them, other than that it offers a sweet, sweet 16 minutes to me, and nothing more.

Ashley Winchester Nov 29, 2007

Bernhardt wrote:

2) Curse of Darkness

More action-packed, and more rock influences than Lament of Innocence, but still not obtrusively so. I can study to this one too, but the focus is still on the dungeon and general gameplay themes.

Sidenote: I find cinematic tracks so pointless; composers are rarely ever able to make  cinematic tracks exciting. There might be one or two in a soundtrack that are melodically engaging, but more often than not, they're just droning, ambient sound/noise.

It's funny you bring this up, especially in conjunction with this album. At first I couldn't get into the cut scene music but for some reason when I started noticing how the cut scene music actually borrowed from the in-game music (or vice-versa) it became that much more interesting. It creates a wonderful since of connectivity within the score to a certain degree. Still, I can't say that for all soundtracks.

I like CoD a lot but I can honestly see why some wouldn't like it, same goes with LoI. I like to think LoI and CoD are polar opposites in key respects. Like Daniel K said LoI is kind of inconsistent while CoD is more so, but nothing really tears through your speakers in CoD like LoI because it kind of has a "suppressed" feel to everything - that's why I like it.

Megavolt Nov 29, 2007

Daniel K wrote:

It seems like this is one of those scores (like Final Fantasy VI) that seemed to be loved by all when it was released and a few years after, but then has gotten kind of a mixed reputation.

FFVI...a mixed reputation?

I've noticed that the few detractors for FFVI's music are those who played the game and heard the music after the fact.  Otherwise I don't think of FFVI as having a mixed reputation.  The game does due to the change of pace in the second half, but not the music.  It might be better to compare SOTN to Chrono Cross.  They both seem to be extremely popular with fans of all kinds due to the accessibility and sound quality.  Yet there are a few long-time VGM fans who don't feel THAT enthusiastic about them.

Bernhardt Nov 29, 2007 (edited Nov 29, 2007)

Re: FFVI or FFVII OSTs:

I have the same thing to say about going back and reviewing classic soundtracks that Tycho Brahe (Penny-Arcade) has to say about going back and reviewing classic games: STOP.

Here's my review for Final Fantasy VII OST: "IT'S FINAL-f---ing-FANTASY VI!!"

Zane Nov 29, 2007

Daniel K wrote:

A lot of people put the Dracula X score high on their lists. I like this soundtrack, but it's not one of the best. The melodies are great and all, but the tone is too happy, bouncy and light-hearted to really work for me. The three NES Castlevanias and CV4 with their dark, gothic imagery were the games/soundtracks that created the Castlevania world for me, and DX's music just sounds too far off to give the right atmosphere, and the music lacks the depth of some of the more profound soundtracks in the series. I still love it though, and found myself - contrary to all my expectations - really digging the remake's music. Great stuff.

Now that I've had some more time to really dig into both the DX remake and the PSP OST, I would like to switch my #3 and my honorable mention - I prefer the remake's OST by a longshot right now, especially since it's less "bouncy" than the original DX.

Megavolt Nov 29, 2007

It seems like Dracula X simply took after the "bouncy" and energetic style of most music on PC Engine CD games.  I also prefer a darker mood but DX has its fans for the rock' n style of music it brings.

Ashley Winchester Jan 10, 2008

Sorry to revive such an old thread but I recently purchased Dracula Best and Dracula Best 2 and well, I have to say I'm extremely sorry I put off exploring/purchasing any Castlevania music prior to SotN. Even though my experience with CV prior to SotN is very little (I played similar games like Ninja Gaiden though) a lot of the melodies are very familiar.

Castlevania
Really, every track serves its purpose well - love "Nothing to Lose" and really love "Voyager"

Castlevania II
Again, extremely solid overall: "Monster Dance" was more enjoyable than I remembered; "Dwelling of Doom" was definitely catchy.

Castlevania III
Really this is an oxymoron, I wish the music wasn't set up in a medley-like fashion but then at the same time I really think it helps it overall because I thought with more tracks came a little less consistency.

Super Castlevania IV
Ditto everything said above, this kicks ass! Outside a few pieces - like "Simon Belmont's Theme" it's more abstract unlike the soundtracks before it. I can't stop listening! Also, I hear little bits here and there that remind me of other SNES classics which is weird (and cool) considering this was out before any of those other scores:

Prologue (Stage 1-1 BGM) - Kind of reminds me of some of the more haunting Super Metroid themes like "Planet Zebes - Arrival on Crateria"
Simon Belmont's Theme (Stage 1-2 BGM) - usage an poignancy reminds me of "Theme of Samus Aran: Galactic Warrior"
Limestone Cavern ~ Waterfall ~ Submerged City (Stage 3 BGM) - the beginning of "Limestone Cavern" sounds a lot like some of Mitsuda's Chrono Trigger work
Knight Corridor ~ Banquet Hall (Stage 6 BGM) - the opera-ish style reminds me of FFVI, especially the opera tunes

Still, for some reason listening to this I want to say it's kind of like Super Metroid but it isn't... not musically at least. I don't know but it doesn't matter - I can't imagine not having Castlevania's IV soundtrack in my collection.

GoldfishX Jan 10, 2008

Ashley Winchester wrote:

Castlevania III
Really this is an oxymoron, I wish the music wasn't set up in a medley-like fashion but then at the same time I really think it helps it overall because I thought with more tracks came a little less consistency..

My issue with this one on CD is that it was the Famicom version, which is strikingly different from the US NES version (maybe the PAL version? No clue). I tend to use a gamerip of the individual NES tracks for my CV3 needs...The Famicom version doesn't quite hit me the same way as the classic ones, although it's okay as an alternative.

Ashley Winchester Jan 10, 2008

GoldfishX wrote:

My issue with this one on CD is that it was the Famicom version, which is strikingly different from the US NES version (maybe the PAL version? No clue). I tend to use a gamerip of the individual NES tracks for my CV3 needs...The Famicom version doesn't quite hit me the same way as the classic ones, although it's okay as an alternative.

I'm pretty pleased with this disc but I'm interested in hearing the NES originals as well - I'll have to check those out since I'm currently looking at the NES Ninja Gaiden music. Kind of wish it was a double disc though - disc two being the NES sound. I would have shelled out more for it in such a case - I mean it wouldn't be the first time a Castlevania soundtrack had more than one version of the same score on it if that was the case (Gallery of Labyrinth and Chronicles)?

Smeg Jan 11, 2008

Ashley Winchester wrote:

I mean it wouldn't be the first time a Castlevania soundtrack had more than one version of the same score on it if that was the case (Gallery of Labyrinth and Chronicles)?

Seeing that those two releases came much, much later than Akumajo Densetsu/Castlevania III, it would be the first time.

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