Two superb Castlevania rock arrangements in an otherwise average album.
Editor's review by Adam Corn (2011-07-30)
Since its release in 1994 the first Dracula Battle, based on classic themes from the Castlevania series, has stood as one of the premier VGM rock albums. And with the Konami Battle series albums that followed being similarly impressive, the natural question is whether that quality continues into Dracula Battle 2. The answer is unfortunately, for the most part, no. Though on occasion it very much shows the hard rock mastery of its predecessors, overall Dracula Battle 2 is the weakest entry in the series.
Dracula Battle 2's most noticeable variation on the Konami Battle formula is its more deliberate rock chords and percussion. However this modified sound is on the whole not nearly as exhilarating as the speedier, more aggressive arranged style common in the first Dracula Battle. The clearest indication of this comes in the two albums' dueling arrangements of "Beginning", where the Battle 2 version just doesn't have that relentless fury of the first Dracula Battle's arrangement. In "Illusionary Dance" the rolling rock chords and steady, heavy beat actually detract from the wicked quality of the piece. "Road of Enemy #1" has a heavy, head-banging quality unique to other Battle series arrangements, but it doesn't go far enough to that extreme to have full effect.
It doesn't help that the themes chosen for inclusion are a step below those of the first Dracula Battle. Tracks like "Reincarnated Soul" certainly have that Castlevania feel to them but lack the hook that the classic themes possess. "Thrashard in the Cave" is a speedy, solidly produced track much like the arrangements in the first Dracula Battle, but again that melodic hook just isn't quite there.
As a six album series it's reasonable to expect the Battle albums to make some departures from pure hard rock - in fact the Konami Shooting Battle and Snatcher Battle albums do so very successfully - but Dracula Battle 2 takes some stylistic turns too far removed from its origin. "Theme of Legend of Dracula" has a nice melody, but the instrumental selection of piano, airy lead synth and sampled choir is closer to the arrangement in the pseudo-orchestral Dracula New Classic than it is to anything in the Battle series. (Were it given a soulful electric guitar in the lead this could have been an excellent instrumental rock ballad akin to the first Dracula Battle's "Requiem for the Nameless Victims", but for some reason that's not the path the producers took.) Then there's "Den" from Dracula X, which would be a decent enough rehash of "Bloody Tears" were it not for a cheesy recurring keyboard bit that brings to mind 80s VHS aerobics videos of peppy blond instructors in tight-fitting shorts.
That said there are a couple of relentlessly rocking arrangements that give Dracula Battle 2 worth, and both are from fan-favorite Super Castlevania IV. "In the Castle" is Castlevania rock through and through, with wicked lead and bass guitar and hammering synth. And "Theme of Simon" is an all-time classic arrangement of a classic theme, combining well designed synth, blaring horns, signature Castlevania organ and wailing guitars in a fist-pumpingly raging rendition of the heroic Castlevania IV anthem. Both tracks are among the very best of the Konami Battle series, and in fact both tracks can be found on the Konami Battle the Best compilation ("In the Castle" is even improved with a new guitar solo).
I'm always as eager as the next fan for vintage Castlevania music, especially any with the hard-rocking quality of Konami's Battle series, but Dracula Battle 2 doesn't quite live up to expectations. Hardcore Castlevania fans will no doubt enjoy it for the familiar melodies at its core, and "In the Castle" and "Theme of Simon" absolutely deserve listening, but it's just as well to acquire those two tracks via Konami Battle the Best. The two Contra arrangements exclusive to that album are worth as much as the rest of Dracula Battle 2 has to offer.