One of the most defining characteristics of the Castlevania series is its music. Players can go into any Castlvania game expecting an excellent score, with even the weaker installments having stellar soundtracks. The music is practically a character unto itself, with many of the most recognizable themes being continually remade throughout the series.
For a Halloween treat, I’m highlighting the main themes of all of the classic, pre-Symphony of the Night games. But rather than simply use the original versions of each song, I have picked my favorite remakes from subsequent games in the series.
“Vampire Killer” (Dawn of Sorrow version)
Like so many classic themes on the NES, “Vampire Killer” is short and simple, but that’s also what makes it catchy and memorable. It has set the standard for 25 years of musical excellence. I suppose remakes of it were a little cliché by the time Dawn of Sorrow came out in 2005, but I still found its use in the game effective as a tribute to the series’ 20th anniversary.
Original version: http://youtu.be/7SA_DarPYl8
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
“Bloody Tears” (Super Castlevania IV version)
Opinions on Castlevania II may vary, but the consensus on “Bloody Tears” is nearly unanimous. Its Bach-inspired melody does a lot with the NES’s waveform audio, somehow managing to invoke a pipe organ with its simple bleeps and bloops.
While the SNES couldn’t quite pull off the true realization of the song that many later versions have, Super Castlevania IV‘s impressive arrangement, featuring a dramatic drum-heavy climax, is simply unequaled.
Original version: http://youtu.be/vI7MsF__0Ek
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
“Beginning” (Rondo of Blood version)
As with the game, itself, “Beginning” seems to call back to the style of the original Castlevania, and in a way, feels a little like a remake of “Vampire Killer.” But that actually works in the composition’s favor, as it is both familiar, yet fresh.
In truth, I could have filled out this article with music from Rondo of Blood‘s stunning soundtrack, but I didn’t want it to hog the spotlight. However, when I think of “Beginning,” the Rondo version is always the first to come to mind.
Original version: http://youtu.be/ptgaCJSF7j8
Super Castlevania IV
“Theme of Simon Belmont” (Portrait of Ruin version)
This is quite possibly my favorite Castlevania theme, with its emphasis on a heroic and triumphant hook. It really pumps you up for the adventure ahead (as all great Castlevania themes should).
And yet, it seems notoriously hard to remake. Most versions I’ve heard (both official and fan made) miss the mark, often being too bombastic, and failing to emphasize the right elements.
The only remakes I thought got it right were from Bloodlines, Portrait of Ruin, and Harmony of Despair. The Bloodlines version is an admirable remake considering it uses the infamous Genesis sound chip, but I mainly appreciate the way it’s used within the game. The Portrait of Ruin version, on the other hand, stands much better on its own. And it must, considering that it’s a bonus track that can only be accessed via special item or sound test.
Original version: http://youtu.be/tRWZiJZEoHA
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
“Divine Bloodlines” (Dracula X version)
Rondo of Blood has one of the best soundtracks of its era, if not of all time. Originally released for the TurboGrafx CD system, it made full use of its medium with Red Book CD audio.
You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who considers Dracula X on the SNES to be comparable, let alone superior, to Rondo of Blood. And yet, despite being restricted to the SNES’s MIDI library, Dracula X actually does a shockingly good job of recreating Rondo‘s amazing soundtrack. Some people even prefer it! In any case, it’s definitely an impressive feat!
Original version: http://youtu.be/KR0UjAQIX6E
“Reincarnated Soul” (ReBirth version)
“Reincarnated Soul” is not remade as often as many of the other classic Castlevania themes, which is a shame because Bloodlines is probably my favorite of the classic Castlevania games. This energetic remake comes from Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth, which also attempts to be a throwback to early ’90s Konami arcade games. I think it works on both fronts, so that makes this version twice as good!
Original version: http://youtu.be/KKVQeHd71RM
“Cross Your Heart” (Castlevania: The Arcade version)
The original Castlevania arcade game is a bit obscure, and not considered very good, but that makes it a little bit cooler when other games acknowledge it musically. Appropriately, the main theme was remade for the equally-obscure 2009 Castlevania: The Arcade, released only in Japan and Europe (and unfortunately, also not considered very good).
Original version: http://youtu.be/HNY8RoQnLQg
Castlevania: The Adventure
“Battle of the Holy” (unused ReBirth version)
Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth isn’t so much a remake of the original Game Boy Castlevania as it is an homage to the older games in the series that just happens to tell the same story. But still, it’s a little strange that the game didn’t contain more references to its namesake, including this remake of “Battle of the Holy” that was apparently cut from the final game!
Original version: http://youtu.be/dbgGxQGd4I4
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge
“New Messiah” (ReBirth version)
I hate to include yet another remake from the ReBirth soundtrack, but the music from the Game Boy Castlevania games simply hasn’t been revisited as much as their console counterparts. But unlike “Battle of the Holy,” this composition actually was included in the final game.
Original version: http://youtu.be/CHLsolltIJ8