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Akumajo Dracula Best :: Review by Chris

Akumajo Dracula Best Album Title: Akumajo Dracula Best
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-1005 (1st Print); KICA-7901 (Reprint)
Release Date: March 21, 1990; September 23, 1998
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Akumajo Dracula Best commemorated the scores for Konami's three Castlevania titles for the NES. It exclusively features the complete original scores for these titles and also includes some bonus arrangements. The music featured within was pioneering for its day and has stood the test of time in many ways.


The compilation features the complete original score for the NES' Castlevania (aka Akumajo Dracula). "Vampire Killer" is one of the reasons the score has gone on to achieve iconic status. Kinuyo Yamashita did a great job making this one enjoyable, with its memorable melody and pop-inspired beats. What's more, it fits the game well by combining a sense of adventure with a sinister undertone while exploring the castle. It will certain endear most who enjoy catchy chiptunes. Another classic featured on the score is "Wicked Child", another fast-paced and hyper-melodic theme. Combining catchy hooks with considerable development, this piece is actually significantly elaborated upon from its original MSX version; there is a more punchy opening chord progression and richer sound programming.

Among the darker compositions on the score, "Stalker" and "Out of Time" are used in some of the castle's more formidable games. While these pieces are a little less direct, they still feature particularly memorable climaxes. "Walking on the Edge" is a great mood piece too, with its slow ominous chord progressions, though suffers from bizarre interruptions with action sound effects here. While there is little gothic music here, the boss theme "Poison Mind" definitely set some precedent for later compositions in the series, despite its tragically underdeveloped nature. The score is rounded off nicely by the ending theme "Voyager", a softer and slower theme that will surely inspire lots sentiment and nostalgia for those who used to enjoy the game.

The music for Castlevania II: Simon's Quest wasn't a major progression on its predecessor, featuring just nine underdeveloped chiptune tracks. However, the score still developed the series' musical identity in a number of ways. For example, the likes of "Message of Darkness" and "Within These Castle Walls" complemented the visuals better than Castlevania's material with their foreboding horror-inspired tone. Others such as the mansion theme "Dwelling of Doom" featured a rock-inspired style and attitude, as opposed to Yamashita's more pop-inspired compositions, and gave way to numerous more elaborate and memorable successors. The ending theme "A Requiem" meanwhile placed a more blatant emphasis on the series' persisting gothic influence.

However, easily the most defining cue of Castlevania II is "Bloody Tears". Stripped down to its simplest form here, "Bloody Tears" was originally just a 30 second loop with three four bar sections. Yet even in this form, it conveyed the mood of the game perfectly — the opening hook tinged with a gothic influence, the primary melody full of adventure and heroism, and the secondary section tinged with darkness. What's more, it manages to be utterly addictive for stand-alone listening too. Exceeding the likes of "Vampire Killer", "Beginning", and "Theme for Simon", most agree that "Bloody Tears" is the defining anthem of the series and its humble origins here gave way to much more ambitious arrangements later. It's inclusion is a major asset to the album.

The music for Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse was a major improvement on its predecessors on a number of levels. In contrast to the earlier scores, the various compositions are presented as five original sound medleys, rather than separate tracks. The first of these, "New Determination", is the most impressive since it reflects the more dark and mature sound of this title. The arpeggios and gothic melodies of the prelude have a genuinely immersive effect and sound outstanding thanks to Hidenori Maezawa's expert sound programming here. Nevertheless, the series still retains its heroic qualities and the appearance of Jun Funahashi's rocking anthem "Beginning" from the 2:45 mark will get the heads of most old-school gamers rocking.

While most of the music is very effective on Castlevania III, there are a handful of tracks that endlessly delight on a stand-alone level. These include "Clockwork" with its rich contrapuntal writing, "Stream" with its portrayal of a fighting spirit, "Vampire Killer" with its richer fuller arrangement, and "Riddle" with its fierce intensifications. In all these cases, it's highly impressive what Maezawa's team achieved with the NES' limited capacity. That said, the hurry tracks featured on the "Escape from Underground" are less appealing, given the ambient and repetitive focus of the music, but achieve the desired effect in the game, while "Ralph's Crisis!" is mostly a dud too. All in all, this is a fantastic score — memorable, fitting, and pioneering all at the same — and among the very best of the system.

The start of the compilation also features two bonus arrangements. "Beginning" is given an upbeat arrangement by the Kukeiha Club's Motoaki Furukawa in his characteristic jazz fusion sound. While it sounds dated now, this style was important for defining the music of Konami during the 1990s and fits the original quite well. However, it suits the harder remixes featured in Perfect Selection Dracula Battle better. The arrangement of "Bloody Tears" is actually taken straight from the score of the Arcade's Haunted Castle, so is therefore straightforward, brief, and synthesised. It's a minor disappointment, but this release still has lots to offer.


All fans of classic game music need to listen to the scores for the original Castlevania trilogy. They feature some of the most catchy chiptunes in the history of gaming and, what's more, Castlevania III pushes numerous technical and functional barriers too. In contrast to the series' box set, this collection is complete, well-presented, and reasonably priced too.

Overall Score: 8/10