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Akumajo Dracula Best 2 :: Review by Chris

Akumajo Dracula Best 2 Album Title: Akumajo Dracula Best 2
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-7506/7 (1st Print); KICA-7902/3 (Reprint)
Release Date: December 5, 1991; September 23, 1998
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Akumajo Dracula Best 2 is another compilation of original scores dedicated to Konami's Castlevania series. This title features the complete original scores for the legendary SNES title Super Castlevania IV, along with the scores for the first two Game Boy instalments of the series.


The first disc of Akumajo Dracula Best 2 features Masanori Adachi and Taro Kudo's music from Super Castlevania IV. Released early in the Super Nintendo's lifespan during 1991, the score was regarded innovative for its time for its more ambient and cinematic direction than most other game music released back then. The opening theme, for instance, makes the most of the SPC chip with its immersive soundscaping and swelling strings. The music provides a deliciously dark introduction of Dracula and also forms the basis for his more fleshed-out portrayal in the final stage theme. Meaningful and commanded, these pieces are impressive for their stylistic subtleties too and will be appreciated by some audiences for their musical merits. That said, these tracks won't be appreciated by all and, by incorporating sound effects too, blurs the boundaries between sound and music.

The composers develop the dark sound with a diverse range of tracks on Super Castlevania IV. "Knight Corridor ~ Great Hall" is the series' first true gothic masterpiece and, despite the Super Nintendo's limitations, is as intricate and emotional as similar compositions on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Among other stage themes, "Going Into the Castle" is suitably ominous with its excessive timpani rolls and pipe organ solos, while "Demon Forest" creates an ethereal soundscape with its blend of organic and rock component. The two boss themes channel an avant-garde influence with their dissonant orchestration, and "Aide's Room" is genuinely frightening with its fast runs and demented synthesis. Like a number of compositions on the soundtrack, these compositions are highly effective in context, but can be somewhat alienating as a stand-alone listen.

That said, the series' musical roots are still revisited throughout the score. For example, "Theme for Simon" used during the first and second stage shifts from sections featuring mature soundscaping to those featuring a rock organ melody. Given its popularity, this theme went on to become a recurring favourite on the series. Plenty of other tracks are also accessible, including the abstract yet playful theme for the Library and the expressive jazz-tinged portrayal of the Sunken City. The composers also took the wise decision to incorporate "Vampire Killer", "Bloody Tears", and "Beginning" for some of the tenth stage in the game; these arrangements enhance the originals with rich soundscapes, while confirming the enduring status of these classic themes. Overall, it's excellent how the composers offer a more mature and elaborate score for the series without transforming it beyond recognition.

The second disc of the album is dedicated to the music of the series' first two Game Boy adaptations. The music for Castlevania: The Adventure (aka The Legend of Dracula) is reminiscent of the original NES titles with its focus on simple and upbeat chiptune melodies inspired by pop and rock movements. There are a few decent stage themes here, such as "Battle of the Holy" and "Darkness", which both seem inspired by the adventurous tone and lyrical content of "Vampire Killer". However, more ambient themes such as "Death Fair" are limited by their humble synth and bland development, in comparison to the more impressive compositions on Super Castlevania IV. The synth runs in the boss themes "Kill! Kill! Kill!" and "Gate to Hell" convey an appropriate sense of action, but are a bit too muddled and repetitive to be worth stand-alone listening. It's a serviceable score, but is still among the weakest in the series.

Fortunately, more effort was put into the score for Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (aka The Legend of Dracula II), which offers longer compositions and enhanced synth. For example, the first stage theme "New Messiah" motivates gamers with some of the most frantic and fun chiptune rock out there, while the boss theme "Evil Gods" plunges them into action with even heavier and noisier synth work. "Ripe Seeds" is more reminiscent of Kinuyo Yamashita's work on the series, with its poppy melodies and groovy rhythms, yet still has its distinctive lyrical approach. Other highlights among the stage themes include "Praying Hands" with its multifaceted development and experimental synth work to convey a castle in the clouds, and "Psycho Warrior" with its conflicted blend of heroic melodies and gloomy bass lines. Both excellently complement the visuals while being enjoyable listens, at least for those who enjoy chiptunes.

The music for Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge also develops the gothic feel of the series at the climax of the soundtrack. While Dracula's Castle is introduced with another motivating rock anthem, the stage's climax features the ominous Baroque-inspired passagework of "Passpied". The music for "Chromatische Phantasie" sounds even more ambitious, with its fast-paced organ passages. However, neither of these quite compared to the Baroque greats due to their humble synthesis and limited harmonisation; the latter, especially, disappoints by never developing beyond its monophonic origins into a fully-fledged contrapuntal work. The final boss theme "Sons of Satan" is an effective blend of the gothic and rock components of the score, while the ending themes feature some soft enchanting chiptunes. While still not up there with most of the main games, the music for Belmont's Revenge is accomplished and enjoyable.


Akumajo Dracula Best 2 features three complete scores for a relatively cheap price. While the scores for the Game Boy's instalments are largely continuations of the series' NES scores, the soundtrack for Super Castlevania IV is highly impressive for its time and will be deeply appealing for a certain audience. Overall, a recommended listen.

Overall Score: 8/10