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Akumajo Dracula Castlevania Chronicles Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Akumajo Dracula Castlevania Chronicles Original Soundtrack Album Title: Akumajo Dracula Castlevania Chronicles Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami Music Entertainment
Catalog No.: KMCA-104/5
Release Date: May 23, 2001
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


In 1993, Konami remade the original Castlevania for the Sharp X68000, a Japan-only computer. The soundtrack emphasised the series' rock flavour with a mixture of arrangements of famous themes and completely new compositions. In 2001, Konami remade the X68000 title for the PlayStation and released it as Castlevania Chronicles (aka Akumajo Chronicles: Akumajo Dracula). Gamers could either play the original mode, featuring X68000 gameplay and music, or an arranged mode, featuring enhancements including an arranged soundtrack. Bemani's Sota Fujimori was responsible for the arrangement and offered both conservative enhancements and experimental remixes. The Akumajo Dracula Castlevania Chronicles Original Soundtrack features the arranged soundtrack and original version in the first disc. The second disc features two MIDI sound versions of the original version and two bonus tracks.


Starting with the original music for the X68000's Akumajo Dracula, the opening theme "Black Mass" quickly builds up into something a dramatic overture. The second half of the theme sets the mood with a mellow but melancholy melody against creepy arpeggios. "Something Loopy" suffices as a name entry theme, but is a rather barren motif for stand-alone listening. "Vampire Killer" opens the first stage with a straightforward arrangement emphasising the bouncy melodies of the original. A soundtrack often carried by past classics, "Wicked Child" is still as peppy as ever, while "Bloody Tears" once again captures the soul of the franchise.

Moving on to the remaining original contributions, the stunning "Thrashard in the Cave" combines gothic melodies with hard rock riffs and solos. Fitting for Simon's second trial, the music is filled with drive and determination. "Moon Fight" achieves a similar atmospheric quality with its mixture of jazz and electronic infusions, while "The Tower of Gears" disorients in a level of malfunctioning machinery by repeating rhythmically irregular phrases. "The Tower of Dolls" provides an expressive interlude, carried by a beautifully shaped melody tinged with gothic influences, before the moody "Etude for the Killer" impresses with its Baroque instrumentation and counterpoint.

Love it or hate it, "Theme for Simon" just had to be included as well. This arrangement is a little more elaborate and experimental than most, given it is used as the final stage theme. The boss theme "Creatures in the Depth" is humble in timbre because of synth limitations, but nevertheless creates just the right dynamism with its crisp, brisk phrases. Following an elaborate introduction, the final boss theme "You Goddamned Bathead" offers a surprising and compelling fusion of techno beats with gothic melodies. The ending theme "Mother Earth" is a dazzling blend of quasi-orchestration, gliding electronic frills, and over the top timpani rolls. Once again, the team make the most of technological limitations here.

The second half of the first disc features Sota Fujimori's arranged score for Castlevania Chronicles. Aware of the inappropriate mood of the original, Fujimori transforms the cinematic half of "Black Mass" into something far more intense, perhaps even overbearing, with a mixture of heavy orchestration, booming percussion, and organ use. The subtle title screen portion is quite a contrast, but sounds more beautiful than ever thanks to the upgraded synth. He makes his biggest statement with an upbeat techno remix of "Vampire Killer". The remix firmly asserts his love for electronica, but he still keeps the old adventure feel of the original alive and gives a nod to the rock elements of the series with some blistering guitar work. He even sneaily incorporates fragments from Castlevania's "Prologue" and "Stalker".

Keen to diversify the styles of Castlevania Chronicles, Fujimori transforms the brash "Thrashard in the Cave" into an extraordinary downbeat mix. The rapid drum samples and increasingly elaborate synth solos are simply gorgeous here. The arranger further emphasises his versatility by transforming "Moon Fight" into a glissading electric guitar solo with salsa and funk accompaniment. "Wicked Child" is less accessible with its juxtaposition of a bizarre electronic bass line with the original melodies, whereas "Bloody Tears" receives a pretty straightforward arrangement with lots of cheesy rock moments. "The Tower of Gears" didn't need many changes from the original either, but the revamped synth and additional distortions make it even more hypnotic than before.

Moving towards the climax, "The Tower of Dolls" is massively enhanced by an invigorating blend of gothic, orchestration, and electronic influences. In another novel twist, "Etude for the Killer" blends features of the original with the sweeping ballroom dance approach of Symphony of the Night. "Theme for Simon" also receives one of its best remix to date, asserting the character's nobility and courage while also pulling together the diverse stylistic strings of the score. Perfect source material for an electronica musician, "You Goddamned Bathead" gains the vibrant trance arrangement the original merely aspired to. The bombastic orchestration of "Mother Earth" loses the dazzling feeling of the original somewhat, but is nevertheless spectacular, while the "Ending Movie" is more of an assembly of sound effects rather than new music.

On the second disc, there are complete interpretations of the original score for Akumajo Dracula X68000 on the Roland CM-64 and the Roland SC-55 synthesizers. Both of these versions provide a richer interpretation of the original score thanks to cleaner samples and thicker timbres. There are also occasionally novel features due to changes in balance and choices of instrumentation to create the MIDIs. While both versions have their merits, they are certainly not worthy of having an entire disc dedicated to them. Past Castlevania scores have satisfied without such treatment and these didn't already have a complete rearranged score to show what could be done with the music. In short, these versions are perfectly listenable, but ultimately redundant.

The album is rounded off with two bonus arrangements by Sota Fujimori. "Bloody Tears RMX" is a blistering trance remake of the original theme. While the mixing is excellent and there is plenty to love about the development section, the melody itself isn't as catchy here and seems somewhat out-of-place. This remix was likely rejected from the remake in favour of a more conservative arrangement, but it's good that it still made it into the album. "Dracula ~Medley~" begins and ends with an edit of the "Vampire Killer" arrangement and also incorporates Castlevania's "Heart of Fire" and "Out of Time". Incorporating five of the themes from the original in total, it's another very nice tribute. These two remixes certainly add some value to the otherwise pointless second disc.


Akumajo Dracula's score for the X68000 is worthy of Dracula's name with its solid mixture of compositions and arrangements. It features great melodies, plenty of gothic and rock influences, and some diversity and experimentation around the edges. Almost all the arrangements in Castlevania Chronicles massively enhance the originals, however. The synth really helps to improve the more straightforward interpretations, but it's Sota Fujimori's use of electronica, rock, and orchestration that makes the rest such highlights. However, the largely redundant second disc of the album makes it a bit of a problematic purchase. While still worthwhile for hardcore collectors, casual fans would be advised to consider other Castlevania soundtracks since they're usually better value for money and of at least equivalent quality.

Overall Score: 7/10