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Castlevania CotM / CotMS Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Castlevania Circle of the Moon / Concerto of the Midnight Sun Original Soundtrack Album Title: Castlevania Circle of the Moon / Concerto of the Midnight Sun Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami Music Entertainment
Catalog No.: KMCA-162
Release Date: June 26, 2002
Purchase: Buy at CDJapan


Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance were two new entries in Konami's long-running Castlevania series for the Game Boy Advance. While both games were highly acclaimed, their soundtracks were among the shortest and weakest of the series. Konami eventually decided to release the soundtracks together as a one disc compilation in 2002.


The first Game Boy Advance score in the series, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (aka Akumajo Dracula: Circle of the Moon), mostly features arrangements of past favourites. The classics range from a jubilant light-hearted arrangement of Castlevania's "Vampire Killer", to an ethereal reminiscence of one of Michiru Yamane's earliest "The Sinking Old Sanctuary", to a catchy pop arrangement of Dracula: Rondo of Blood's "Illusionary Dance". There are also some less well-known tracks, such as Castlevania 64's "Shudder" and Castlevania III's "Nightmare", which create a suitably ominous mood without standing out much. Overall, it's hardly a selection of the series' best tracks, but the blend of classics and hidden gems is still likely to keep most listeners nostalgic and entertained.

While it was a lazy decision to base most of the score on past themes, some effort has gone into ensuring the arrangements are suitable for the in-game context. For example, Rondo of Blood's "Requiem" and Bloodlines' "A Vision of Dark Secrets" sounds more dramatic than before with their epic orchestrations and rich synthesis. Meanwhile Castlevania III's "Aquarius" and "Clockwork" preserve the upbeat anthemic quality of the originals to provide a fun accompaniment to the stages. However, the arrangements are too straightforward and underdeveloped to particularly enhance the tracks for the purpose of stand-alone listening. In the current era, with numerous arranged albums, tribute scores, and fan remixes, such treatments just don't cut it and most consumers can find much better renditions.

There are a handful of original compositions on the score. Sotaro Tojima made the effort to produce a solid original composition for the game's first stage, "Awake". It opens with a catchy and bouncy melody that, in many ways, provides a homage to the series' scores of old. The development thereafter adds to the anthemic sound with its light rock influences. "Fate to Despair" and "Proof of Despair" are slightly more serious compositions. The former is a lavishly decorated march piece that takes gamers through one of the most challenging and atmospheric stages, while the latter is a fast-paced action-packed orchestration suitable for the final boss. In contrast, Hirofumi Matsuoka's "Inversion" is a repetitive and generic filler track that isn't worth its thankfully short playtime, while the title track isn't particularly impressive either.

On the second half of the disc, the score for Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (aka Akumajo Dracula: Concerto of the Midnight Sun) is probably the least impressive in the series. The score has a rather dissonant sound throughout, though this is largely due to amateurish composition and atrocious synthesis. For example, Soshiro Hokkai attempted to create a dark ambient soundscape on "Prologue", but only alienates rather than immerses listeners. In line with some of Michiru Yamane's best, he constructed the composition in a polyphonic manner using three interweaving lines, yet the lines are completely unrelated harmonically and sound like random snippets taken from different compositions. What's more, any intended subtleties is lost by the absolutely blaring synthesis on the Game Boy Advance.

Even those themes that were intended to sound desirable fall flat on Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. Juste Belmont's "Successor of Fate" is presented as a bold anthem, along the lines of "Simon's Theme", yet the melody sounds more nonsensical than heroic. "Decisive Battle" meanwhile was apparently composed with no regard for hardware limitations and the final result is downright ugly. "Old Enemy" likewise is one of the most intense battle themes of the series, yet lacks any intricacies or charm. Others such as "Approach to Despair", "Aqueduct of Dragons", and "Den of Skeletons" have a rambling and repetitious sound throughout that is entirely unwelcome in the game. They're a disgrace to the series' musical legacy.

A couple of favourites from the series' original trilogy nevertheless receive serviceable arrangements on Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. The longest of these, "VK2K2" used during a secret boss stage, is a particular highlight since it skilfully integrates Castlevania's "Vampire Killer" and Castlevania III's "Clockwork" into one. In addition to this arrangement, Michiru Yamane contributed two original compositions to the score, "Pitch-Black Door" and "Night Head"; both are short and generic to compare with her greats in other scores, though do demonstrate a better grasp of musicality and are at least functionally effective. There is also a bonus arranged track by Takashi Yoshida at the end of the release. It initially transforms an adequate yet unremarkable original piece, "Chapel in the Sky", with impressionistic orchestration and piano work before taking a more mature dissonant direction.


Overall, the scores for Castlevania's first two Game Boy Advance titles are hugely disappointing. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon is mostly competent in its musicianship and synthesis, but is brought down by its lazy use of past themes from the series. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance meanwhile is completely crippled by its sloppy composition and synthesis, standing as the worst score in the franchise. Konami made the right decision by presenting these two lacklustre scores on the same disc, but even together, the scores probably don't have enough highlights to be worth your money.

Overall Score: 4/10