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Castlevania MoD / CotBM Original Soundtrack :: Review by Chris

Castlevania Minuet of Dawn / Cross of the Blue Moon Original Soundtrack Album Title: Castlevania Minuet of Dawn / Cross of the Blue Moon Original Soundtrack
Record Label: Konami Style
Catalog No.: LC-1453/4
Release Date: January 27, 2006
Purchase: Buy at VGM World


Despite receiving more critical acclaim than their console equivalents, the new millenium's portable scores for the Castlevania series did not impress in terms of their music. Thankfully, the Game Boy Advance's Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow changed this with the return of Michiru Yamane as the lead composer, as did the first in the series' trilogy of DS titles Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. The soundtracks were packaged together in a two disc set released by Konami at the start of 2006.


After the disappointing scores that preceded it, the music for Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (aka Castlevania: Minuet of Dawn) on the first disc of the set restored the series' reputation for excellent music. After her small roles on the Game Boy Advance scores, Michiru Yamane takes the lead this time and immediately reflects her compositional prowess with "Prologue ~ Mina's Theme", a wistful classically-oriented composition featuring a gorgeously implemented flute lead. The first area theme "Ruined Castle Corridor" thereafter delights with its rocking guitar melody and adventurous rhythms. The composition isn't quite as thick or elaborate as her esteemed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but makes up for it with a heroic melody that rivals the best of the classic titles.

As with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Yamane takes diverse approaches to reflect the different areas of Dracula's castle. For example, "Demon Castle Study" is a meticulously written fugue inspired by her extensive studies of J.S. Bach, while "Chapel" further demonstrates the composer's expertise in gothic composition with its organ passages and dense orchestration. Even more beautiful are "Sacred Cave" and "Underground Reservoir", with their interweaving and abstract developments that fully explore the technological capacity of the Game Boy Advance. The lighter highlights include "Dance Hall", a neo-classical waltz that inspires intense imagery of ghosts dancing, and "Clock Tower", a high-octane rock anthem featuring a suitably emphatic metre. Finally, the series' musical legacy has been restored...

While Yamane handles the vast majority of the soundtrack, there were a couple of guest contributions. On "Premonition" and "Fate of the Demon", Soshiro Hokkai takes an abstract and unfocused approach similar to Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. However, the major enhancements in synth quality ensure they are nevertheless quite atmospheric. Some might even consider these to be enigmatic gems. Takashi Yoshida also makes a major impact in his chaotic battle themes, "Battle for the Throne", "Battle Against Chaos", and "Final Decisive Battle". These tracks are too dissonant and unmelodic to be worth stand-alone listening, but achieve the desired heavy mood in context at least. Yamane thereafter ends the soundtrack with a bright yet mature orchestration for the staff roll, featuring a reprise of the first stage theme.

The soundtrack for Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (aka Castlevania: Cross of the Blue Moon) is featured on the second disc of the album, taking the series from the Game Boy Advance to the DS for the first time. Masahiko Kimura immediately demonstrates his intention to create an entertaining soundtrack with his title theme, an adrenaline-pumping mixture of gothic organ passages, moody synth orchestrations, and rocking bass lines. His first stage theme "Pitch Black Intrusion" further elaborates on the series' familiar approach with its gothic rock stylings and heroic melodies, which are partly based on the title theme. Both themes do seem like imitations of past works in the series, rather than more individualistic expressions like Yamane's equivalents on Aria of Sorrow. However, their potent melodies and rich development ensures this doesn't detract from their enjoyment.

Away from the various rocking anthems, there are actually a number of more subtle tracks on Dawn of Sorrow. For example, Yamane's "Demon Guest House" creates a subtly menacing atmosphere in waltz time, while "Subterranean Hell" explores the technological capacity of the DS with its ever-evolving dark soundscapes. These tracks are almost on par with her greats on Castlevania: Lament of Innocence. Kimura also further impresses for the way he makes moody themes accessible, for example with the jazz tinges of "Platinum Moonlight" and punchy organ lines on "Underground Melodies", after his somewhat drab approach on Castlevania 64. That said, the soundtrack is slightly less entertaining than its predecessor given the presence of a few event tracks such as "Dark Clouds" and "Black Shudder". These tracks are all serviceable in context, but just too dull in their stylings to appeal otherwise.

Among other highlights, series' staples "Vampire Killer", "Beginning", and "Bloody Tears" are reprised in catchy anthemic arrangements to enjoyable effect in the game, as is the more obscure "Underground Melodies" from Haunted Castle. The reappearance of these themes is delightful in the game, but their somewhat straightforward arrangements mean they sound somewhat tired on the soundtrack release. The battle theme "Illusionary Dance" is also reprised in a bombastic orchestration for the encounter with Dracula, although an original piece may have been better suited for this context. Michiru Yamane closes the soundtrack with two relieving yet understated orchestrations, which work beautifully during the final scenes. There is also a remarkable bonus piano arrangement, "Amber Scenery", based on the "Subterranean Hell" theme, that is exclusive to the release.


Overall, Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow restore the series' reputation for featuring excellent music. Neither score offers much that hasn't previously been explored on the series' home console scores, such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. However, both scores almost rival the quality of these heavyweights with their unforgettable melodies, rich emotions, and cutting-edge synthesis. Along with the other DS scores for the series, this soundtrack is an excellent purchase for those looking for more Castlevania music from Michiru Yamane.

Overall Score: 8/10