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Akumajo Dracula X Nocturne in the Moonlight Soundtrack :: Forum Review

Akumajo Dracula X Nocturne in the Moonlight Original Game Soundtrack Album Title: Akumajo Dracula X Nocturne in the Moonlight Original Game Soundtrack
Record Label: King Records
Catalog No.: KICA-7760
Release Date: April 9, 1997
Purchase: Buy at Game Music Online


Written by Chris

Castlevania's music became synonymous with Michiru Yamane thanks to the overwhelmingly popular response to the score to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, known as Akumajo Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight in Japan. Yamane had scored the Mega Drive's Castlevania: Bloodlines originally, blending elements of old-school Dracula scores with more individual elements. She stepped up the game in Symphony of the Night, however, exploiting the technical capacity of the PlayStation to achieve a rich and diverse score. Let's look a little more closely as to why it's popular response is almost universally positive...

Track-by-Track Reviews

1) Transformation No. 1 (Written by Don)

This piece starts off the official soundtrack and is rather dark and ominous in nature. The hint of rock elements, the haunting chorals over the string sections, the heavy percussion all come together to form a very potent piece that climaxes with an intensified choir, the addition of some harp, and some sharper strings. (8/10)

2) Prologue (Written by Mac_Tear)

This piece is used during the opening stage, where you play Richter Belmont. It's one of my favorites, even if it's short, a little repetitive, and should have been developed more. The track starts some cool electric guitar riffs, a nice organ melody in the background, some synth effects, and pumping percussion. Later a choir joins in, giving the piece more atmosphere. This track proves how extremely great the sound quality of this soundtrack is (the game is from 1997, the same year as Final Fantasy VII and that one had a crappy quality). Even if you can't fight this battle (it is automatic!) you're invited in the Castlevanian world extremely well with this rocking piece! (8/10)

3) Illusionary Dance (Written by Mac_Tear)

This piece is a classic. Originally from Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood from 1993, fans of the series know that it's been used during almost every Castlevania game since. The track starts with energetic timpani and some strings until the prominent main melody sets in after 10 seconds, played mostly by strings and organ, which takes the main part at 0:26 together with some trumpets. The Akumajo Dracula X version had more power and the Nintendo 64 version (don't laugh) had a more holy and epic aura. This may not be the best arrangement, but it's an extremely effective track anyway for the important battle against Lord Dracula. (9/10)

4) Symphony of the Night (Written by Rain)

This is a fitting opening statement. Featuring beautiful development with a tinge of darkness, it's grandly dramatic where strings and basses work wonders together. The woodwind tradeoff in waltz 3/4 is a beautiful touch which adds a bit of sadness to the piece. The cymbal blasts really do well to keep the piece energetic. (10/10)

5) Prayer (Written by Rain)

This is a piece which was first introduced in Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. It's highly canonical, resembling hymnals often found in both Christian and Catholic mass. The piece resembles a devotion to God. In this case, it seems more likely that it is a devotion to the prince of darkness and yet the sad sombre tone of the piece resembles the rigid reverence of 18th century chorale and hymnal. Superb. (10/10)

6) Dracula's Castle (Written by Chris)

One of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's more rock-based contributions, Silent Hill's Akira Yamaoka arranges the guitars and drums of Michiru Yamane's contributions here. The opening bars set the gothic tone of the location perfectly while the input of drums at 0:14 adds to the memorability of the intro. With the exposure of the main melody at 0:21, Yamane's fingerprints are more clear and the piece retains its catchiness, dynamism, and atmospheric qualities. At 0:51, the second section emerges culminating in some fantastic guitar work before an intricate approach to the loop. Over its 1:53 playtime, "Dracula's Castle" certainly does a lot, ensuring it has become one of the series' most popular themes. (10/10)

7) Golden Dance (Written by TheShroud13)

I really like this track. Much like "Dance with the Balamb Fish", this is probably what the Strauss family would have sounded like if they had discovered duple meter. I really like the way the piece shifts between colours while maintaining similar melodic ideas. The piece makes room for both majesty and ominous premonition. Not only that, but in the sections which open the piece and punctuate section differentials, Yamane's orchestration of the gold with flute wind trills and percussion are absolutely fantastic. It really sounds like it's shimmering. (8/10)

8) Marble Gallery (Written by TheShroud13)

"Marble Gallery" is far from my least favourite track on the album, and slightly further from my favourite track on the album. The instruments on this track don't seem to sing quite as well as others on the soundtrack, and the melody doesn't do much for me. The build to the climax at the end of the piece works quite well for me, but overall, this track has always felt like one of the blander on the album to me. This track is also abnormally short for the album, not even a minute and a half. On many albums, that's about as much music as you get per track anyway, but on this soundtrack which tends to develop pretty well, it sticks out like a sore thumb. (6/10)

9) Tower of Mist (Written by Mac_Tear)

This piece plays in the Outer Wall stage and fits extremely well. The intro is somewhat similar to "Young Nobleman of Sadness", later on the soundtrack. The melody starts at 0:20, where the strings create a very symphonic and beautiful atmosphere, similar to "Symphony of the Night". A very good track from Yamane, who proves that she is able to capture the beautiful landscape with its misty and rainy weather with an amazing track. (10/10)

10) Nocturne (Written by Mac_Tear)

As far as I can remember this song isn't used in the Playstation version, only in the Saturn version as the ending theme. It's an sweet little vocal piece performed Kahori Yamane (Michiru's sister, maybe?). The voice is pretty much like Riki's in Final Fantasy X and the instrumentation is serene with its bongo drums, soft piano and strings. Nice track, which fits within the rest of the soundtrack well. (9/10)

11) Wood Carving Partita (Written by TheShroud13)

Absolutely fantastic, one of my favourites on the album. Besides the fact that I'm basically a sucker for anything that begins to resemble music out of the Baroque period, this is a pretty darned good composition on its own. There is so much rhythmic energy here, I find the melodies (both the principle and the bass) to be quite memorable. I also find the contrasting sections to be quite good and think the piece develops very well. I'm particularly fond of the the shift to major towards the end, as well as the dramatic build that follows it and leads back to the intro. Very nice stuff. I'm saving my 10s for a couple of tracks later on so this one won't get it, but it's close. (9/10)

12) Gate of Spirits (Written by TheShroud13)

I'm not all that fond of the spooky, dissonant music on this soundtrack. It really just has never spoken to me, particularly the banquet tracks. "Gate of Spirits" is just about the only exception. It still reeks of cheese to me, but the jarring rhythms and dissonant chords help to keep it from being just another horror background track. (7/10)

13) Our Festival (Written by Don)

This is another rock-oriented battle theme. From the opening distorted guitars, to the intoxicating melody, I find this battle theme to be rather good. The organ and the strings play the melody, but I think it sticks out more when the electric guitar kicks in to help accentuate the melody. It's a nice rhythmic battle theme with some interesting developments. (9/10)

14) Resting Place (Written by Don)

This serves as the game over theme. It's rather short and haunting, with the short inclusion of chorals. However, the scariest thing about it is the creepy "Game Over" voice acting with some wicked laughter afterwards. (5/10)

15) Requiem for the Gods (Written by Rain)

Kind of following up on the chorale reverence of "Prayer", a somber choir reveals a rather leaden tone of sadness. The organ section is absolutely stunning and adds a depth to this piece that it plunges both further into darkness and heavy heartedness. It's a perfect instrumental mixture to keep the balance of the track intact. (8/10)

16) Crystal Drops (Written by Rain)

This is my favorite track in the game. Why? Difficult to say. I think the chords of the piece are absolutely stunning. The rhythm is catchy and the water droplets add an ambience to the form framework. The piano solo passages are incredible and hits all the right notes in all the right places. The melody hands off to the oboe is haunting and mezmerizing. The organ adds a firmer texture to the piece and brings back a melody from the past which is further ingrained from the Castlevania thematic idiomm unto the mind of the listener. Superlative. (10/10)

17) Path of the Departed (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is a really creepy piece of ambient music, which could straight coming from a Halloween movie or a Silent Hill game. The piano plays an really ominous and frightening melody, accompanied by some deep strings in the background and different sound effects like occasional animal noises or an synth glockenspiel (or some kind like this) to add an really scary, but also empty atmosphere. But at least since the one minute mark, you will notice that the melody doesn't change and doesn't develop more. That's why the lengthy piece is a good mood setter, but very underdeveloped and a little repetitive. (8/10)

18) Rainbow Cemetery (Written by Mac_Tear)

"Rainbow Cemetery" starts up with some sound effects, then a pumping bass line sets in accompanied by some percussion. Then a weird synth appreggio plays during the whole piece like a fast version of "J-E-N-O-V-A" from Final Fantasy VII. Later a desolate sounding saxophone, some deep piano chords, and a lush choir are added. Before the piece loops, the piano reaches an climax. The track reminds me in style of "The Cave of Jigramunt" from the Castlevania: Curse of Darkness soundtrack, which is quite similar. Truly, not my kind of thing really. (7/10)

19) Stillness (Written by Mac_Tear)

Just an short track of synth and some tubular bells. I don't know where exactly this piece is used. (5/10)

20) Lost Painting (Written by Don)

This piece is another one of my favorites. I find the melody to be exquisite. From the mysterious opening, this track grips you from the go. The melody is played some sort of percussion instrument, which I can't identify, while the accompaniment is soft percussion and some string orchestration. As the track develops, the accompaniment gradually becomes more complex and really helps to accentuate the main melody. This is a great piece of music. (10/10)

21) Pearl Dance Song (Written by Chris)

"Pearl Dance Song" combines neobaroque elements with the format of a romantic waltz. Despite its malevolent intentions, intrinsicially it is an incredibly pretty piece with gushing melodic lines, fluid transitions, and a clear sense of metre. It transitions between a piano-based first section with eerie undertones to a deliciously dark string-based section before a final section that adds an additional perspective while bringing other elements together. A highly inspired creation. (10/10)

22) Cursed Holy Castle (Written by Mac_Tear)

Another of those frightening themes. The strings sound really great in here, the military percussion sounds foreboding, and the weird sound/synth effects do their part. However, all in all it's an unmelodic and unmemorable track, which may be better fitting into a scene instead of background music for an dungeon (Inverted Catacombs, etc.). I'm not a big fan of stuff like this really. (7/10)

23) Evil Banquet (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is the Succubus battle theme, and the style is quiet similar to the Succubus battle theme from Lament of Innocence, which I prefer more than this, because it has more power and better melodies and sound quality. The opera-like haunting female vocals really give this track an immense atmosphere, and the foreboding instrumentation with strings and piano fits perfectly. At 0:44 the piece really reaches an climax with pumping percussion and vocals before it loops again. Great experimental work! (9/10)

24) Awakened Soul (Written by Chris)

It takes some time to get going, but once it does, "Awakened Soul" ends up being one of the most catchy additions to the soundtrack. Yamane offers a light techno bassline for a jazz fusion guitar to play over. She decorates it with a whole variety of other interspersed Castlevania-esque features from rich strings to brass jibes to vocal chants to harpsichord decoration. At 1:41, it finally moves from its repeated first section to its especially catchy development. Based its groove and use of novelty features, it seems the piece was inspired by Perfect Selection Dracula's "Beginning", but, fear not, there are no random vocals. The result is a bit cringe-worthy, but catchy and different enough to be a welcome addition to the soundtrack. (8/10)

25) Young Nobleman of Sadness (Written by Don)

"Young Nobleman of Sadness" is a nice mix between rock and orchestra. While the focus of the melody relies on the electric guitar, I find the track survives as a whole because of the orchestrated accompaniment. At times, it shifts to the melodic section, while at others, it works to create fitting background for the electric guitar. To me, this is one of my favorite area themes (I may be mistaken) due to the fact that everything about the piece is captivating. Definitely a thumbs way up from Ebert and Roeper, and myself, for this stunning addition to the soundtrack. (10/10)

26) Door to the Abyss (Written by Don)

This piece is a very dark and ambient piece and contrasts to a lot of what is on this album. The addition of the flute motifs and the urgent sound of the piano at times makes for a very nice development. Even though this piece doesn't have a solid melody per se, the sum of all parts, such as the creepy sound effects and the interesting use of each instrument, makes for a solid piece of music on the whole. (8/10)

27) Door to the Heavens (Written by Mac_Tear)

Well, there is actually nothing heavenly about this piece, used in the Castle Keep stage. It starts off with some deep violins and high strings and, after that, the beat sets in, accompanied by an harsh piano motif, some strings, and various sound effects in the background. At the one minute mark an organ joins into, giving the track the typical Castlevania atmosphere. The overall feeling is very foreboding and sinister. The piece is not bad, and works in game pretty fine but standalone it's not that great. (8/10)

28) The Ballad of Death (Written by Mac_Tear)

Another boss battle theme, but unlike "Our Festival", this is a symphonic theme. It uses pumping percussion and clashes, accompanied by flutes and epic strings and horns. The tracks sounds really epic and used rich instrumentation, however the melody is really repetitive and the track is rather short, so it doesn't develop a lot. It's one of the more unusual battle tracks from Yamane, but it works fine. (8/10)

29) Strange Bloodline (Written by Mac_Tear)

This is the battle theme used during the fight with Richter Belmont, which serves as an unoffical character theme for him as well. It's a remix of the first stage theme from Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. The subsequent Castlevania 64 uses the string melody in its "Introduction ~ Bloodlines" with an beautiful violin incarnation and the newly released Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has a piece called "Bloodlines Bequeathed" which is a remix of this popular theme too. But now to the track itself.

The track stands out of all battle themes from this soundtrack, because of it's heavy use of synth melodies and percussion. After the grand introduction, some synth arpeggios and distorted synth melodies play in the background and at 0:27 the beautiful main melody in form of strings sets in, which developes a little more from 0:55 until 1:18, then after some time the track starts to loop. All I can say is that Ms. Yamane has created a perfect fitting theme for a decisive battle against an important person. Not an masterpiece, but it's worthy to listen in game and on CD! (9/10)

30) Transformation No. 2 (Written by Don)

This rendition of "Transformation" focuses heavily on dramatic choral accents and eerie instrumentals. It's a very strong track for being so short, but only serves to move along the game, rather than to stand out in any meaningful way. (8/10)

31) Final Toccata (Written by TheShroud13)

"Final Toccata" is a piece that I love and loathe. On the one hand, the overall structure of "Final Toccata" is quite nice. It is very a very simple Intro||:A B A' B' A'' B'':|| binary structure, however it is made more interesting by a couple nice decisions. For one, the B' section is much longer than the original B section. While the original B section was only 23 seconds long, B' is almost a minute. This creates a great sense of drama as we await the return of the A section, which seems very late (it also ends up creating boredom, but not because of the actual structure).

A more noticeable, and particularly effective, aspect of the overall structure is that the whole piece is a crescendo. The piece starts off with a bombastic intro which leads into the quieter and moodier A section. The section builds on itself toward the end, adding women's voices on the up-beat to augment the men's voices on the down-beat. The B section then fills out the sound with thicker, sustained chords and a little percussion running around in the background. The piece then returns to the A section, adding the percussion from the B section and further building by having the women's voices ascend.

This leads into a lengthened version of the B section which adds strings using the rhythmic motive that was introduced earlier in the percussion. This leads into a repetition of the A section with a drum kit playing a relatively steady rock rhythm. Finally the B section returns as we last visited it, this time with the drum kit hanging around. The drums this time are much more aggressive, and as the loop point draws near, the drums cease playing time-keeping patterns and switch over to thunderous tom runs. This all calls to mind the piece's bombastic opening, but exceeds it in energy, and carries with it an air of finality, even though the piece loops out of necessity.

Unfortunately, for all of the nuance in its structure, "Final Toccata" ends up boring me. Although the piece, as a whole, is well structured and dynamic, its parts are much too static, partially due to the length of the sections. The A section alone is just barely short of a minute in length. This wouldn't be a problem, except that nothing really happens over the course of that minute. The organ establishes its compound melody and then just keeps doing it. The men's voices establish their on-the beat 'melody', which often will repeat notes four or five times (at a slow tempo mind you) before moving to a new pitch. When the women's voices arrive, barely anything changes. They just do what the men do, only on off beats and at a different location in the harmony.

The harmonies in the A section are generally very static as well. The piece will sit on one harmony for a long time, subtly move to another chord, maybe throw a little dissonance here or there for effect (which really don't have that much of an effect because there are so few pitches played at the same time), and then finally move to a cadence as the section comes to a close.

The B section is much more interesting. The harmonies move more, and have more direction to them as well. Unfortunately, a lack of any really memorable melodic idea really makes the section feel more like transitional material than an actual dedicated section of the piece. This works fine the first time the section shows up, but the second, expanded, time drags a lot. It's final rendition is, however, very exciting.

So ultimately, I think there's more bad than good to this piece. The last one and a half minutes are exceptional, and the structure has a degree of nuance that I wish more game music had. However, the lack of really strong melodic or even motivic ideas in the first half of the piece pulls it down, and the overlong and underdramatic A section really drags. (5/10)

32) Black Feast (Written by Mac_Tear)

This track serves as the Final Battle theme and it's truly the weakest of all battle themes we heard before. It's not bad, but it could be so much more if it were more developed. The melody is rather uninspired and the harsh trombones / brass, whatever in the background gets on the nerves after a while. Even the choir which enters after the one minute mark doesn't help to create a climax atmosphere. Only at the end of the track does it get more power, but then it sadly it loops. I personally enjoyed the other battle themes a lot more than this, so there's nothing more to say here. (7/10)

33) Transformation No. 3 (Written by Mac_Tear)

This plays during the final FMV where the Castle disappears in a ray of light. The track fits the mood of the video perfectly; if you saw it you'll understand what I mean. If not, you may go to YouTube and watch it. It starts off ominously with dark strings and an soft and lonely harp melody, then after a while the strings and harp play an beautiful section, where the light appears, which encases the Castle. After that an solo harp plays during the end, which is an rather mysterious, but uninspired way to end the track. But all in all it fits perfectly and is worthy to listen, even if it's short. (8/10)

34) I am the Wind (Written by Bryan)

OK, you've finally beaten one of the greatest Castlevania games and expect some killer music to be playing that fits what you've heard while playing the game, right? Eh, this may disappoint you. What we ARE treated to is a slow piano/saxophone/vocal piece. While I believe this is the WORST ending theme for a Castlevania game, I do enjoy the piece quite well outside of the game. The lead vocalist isn't very good, but the saxophone TOTALLY makes up for it. The solo that begins at 3:03 is great, although a bit short. This is ultimate "cheese" in the eyes of most avid VGM listeners, especially for this genre of games. Take the game out of it though and it stands alright on its own. (7/10)


Written by Chris

I'm not wildly enthusiastic about Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's soundtracks, but that's not because it has many significant weaknesses. Rather, I find the dark neo-baroque elements of Michiru Yamane's Castlevania soundtracks in general a little tiresome en masse. In terms of individual pieces, though, there are numerous classics here hence why I revisit it more than most other Castlevania soundtracks. I felt Yamane did a good job bringing Castlevania to 32-bit consoles, using technologically exuberantly and maintaining Castlevania's classic sound while creating something more diverse, profound, and atmospheric. Great job. I just don't like Castlevania as much as some people. (8/10)

Written by Don

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is an interesting album that truly fits the environs that you traverse as well as fit the standard Castlevania fare, barring a few exceptions. There is a nice balance between the variety of tracks offered, and they all stand out in their own way. It's truly a listening experience, and while not perfect, definitely deserves to be considered one of Castlevania's finest additions, in both game and soundtrack alike. (9/10)

Written by Rain

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a masterpiece. The themes indeed all have their own substance and yet our weaved together like an ethereal musical tapestry. It is indeed one of Castlevania's finest (if not THE finest) and is a welcome addition to a long and illustrious musical tradition that is Castlevania. (10/10)

Average of Summary Scores: 9/10