Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Midweek Music Box: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

What I'm about to say may seem like heresy to some, but here goes:

When I first hear it, I didn't like the music from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Yes, yes I know--disliking the music made me miserable little pile of secrets. 

See here's the thing, I had ridiculously  high expectations--and precise ones--of what the music should sound like. I was so enthralled with the haunting orchestral music from Castlevania 64 that I was sure the music in Symphony of the Night would feature even more of that. So when I started the game and the first musical track was rock-and-roll style music, I was more than a little mad. What had they done to my beloved Castlevania? Where were the violins and slowly played pianos? Where was the melancholy? Why's there a synthesizer? Why are there drums? Why does the load screen after I die take so darn long?

Okay, that last one isn't really music related, but I can't help but think of it every time I play or talk about this game. Listening to that initial intro music, I admit I was more than a little crushed:

"Dracula's Castle Theme"

I wanted big, bombastic, and just a hint of spookiness thrown in. How in the world could you ever hope to achieve that on a synthesizer with fake drums as back up? Gad, I nitpicked this particular track to death back in the day. I played on though, because it was a Castlevania game and to simply shirk it because I was annoyed at the music was a no go. Funny thing, the more I played the game, the more the initial "Dracula's Castle" music grew on me. I think it was because as I played, I realized that the game had a totally different tone from the prior installments, and most definitely was different from the Nintendo 64 version. I know, I know; there's likely a million and a half criticisms we could talk about with the 64's version of the beloved classic, but let's stick to one game and its music for the time being.  What I found when playing was that not only was there more varied music in the game, but the composer didn't just use a synthesizer and make some action-y music, there were some genuinely creepy tunes in Symphony of the Night; tunes like "The Door to the Abyss":

"The Door to the Abyss"

A few simple high-note piano hits and ethereal sounds, and I was on the edge of my seat.  I guess though when I learned that I had really fallen in love with the music happened towards the end of the game when composer Michiru Yamane finally cracked out the emphatic harpsichord music. Gad, the harpsichord! It was gets me every time! When it comes to instilling Castlevania with that tell-tale sense of foreboding and adventure leading up to that inevitable confrontation between you and Dracula--look no further than the harpsichord.  Funny thing though, with the "Final Toccata" you got a mix of harpsichord, synthesizer, ethereal tones, a bit of rock, and a finally, finally that big orchestra sound I so wanted and needed--it all came together to create that fantastic Castlevania-vibe we all know and love:

"Final Toccata"

In the end, I wasn't just won over. I love this music and play it at least once a month, after all, how could I not love Castlevania music? 

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