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Castlevania Week: Dracula Battle: Perfect Selection II (Review)

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In the early-to-mid ’90s, Konami was having a good ol’ time with the Castlevania franchise. The likes of Super Castlevania IV, Rondo of Blood and Bloodlines ensured that the series stayed firmly within the limelight. The result of this was a slew of off-shoot arranged albums meant to celebrate one of the most iconic details of the series – its music.

Naoto Shibata and his merry band, Naoto Shibata PROJECT, hit the ball out of the park with the rock/metal-infused Dracula Battle: Perfect Selection album in 1994. Who could go wrong with doing a rock album using music from a series originally based on cheesy classic B-horror movies and a Conan-clone walking around bare-legged with a whip?

Evidently the answer to that was “Who the hell cares, we’re doing a Castlevania rock album, so piss off.”, because not only was there a market for Dracula Battle, it ended up spawning a another album: Dracula Battle: Perfect Selection II. (The producers hadn’t gotten to the point of elaborate naming schemes yet, thought “Dracula Battle: The Serenade of Melodious Metal Part 2” might not have been the way to go either)

And thus, in the year of our lord 1995, a sequel was born.

The album pretty much takes off exactly where the first Dracula Battle album left off, which was on a relatively awesome note. The same style of rock/metal with melodic undertones, though some variation is made depending on the song being covered and the direction Shibata decided to take it in. It seems this album, however, decided to stray away from the NES titles in terms of source tunes, and instead focused on the titles from the Gameboy and the one-shot console releases from later in the Classicvania line of titles.

Rondo of Blood/Dracula X gets a great deal of representation on this album. “Beginning” gets another go by way of its Rondo incarnation, with slightly more intensity than its Dracula’s Curse brother, complete with break-down halfway through. I have to say it’s my favored of the two flavors. “The Den” does well by means of the electronic keyboard samples that sound similar to the ones used in-game and might just invoke images of crossing the iconic collapsing bridge to the clockt ower with blaring guitars urging you on. Then there’s the ever-intense theme that’s become most associated with final fights with Big Daddy Drac, “Dance of Illusions,” which keeps the main melody of the original tune, but takes some liberties with a raging guitar solo and some original spins for interesting twist that does well to preserve the fervor of the fight with the Lord of Vampires.

There’s also some more makeovers of Castlevania Bloodlines tracks. “Iron Blue Intention,” a favorite song from the game, gets a pretty big overall that masks a lot of the original source. This isn’t a bad thing per say, as it’s still well done and does the rest of the album proud. However it probably won’t mesh well with those looking for more faithful arrangements. However, “Reincarnated Soul” will win those few people back over, as it remains both faithful and takes it to 11, also rocking synth organs that sound close to those used in the game for that extra touch.

This album was classy enough to include tunes from the Akumajo Dracula x68000 game, which was yet another re-telling of the original but with different levels and music. “Thrashard in the Cave” easily became a song most easily associated with the game, for the reason that it drops right in its title – thrashing melody around with fast tempo and charged beats. The Dracula Battle II version really didn’t need to do much to improve this already fantastically intense tune, but did so anyway and came away with a solid piece of arrangement. The x68000 version of the Super Castlevania IV  iconic “Theme of Simon” is one of my favorites of this album, and I can’t say anything other than, well, it’s Theme of Goddamn Simon.

Probably my overall favorite of this album is “In The Cave” from Super Castlevania IV. What this track does is take a relatively creepy and subtle tune, and turn it on its head into and incredibly energetic re-imagining that really show off what Shibata can do and that he really had a passion for this album. I can’t help but respect the hell out of that, and really get into the track itself.

The Game Boy titles are also represented yet again, this time with Castlevania Adventure‘s “Theme of the Legend of Dracula.” Sadly, this track lacks the depth that the rest of this album and the one before it managed to keep congruent through the whole thing. It’s a nice, emotional little tune, but it falls short of being anything able to relate to the rest of the tracks and seems like the odd-duck. Thankfully, Belmont’s Revenge‘s “Road to the Enemy” does manage mesh with everything else and outclass its Game Boy cousin-track.

Dracula Battle: Perfect Selection picks up with the first rendition left off, and continues to capture the same essence of ferocity and power that made its predecessor so great and even in some places improves on it. Sadly, there was never a third Dracula Battle album released, and like its brother album, it remains mostly a well-kept secret among Castlevania fans. It’s too bad, since I think its influence could improve certain recent games that I believe lacked a lot of the power of its prime-universe ancestor-games.

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