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Game Soundtracks for Your Soul: Bonus Level

April 24, 2015 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Game Soundtracks for Your Soul: Bonus Levelon Twitter

Ryan started Game Soundstracks for Your Soul; this little series of looking back at game soundtracks that go beyond mere admiration, but actually invoke powerful emotions and feelings and sing to the soul of the listener. Reading his articles, I knew exactly which game music soundtrack completely puts me into a serene trance every time I listen to it: Super Castlevania IV.

A bit of story to preface; I initially didn’t like Super Castlevania IV‘s music at all. Growing up with a Sega Genesis, and having some experience with original Nintendo, my exposure to what would become my favorite game series of all time was limited to Castlevania Bloodlines and the 3 NES titles. I didn’t get to really get into the nitty gritty of the series until the Gameboy Advance titles came out, and by then the musical stylings of Michiru Yamane were firmly engrained into my head. I didn’t get to play Super Castlevania IV until I was in my early 20s, and I recall having debates about the value of that game’s music. It was low, ambient and somber when I’d been used to more energetic and faster-paced tunes. I just couldn’t get into SCV4’s music at all, until years later when my musical horizons had expanded enough to truly appreciate the subtle beauty of the game’s music. Like the crack of a whip, I suddenly found the appeal and majesty behind the game’s soundtrack, and that appeal just grew more intense the more I took the time to really appreciate the older Castlevania titles I hadn’t had access to in the younger days.

Whew. Long story short, this truly was an instance of pulling a complete 180 on my feelings towards a game’s music; going from something I scoffed at to my favorite game soundtrack of the franchise.

Super Castlevania IV‘s music is a very unique break from what came before it, and certainly what came after it. Composed by Masanori Adachi (Contra III: The Alien Wars) and Taro Kudo (Axelay, credited in SCV4 as “Souji Taro”), the game’s soundtrack was far more rhythm-heavy and ambient as opposed to the catchy adventuring bleeps of Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse and the pop-inspired and upbeat Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood, which SCV4 was sandwiched between.

Dracula’s Theme” – Super Castlevania IV

 I suppose the best way to describe my sheer love of this game’s music has to do with actually taking the full story of the Belmont’s War with Dracula and weaving it into this grandiose sequence playing out in my head. The imagery meshing with the music kins of paints itself. From the beginning of the game with “Dracula’s Theme” leading into this morose detailing Simon’s approach to confront and slay the lord of vampires is perfectly captured. This segues into the determined beginning of the long journey through the castle with the ever-heroic “Theme of Simon”. I always thought these two tunes mirrored each other; the dreaded and the tragically macabre with the triumphant and empowering.

The rest of the game’s tunes just create this atmosphere that bounces between those two flavors. Melody will give way to rhythmic beats and strong percussion and then back again. My favorite tune of the game, the beat-heavy bass-y “Forest of Monsters” melts into the very simple melancholy of “The Cave” and “The Waterfalls” and then back into the morbid swing of “Clockwork Mansion”. It’s this interesting dynamic the soundtrack has within itself really is something I keep dissecting to this day.

Forest of Monsters” – Super Castlevania IV

Everything wraps within itself in this fascinating harmony. Even odder tracks like the upbeat “The Treasury” which reminds me of some of the music from Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, is somehow appropriate within the context of its level. The greatest thing about the OST  is that it all ends up coming full-circle by the end of the game during the final battle, with  “Dracula’s Theme” opening the dreaded fight and segueing into ‘Theme of Simon” halfway through to signal your almost within grasp of victory. No other Castlevania game has that dynamic about it, which just makes Super Castlevania IV‘s entire score stand out that much more as symbolic of struggle and triumph.

Sadly, it’s also one of the game’s whose soundtrack doesn’t pop up much otherwise. Certainly “Theme of Simon” has popped up in other Castlevania games since SCV4’s release in 1991, but it doesn’t get the same notoriety that the “Big 3” (“Vampire Killer”, “Bloody Tears”, “Beginning”). You can find some fantastic arrangements of SCV4’s music, such as “Whipcracker” by my friend Viking Guitar., that do make up for a lack of posterity for the rest of the game’s wonderful tracks.

To me, Super Castlevania IV‘s music just tugs at your imagination and can easily leave you daydreaming of vampire hunters, dank and decaying castles and horrid beasts to be slain within each of it’s tracks. That is what I believe the essence of a real soul-resonating soundtrack is all about.

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