Game Music, Gear, Reviews

Mondo of Blood – Castlevania Rondo of Blood & Symphony of the Night OST Vinyl Review

November 16, 2018 | | 2 Comments Share thison Facebook Mondo of Blood – Castlevania Rondo of Blood & Symphony of the Night OST Vinyl Reviewon Twitter

[Disclaimer: I received copies of both of these vinyls from Mondo specifically for review purposes.]

I’ve admittedly had a lot of opinions on the Mondo releases of the various Castlevania soundtracks on vinyl LP, but until now had not gotten the chance to do an in-depth review of any of them. Mostly I never reached out because I assumed my bias towards the franchise music would make my opinions too cynical, and it wouldn’t be fair. However, after four previous vinyl releases from Mondo for the series, and the announcement of both soundtracks to Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night, I figured that perhaps now was the time to offer my critique.

The soundtracks from both games are held in high regard both with fans of the series and casual gamers alike. While far more have played through Castlevania Symphony of the Night than they have Rondo of Blood due to the latter’s limited release in the states via ports, the soundtracks for both offer different things while still bringing depth to the history of Castlevania music.

So, how do these releases stack up; both as individual offerings as well as compared to the other Mondo releases in the series?

I will review each game’s soundtrack separately to get the most out of them as individual releases.

Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood / Dracula X – Original Video Game Soundtrack 2XLP

Akumajou Dracula: Chi no Rondo (Demon Castle Dracula: Rondo of Blood) was released on the PC Engine in Japan in 1993 and was a rare jewel of the Castlevania series until it was ported to North America over 25 years later on the Wii Virtual Console and PSP. Its soundtrack was released under the ubiquitous Konami Kukeiha Club catch-all credits, though sources report that composers Akira Sōji (Snatcher), Keizo Nakamura (Akumajou Dracula X68000, Snatcher) Tomoko Sano and Mikio Saito all contributed to the game’s music. The soundtrack is known for its upbeat and pop-like tracks; a stark departure from the previous series entry Super Castlevania IV‘s more ambient music. This change in musical style reflected well in Rondo’s art style shift to a more anime-looking motif. Much of the game’s soundtrack would later be used in the semi-remake/quasi-sequal release Castlevania: Dracula X on the SNES.

In terms of the vinyl release, I’ll start with the artwork. The cover of the vinyl, done by Oliver Barrett, is one of Mondo’s better Castlevania offerings in my opinion. The focus of the artwork is on key things within the Castlevania series; the hero, the castle, and the enemies. All three of these elements are given almost equal share of the front art, with both Richter Belmont being the center focus with the vampire castle looming in the background beyond him like a specter and several skeletons clawing at Richter from the bottom peripheries. The color contrast is perfect, using complimentary reds/oranges and dark blues, and the entire scene honestly does look a little like the opening cinematic in Rondo with Richter battling the bony undead. The inner liner art also leans heavily towards the anime-like style used in the game and featuring Richter and Maria Renard both fighting actual enemies from the game (Like the game bosses, and even the frogs, goddamn them). This honestly might be the most faithful art I’ve seen of the Mondo releases and I applaud Oliver Barrett for his design choices. The blue-splatter/red-splatter for the records themselves do well in terms of complimenting the color theme of the artwork as well.

The 2xLP features the soundtracks to both Rondo of Blood and Dracula X both, one per LP. This was a bit of a treat, as while the games might share a lot of tracks, they are distinctly different sounding due to the different sound chips for the PC Engine and SNES respectively. For the vinyl release it’s no different. Players of both games have their own personal preferences towards the soundtrack of either Rondo of Blood or Dracula X depending on what sound chip you prefer. Regardless of which version you lean towards, both offer quality comparable to the in-game sound. You can clearly hear every channel used in each track, and the bass of Rondo is particularly notable as I listening with headphones. Tracks like Rondo’s “Picture of a Ghost Ship” and “Cemetery” stand out with boomy undertones, and the secondary melody of”Opposing Bloodlines” doesn’t seem hidden or muffled. Whether this is an improvement due to the mixing for the album or simply that these soundtracks translate well to vinyl is just a guess, but it results in quality for this release.

Overall I’d like to say that the Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood / Dracula X – Original Video Game Soundtrack 2XLP is, in my opinion, Mondo’s best release of the Castlevania vinyls they’ve covered so far. Both the sound quality and the artwork quality (and direction) is top notch and does justice to the game’s soundtrack. I would recommend it for any fan of VGM vinyl to add to their collection. You can pick it up from Mondo for $35USD.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Original Video Game Soundtrack 2XLP

The Castlevania series was changed in a  big way with the introduction of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in 1997 for the Sony Playstation. During a time when game developers were attempting to transition to 3D graphics, SotN kept with its 2D sprite-based roots, and instead decided to simple expand the game to a size and scope that would make it the largest Castlevania game to that point. Likewise, the music of the game was enhanced due to the improved capacity of the Playstation’s sound card, and Michiru Yamane, who’d previously worked on Castlevania Bloodlines, was brought in as the primary composer for the game. Yamane constructed a massive soundtrack for Symphony, featuring a variety of styles that spanned over the game’s two castles. The game and music both were and still are highly regarded as some of the best on the Playstation and in the series as a whole, and brought a new cache of gamers to the Castlevania franchise.

The Mondo vinyl release leaves much to be desired in terms of its artwork. When Symphony of the Night was released, it brought newcomer Ayami Kojima to create a very Victorian gothic style with manga accents for the characters and the game’s cover artwork both; a style that she would use through several subsequent CV releases. Artist Jasmin Darnell was used for the SotN vinyl release, and while she attempts to mimic Kojima’s style, it falls short in my opinion. The front cover of the album is dull, featuring only a portrait of Alucard against a faded burnt-paper background with a small vision of the eponymous castle over his shoulder. There is no other details to help accentuate the cover, nor the inner liner artwork and back covers which have matching portraits of Richter, Maria and Dracula against the same background. This comes off as woefully un-dynamic and unexciting; a complete contrast to the Rondo of Blood vinyl artwork. The portraits also attempt to take from Kojima’s style, but Alucard in particular comes off looking pouty and mopey rather than intimidating or heroic in any way, and Richter on the inner liner even moreso. I’m not a fan of the bone and silver swirl of the records themselves as they don’t seem to fit the scheme of the cover art, but that’s a minor nitpick.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t call Mondo out on its unprofessional editing. Right before launch, a fellow vinyl fan (thank you, JMR) pointed out that the webpage had images of the full track list for the vinyl and that, in a preview image, side D of the second LP (which features tracks from the Sega Saturn release of Symphony of the Night) had one of the tracks titled “Bloody Rears Remix 2”. This of course is a humorous typo of “Bloody Tears” which had two arrangements in the Saturn SotN release. While Mondo seems to have changed the typo on their web page, the fix did not make it to the physical distribution release; and is in fact reflected not once, but twice (see below). The fact this typo was made at all is laughable enough, but that it’s made on the second iteration when “Bloody Tears Remix 1” does not have the typo is baffling and unfortunately is just another example of how Mondo’s quality control and care with these releases has been consistently questionable. (After the first release was found out to be a simple rip from a 90’s CD release of the first game’s music, complete with added sound effects from the CD album)

Now that my criticism of the art and typography is underfoot, let’s go into how the music stacks up. As I stated before, the 2xLP features the music from the Playstation release of SotN, as well as the additional tracks used in the Japan-only Saturn release of the game (named Akumajo Dracula X: Gekka no Yasokyoku, or Demon Castle Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight). Now, only some of these tracks have been featured on this vinyl. Mondo had the misfortune to not include my favorite of the Nocturne tracks, “Chaconne C’Moll” that plays in one of the expanded areas, the Cursed Prison. This may have been a matter of space restrictions on the vinyl, though I’m apt to criticize the choice to omit that track over “Beginning Remix 2”, which was a track that was not used in the main game at all. I am glad they included “Guardian” at the very least, which is the battle music during your fight against Maria in Nocturne and sadly left out of the PSP port and therefore Requiem as well as it’s a fantastic Maria theme.

The sound of the music overall is comparable to CD quality. Listening to it immediately following Rondo, I made note that it sounded slightly muffled in comparison to the deep bass of its PC Engine prequel, although comparing it to a quick listen through of my physical copy of the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Original Game Soundtrack CD album reveals it’s simply a quality difference between the PC Engine and Playstation (which could be a whole other article review for the future). The songs sound comparable to listening to them via your Playstation and that’s really all I could hope for. I will give Mondo additional credit for being the first soundtrack release to include the Saturn Nocturne tracks (well, most of them), as no previously released album included them all (the Akumajo Dracula Best Music Collection Box released in 2010 only included one version of “Bloody Tears” and one version of “Beginning” from Nocturne).

As a whole, the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Original Video Game Soundtrack 2XLP is a bit of a disappointment for me personally, but not a horrible offering. It covers the whole SotN soundtrack perfectly well and has a few extra goodies from the Saturn game to entice fans who may not be as familiar with that version’s music, despite not being a complete catalogue. The artwork is lacking in depth in my opinion and there are some editing issues (seriously, “Bloody Rears”, I don’t mean to be anal but that’s some buttom-tier mess-up), but as a whole it’s not the worst of Mondo’s library of Castlevania soundtracks and I could recommend it to fans of the game who aren’t as fussy as I am.


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