Goon Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse Soundtrack

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Rock on, Ho-rror Ho-mies! 😉 xo)

Even though Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest wasn’t a hit with the fans, Konami still made a sequel, but decided to bring it back to its original roots and becoming more of the simple side-scrolling game that the first Castlevania was. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse wasn’t just a retread. Not only was it a prequel to the first game, taking place centuries before those events, it also offered the player the ability to switch between playable characters and also take branching paths during certain points in the game. That’s Konami for you. Well, the old Konami. Always thinking outside the box.

The music this time around was different, but still in the same spirit, if that makes sense. In Dracula’s Curse, the tone seems to be much darker and it lacks that poppy punch (that’s the best way that I can describe it) that Simon’s Quest had. I guess the idea was to make it seem more gothic horror, having a much more metallic tinge and slower pace. It certainly fits the image that would pop into your head when you think of Dracula; a dark, blue evening with a full moon reflecting on a thick fog that masks danger. However coming off of Simon’s Quest that arguably has the best score in the entire series, Dracula’s Curse seems to lack that action-hearted punch. Not to say that it’s bad or anything, I just enjoy Simon’s Quest more thoroughly. The soundtrack, not the game.

Mondo’s presentation of Dracula’s Curse, however, is not lacking. The original artwork from Sachin Teng is hypnotically eye catching, making your brain try and piece it all together. Another thing you’ll notice right away is that this soundtrack is spread across two 12″ 180 Gram LPs, one Famicom and the other NES. Both versions have the same 28 tracks (which, by the way, is amazing amount of tracks for an NES game), but once again just as with Simon’s Quest, the Famicom version has a much more rustic sound than the NES version and for this soundtrack, I actually prefer the Famicom version. I feel like it has a much more gothic horror and atmospheric sound and it fits what I feel the game was trying to accomplish. Having said that, I do like the NES version of Stage 01, Beginning and Stage 06, Demon Seed better. Both have a higher energy that their Famicom counterparts don’t seem to have and those are some jazzy, energetic tracks. Konami Kukeiha Club once again did a fantastic job capturing a nightmarish batch of tunes perfectly fitting for a Castlevania game.

The records themselves are really beautiful too. The vinyls I received are orange with some black splatter all over them with tinges of white or silver here and there. There is a variant for you collectors out there, disc one is Trevor Bronze and Alucard Black and disc two is Grant Maroon and Sypha Blue. I haven’t seen those for myself, but I can imagine they are quite a sight to behold.

There’s no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania series than with these Mondo soundtracks. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse goes for $30 and while the split colored version is sold out, the orange with black splatter is still available, so get it while it’s hot.

 

Vinyl Review: Contra III: The Alien Wars

(Submited by Mr. Andrews Peters…Thank you, ho-rror ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

The first Contra game released on the NES in 1987 was a huge hit and defined what we now know as side-scrolling shooting. Other games came along and tried to copy what it did, but they never got right what Contra did. It seems they could never get the simple controls, great imagery giving nod to action films of the Schwarzenegger and Stallone flicks, as well as HR Giger’s art and kick ass soundtrack that made the game so amazing. Sequels came and occasionally they would try something different, but always remained true to outstanding gameplay and soundtracks.

Mondo, who has been releasing some great video game soundtracks, like the Castlevania series and previous Contra titles, has just released Contra III: The Alien Wars to vinyl, moving up to the 16-bit era now and it is just as glorious as I remember it. And for some reason, 16-bit music sounds so fitting on vinyl to me. It must be that it brings me back to playing through this game during a summer when I was a young kid in Kansas. I remember it being around midnight and the aliens always creeped me out, but the music kept me going. It’s somewhat unlike the original game’s score, being a little more atmospheric, but at the same time it remains true to the fast drums, stinging synth military/action sound we’ve grown to love.

You can always count on Mondo to deliver some seriously talented art. Paul Mann depicts the classic red and blue clad Contra heroes, one looking concerned, the other with his war face is full on mad dog mode, in front of an explosion with a skull with beady eyes looming over it all. The bright and neon colors not only represent the ‘90s, but also how colorful the game is. When you open it to reveal the inside artwork, the war rages on with a full out action collage featuring aliens, robots, flying demons, helicopters, a city on fire… holy hell, this thing has a lot going on and with this single image, represents everything you love about this game.

The orchestrated score by Konami Kukeiha Club sounds magnificent on this 180 Gram Red & Blue Half & Half Camouflage, which I think is a nice tough as it represents the classic colors of Player 1 and Player 2. There is a blood splattered variant on white, so keep your eye out for that one. The tracks loop seamlessly, so it doesn’t feel like a short amount of notes being repeated tirelessly. If anything, the music is chaotic and full of energy that it’s sure to make your blood rush. The composers were taking full advantage of the Super Nintendo’s 16-bit capabilities and making it a much more dynamic score while remaining true to what the original started.

Aside from the first game, Contra III: The Alien Wars is my favorite soundtrack in the series and I’m so happy that Mondo has done it such great justice. Whether you’re a fan of the game or a fan of action/sci-fi soundtracks, I would highly recommend grabbing this one. It’s only $25 and can be picked up from Mondo’s store.

Goon Review: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest Soundtrack

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, ya big Goon! 😉 xoxo)

Castlevania without a doubt holds a place in video game history. It had some solid gameplay, cool tunes and it was creepy, plus what kid didn’t want to fight monsters, like Dracula? It help shape the side scrolling platformer and many would come to imitate it. Castlevania’s sequel, Simon’s Quest, however, is a totally different story. Although it was still the same side scrolling platforming style as the original, it tried to add some RPG elements to the game that didn’t mesh well and players were forced to wander back and forth between towns, farming for hearts. This was to pad out the length of the game and boy, did it feel like it. The game also confused gamers by adding cryptic text from villagers that were supposed to be hints at what to do next, except they made no sense and gamers were lost. Remember having to equip the red crystal and kneeling next to a wall for five seconds to make a tornado appear and then you could continue the game? Of course you do now, but the game never told you that!

Okay, so it wasn’t the best game. Or very well liked by fans. Or very well liked by critics for that matter either. But if there is one thing everyone universally agrees on, it’s that the soundtrack was – and still is – amazing. Arguably, it’s still one of the best out there and has some of the most iconic and memorable tracks by Konami Kukeiha Club. Having ventured from horror and sci-fi soundtracks over to video games, Mondo has “whipped” up a stellar release of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest on vinyl that’s worthy of any vampire slayer.

Being a company that loves and respects art, Mondo never skips on the presentation. First impressions and all, you know. Eric Powell’s artwork is an astonishing way to catch someone’s attention with Simon fighting a legion of skeletons. Kinda reminds me a Ray Harryhausen film. Behind him is a twisted path that leads up to Castlevania with skelefied version of Dracula over a full moon. Gotta hand it to Eric Powell there for capturing how Dracula looks in the game, since some people forget that he kinda looks like Death himself. Overall, it’s a perfect image that captures the good aspects of the game in one look. The backside is a werewolf beginning to reach out for you and I have to admit that it reminds me of old Nintendo Power Magazine images, which makes this packaging feel totally nostalgic. Once you open it, you’ll find the map of the whole world from Simon’s Quest with nothing labeled, like it’s something hand drawn… which it is, so this makes total sense. The vinyl itself is pressed on blue vinyl with green splatter, giving it a groovy effect.

Rather than split up the tracks on both sides, Mondo has done something unique that I am sure collectors and fans alike appreciate; Side A of the record presents the NES version of the soundtrack and Side B is the Famicom version of the soundtrack. For those of you who don’t know, the Famicom is the Japanese version of the NES and although both sides have the same nine tracks in the same order, the sound of them is different. The NES version sounds more rock/poppy (as much as 8-bit can) whereas the Famicom version sounds more rustic, like something you would expect an old vampire film to have. The Famicom version certainly fits the mood more and can create a haunting atmosphere (which I do love), I often prefer the NES version. Maybe it’s because that’s what I grew up with or certain tracks like the popular Bloody Tears sounds fantastic when it’s got more kick and gets you all energetic.

Listening to the whole album is like a quick walk through the game itself without all the backtracking and farming and it actually made me remember the parts of the game that I actually liked. It even made me feel that sensation of accomplishment when you finally figured out what to do next and continued further. I even found myself bobbing my head and tapping my foot to the tracks as it progressed and I continuously flipped the record over and over and replaying it for long periods of a time, because the soundtrack is that good and everlasting. Kinda like Dracula himself. It’s kind of a short experience, but video game music wasn’t that long to begin with. It was usually a short amount of music looped, but when it’s this good, you really don’t mind going back and playing it again. You can purchase the soundtrack at the Mondo site for only 20 hearts… I mean, dollars.