The King of Dragons – “Hard Long” (Yoko Shimomura)April 13, 2010
Ok, two things about The King of Dragons (1994). “Hard Long” (aka “Treasure in an Old Castle!”) is probably not something you want to title your track for obvious reasons, so my guess is this is a translation error (more like a long, hard battle). Second, the version I picked is from the SNES version of the game over the arcade – I’m not sure who ported it, but this is another fun Yoko Shimomura soundtrack (despite what the ID3 tag says). Anyway, the goal of this game is to fight through a fantasy countryside to get to the giant Red Dragon at the top of the mountain and kill him. A good, solid show.
“Hard Long” has some nice liquid midi trumpets supported by bells and driven forward by a steady drum beat – that classic Capcom sound found in Mega Man, especially Mega Man 7 (though oddly enough, the drum sets and organs sound like they would belong in Castlevania). The track plays in “an old castle”, and so the trumpets playing in minor key with piano give a sense of nostalgia and the past amidst this dilapidated ruin, but also the heroic determination you’d expect from knights and wizards fighting their way past orcs. Many of the compositions in here are just begging for some remixes, but I haven’t been able to track any down.
The original arcade version was printed on Captain Commando -G.S.M. Capcom 5- (1991). The SNES version sounds a bit better than the arcade version, mainly due to its cleaner instruments. Don’t get me wrong – the arcade version has some fantastic sound samples for the time, but the small storage meant they had to be compressed and so have a kind of grating or staticky sound to them, like they’re coming from a well. Some of Shimomura’s drum samples and cymbal crashes (particularly for “Main Theme”) are stunning, and the sound effects are amazing (Capcom was nice and put tracks on their albums containing all the sfx from their games along with the music). But I prefer the SNES’s cleaner sound to that of the arcade.
Honestly, I didn’t know Yoko Shimomura composed this soundtrack. My connection with the game has been through my cousin, who brought the SNES version over each time he visited. King of Dragons is a combination of beat ‘em up and RPG – the more you fight, the stronger your characters get, and you pick up new weapons and armor at the end of each stage. In some ways, it’s a bit like Magic Sword. The game was a blast to play, with the campy monsters (ninjas in Dungeons and Dragons?) and difficulty that spawned all kinds of inside jokes. Of course, the kicker is the level up and new life SFX – “WOOAAAH!” Best warrior cry ever.