Castlevania Judgment – “Vampire Killer” (Yasushi Asada)March 26, 2010
This week, Konami released the Castlevania Best Music Collections BOX, a set of 18 (!) CDs and one DVD chronicling the musical history of the Castlevania series. Given this large collection, I am designating the next seven Dailies as Castlevania week where I will add another seven tracks from the series I haven’t covered already. Today’s is the most famous Castlevania song (aside from “Beginning”), “Vampire Killer”. “Vampire Killer” originated in the original Castlevania (1986) for the NES as well as the MSX game Vampire Killer (1986; loosely based off Castlevania). The original was composed by Kuniyo Yamashita (King Kong 2, Mega Man X3). The track has since appeared in nearly every other game in the series in some form or other (I lost count at ten arranges), but I happen to think the version from Castlevania Judgment (2009) to be the best. It was arranged by Yasushi Asada of Noisycroak. Here is the original for comparison.
While many people (including myself) disliked the new character designs and concept behind Judgment, Yasushi Asada’s (Tales of the Abyss) guitar arrange of the classic tune is probably the best version out there – and that’s saying quite a bit. The track is full of power and energy while remaining faithful to the source material. The flourishes of the guitar express pure joy of the melody and the attitude required to go out and hunt vampires for a living. The strings, organs, and choir used for the middle section communicate the grave dangers involved in exploring a haunted castle to slay the undead from zombies rising from the floor to pitfalls and man-eating cats. Though the original tune was only about 40 seconds in length, Asada’s new material at about 1:00 fits perfectly with the original melody, beefing up what would otherwise be a short tune. To learn more, check Mr. Asada’s excellent interview with Gamasutra about his work on the soundtrack.
Due to the song’s popularity, “Vampire Killer” has been remixed many times. Some excellent versions include:
- Dracula X: Rondo of Blood (1993) for the PC Engine, included a wonderful break after the first loop, bringing a smile of pleasant surprise to longtime listeners. Its inclusion of “Stalker” breathed some much-needed life into the aging track.
- AmIEvil’s mix from OCR is a fun take on the song, implementing actual whip sound effects before segueing into “Poison Mind”, the boss theme, and “Stalker”.
- Super Castlevania 4 (1992) feels the most gothic out of all of them and fits nicely with the Headless Horseman-esque Dullahan that stalk the castle tower in the entrance to the final stage.
- Dracula X: Nocturne in the Moonlight (1998) for the Sega Saturn has a great technogothic dance mix perfect for that Halloween party.
Lastly, a few words about the lovely Kuniyo Yamashita, composer of most of the Castlevania soundtrack. Though the only game in the series she composed for was Castlevania, she is still composing music today. Here homepage is in both English and Japanese, which makes it a real treat! I’m a little at a loss because her favorite tune from the game is “Wicked Child” – so perhaps I should do this as an 8-Bit Monday. The original songs were composed on a keyboard; her boss listened to the music and decided if it sounded ok; if it did, she would code the music. Ironically, she returned to vampire hunting music with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King for the GBA (2003). Nearly a decade later, another woman would take the helm of the Castlevania soundtrack, Michiru Yamane, whose work has since become synonymous with the series. She seems to have finished her work with the series for now after composing a set of remixes specifically for the box set. These should be available on iTunes in the US.