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Castlevania Chronicles – “Simon’s Theme” (arr. Sota Fujimori)

March 31, 2010

It’s hard for me to pick my favorite version of “Simon’s Theme”. This has to be my favorite track in the entire Castlevania series, even beating out some of Michiru Yamane’s work. The song really strikes a chord for me: it has a very strong melody, a deep gothic feel, and intense action. Regardless of how Simon Belmont looks in that silly leather kilt of his, there’s one thing that stands clear: he has the best damn theme of all the characters in the series. The original was composed for Super Castlevania IV (1991) by Masanori Oodachi and Soutarou Tojima (Metal Gear Solid 4, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness) as a launch title for the Super Nintendo. Though the instruments aren’t as high quality as some of Konami’s later work on the system, the compositions are absolutely amazing and definitely the most gothic in the series. Here is the “Prologue” that plays before the original version of the theme, off the Dracula Best 2 (1994). The minimalism of the introductory area provides the perfect atmospheric setup for “Simon’s Theme”, with its excellent organ, flute, and strings that ooze an amazing Halloween gothicness. The track plays at both the introductory level and in the final showdown with Dracula.

Castlevania Chronicles – “Simon’s Theme” (arr. Sota Fujimori)

Even though the arranged version in Castlevania Chronicles (2001) does not have the great gothic organs found in the original, it places stronger emphasis on the trumpets. Rock guitars are used for support and atmosphere, but the main melody is played out on these trumpets, which provide a wonderful sense of power and mastery – not only of the hero but also of his ability to overcome these terrible obstacles before him. The excellent drumset used here drives the theme forward in heart-pounding action. Unlike the original version, “Simon’s Theme” plays in the final stage of the Castlevania Chronicles, and so it is the most difficult level, with intense battles with sword-wielding skeletons and trap candelabras that fall from the ceiling to set the room ablaze.

A good deal of the power behind “Simon’s Theme” comes from the very strong set of core notes: long, bold melody that quickly imprints in your memory and fires the imagination. The melody also continually reverts back to those twelve main notes, maintaining a rock-solid center that breathes confidence. This is hero music through and through, and the Castlevania 4 guys knew this when they composed it.

“Simon’s Theme” has reappeared in several other games, with limited effect. This makes it difficult to find the ‘ideal’ version of the theme. Portrait of Ruin had a rather lackluster take with the DS sound chip, but Bloodlines on the Genesis has a wonderful gothic feel to the original, with nice light organs. In Castlevania: The Arcade (2009), the track is guitar-driven, which is ok, but lacks the heavy gothic feel that trumpets and organs can give the piece.

A couple remixes that come close are from the Akumajo Dracula MIDI Collection arranged by Aki Hata and the absolutely phenomenal rock mix from Dracula Battle Perfect Selection 2 by guitar master Naoto Shibata. Both have a very action-packed take, beginning with an explosion of sound. Hata’s version is more closely aligned with Chronicles, while Naoto Shibata’s takes a more intense approach. I almost have to say that his is the better of the two and probably my favorite mix of the song ever. The most bizarre one has to be from the Akumajo Dracula X album, which a jazz choir humming the intro.

A couple final notable versions are one done by the NESkimos, which has an excellent drumline. There is also a short but sweet version by Virt. Unfortunately, Virt’s “Simon” mix isn’t really a complete song, and he says he composed the remix that way on purpose. Personally, I think it was a dumb idea to leave it that way, as I feel the song is only half-finished and thus merely suggests the full potentials of an awesome “Simon’s Theme” mix. Finally, there were some nice versions on “Travel Demon” which I did back in October.

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