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Castlevania: The Adventure – “Battle of the Holy” (arr. Konami Kukeiha Club)

May 5, 2010

So today I managed to beat Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (2009) for WiiWare. It’s a fantastic game and a true classic rejuvenation of the franchise. The game is particularly good for its use of branching paths within the levels, which adds replay value. It also spices things up if you had to quit the game, as the earlier levels provide new surprises rather than simply greater mastery. So you should pick it up if you’ve got a Wii – an excellent use of $10! In any event, Rebirth was missing a few tracks from the original Castlevania Adventure (1989), particularly “Battle of the Holy”, here excellently arranged in Konami Special Music Box 1991 by the Konami Kukeiha Club. And no, that title is not a misprint – more on it below. Other tracks that I think should have made it into Rebirth were “Death Fair” and “Revenge“. Oh yeah, this is also in ogg format, so you’ll need something other than iTunes (which sucks anyway) like Winamp, Cog, or VLC to play it.

Castlevania: The Adventure – “Battle of the Holly” (arr. Konami Kukeiha Club)

KKC’s rock arrange is a lot of fun – the faster pace and guitars make for a very lively mix and the track is punctuated by explosions of drums that echo thunderclaps. Similar to “Cross Your Heart“, “Battle of the Holy” uses a flurry of strings to communicate the gothic struggle. The steady beat feels right for walking across a field full of monsters. There’s also a nice guitar break at 2:02 with some great wailing.

The original track had a bit of a slow pace, but a wonderful gothic feel from the harpsichord-esque square waves. It kind of fits the graveyard-in-a-swamp type setting of the original. Incidentally, Rebirth really doesn’t carry over much of the original level designs (probably because they weren’t very good) and so the game is really only a remake in name and plot. The original soundtrack was composed by Nori Hanzawa (who went on to Treasure shortly after to compose Gunstar Heroes through Bangai-O), Shigeru Fukutake (who seems to have helped advise composition of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), and Hidehiro Funauchi (Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, Operation C).

There was also a decent piano mix on the Dracula MIDI Collection (1997). It’s a bit of a fusion piece, heavy with the synth bass and using atmospheric flutes and piano to give a bit of a gothic feel. There’s a nice piano break at 1:50. I remember writing a long time ago that a redesign of Adventure could have used both the rock mix and this midi mix, the first for an intense above-ground battle with rainstorm and thunder blasts cued with the drums. There was also a miniboss battle with a spider, which used the guitar solo. If you found an underground passage, it would play this mix from the MIDI collection. Like I said, it was a long time ago (I don’t think this mix is that good anymore), but I still think this concept of dynamic audio is still relevant.

Ok, if you’ve read up to this point and have been complaining the whole time about how I’ve written the track title as “Battle of the Holy” rather than “Battle of the Holly”, let me explain my reasoning: it’s an Engrish mistranslation. Granted, the track is printed “Battle of the Holly” on every single album in which it has appeared. However, just because Konami called it that doesn’t mean they called it the right thing. Simply put: the word for “holly” and “holy” in Japanese are identical: ホリ- (HO-REE) and ホ-リ- (HOU-REE) both appear in my dictionaries as both “holly” and “holy”. Ergo, the first translator got it wrong (not surprising, considering a lot of the Engrish that found its way into early games).

That being said, there are a few interesting things to be said about “holly” and how it might make sense in a “Battle of the Holly”. First, holly is an important Christmas symbol. You might best remember the line, “of all the trees in the merry wood / the holly bears the crown” from the ca. 1710 song “The Holly and the Ivy” as well as its use in wreaths. Well, holly can signify Christ through its evergreen nature (does not wilt in the winter) which symbolizes rebirth and steadfastness as well as its bright red berries, which symbolize blood and abundance in winter. Holly was also important to the druids, probably because it had some medicinal or ceremonial attributes – the connection likely carried over to early Christian Anglo-Saxon culture. Pretty interesting, huh?

Also interesting, but not quite related: the wood of the holly was traditionally used for the white chess pieces (ebony for the black) (and here, you might have some Seventh Seal connections). Its thorny leaves also make it difficult to penetrate, but I suppose Juste’s thorn whip works a bit better.

Anyway, while a connection would certainly exist, I believe a stronger case can be made for “holy” through mistranslation of the original.

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