Nazo no Murasamejo – “The Mysterious Castle of Murasame” (Koji Kondo)

July 5, 2010

Nazo no Murasamejo (1986) is a Famicom Disk System game that never saw a release outside of Japan. The game is about a demon from outer space that takes control of the castle of Murasame along with the four surrounding castles which the apprentice samurai Takamaru must overthrow. The game basically plays like an action-based Legend of Zelda (without permanent weapon upgrades). The game never achieved commercial success, but did see a re-release on the Virtual Console in Japan in 2008. The soundtrack is notable for being an early composition by Koji Kondo that has rarely, if ever, been heard outside of Japan.

UPDATE: “Castle Town BGM” is called “Along the Way” according to the Super Smash Bros. Brawl sound test.

“Nazo no Murasamejo” (Koji Kondo)

This piece is a medley of all the main songs from the game from Famicom Music Vol. 2. It is unique in that its arrangement works quite well as each track melds nicely into the next. The most memorable piece is “Castle Town BGM”. It’s very traditional Japanese-style music, befitting of Edo-period Japan, with some nice simulation of koto and flute. In terms of arrangement, the piece resembles the Super Mario Bros. “Overworld BGM” with a three-part theme containing several variations on the main melody, though not as elegantly produced.

The “Inside Castle BGM” (0:58) is also fairly good, sounding like the flow of a river, echoing through the furnished chambers of the castle. The “Murasame Jo BGM” (1:15) is another nice dramatic piece, driven primarily by flute and koto. It shows definite development in Kondo’s musical style. I think we could have done without “Ode to Joy” (2:21) though – the song, though with a nice, eerie singing, feels dead out of place in medieval Japan and is ultimately just a cop-out in lieu of original music. I’m glad most game composers stepped away from this by this time. I do love the game’s box art, though – it reminds me of 1980s rock album covers. The entire soundtrack was released as individual tracks in Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Sound Tracks Vol. 1.

There are a small number of mixes for a popular piece. The best mix by far is by longtime Zuntata composer Yasuhisa “Yack.” Watanabe in Famicom 20th Anniversary Arrange Sound Tracks. The piece is more atmospheric, a mix of the “Inside Castle BGM” primarily, with a little bit of the “Castle Town BGM” towards the end. The instruments here are fantastic, oozing the flowing waters, cool breezes, bamboo groves, and hewn stonework of old Edo. It’s like modern techno-Japanese.

One of the first was a remix by Fun House on a 45rpm vinyl Hyrule Fantasy: Nazo no Murasamejo/Legend of Zelda – Original Soundtrack Orchestra Version, part of a series of double-sided albums of Famicom game music. This track has some good electronic synth that’s totally 80s. It feels a bit like the kind of stuff that you get from Mario Freaks Orchestra, but ultimately runs about a minute too long.

Akihabara Electric Circus did a version for Toy Music: Dancing Super Mario Bros. I say again that this album isn’t very good, but the Murasamejo track is one of the better ones, particularly for its wood blocks and koto (which has a nice solo at around 2:30). The track combines the “Castle Town BGM” and “Murasame Jo BGM”. The synths are fairly high quality for 1988.


One comment

  1. […] didn’t. The game sold unremarkably and remained exclusive to Japan. Murasame Castle‘s lack of commercial success […]

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