Castlevania Chronicles – “Etude for the Killer” (Sota Fujimori)October 23, 2010
Death is one of the staple enemies from the Castlevania series, finding his way into practically every game. He is also fun to fight (albeit usually incredibly difficult). In Castlevania Chronicles (2001), a remake of Akumajo Dracula for the X68000 personal computer (in itself a remake of the original Castlevania), Death has a new lair, this time with pleading prisoners in the dungeons, hanging skeletons and mutilated corpses, a Frankenstein miniboss in the alchemical lab (in the first Castlevania, only philters and bottles were shown; Frank was the boss of the previous stage), and strangest of all, little babies that pop out of specimen jars (o_O). However, the coolest part of Death’s lair was the top floor, which contains what at first appears to be a scenic overlook of Transylvania which later crumbles, turning out to be an enchanted painting. The floor is filled with many of these, including one that contains writhing bodies embedded in the wall or trapped in the painting. An awesome stage, with a rather unique baroque-style etude for the background music.
“Etude for the Killer” is a sweeping, decadent homage to Death, who silently stalks the haunted halls of Dracula’s Castle. An incredibly complex piece like the title’s namesake, “Etude for the Killer” combines organs with strings, clarinet, flute, harpsichord, and haunted choir with rapid notes and quick transitions between instruments. There are some nice instrument techniques used here, such as plucking of the cellos, cymbal crashes into the waltzing second half. With a loop 1:18 in length, “Etude for the Killer” communicates a great sense of gloom and mystery, coupled with the sweeping movements of evil spirits and the mechanical movements of skeletons and ghost knights. It’s truly a dance with Death.
The original version from Akumajo Dracula (1993) used chip of the X68000 for an FM sound similar to that of the Sega Genesis. This version is far more frantic than that of the Chronicles version, particularly with the plucking sound in the first half, and overall excellent percussion. The grating hiss of the FM chip fits perfectly with the chaos of the composition and ends with a wonderful fade back to the main piece 1:05. However, outside of the funky instrument selection, amazing percussion, and similarity to Castlevania Bloodlines, the original version of “Etude for the Killer” honestly isn’t that stand-out from the original Akumajo Dracula soundtrack for the X68000. It doesn’t have quite the impact of say “Clockwork Mansion” from Super Castlevania IV, which both the level and the song owe some inspiration to.
Of course, the album release contained two other versions, one on the Roland CM-64, the other the Roland SC-55 (the same synthesizer used in the MIDI Power Pro series). The SC-55 version sounds closest to the X68000 FM synth while the CM-64 version is a slightly different arrange. Neither is very appealing to me.
Castlevania Chronicles was composed by Sota Fujimori (Contra: Shattered Soldiers, Beatmania). The original version was composed by Hiroshi Kobayashi (Contra III: The Alien Wars) and two aliases Shin Chan (Wild Guns, Spanky’s Quest) and Jigokuguruma Nakamura (Dracula X: Rondo of Blood).