Wildcat’s Favorite Gaming Soundtracks (2012)

A little bit ago I revised my Top 100 tunes in gaming, and had the thought of deciphering my overall favorite soundtracks as well. I’ve decided to select 50 games to represent the best of the best in terms of gaming music, and here they are. There are no limits on this one, so you’ll see a few franchises well represented here. The Top 15 will be at the top, including links to the individual playlists. The remaining selections will be below and merely listed. All are in alphabetical order. I hope you all like these soundtracks as much as I do!

TOP 15:

Age of Mythology (PC, Microsoft/Ensemble Studios, Stephen Rippy/Kevin McCullan)

Batman (NES, Sunsoft, Naoki Kodaka/Nobuyuki Hara)

Beyond Good & Evil (Multi, UBI Soft, Christophe Héral)

Body Harvest (N64, Midway/DMA Design, Stuart Ross/Allan Walker)

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (DS, Konami, Michiru Yamane/Yuko Koshiro)

Chrono Trigger (SNES, Square-Enix, Yasunori Mitsuda/Nobuo Uemetsu)

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of a Cursed King (PS2, Square-Enix/Level-5, Koichi Sugiyama)

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS, CiNG/Nintendo, Yuhki Mori/Satoshi Okubo)

Mega Man 3 (NES, Capcom, Yasuaki Fujita)

Metroid (NES, Nintendo, Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

Okami (PS2, Capcom, Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Hiroyuki Hamada, Rei Kondo and Akari Groves)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (PS2, Atlus, Shoji Meguro)

Skies of Arcadia (DC, Sega/Overworks, Yutaka Minobe/Takayuki Maeda)

Super Mario 64 (N64, Nintendo, Koji Kondo)

Super Metroid (SNES, Nintendo, Kenji Yamamoto/Minako Hamano)

The Rest:

Age of Empires III (PC, Microsoft/Ensemble Studios, Stephen Rippy/Kevin McCullan)
Banjo-Kazooie (N64, Rare/Nintendo, Grant Kirkhope)
A Boy and his Blob (Wii, Majesco/Wayforward, Daniel Sadowski)
Castlevania (NES, Konami, Kinuyo Yamashita)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, Konami, Michiru Yamane)
Contra (NES, Konami, Hidenori Maezawa, Kyouhei Sada, KONAMI KuKeiHa Club)
Deus Ex (PC, Ion Storm/Eidos, Alexander Brandon, Dan Gardopée, Michiel van den Bos, Reeves Gabrels)
Dragon Quest IX (DS, Square-Enix/Level-5, Koichi Sugiyama)
Final Fantasy III (SNES, Square-Enix, Nobuo Uemetsu)
Fire Emblem (GBA, Nintendo/Intelligent Systems, Yuka Tsujiyoko)
Goldeneye 007 (N64, Rare/Nintendo, Graeme Norgate)
Heroes of Might and Magic IV (PC, New World Computing/3DO, Paul Romero, Rob King, Steve Baca, Paul James)
King of Fighters Evolution (NeoGeo, SNK Playmore, NeoGeo Music Performance Group)
Kirby’s Adventure (NES, HAL Labs/Nintendo, Hirokazu Andō/Jun Ishikawa)
Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii, HAL Labs/Feel Good/Nintendo, Tomoya Tomita, Hirokazu Andō, Jun Ishikawa)
The Last Blade 2 (NeoGeo, SNK Playmore, NeoGeo Music Performance Group)
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, Nintendo, Koji Kondo)
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GC, Nintendo, Koji Kondo, Toru Minegishi, Asuka Ota)
Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (DS, Neverland/Square-Enix/Natsume, Yasunori Shiono, Tomoko Morita, Yukio Nakajima)
Metroid Prime (GC, Nintendo/Retro Studios, Kenji Yamamoto)
Monster Tale (DS, Majesco/Dreamrift, Ian Stocker)
Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii, Vanillaware/Ignition, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masaharu Iwata, Mitsuhiro Kaneda, Noriyuki Kamikura, Kimihiro Abe, Yoshimi Kudo, Azusa Chiba)
Ogre Battle 64 (N64, Square-Enix/Quest, Hayato Matsuo, Masaharu Iwata, Hitoshi Sakimoto)
Power Blade (NES, Taito/Natsume, Kinuyo Yamashita)
Rayman Origins (Multi, UBI Soft, Christophe Héral/Billy Martin)
Red Dead Redemption (PS3/Xbox 360, Rockstar/Rockstar San Diego, Bill Elm/Woody Jackson)
Secret of Mana (SNES, Square-Enix, Hiroki Kikuta)
Shadow Hearts: From the New World (PS2, Nautilus/Aruze/XSEED, Yoshitaka Hirota/Tomoko Imoto)
Sid Meier’s Pirates! (PC, Firaxis/Take 2, Mark Cromer/Michael Curran)
Silent Hill 3 (PS2, Konami, Akira Yamaoka)
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii, Nintendo, Koji Kondo/Mahito Yokota)
Tales of Symphonia (GC, Namco Bandai, Motoi Sakuraba/Shusaku Uchiyama)
Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii, Monolith Soft/Nintendo, Yoko Shinomura, ACE+, Yasunori Mitsuda, Manami Kiyota)
Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II (NES, Nintendo, Y. Hirai/T. Kumegawa)

Wildcat’s 100 Favorite Game Tunes (2012)

Last year, I put up 100 tracks from gaming that I absolutely loved. However, as the year has rolled by, I think that I’ve cooled off on some of those songs and fell in love with others I had omitted. With that in mind, I feel that it’s a good time to revisit that idea and update the list. This year’s edition will increase the Top choices to ten. I will continue to operate under the rules set last year by keeping the list diversified through not picking all of, say, Mega Man 3′s soundtrack. Only two tracks per game will be allowed. Youtube clips are provided so you can sample the music, however, I can not constantly update this page with new links as Youtube users or copyright owners shut clips down! I’ve done quite a few Song Highlights on these tunes if you’d like to dig through and read why I like some of these songs. Enjoy!

TOP 10

Mega Man 3, Protoman’s Whistle Concert, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uikEuigprFE

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna’s Lament, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7GWf3e_I3w

Chrono Trigger, Memories of Green, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr9-OcPLO3M

Beyond Good & Evil, Home Sweet Home, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTdcJWDNsao

Castlevania, Wicked Child, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7PFm7mrdVY

Red Dead Redemption, Far Away,

Okami, Shinshu Plains (1 and 2), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yKG-Qu4WvM

Silent Hill 3, You’re Not Here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz3ufaZCoVw

Secret of Mana, Into the Thick of It, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3N9lrq-rks

Skies of Arcadia, Lower Valua, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlJxG1FmMOU

The Rest:
A Boy and his Blob (Wii), Forest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC_u7bmVsSc
A Boy and his Blob (Wii), Plains, http://youtu.be/pfmiI9AttYc
Age of Empires III, A Hot Meal, http://youtu.be/jB1R5s3PVEM
Age of Mythology, Suture Self, http://youtu.be/KhvklZT0LMg
Age of Mythology, Chocolate Outline, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBpz9S6I07g
Batman (NES), Stage 1/5, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlGDKfgz4fA
Batman (NES), Stage 3, http://youtu.be/zERK-4IgQAg
Beyond Good & Evil, Hillyan Suite, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p48dpXQixgk
Bionic Commando (NES), Area 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hl5UCCBCXI
Bionic Commando (NES), Area 2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIvcYCbWMfY
Blast Corps., Angel City, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2eRyyj_NCo
Blaster Master, Level 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUnwRFMo6D0
Blaster Master, Level 2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIjIUyXrBJg
Body Harvest, Outdoors (Violin), http://youtu.be/pC41_–XeqQ
Body Harvest, Indoors (piano), http://youtu.be/wURLANzjDLk
Breath of Fire, Deep Forest, http://youtu.be/1iCbSLFrqrU
California Games (NES), Flying Disc, http://youtu.be/5iYMN2FKkoY
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Bloody Tears, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjazC45Qkww
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Jail of Jewel, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtRdjcXfXsc
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Dracula’s Castle, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgF0uBjCds0
Cave Story, On to Grasstown, http://youtu.be/VlmOhXoKmoQ
Chrono Trigger, Wind Scene (Yearning of Wind), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqZaFDA7PXY
Contra (NES), Level 3, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U58a-svZok8
Deus Ex, Hong Kong Streets 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzvw8uSWucM
Diablo, Tristram Village, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8jJJXgNLo4
Dragon Quest IX, Heaven’s Prayer, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myjd1MnZx5Y
Dragon Quest VIII, Strange World, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN9Up_0zuUs
Dragon Quest VIII, Heavenly Flight, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taVdFgxvhRg
Ducktales, Transylvania, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UuHesrJROw
Final Fantasy, Temple of Fiends, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hW56QbT0lrM
Final Fantasy VI, Terra’s Theme, http://youtu.be/W7RPY-oiDAQ
Fire Emblem (7 in series order), Wind Across the Plains, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFWOvIrBCgc
F-Zero GX, Captain Falcon’s Theme, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L0pW3Eol6k
Grandia II, Mirumu, http://youtu.be/ZG_oW5XH71Y
Heroes of Might and Magic IV, Swamp Lands, http://youtu.be/Cffc_s0eN5Q
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, The Last Sleep, http://youtu.be/BwdCg8Gqqfk
Jet Grind Radio, Magical Girl, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h9f939bW3c
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Butter Building, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfdJbaCfXjQ
Kirby’s Adventure, Ending, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OVKyjZs-nU
The Last Ninja, Stage 1, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiLvoMpLQFA
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Forest Temple, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4o3EMdYaKw
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Spirit Temple, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0PVz2pIEcw
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Kakariko Village, http://youtu.be/LdERRFGaUjY
Mario Kart 64, Credits, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYwZT3CvpMw
Mega Man 2, Air Man, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FINefcN9pPc
Mega Man 3, Snake Man, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM-Fub7Oc_A
Mega Man 5, Wave Man, http://youtu.be/Nd2O6mbhCLU
Mega Man 6, Flame Man, http://youtu.be/qdWeTin2mho
Mega Man 6, Mr. X stages, http://youtu.be/uhJ7Ss-puVY
Metroid, Ending, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQeUkUp4uRc
Metroid Prime, Phendrana Drifts (second version), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbbUv1hz6mE
Metroid Prime, Tallon Overworld, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mziw3FQkZYg
Monster Tale, Ancient Ruins, http://youtu.be/iQ1D6UJW5Jg
M.U.L.E., Main Theme, http://youtu.be/VI2e-jwjhN4
Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Seifu Meigetsu A, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUF1lkbvoUs
Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Bosyoku Souzen A, http://youtu.be/c9qBwD4bxO8
Ogre Battle 64, Premonition, http://youtu.be/Rel-IOyQTX0
Ogre Battle 64, The Sensational World, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSnlp1YAUJ0
Okami, Reset, http://youtu.be/zpuGNH75pUc
Perfect Dark, Chicago – Stealth, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJbwLjKhVGw
Persona 4, Your Affection, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ChrBp1pEGM
Persona 4, The Almighty, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNVMKpk__HQ
Phoenix Wright: Trials and Tribulations, The Dark Fragrance of Coffee, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxzTrWUajZg
Portal, Still Alive, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6ljFaKRTrI
Portal 2, Want You Gone, http://youtu.be/jBdRaGSI4jU
Power Blade, Level 4 – Tower, http://youtu.be/c-R6Zp3n608
Rayman Origins, Sea of Serendipity – Panic at the Port!, http://youtu.be/5UVPJxSmt54
Rayman Origins, Sea of Serendipity – Lums of the Water (“Glou Glou”), http://youtu.be/oNV2uakCtzs
Secret of Mana, A Wish, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLK8IrYrZxA
Shadow Hearts: From the New World, Dead Fingers Talk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5clzlxOZQeU
Shadow Hearts: From the New World, Adios, http://youtu.be/-lkRjV7Zp-k
Silent Hill, Silent Hill, http://youtu.be/_EN-_1OGtUY
Silent Hill 2, Laura, http://youtu.be/6LB7LZZGpkw
Silent Hill 3, Breeze ~in monochrome light~, http://youtu.be/OneUwrYiGIw
Skies of Arcadia, Kingdom of Ixa’taka, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0F-hJjD3XAs
Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Dmitri’s Nightclub, http://youtu.be/RCX3tV7lSdk
Sonic CD, Sonic Boom, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJXKoubh9sQ
Super Ghouls and Ghosts, Ice Forest, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4URokdL-dfM
Super Mario 64, Koopa’s (Bowser’s) Road, http://youtu.be/0rygsWPCjNQ
Super Mario 64, Water Course Theme (Dire Dire Docks), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqcPSbkS9TQ
Super Mario Galaxy, Gusty Garden Galaxy, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z2kxFCQ_mQ
Super Metroid, Maradia, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxobPQMNY_w
Super Metroid, Brinstar (Plant Overgrown), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ULlqfeNLWY
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Bramble Blast, http://youtu.be/G3rnyqI7dFc
Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Metroid Theme, http://youtu.be/3MRznLSFGFQ
Tales of Symphonia, Like a Glint of Light, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFWadiZkA_8
Xenoblade Chronicles, Guar Plains, http://youtu.be/xweRl4LZlmo
Xenoblade Chronicles, Title Theme, http://youtu.be/nNR-wsFAfiU
Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II, Dungeon Theme #2, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pF-30Dg9Xs4
Zoda’s Revenge: Startropics II, Dungeon Theme #6, http://youtu.be/22ATqffTkIk


Dropped from last year:
Banjo-Kazooie, Click Clock Wood (spring)
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Aquarius
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Hail from the Past
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Crystal Teardrops
Contra (NES), Level 1
Donkey Kong Country, Theme (Simian Segue)
Dragon Quest IX, I Won’t Lose
Grandia II, Carbo
Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Big Dreams
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Outer Rings
Legend of Zelda, Death Mountain (Final Dungeon)
Mega Man 2, Wood Man
Mega Man 5, Charge Man
Persona 4, Reach out to the Truth
Resident Evil 4, Sorrow
Super Mario Galaxy 2, The Tico and the Hat
Super Mario RPG, And My Name’s Booster
Tales of Symphonia, Dry Trail

Modified on 12/26/2012, JF

Stripping Away Silence: E3 2012 – Castlevania (Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate) Confliction

I think it might be clear that I’m a pretty big Castlevania fan. Two of them are on my Alternate list, I value several of the games throughout my favorite lists, and I have an Imagery dedicated to the art for the franchise on the blog. In fact, I think I’ve written more ‘Vania opinions than any other franchise on here. So yeah, I love this series.

Thus, watching MercurySteam’s first attempt at a “2D” ‘Vania has me confused. As a “gaiden” or sidestory to the main franchise, MercurySteam has been granted the ability to do whatever they want with the long-running mythos, and they’ve certainly gone and done that. Pulling three legends from the huge roster, Trevor Belmont, Simon Belmont and Alucard (plus a fourth that we don’t know about yet), and then throwing them into a God of War-esque game but on a two dimensional plane…I just don’t know how to feel about this. With the original Lords of Shadow, it was a-ok to create a new character and have him do his own shit and leave the storied past of Castlevania unscathed for the most part. Now, we have Gabriel becoming Dracula (apparently) and Trevor is his son, and then Alucard is his son…ow, my head. XD Oy.

Gameplay wise, I don’t really care for Trevor’s cross weapon, as nifty (and Kratos-y) it looked in the trailer. I don’t like the way the fighting mechanics look. They would be fine…in God of War. Here…eh. Doesn’t fit. I don’t know if I like the grab mechanic. It again strips out the feeling of ‘Vania for even more God of War gameplay. Where is the Castlevania in this beyond some plucked character names and the title? The Fleamen and skeletons can be arguably pointed to, but they don’t look or act like their old counterparts. The music isn’t what I would want from a ‘Vania game. The character design isn’t shabby, but it lacks the punch of older designs (even the anime ones I gripe about). I feel that they should just slap God of War as the game’s title over Castlevania, place it in a medieval setting, and plop in a less aggro hero. :p The gameplay looks adequate, and it’s not lacking in good graphics, but I fail to see anything reminding me that I would be playing a new entry in one of my favorite franchises.

In related news, I miss IGA. He wasn’t flawless, but he at least seemed to make games I could point to as a Castlevania game!

Gamer’s Playlist – “Theme of Simon Belmont”

Gamer's Playlist Sonic Logo

This is my favorite of all the Castlevania theme songs. It’s the anthem for the most famous of all the Belmonts, Simon, although it did not appear in the original Castlevania. It was first composed for Super Castlevania IV, and has been rearranged and reused in many subsequent games in the series. This is the original, and still one of the better arrangements of the song, in my opinion.

Title: “Theme of Simon Belmont”
Composer: Konami Kukeiha Club

Gamer’s Playlist – OMG SO MANY FAN ALBUMS Edition

This week has seen not only one but two monster albums from leading remixers.  The first is a Castlevania tribute, titled Vampire Variations:

Some big names from Dwelling of Duels here, like Viking Guitar, Hat, Bonkers and Brandon Strader, not to mention the shredding of Metroid Metal’s Stemage, among plenty of other great remixers.  You can check out and download its track list here.

Secondly, OC Remix has pulled a rabbit (or a Cucco?) out its hat and dropped a full-on Legend of Zelda tribute album, recruiting indie composers like Laura Shigihara (Plants Vs. Zombies) and Souleye (VVVVVV), among many others (and a few OC Remix regulars) to supply fresh spins to the wide berth of Zelda music.  Here’s their reveal trailer:

And their website to download the tunes.

Wow, that’s a ton of music from two franchises full of fantastic songs.  I’m looking forward to sampling, and I hope you do, too.  Enjoy!

Gamer’s Playlist – Super Guitar Bros. chill out with Castlevania

Super Guitar Bros. have stripped several classic Castlevania tunes down into a joyous acoustic medley that I must share with you.  Dig the bonus touches in the clip, too.

More clips from them can be seen here.  I’ll be looking into their other work when I have the time – I hope it’s as great as this!

Nester’s Favorite Games – Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (2006)

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

Developer: Konami
Platform: Nintendo DS

The Game: Another action-adventure “metroidvania” in the Castlevania series.

Why it’s a Favorite: There’s an addictive quality in all of the Castlevania games that follow Symphony of the Night‘s RPG-tinged design. The constant feed of experience points, gold, items, weapons, armor, abilities, and uncovering more of the map always provides a feeling of satisfaction. Although most people don’t think the Game Boy Advance and DS games ever lived up to the high standards of Symphony, they are all generally very well done, and are worth at least one playthrough.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin

Jonathan and Charlotte team up.

As for my preference for Portrait of Ruin, I admit I’m a little biased. My favorite “traditional” Castlevania game is Bloodlines on the Genesis, and Portrait is something of a semi-follow-up to it. I got a kick out of the various little references, such as Jonathon using his backhand to whip, just like his father in Bloodlines. It was also cool to see the reappearance and re-imagining of a particular character. If anything, I would’ve liked to see even more connections between the two games.

On its own, however, Portrait still manages to stand out in its own right. After the dual appearances of Soma Cruz, it was great to be able to play as the whip-wielding Jonathan Morris. The double character mechanic was also a cool addition, even if it wasn’t exploited to its fullest potential. The game also makes the effort to break out of its cliched castle stage designs be sending the player outside the walls to various other locales (the most outrageous being an Egyptian pyramid).

Memorable Moments: (Spoiler?) Getting double-teamed by Dracula and Death.

The Illusions of Castlevania

The Illusions of Castlevania

Note: This article is also available at my blog Lark’s Island.

Players have traversed through Dracula’s castle countless times over the past quarter-century, but despite that, not all of its secrets have been revealed. There have been many rumored and canceled games in the series that have fed many an active imagination. But are these mysterious tales true, or simply the tricks of unseen forces? Find out as we look into the illusions of Castlevania.

The Bloodletting

Originally announced for the Genesis 32X add-on, not much is known about the mysterious Bloodletting. The game was announced in gaming magazines of the time, and allegedly, two screen shots were also shown, but such images have yet to turn up on the Internet. After its initial unveiling, the game was never heard from again, and it’s speculated that at least part of it was integrated into Symphony of the Night.

Shin Dracula X

Shin Dracula X Shin Dracula X
Castlevania fandom soared after the success of Symphony, and in the earlier days of the Internet, it wasn’t long before rumors of a sequel began to spread like a plague. One such rumor spoke of a game called Shin Dracula X, which was also accompanied by two tiny screen shots. Unfortunately, no further information was ever discovered, and the entire thing turned out to be a hoax.


Castlevania: Resurrection Castlevania: Resurrection
Originally announced for the Sega Dreamcast, Resurrection was being worked on by an American team. However, disagreements between them and the management in Japan, as well as the release of Sony’s PlayStation 2, factored into an eventual cancellation. All that remains are a few screen shots, some concept art, and some demo videos. Although more is known about this canceled Castlevania that any other, it’s unlikely to ever actually be resurrected.

For some fascinating insight into the development of the project, check out the Castlevania Dungeon’s interview with art director Greg Orduyan.

Dual Moons

Castlevania: Dual Moons
This game existed only as a headline on a Photoshopped cover of GamePro magazine. It made the rounds on the Internet before its creator admitted it was a hoax, even showing the step-by-step process of how he created it. However, it preceded the official announcement of Portrait of Ruin by only a few weeks.

Unnamed Symphony of the Night sequel/remake

This mysterious teaser trailer was shown at Tokyo Game Show in 2008. It seems to indicate that it’s a 3D sequel to or remake of Symphony of the Night, but nothing else has even been revealed about it. It was likely canceled, taking the truth to its grave.

Wildcat’s Favorite Franchises – Castlevania

Sometimes there’s a game that just seizes upon you, and you become so taken with it that you need more to satisfy some inner longing built from its excellence.  In these cases, there’s been plenty of ample sequels or prequels to fulfill that itch for me.  These are the franchises I have been following the closest over my gaming existence, the ones that I hold the highest standards to and anticipate the greatest.  They are not in any real order, because that would be agonizing to determine what I love more.  It’s hard enough with individual games – uniting them all would be a nightmare.  However, I will go into what game left the impact and which of the series I adore the most, as well as discuss each game I have (or have not, and explain why) played and its furthering impact upon my feelings.  There’s nine that I consider the finest – Castlevania’s 25 years old today, so let’s tackle that one.

Castlevania (Konami)

Game That Left the Impact – Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Game Boy Advance)

The Game I Adore – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1)

It took some time for me to get attached to Castlevania – the first two NES games stumped me as a kid, and lack of exposure to systems for the majority of its sequels didn’t help.  Aria of Sorrow was the first to wow me, and following that I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan.  This series I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, but I have sunk time into many of the finest games it features, and look forward to expanding my passions with some of the others in time.

What I’ve Tried

Castlevania – I’ve never beaten any of the NES games, but I’ve grown to relish trying!  The first game may lack the overall quality the later games feature, but it’s a solid foundation of things to come (and my god, does its soundtrack rock).  I’m closest to beating this one!

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – I appreciate Konami experimenting a bit with the mechanics of ‘Vania here, but I think it would be an infinitely better game with better localization.  For a game relying on communication for hints, it does that poorly.  That said, I like the vibe and gameplay of the game, but getting anywhere can be a big chore.

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse - My favorite of the NES trilogy (and many others!), CV3 returns to the first game’s format but refines the gameplay to a glossy sheen.  The variety of stages and being able to be two characters is also great.  I need to plunge deeper into it myself.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – The series took a Metroid-style turn with Symphony, and the results ended up being spectacular.  It took me over a decade from its release to finally sit down and play it, but it was worth the wait.  Beautiful spritework, awesome bosses, great music and mostly smooth controls make this my favorite of the series.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon - Circle is a strange beast to me.  It lacks the smoothness of Symphony or the later games in its mold, had a different look to it that didn’t quite appeal to me, and its Card system was a bit convoluted.  I played this post Harmony and Aria, so maybe that’s why I didn’t care for it much.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance – Before Aria came along, I liked Harmony enough to play through it and had a good time…but Aria outclasses it so much that I just couldn’t replay it again.

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow – Aria ignited my passion for the series, and it’s the only one I’ve made the full-on effort to 100%.  While Symphony I value a bit more, Aria is right behind it in terms of adoration.  I feel it has the best plot out of all the games, its best gameplay system with the Souls, and controls a bit better than Symphony, but the earlier game features astounding visuals, more interesting bosses and far more impressive music and atmosphere…so it’s a tough choice between the two.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - Dawn could have been the best portable CV (if not the best), if only Konami didn’t feel compelled to pad it with touch screen nonsense.  The Soul System was refined and improved, the game looked better than Aria (save the blase anime recoat), the world was arguably more interesting than Aria’s and featured better bosses, and while the plot wasn’t as tight it wasn’t atrocious, either.  But the touch screen sucked any of that positive impact away with annoyance.  Still a shame.

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin – Portrait feels a little too slapdash at times, but I really enjoyed the two player dynamic, the more exotic locales and it did have some glorious boss encounters…not to mention the wonderful music that I consider the best of the series.  Tons of unlockables add to the joy.  It just can’t quite shrug off the overall lack of refinement it features in level design and sprite recycling.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia - Shanoa’s quest hearkens back to Simon’s Quest a bit, and out of the DS ‘Vanias, I like it the most.  It’s tough and challenges the player, has wonderful boss encounters that are almost all unique to it, and mixes in some Symphony elements like handling two weapons with two buttons.  It too suffers some from sprite reuse, and Shanoa isn’t quite as graceful as Alucard or Soma, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

What Haven’t I Played?

Wow – I’ve managed to play less than half of the series. XD  That’s a first!  Castlevania has been scattered far more than the prior franchises I’ve covered, so that may explain why.  Konami – release a damn comp. XD

Castlevania The Adventure – I’ve not seen hide or hair of this game…

Super Castlevania IV – Ditto!  I wouldn’t mind owning it, though…

Castlevania The Adventure II: Belmont’s Revenge - Ditto again!

Castlevania: Bloodlines – No Genesis!

Dracula X: Rondo of Blood – No Japan Turbo-CD!  Although I will DL the Wii Virtual Console version if I get it online.

Castlevania: Dracula X – Never seen it…I realize that the game, despite being a drastically altered port of Rondo of Blood, is also trying to do its own thing, but with Rondo being available now I don’t see much reason in investing in this…

Castlevania 64/Legacy of Darkness – I skipped these due to middling reviews in my N64 heyday, but now that reviews don’t matter to me so much, I’d like to try Legacy of Darkness.  These are a bit hard to find used, though…

Castlevania Chronicles - I like the original CV enough to not feel the pull to DL this off of PSN.

Castlevania Legends – I haven’t seen it, and I’m not that interested.

Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – The PS2 ‘Vanias don’t appeal to me for some reason.  I guess I like the thought of the series being in 2D more (yet want to try Legacy of Darkness :p ).

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness – Ditto, but the DDR X mix of Bloody Tears from this game is damn good!

Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles – No PSP.

Castlevania Judgment – While the thought of a fighting game with the heroes and villains of the series sounds intriguing, the character redesigns turned me off, as did the lack of Soma Cruz, Charlotte Aulin or Jonathan Morris, who happen to be favorites of mine.  It also didn’t look all that great.  Don’t think I missed much here.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair - I’m not entirely convinced I should even bother with this game.  It’s due to arrive on the PS3 soon, but I really just am ashamed of the thought of trying it given how recycled and lazy it appears to be.

Castlevania The Adventure Rebirth – Wouldn’t mind trying this if I get the Wii online.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – This is not a Castlevania game to me.  Sorry.  Too many liberties taken and not enough throwbacks to the past for me to care.

What Makes It One of the Best?

Music to Die For – Castlevania from the beginning has featured some of the most incredible gaming tunes ever made.  Kinuyo Yamashita got the ball rolling with Vampire Hunter, Wicked Child and Heart of Fire, and nearly every game following her effort has built and expanded the greatest hits list – Bloody Tears, Aquarius, Mad Forest, Theme of Simon, Iron Blue Intention, Requiem, Dracula’s Castle, Crystal Teardrops, Jail of Jewels, Hail to the Past, plus plenty more…amazing aural delights.

Making the Most of the Gothic Atmosphere – The best ‘Vania games have some of the finest 2D atmosphere in any game, making the dilapidated, derelict castle you wander around in truly seem that way.  Each environment (save the later DS games, which got into a nasty habit of asset rehashing) is unique from the others, and is full of its own challenges, quirks and visual cues.  The whole vibe of the games is dark, dingy and foreboding, yet isn’t afraid to use color effectively.  I do love the style of this series.

Responsive Avatars - Simon and Trevor aren’t the quickest, most agile heroes in gaming lore, especially compared to Alucard, Soma, Jonathan and Shanoa, but I can say that all of Castlevania’s heroes and heroines do respond well to inputs from the player no matter the era, and has steadily improved that trait over the years to make some of the smoothest, most enjoyable protagonists in any game to control.  I love becoming these characters and exploring their worlds, because they react like I would want them to.  In the early NES games there’s naturally some control issues due to programming nitpicks and all that, but overall I think that even those early attempts are fairly solid.

Thrilling Boss Showdowns – Every single game in this franchise seems to have gotten the memo that boss fights are a vital part of the experience, and rarely have I felt cheated or overwhelmed by them.  The earlier games require patience, pattern recognition and perhaps a lucky item to conquer, but the later games kept up those traits (to a lesser extent, since you can heal) and expanded these into dramatic affairs that stand as some of the best in the industry.  I give massive props to Konami for continuing to provide stand-out bosses.

Memorable Bestiary – The monsters, demons and undead legions employed by the House of Dracula and his cronies play off of mythological lore, B-movies of the early cinema and occasionally the twisted minds of the Konami staff, and the unique unification of such diversity is one of the joys of wandering the halls of Castlevania.  It’s great to see some enemies return to their classic patterns, see what new beasts they’ve trodden out, and how to best get by them all.

Happy 25th Anniversary, Castlevania!

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, on a dark and stormy night, the hounds of hell were howling at a blood-red full moon, and Konami’s Castlevania series was born!

Actually, it wasn’t a full moon (it was a little less than half a moon), and I don’t know if it was dark and stormy (or even night), and I’m pretty sure there were no hell hounds. But still, September 26 is apparently Castlevania‘s 25th anniversary!

1UP.com’s Jeremy Parish has written a wonderful retrospective discussing the franchise’s bumpy history and evolution:

Amazing as Dracula X was, it also demonstrated Konami’s lack of clarity of purpose for the series. The company greenlighted a PlayStation sequel to the game but viewed it as a mere footnote to the upcoming Nintendo 64 title they were putting their main efforts behind. That N64 reboot — titled simply Castlevania in the U.S. — was an interesting but uneven creation; meanwhile, it was the unimportant technological relic, Symphony of the Night for PlayStation, that’s gone down in history as the true masterpiece. Equal parts Dracula X and Super Metroid, Symphony mixed in a full RPG-style inventory and leveling system as well as secrets that made its predecessor’s simple branching paths pale in comparison.

Check out the full feature at 1UP.com: Castlevania Chronicles: We’ve Been Killing Dracula for 25 Years

Just be warned that the third page, a rundown of some of the series’ best and worst elements, contains some spoilers.


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