My Michiru

Today I’m here to discuss: It was a MON-ster mash

Now, I’m sure almost everyone knows how flippin’ fantastic the Castlevania music always is. Every single Castlevania game has great music, right up to the PS2/Xbox games (which have unfortunately not been quite as “inspired” in their gameplay). Michiru (Michelle?) Yamane has been doing the Castlevania music since 1997’s Symphony of the Night for the PSone. She did actually contribute to Castlevania:Bloodlines on the Sega Genesis (1994) and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood/Vampire’s Kiss (1995?) for the SNES, but SotN was probably her first solo OST for this series. Probably the highest quality recent Castlevania games are the Game Boy Advanced and Nintendo DS releases.*

What’s crazy is the series now has a distinct “Yamane vibe.” You know, you’re so familiar with her composition, you can make up your own variations on her melodies in your head and you often know where they are going when you hear them. Which isn’t bad…I would say her style is quite appropriate for the games. She does incorporate the classic tunes rather effortlessly and her works have since expanded the series’ audio into the realm of stereo surround sound and live audio samples. Even games like “Lament of Innocence” for PS2 (which my friend owns and never played, fucking idiot) have variations on the traditionally percussive and “heavy metal-esque” soundtracks, with some ambient tracks that gradually overlap echoes from the light percussive triggers. I suppose I’m thinking specifically of the “Underground Waterways” track from LoI.

What really made me want to write about the series today is the music from the most recent DS game, “Portrait of Ruin.” Now, I don’t think that title is quite as good as the previous game “Dawn of Sorrow,” a title which clearly highlights a badass epic quest across the endless ocean of time and form. But PoR does have some excellent graphics, gameplay and music (no kidding?). I have heard in random places that Yuzo Koshiro is the co-composer on this game. Well, power to the man, because the songs are all sorts of portrait ruining, and then some. I think Yuzo Koshiro’s presence really pumps up the soundtrack a bit, throwing in some crazier percussive elements in some places. There are some beautiful panning effects utilized and some more exotic tracks that stretch the compositional boundaries of where Castlevania OSTs typically venture. So I must say that this soundtrack rocks.

That being said, I think some of the musical stylings do need to be reinvented a little, or the series might be in danger of becoming musically redundant. But I think this is only notable because the music carries the games so intensely. Seriously, the music is pulling all the muscle in these games, and most of the other stuff is running on auto-pilot now. Castlevania is entering a rough phase, where it has to decide if it will become a parody of its former self or shed its skin for a new generation.

For some reason, one of my favorite tracks on this soundtrack is a short piece led by counterpoint strings called “A Small Prayer.” I find it hits the meat-and-potatoes of what Yamane’s composition is all about.

Michiru Yamane – A Small Prayer – Portrait of Ruin
Michiru Yamane – Invitation of a Crazed Moon – Portrait of Ruin
Michiru Yamane – Jail of Jewels – Portrait of Ruin

I thought I’d close with a couple of tips for Konami:

(1) Get rid of that stupid kiddie “Japanime” garbage that the games now feature in the character artwork. That stuff is disgusting. It is unsophisticated, way too common these days and far behind the ball stylistically. I don’t think little kids are necessarily your main audience, but you’d be expanding their artistic horizons if you would just feature more interesting, original character portraits and artwork, a la Symphony of the Night. Ever wonder why people think that one is such a classic? Let me give you a serious clue:

Something smells fishy here…Oh shit, are those good character portaits?Nah, I think we’d rather use some second-rate Japanese kiddie anime.

If you can’t find artists to do this, I will FIND you some. Why are companies so afraid to take small risks with high returns? I know people will buy whatever products companies slap their logos on, but I have to ask these companies why they are doing a job they are not excited to do? PLEASE use your imagination and care about your job so we all don’t end up in a stagnant world of mediocre products, replicating each other endlessly.

(2) Always make the original Japanese voice-overs an option! The English voice-actors always suck (with the exception of Symphony… how strange!) and their lines lately have been pitiful. I.e. “From now on, the Belmonts hunt the night!” Dude, that kind of writing makes demons, ghouls and lizardmen depressed for all the wrong reasons. If anything, lines like that make people root for the darkness. A thousand Grendels are born each time a person reads those lines. I’m super serious with a cherry on top.

Anyway, that aside, this game might be worth playing. I’m gonna post something about the ethics of releasing videogame OSTs in the near future, so keep an eye out for it!

*********

*There is one exception: don’t get “Harmony of Dissonance” for the GBA. That one is the miserly, sick, undeveloped larvae of a real Castlevania game.

**And I should point out that Michiru Yamane did not compose the music for the first two GBA Castlevanias: “Circle of the Moon” and the afforementioned “Harmony of Dissonance”

***I borrowed those manga screens from the exceptional Castlevania Dungeon. Drop a line if you want them gone.

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~ by chaosrexmachinae on August 25, 2007.

3 Responses to “My Michiru”

  1. What’s an example of “kiddie jamanimation” that you’re talking about? Also, “Harmony of Dissonance” is pretty much the only Castlevania game I’ve played recently (I beat it!) and I enjoyed it…But I haven’t really played any others other than the NES ones and “Aria of Sorrow,” which is fucking difficult as shit!

  2. The Nintendo DS Castlevanias have been using really boring anime-style artwork for the character art. It’s really bad quality, like Sailor Moon or something.

    Yeah, Harmony of Dissonance sucked for me because the music was bad, the graphics were lame (your character looked like a foppish nobleman) and the game was too easy.

    Aria of Sorrow is probably all-round the best hand-held Castlevania (although I have not played through the DS ones just yet) though the original Game Boy ones are excellent. However, Circle of the Moon (also for GBA) is by far more difficult than Aria of Sorrow. I actually didn’t put the time in to beat that one, but my friend told me the final boss and ending is really awesome.

    I highly recommend Symphony of the Night for PSone, Circle of the Moon, Bloodlines for Genesis, and Castlevania IV on SNES. Lament of Innocence for PS2 is pretty decent too, but it’s a 3-D platformer kinda like Devil May Cry, but a little darker and more serious.

  3. Harmony of Dissonance by itself was fine, but it didn’t begin to match up to the other two GBA games..not even close and I don’t see how Jon thinks Aria is so difficult given that hes played the NES titles (which actually are “fucking difficult as shit”), even Circle of the Moon is more difficult.

    I’m with the author on this one, the art style present in SoTN really made it stick with people in a way that the AoS/DoS/PoR doesn’t. The music is always great as is the atmosphere but stylistically those fall short in my mind.

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