Castlevania -Rondo of Blood-

Castlevania -Rondo of Blood- Album Title:
Castlevania -Rondo of Blood-
Record Label:
King Records
Catalog No.:
Release Date:
November 3, 1993
Buy Used Copy


Until recently, the American legend of Dracula X began and ended with the Konami’s genre defining Symphony of the Night. In Japan, I can say less of the legend’s end, but it certainly began with the PC Engine hit Akumajo Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. While those of us abroad had been able to sample the soundtrack through the halfhearted SNES port, some tracks didn’t come along for the trip overseas, and those that remained lacked the vitality of the PC Engine’s Red Book audio quality. Akumajo Dracula X packages the PC Engine soundtrack with Michiru Yamane’s score for Castlevania: Bloodlines and some bonus arrangements from Akumajo Dracula X68000.


Despite Rondo of Blood’s advances in gameplay, the game was still at heart a classically-styled Castlevania platformer. The soundtrack follows suit. In fact, Rondo of Blood is one of the series most pop-oriented, danceable soundtracks. In general, this is no problem. “Bloodlines”, 100% pure 90’s dance pop, has become one of the series most recognizable tunes, and deservedly so. It combines an infectious melody with a manic bass line that is certain to get a gamer’s adrenaline running. In addition, the slightly harder edged, but equally poppy “Slash” (which somehow transformed into “Op. 13” for its role in Perfect Selection Dracula Battle) is one of the album’s greatest tracks. It combines its dance core with hard rock elements very well, and creates interest by contrasting its more aggressive and rhythmic A section with a more lyrical and upbeat B section.

Only occasionally is the pop flavour overbearing. Composer Mikio Saito’s arrangement of the classic “Beginning” features over-digitalized samples that reek of the late 80’s, and take some of the track’s bite away. In addition, I feel a little ill every time my playlist shuffles to “Maria Samba”. Though the track is clearly going for a comic affect, its halfhearted aping of Latin music strikes me more as an empty caricature of the samba style than a charming Kondoism. Those two tracks are the biggest turnoffs for me on the album and the rest of the album’s pure pop falls somewhere between the stand out tracks I first mentioned and the disasters just covered. “Cross a Fear” starts out with an almost imaginably banal melody, but a compelling B section and the strength of the accompaniment in the opening make for a mostly enjoyable track. “Op. 13” has a similar rhythm to “Maria Samba” and its accompaniment is a little bit campy. Still, a charming synth lead and a strong melody ultimately make the track a winner. “Cemetery” and “Picture of the Ghost Ship” are both interesting and well-constructed pieces of music, but they lack the melodic strength to keep the tracks in my mind.

Of course, no Castlevania soundtrack would be complete without arranging the NES opening level suite and Mikio Saito, exempting the disappointing rendition of “Beginning”, has done a very good job. His arrangement of “Bloody Tears” is particularly compelling, adding a dramatic organ interlude between repetitions of the main theme. I only wish the track were longer. “Vampire Killer” is a straightforward rendition of the theme, but features very good instrumentation. Few arrangements of this theme have been able to bring out as much of the character of the tune as this one. In addition, the ending of the track introduces a great guitar bit inspired by Castlevania’s “Slayer”. I also wish this would have been expanded — it just seems to end too quickly.

Besides the standard track to track arranges, all three of the opening level tunes also appear in a medley called “Den”. Despite some sensational moments, uses the source melodies in too fragmented a manner to truly be effective. As an added treat, the soundtrack includes a sensational arrangement of the Haunted Castle‘s “Cross Your Heart”. It takes the phenomenal obscure track, removes the out of tune synths, and really does not do much more than that, but I’m thankful to Saito for bringing a great track from such an obscure game to us.

Although Rondo of Blood is predominantly pop oriented, it does have elements that delve into other genres. “Requiem” is a stunning splash screen track reminiscent of Gregorian chant. “Dancing in Phantasmic Hell” and “Illusionary Dance” are dark, bombastic, gothic expeditions into orchestral battle music, and are some of the best battle themes in the series. They are almost uncontested as the best orchestral battle themes in the series, but their only real competition are Michiru Yamane’s disastrously dull banquet tracks from Symphony of the Night. Both are great tracks. “March of the Holy Men” is a mostly a throwaway half-march half-pop ballad piece for the end credits. The poppier elements of the track are somewhat nice, if overly sentimental, but the march elements are totally dull. I still don’t understand how the track was selected for Perfect Dracula Dracula Battle.

Overall, Rondo of Blood is a very good classic Castlevania album. It is a bit more uneven than the NES soundtracks, but makes up for some down tracks with crisp, energetic samples, and some truly standout tracks. It features some of the best battle music the series has to offer, some very enjoyable dance pop, and some of the best arrangements of the great NES tracks that I’ve heard. And even though the album has a few more dull tracks than average, with the exception of a couple outliers, the dull tracks are still pretty good. I recommend the series’s NES soundtracks before this one, but this is no slouch and is sure to entertain fans of Castlevania’s classic sound.

In terms of gameplay, Bloodlines is even more conservative than Rondo of Blood. In fact, it is sometimes referred to as the last classic Castlevania. The music, however, is another story. Composed by now flagship composer Michiru Yamane, the soundtrack takes less strong a cue from dance pop and puts more emphasis on the baroque and classical elements of the series. Yamane would play with these elements even more on the Symphony of the Night soundtrack, while merging the dance side in as well. Though Bloodlines is the last of the classic Castlevania games, its soundtrack is the first of the present.

The strength of this soundtrack is in the themes for the six stages of the game. Of the six, the game’s first, “Reincarnated Soul”, is the most reminiscent of the old school Castlevania sound. You have a steady beat in the drums, a rhythmic bass mostly sticking to chord roots, and a solid melody above it all stealing the show. It works quite nicely, and is another in the distinguished pedigree of quality Castlevania first stage tracks. “Iron-Blue Intention” also conjures up of classic Castlevania, but with more emphasis on the baroque elements that make Yamane’s style so recognizable. Some of the cadences in particular reek of classical procedure, but at the same time, some of the licks, particularly the one that begins the B section, seem born right out of pop. Yamane’s conjunction of these two seemingly disparate styles works surprisingly well, and are a couple of the soundtrack’s most energetic tracks.

With the game’s second stage track, “The Sinking Old Sanctuary”, Yamane found a piece of her own to add to Castlevania’s repertoire of repeated tracks. Featured also in Circle of the Moon, “The Sinking Old Sanctuary” is one of the few tracks in all of Castlevania that I would actually label as beautiful that does not rely on a dark atmosphere to get its beauty. It features a rhythmically energized and lyrical melody that sounds like nothing Castlevania had to offer up to this point. Its B section, though short, is a wonderful, climactic contrast. I doubt you would be able to have a dance party based around this track, but in all other respects, I think this is the soundtrack’s best single track.

“The Prayer for a Tragic Queen” is the album’s most clearly baroque styled piece, and has very nice interplay between its melody and bass line, which is a quality melody in its own right. The harmonic shift coming out of the A section into the B section is very striking, and I enjoyed that a great deal. “Calling from Heaven” is a bombastic heroic track, which accompanies the game’s final stage. It has a greater sense of motion than any other track in the game and the broad range that the melody covers enhances its effect. The only stage tune that disappoints is “The Discolored Wall”, which deserves praise anyway for trying to do something new. Once the melody actually comes into play, the track improves a good bit, but the opening goes on a bit too long, and the bass doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the music. Though I realize this is intentional, I find it more obnoxious than uneasy. The arranges of the NES suite, which are only accessible in the game via code, are also relatively disappointing, a good part due to the Genesis synth, which I do not care for much. Drums in particular suffer throughout the soundtrack, even disturbing my enjoyment of very good tracks such as “Calling from Heaven” and “Iron-Blue Intention”.

However, despite the strength of the game’s stage themes, the soundtrack does not have a lot else to offer the listener. The battle music is mostly obnoxious, monochromatic, and repetitive. Only “The Six Servants of the Devil” comes close engaging me, but even it tends to lose me quickly. Some tracks, like “Nothing to Lose”, are just completely aggravating, though the Genesis percussion is a part of that. Most of the remaining pieces on the soundtrack are brief mood pieces used for menus and introductory demos. The pieces are of varying quality, but none are terribly obnoxious, and none are terribly involving. They feel mostly like filler. “Requiem for the Nameless Victims”, however, the game Ending title track, is one of the series more effective concluding tracks, right alongside Castlevania III‘s “Evergreen”.

The four arrangements of music from Akumajo Dracula X68000 are a nice touch to fill out a disc that had a decent share of filler, though they are not really going to change anyone’s reaction to the album as a whole. “Moon Fight” is a very neat track, although it sounds an awful lot like The Price is Right for a battle track. “Mother Earth” is quite good as well, although you have to wait until the B section to get the best of the track. “Final Road” has a nice tune, but I’m not all that impressed by what Nakamura does with the arranging. As for “Theme of Simon”, well, it’s probably the best version of the track I’ve heard, but it’s still “Theme of Simon”.


When taken as a whole, Akumajo Dracula X is a pretty good album. Rondo of Blood is a little bit uneven, but mostly solid. Bloodlines has very good level tracks, but is relatively dull outside of them. In addition, there’s no album in the Castlevania oeuvre that needs new samples as badly; the overbearing Genesis drums do a number on almost every track they’re in and the pitched samples can be bland as well. “The Sinking Old Sanctuary” is really the only major track on the soundtrack that I don’t think suffers from the samples. People interested only in Bloodlines soundtrack might do better to seek out the Perfect Selection Dracula Battle arranges, which feature very good arrangements of “Reincarnated Soul”, “Iron-Blue Intention”, “Calling from Heaven”, and “Requiem for the Nameless Souls”. Still, the music is very good, and those who aren’t bothered by, not just bad samples but the irritating ones, should pick this up, as it’s the only complete release of the Bloodlines soundtrack.

Castlevania -Rondo of Blood- Richard Walls

Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!


Posted on August 1, 2012 by Richard Walls. Last modified on August 1, 2012.

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