Since 1986, Castlevania has been a staple for great baroque-esque music despite have different composers in almost every game until Michiru Yamane came on board with the franchise in 1994 with Castlevania: Bloodlines. 1999's N64 release of Castlevania 64 was no different in the franchise however with regards to the composers. This time around, Konami went with three composers, Masahiko Kimura (who later worked on Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow), Motoaki Furukawa (who had previously worked on Castlevania X: Rondo of Blood) and Mariko Egawa (whose only work on work in the Castlevania series would be this title).
I had been in love with the games and music of the Castlevania series since I first played and Castlevania 64 was no exception. I remember on my first run through of the game, I chose the "Easy" difficulty which turned out to stop about halfway through the game which then required me to restart on the normal difficulty setting to finish the game. Although on my second pass through the game I did not receive the "good ending" until I re-replayed through the game again for a third time using Reinhardt Schneider, (I was never able to get past the Tower of Sorcery's disappearing platforms with Carrie Fernandez).
It wasn't until after I bought the soundtrack that I realized how good the music for Castlevania 64 was. I obviously liked it enough to purchase the soundtrack, but listening to the music outside of the game environment is a different experience. I remember after listening to the CD for the first time that I felt that I had listened to a film soundtrack. While the CD did not contain all of the tracks and some of the incidental music that I had enjoyed in the game, there was so much music that I did like.
For the entirety of this review, I will not be able to say specifically which of the composers wrote which piece. And being a Castlevania game, Castlevania 64 does reuse themes from previous games in the series and despite the fact that the staple "Vampire Killer" is not present anywhere on the soundtrack, I do not find that this detracts from the overall quality and enjoyment of the album.
The opening track is entitled Introduction/Opening or more majestically, "Sign of Blood Relationship," and also uses the theme from Castlevania: Bloodlines' "Bloodlines." The song not only fits perfectly into the existing Castlevania universe, but is a great introduction into this Castlevania game.
That amazing violin solo in the second half of the piece was performed by Tomokuni Katayama, and even being surrounded by a MIDI score, the track sounds amazing.
The track "Lamented Rose" is both a beautiful yet ominous piece that really surprised me both in-game and upon hearing it in the soundtrack. In the game, the music happens when your character enters a room and looks upon a flower vase and is confronted (I think) by the first vampire you meet in the game that isn't Count Dracula. The scene plays out really well as a cut-scene, but we're focusing on music here.
One of my favorite tracks, both in-game as well as on the soundtrack is the "Dungeon - Main Theme." Like a lot of the music from the game it is fairly subdued compared to other musical cues from the Castlevania franchise, but it works for this game and the world that was created. The music creates the feeling that you need to keep plodding onward and that you may actually survive and not be turned into a vampire.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight one of the liturgical sounding songs, which almost seems required for a Castlevania game. "Stairway to the Clouds" happens on your approach to Dracula's tower while going up flight after flight of stairs. How many games can you think of that have something this dramatic, just to walk up a flight of stairs?
If any/all of these tracks have interested you into either playing Castlevania 64 on that N64 gathering dust in the garage or perhaps to pop on over to eBay to purchase the soundtrack, then you've made my Friday or whatever day it is that you are reading this. Happy weekend.