Castlevania: Circle of the Moon & Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance OST Review by Diplo

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Download Complete Package

23 MB

Track Length File size
1. Requiem 1:11 1.57 MB
2. Sign of a Pulse 0:36 558 KB
3. A Vision of Dark Secrets 0:44 734 KB
4.Inversion 0:46 715 KB
5. Awake 1:30 1.55 MB
6. The Sinking Old Sanctuary 1:49 1.69 MB
7. Clockwork 1:21 1.33 MB
8. Shudder 0:52 889 KB
9. Game Over 0:08 128 KB
10.Fate to Despair 1:40 1.54 MB
11. Aquarius 1:17 1.32 MB
12. Clockwork Mansion 2:21 2.31 MB
13. Big Battle 0:55 0.99 MB
14. Nightmare 1:30 1.72 MB
15. Vampire Killer 0:50 888 KB
16. Illusionary Dance 1:05 1.02 MB
17. Proof of Blood 1:21 1.39 MB
18. Repose of Souls 1:50 1.84 MB
19. Circle of the Moon 1:01 1.10 MB

ircle of the Moon, at a time, was my favorite soundtrack out of all the handheld games.
I was a special exception.

As it later turned out, after getting into the series, most of the tunes I had heard in Circle were, in fact, remixes of songs previously in other games. Everything was fresh for me, whereas for others, it may have well been pretty stale.

Now I am among the people who expect more of their Castlevania soundtracks than what has been demonstrated in CotM.

Circle heavily borrows from various places, such as Super Castlevania 4, Castlevania 64, and Bloodlines.

Considering the time CotM came out, it is all the more impressive how the sound quality can be. The songs have respectable synths in a lot of areas, and the bass is nearly always pushing the songs along with a strong and grooving quality.

But there are some problems that may bother players.

There is a noticeable hiss to all of the songs in the background. Well, not really a hiss, but a lot of fuzz, if you will. Its purity is outmatched when it comes to Harmony of Dissonance, whose songs sound crystal clear. This is not really that big of a deal in game, but on the CD it is bothersome.

Despite the generally good instrumentation, there is a kind of "bloopy" sound that pervades some songs, like the redone version of "Aquarius," Castlevania 3's Sunken City. Strangely, this is the case mostly with the songs from Castlevania 3, and it often makes them come off as more weak than their predecessors.
A couple redone songs don't really do anything to deviate from the prior versions, such as "Vampire Killer," which is a close brother to Super Castlevania 4's.
Some are pretty boring, like the redone "Nightmare."

Another negative point of a couple of the songs is how they are used. "Sinking Old Sanctuary" is simply played in too many areas of the castle. "Fate to Despair," while being a splendid original song, just loses its potency when you've heard it in two gigantic areas.

If people can get beyond the fact that they've probably heard a major chunk of these songs before, these complications will probably be lessened.

Circle does manage to make some of its remixes entertaining.

"Sinking Old Sanctuary" is much more active this time around, with an additional movement in its composition that really takes advantage of the game's bass and shows it off.
"Clockwork Mansion" is redone for the first time, and I have a hard time saying the original is superior. Circle's, again, is livelier, and the organ synth is a little better sounding.
The composer even fused the second part of SCV4's fourth stage's theme, making it a special treat for those who ever wished to see the more neglected songs in the series reappear.

And while it's not a remix, Circle uses Rondo of Blood's start-up screen's theme, "Requiem," which is a haunting melody performed by a female vocal. It sounds just as good as it did on the CD-based game.

Where the game really shines is in its originals.

"Awake" is the official "beginning" theme of the game, and it's a great way to start off. The composition urges the player to become involved in the world that has been presented to them, and perfectly matches Nathan's brisk start to his quest.
"Fate to Despair" is a glorious, pounding progression of brass that clearly indicates the august nature of the places it plays in.
"Proof of Blood" is one of my favorite Dracula fight themes in the series. The high-paced succession of notes wonderfully fits the dramatic, oppressive, and hopeful qualities of the final battle.

CotM also has two dazzling ending themes; one for the epilogue cutscene, and the other for the credits.
"Circle of the Moon" has an airy texture to it with the effortless way the instruments mingle with one another as it tells the story of a struggle finally being over.
"Repose of Souls" starts out enigmatically, and then proceeds to delve into a few triumphant, but still esoteric, segments.

It's pretty good stuff. If KCEK had focused more on quantity and originality, it would have been much better, though.
Give it a listen, as it's still one of the better soundtracks for handheld games.

Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance

Download Complete Package

38 MB

Track Length File Size
20. Prologue 1:46 1.79 MB
21. Title Screen 0:23 423 KB
22. Name Entry 2K2 1:16 1.33 MB
23. Successor of Fate 1:26 1.49 MB
24. Offense and Defense 1:45 1.86 MB
25. Approach to Despair 1:11 1.25 MB
26. Luminous Caverns 1:46 1.94 MB
27. Aqueduct of Dragons 1:20 1.44 MB
28. Chapel of Dissonance 1:10 1.28 MB
29. Clock Tower Casualty 1:10 1.21 MB
30. Skeleton Den 1:16 1.33 MB
31. To the Center of the Demonic Castle 1:10 1.24 MB
32. Beloved Person 1.49 1.90 MB
33. Dark Covenant 1:06 1.12 MB
34. Decisive Battle 1:17 1.35 MB
35. Epilogue 1 1:20 1.35 MB
36. Game Over 0:06 119 KB
37. Incarnation of Darkness 0:42 760 KB
38. Old Enemy 1:16 1.37 MB
39. Epilogue 2 1:52 1.97 MB
40. Successor of Fate 1:02 1.25 MB
41. I'll Sell at My Place 0:31 494 KB
42. Dark Door 0:53 944 KB
43. Knight Head 1:09 1.21 MB
44. VK2K2 2:13 2.39 MB
45. Chapel of Dissonance (Arrange Version) 4:18 5.65 MB

They say that creativity breeds originality – not the other way around. When Van Gogh was in the process of painting his Starry Night, he wasn't engaging in an inner dialogue about, "Oh-ho! This is unlike anything anyone's done before!" On the contrary, he was making something the best way he knew how. In spite of whatever perceived "pretentiousness" this brings into the discussion, it is something I find worth mentioning when talking about Soshiro Hokkai's score to Harmony of Dissonance, which is not trying too hard, or too little. It simply is what it is, and people are going to have to deal with it on their own terms.

It's maybe a coincidence that the very "restrictions" on Harmony's sound compliment the compositions so much. Or maybe Hokkai was writing precisely for that sound. That is a bit hard to believe when listening to his few Aria of Sorrow tracks, possibly betrayed by wimpier synths, but still harmonically uncommon. Indeed, Harmony's sound is not bad – it's poor only insofar as one expects all music to sound literal. That, unfortunately, seems to be an expectation a whole hell of a lot of people share, demonstrated in reviews of Aria of Sorrow that thumbs-up its more "realistic" samples based on their roles as emulators, rather than assessing self-specific quality. Harmony's non-percussive instruments are always themselves, barring an organ, and they work with a vigorous excellence.

Hokkai's music is one of the last vestiges of eight-bit music in current times (Megaman 9 being another). This is not to say I, or others, praise it because it is a relic – I praise it because it is a relic, and it does things none of the other relics do. It's an aesthetic revival, curiously necessitated by space constraints, and given tweaks and twists and pinches and scrubs that would make the most daring music-listener scrunch their face. The music is akin to Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse and as far removed from it as possible. If the point of the former was to craft precious, rocking anthems that encouraged an audience or an immediate approach, Harmony will have none of that. This made for many unhappy customers upon release, myself included.

In this attitude, one could call Harmony of Dissonance a modern Castlevania soundtrack . . . seemingly so invested in its own ideas and alienation that it appears forever cold, and disappointing traditional expectations of "attractiveness." Give it enough time, though, and the music, like the game harboring it, opens up at least a passage for appreciation, if not adoration. If familiarity breeds contempt – or simple boredom – HoD's score also exasperates this usually inexorable relationship. Its best songs are forever weird, forever challenging listeners and refusing to give up to utter comfort.

The instinct to be repelled was, to be sure, most strong back when we were coming off of Circle of the Moon's snappy compositions, often being remixes of old friends (or enemies) – and, maybe, anticipatory, preparatory playthroughs of Symphony of the Night, a game defined by its Baroque flair. Suddenly, there was Harmony of Dissonance, yielding not poppiness or largeness, but an unnerving, door-creaking, crackly world of schizophrenic progression. Some songs appear to combat other layers as they buzz along, brutally shoving one piece of the composition away and gracefully acknowledging another . . . only to attack that one in due time, as well.

As a game, Harmony of Dissonance is rough on the edges. It surprises with its constant clashing. One moment, Juste Belmont is in the dark tunnels of a cave – the next, he is transported to finely sculpted corridors in the air. These transferences are odd, and a bit lovely and mysterious. Similarly, there is a paradoxical loveliness, or explosive gorgeousness in the coarseness of the music – infantile, untested, and sophisticated at the same time. "Chapel of Dissonance"'s eventual blustery descent into a bevy of vigorous notes slashes against its halcyon beginning, mirroring the contrast of the earthliness of the environments' architecture and the whimsical clouds of the sky. "Successor of Fate" shows a similar tendency for structure paired with a somehow right anti-structure in its welcoming opener and headstrong, subsequent notation that surges forward and upward.

Both "Offense and Defense" and "Aqueduct of Dragons" show skill in using distinguished methods for conveying momentum, the former adventurous in tone, the latter contained and a good example of the OST's sharp percussion. Speaking of drums: take a listen of "Old Enemy" and "Name Entry 2K2" to hear how well Hokkai is able to devise different rhythms, regardless of homogenous sounds. On the beat-less side of things, "Epilogue 1" "Epilogue 2" are masterful, organic songs that manage to bring closure and indecisiveness, while not getting overtly sentimental. Even Michiru Yamane manages to sneak in for a bonus track, set to the boss rush, that enmeshes "Vampire Killer" and Castlevania 3's "Clockwork" to entertaining effect. The very fact that it's "Vampire Killer", again, and it's not making us stick our fingers down our throats to hurl in tired disgust, is something of a miracle in itself.

Most artists end up reaching a peak that they're never able to surpass, despite their best efforts. It is the rare ones that maintain a consistent oeuvre throughout their lifetime (Pollock's death, in a morbid way, might've been a good thing for his art, which was increasingly worsening prior to the crash). With Hokkai's improbable return to, well, anything outside of HoD and AoS, might the music herein be the best of what he had to offer? I don't think so – there's a bit of white noise. The boss theme doesn't make sense, even put in the context of the album's overall deconstruction. It's not interesting, or intense: it's dull in its recklessness. "Prologue" and "Dark Covenant" are both too domesticated. And I'm not sure what to think about "Luminous Caverns": on the one hand, its pathetic jazziness seems at home in the area; on the other hand, there seems to be more potential in its body than is explored.

Harmony of Dissonance's music creates a novel mood. The melodies are spooky, alien, thought provoking – intriguing, tragic, and labyrinthine. There are songs within songs, fervent harmonics and addictive drumbeats that carry their own weight. It is astounding how many counterpoints Soshiro Hokkai weaves into the whole, and how acutely he unites them. And all of it's coming from that little machine held between your hands. Anyone who is about to write it off due to other's unpleasant encounters should give it a chance. There is something here that breathes with life.


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