Top 30 NES Soundtracks #01: Castlevania III
By Bucky Tuesday, 30 Jun 2009

#1 – Castlevania III (137 Votes)

#1 CV3

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami (JP + US), Palcom (EU)
Year: 1989 (JP), 1990 (US), 1992 (EU)
AKA: Akumajou Densetsu

Taking the #1 spot as our voters’ all time favorite NES soundtrack is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Having a score over two to three times the size of previous Castlevania titles, with a quality of sound that is refined, it is no surprise that Castlevania III stands as a favorite for many.

CV3 opens with Prelude, an ominous and powerful track that likens itself to a more orchestral sound as the back story is introduced. The second track heard in-game is Epitaph, a neat but short loop with a sample of, presumbly, Dracula cackling at you as you enter your name or password.

The rest of the game offers a variety of tracks that cover a range of styles and genres. The opening stage has one of the catchiest and most energetic tunes from the Castlevania series, Beginning. Following with the upbeat (although minor key), driving feel are tracks like Mad Forest, Aquarius, Stream, and Deja Vu– a remake of Vampire Killer for when the player finally makes it to Dracula’s castle.

Perhaps a bit more over the top and of a baroque-metal influence are tracks like Riddle and the various boss themes. A more classical feel is touched upon in tracks like Clockwork and Prelude. Weirder, more ambient and progressive tracks emerge with tunes like Demon SeedRising and Overture.

Most of the themes from Castlevania III are simply brilliant. While I find that it’s usually the more driving and catchy tunes that catch our attention, I’ll be darned if I don’t find a track like Demon Seed to be as interesting as Beginning.

Admittedtly, Castlevania III did cheat a little to make it this high on the list. It garnered some votes as ‘Akumajou Densetsu’, the original Famicom version that made use of the VRC6 mapper for sound expansion. Although the majority of votes were specific to the US release, the total 137 votes are a combination of, essentially, two soundtracks combined as one.

Akumajou Densetsu
Akumajou Densetsu

The VRC6, designed by Hidenori Maezawa of Contra, allowed for 3 additional channels of sound. Two were for pulse waves, however there were 7 different sounding ones (duty cycles) available as opposed to the original 3 the NES produced. The third channel was for a sawtooth wave. Such expansion audio was only ever used in three games from Konami- the original Japanese Castlevania III, Madara, and Esper Dream 2.

The VRC6 version of the soundtrack has both its fans and detractors. Some enjoy the larger sound and nuances omitted from the American arrangements, while for others it comes across as muddier or less clear in sound. I can go both ways on this, as I do prefer the bright simplicity and quality of sound heard in some of the NES arrangements. There are others that I think sound awesome on the Famicom, however, like Overture and Pressure.

Whichever is your cup of tea, Castlevania III has one of the best video game soundtracks for the NES, and rests as the #1 pick from The Shizz.

The music is composed by Y. Sasaki, J. Funamashi, and Y. Morimoto (Gradius II).

Listen to a selection of tracks on youtube here.

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