Friday, May 17, 2013

My Gaming Audio History: Castlevania (1987)

In case you're just tuning in, this thread: My Gaming Audio History, is my journey back through the audio of all the games I played growing up.  For each game, I ask a few consistent questions: who created the audio experience? what is the audio experience? and how does the audio experience draw the player more deeply into the game?  Other topics are coming up as I progress, for instance, I'm currently interested in musical key relationships in the audio.

I know I got this game much later than '87...  I think I got it around Christmas 1990 because I asked for Castlevania 3 and instead, my aunt and uncle gave me this one.  Probably Castlevania 3 was sold out, or this one was cheaper (or both) so I got this one instead.  I played it a lot, but don't know if I ever beat it.  I've definitely seen the ending though, so it's possible I saw a friend of mine beat it when staying overnight.  Where are those days of having friends come over and play games together?  Seems like folks play together via the internet today instead of in person.  Anyway....

Who created the audio experience?  Kinuyo Yamashita.  After a brief stint at Konami, she's made her living mainly as a freelance game music composer.  One of my dissertation research interests was (and still is) women composers.  Thrilled to encounter the first woman on this journey through My Gaming Audio History!  Her website has links to interviews she's done and it's always fascinating to get a glimpse into the mind of the game composer that way.  One of my favorite quotes from an posted on the Square Enix site:  "The more limitations a console has, the more craftsmanship is required to make the desired sounds."  UPDATE 5/8/14:  Learned today from the Legacy Music Hour podcast that a composer named Satoe Terashima actually made several of the original Castlevania tracks, including the famous Stage 1 track, Vampire Killer.

What is the audio experience?  Castlevania has music at the beginning of the game, for different levels of the game, as well as music for the boss battle and the final battle.  The music to this game has both a Rock and Roll feel and a Baroque sound.  The Rock sound is emphasized by the drum beats and rhythm, whereas the Baroque sounds (contrapuntal voices) make the game setting seem "old." Numerous sound effects include: killing enemies/bursting candles, whip sound effects, picking up: hearts, items/food, money bags, improved whips, landing when jumping a long distance, the sound of Simon falling down the tower, enemies jumping from water, the invisibility potion, getting the cross that clears the screen of monsters, footsteps between levels, being hurt by a monster, a one-up sound, and counting down the health/hearts at the end of each level as your score goes up.  Interestingly these platform games are from an era in between pinball games and games where play time is not limited, where keeping score was important... thus the heavy barrage of sound effects at the end of the level as your final score is tallied.

How does the audio draw the player more deeply into the game?  The music is all in the minor mode, so it creates an eery, haunting atmosphere for the game.  The different music in the different stages gives the feeling of advancement as well as keeping the audio fresh.  The music at the bosses indicates a greater sense of difficulty in the gameplay-- much like Super Mario Bros did as well.  Reserving certain music for the final boss adds even additional weight to the final battle.  This is only the second game I've encountered in my history with a definite ending and the first with credits.  Very cool, movie like use of music and visuals here at the very end.  Here's a link to the soundtrack if you just want to hear it straight through with no gameplay visuals.

In case you're following along with my charting the music keys I've listed the keys of the music below. Much of the game centers around D minor and C minor, so those feel to me to be the home bases of the game, but overall, this doesn't have one overarching key in the same way the Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros really do.

Opening music (Prologue): G minor  (6 sec)
1st level (Vampire Killer): D minor (30 sec)
Boss music (Poison Mind): C minor (7 sec)
Boss clear (Stage Clear): C minor (4 sec)
3rd level (Stalker): D minor (34 sec)
4th level (Wicked Child): D minor (1:06)
Sewer passage (Walking on Edge): C# minor (then a return of earlier music) (41 sec)
5th level (Heart of Fire): C minor  (1:03)*
6th level (Out of Time): G minor (32 sec)
Approach to Dracula/Dracula 1st form: (Nothing to Lose) C minor??? (35 sec)
Dracula 2nd form: (Black Night) C minor (17 sec)
Dracula defeated: (All Clear) D minor (4 sec)
Credits: (Ending) A minor (52 sec)
Death (Player miss)/ Game over: B minor??? (1 sec/4 sec)

5 min, 30 sec of music in this game.....

*Heart of Fire is the first track I've encountered that holds over a melody from the end of the loop through the beginning of the loop again.

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