There’s something about the score to Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. It may have something to do with it being ingrained in our heads thirty years after the game’s original release, due to multiple Saturday afternoons wasted due to an inability to properly transcribe the massive passwords needing to get back to the last save point.
Also, despite repetition ad nauseam, the music is absolutely memorable. Simon’s Quest, in addition to excellently mellow and elegiac cuts such as “A Requiem,” or darkly intense pieces like “The Silence Of The Daylight,” features the first appearance of “Bloody Tears,” a piece that absolutely defines the Castlevania franchise.
What’s wonderful about Mondo’s release is that the A-side of the vinyl 10-inch is the Nintendo Entertainment System versions of the songs Western listeners will be most familiar with, and on the B-side, there’s the same track listing, but in their Famicom states. It allows for comparison and contrasting, as one gets to hear familiar songs in new (old) ways.
The Famicom version of “Monster Dance” sounds absolutely amazing, and might be the most revelatory of the less-familiar takes. Obviously, the Famicom versions are contemporaneous with the NES ones, but they’re so different from what has been the norm in the west. It’s like listening to the original blues songs Led Zeppelin ripped off over the years: as a listener, one recognises all the elements they’ve become accustomed to, but in a whole new context.
In some cases, the Famicom versions are improved - like “Monster Dance,” as well as the absurdly rich tones of “A Requiem,” but “Bloody Tears” sounds as if its been sped up and being played at 78rpm, instead of 45. It’s a tradeoff, but having both versions allows one to listen to old and new favourites alike.
The packaging and presentation of this 10-inch vinyl release is just as great as the first in the series: it’s a gatefold sleeve with a gorgeous cover. The artwork in this one is from The Goon’s Erik Powell, and Simon Belmont looks a lot tougher than I remember. The inner gatefold artwork’s a nice little sketchy map of the world of Simon’s Quest. The vinyl itself comes on blue with green splatter, and sounds amazing, having been remastered for the format, which is why those familiar sounds no longer ring tinny like a cheap TV speaker, but leap out of the speakers like the proper music it is.
CASTLEVANIA II: SIMON'S QUEST (1987) / COMPOSER: KENICHI MATSUBARA / LABEL: MONDO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW