I’m pretty big into game music. Once in a blue moon, I’ll listen to some ’80s glam, Rush, or symphonic metal, but well over ninety-five percent of my aural diet is from the real classics: Mega Man, Castlevania, Ys, Final Fantasy, Gradius, and the like. As such, I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to what’s good and what’s composed by Tommy Tallarico. So I’ll be sharing my views and highlighting individual pieces of game music I think are worthy of “best of” status — and to make it easy, we’ll start off with a classic.
Composed by: Konami Kukeiha Club
Also known as: “Dreams of Triumph,” “BIGINNING”
First appeared in: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse/Akumajou Densetsu
“Beginning” is part of the holy trinity of recurring Castlevania themes, alongside “Vampire Killer” and “Bloody Tears.” Conveniently, these compositions serve as the opening stage music for the first three “main” games in the series (screw you, Castlevania: The Adventure). Together, they provide a consistent musical link between the Castlevania games — or possibly just an easy way out of composing new material.
“Beginning” was likely named for Castlevania III’s hearkening back to family patriarch Trevor Belmont’s undead odyssey, set centuries before his descendant Simon made watching castles crumble a routine experience. So why is it a piece of music worth remembering?
First of all, it’s longer than “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears”; while those each run about thirty seconds before they loop, “Beginning” nearly doubles that with a fifty-second length. Hey, it mattered back then! Its original incarnation from Castlevania III is a very up-tempo and percussion-laden piece -– not as plodding as “Vampire Killer” can be, while lengthy enough to avoid the repetitiveness of “Bloody Tears.” In the Japanese version of the game, Akumajou Densetsu, it also benefits from extra sound channels from Konami’s proprietary VRC6 chip. With even greater percussion and an all-around fuller sound than the NES release, it’s still one of the best versions of the piece to date (see above video). For an interesting comparison between territories, click here.
I wasn’t joking when I said “Beginning” is a recurring theme: it appears in nearly ten Castlevania titles — and in a variety of flavors. Styles range from a playful mix in Kid Dracula to the atmospheric orchestral sound of Super Castlevania IV. It’s also a favorite on arrangement albums such as the hard rock Dracula Battle series. The synth-symphonic version from the rare Dracula New Classic album isn’t too shabby, either. And that’s to say nothing of the de facto “winner” off the dubious Dracula Perfect Selection CD. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
The danger in so many appearances is that it’s very easy to burn out; however, “Beginning” still doesn’t crop up nearly as much as “Vampire Killer” or “Bloody Tears.” It was most recently used in last year’s Rondo of Blood remake, The Dracula X Chronicles, where heavy guitar and ample synth made for, in my opinion, its finest arrangement yet. Curiously, it was renamed “Dreams of Triumph” here; I don’t know if this is a permanent change or a one-time miscommunication, but future titles should tell. With two Castlevania games on the horizon this year (and also that weird whipping arcade game), there’ll be plenty of time for the series’ composers to be lazy and include some rendition of the song.
Is “Beginning” the most iconic piece in the Castlevania series? No, that title probably belongs with “Vampire Killer.” Is it the best? That too, is pretty subjective, and I’d personally have to favor SCVIV’s “Theme of Simon Belmont.” But that’s the point, really: “Beginning” proves that you don’t have to be the best or most iconic to be one of the greatest pieces of music in video games.
And also: if you know a piece of game music that you think deserves to be covered in future installments, please let me know in the comments!