Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Highlights in Shadows
Review by Richard Buxton
It has been three years since LORDS OF SHADOW, a reboot of KONAMI’S classic franchise CASTLEVANIA, first graced consoles. Despite initial fan backlash against the game’s distinctly different style to its predecessors, LORDS OF SHADOW went on to become the most successful release of the long-running franchise. Naturally, in a generation of countless re-releases and updates, Gabriel Belmont is called upon to slay the dark lords once again in CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW - ULTIMATE EDITION. The timing of the game’s release has inevitably resulted in a lukewarm reception, as the gaze of the gaming world drifts on to a new generation of consoles. With the release of the ULTIMATE EDITION come new environments, weapons, and boss battles, but most interestingly for the musically-inclined, an extended release of Spanish composer OSCAR ARAUJO’S spectacular original score. Can you really have too much of a good thing? In this case, no, you cannot.
However, perhaps the most surprising target of the CASTLEVANIA fanbase’s ire was the score itself. Understandably, given the popularity of previous CASTLEVANIA music, fans had placed a certain level of expectation on the notably not Japanese composer OSCAR ARAUJO. Given the change in the game’s style, a distinct shift in composer and musical style was surely a given. The tremendously catchy, hook-based tracks of previous releases might have shone in years gone by, but would undoubtedly stick out sorely in a game-world highly dependent on a narrative structure such as LORDS OF SHADOW. One of the common criticisms leveled at ARAUJO’S score, before many had even heard it in full, was that it consisted of an “epic” genericism derived from countless Hollywood film scores of yesteryear. One can only wish that the average Hollywood score approached such a level as this though. Video game audiences are hardly known for their patience, occasionally lacking foresight and even hindsight should it suit their circumstances. Yet it still came as something of a surprise that such an outlook could come from a collective that spends much of each year complaining about the stagnation of major franchises whilst failing to back up their clamours by keeping their wallets shut. Apparently change is only acceptable with express permission. For many of those with an open mind, ARAUJO’S score was nothing short of spectacular, and to this day it remains one of the greatest scores composed for a video game. It may not have the infectious nostalgic hooks of “Vampire Killer”, “Cross Fear”, and the many other iconic themes of the CASTLEVANIA of old, but this is a score that rises above anything previously heard in this musically celebrated franchise. The release of this ULTIMATE EDITION is subsequently one that may interest fans of the score more than those of just the game itself.
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