Game That Tune

Game That Tune: Bloody Tears, Castlevania series

All You Need Is Blood

A signature Castlevania track invites you to shake your booty while you vanquish evil.

By Derrick Sanskrit • October 3, 2013

Game music has the power to earworm its way into your heart long after you put the controller down. Each week in Game That Tune, we highlight a great tune from a great game (or a great tune from a just-okay game).

Sullen European villages with dank street lamps and defeated villagers. Sprawling mansions replete with vintage movie monsters and undead horrors. These are the trademark environments of the Castlevania games, those action-packed and melodramatic tributes to the creature features of the silver screen’s golden age. While the series has produced a great deal of memorable music over the past 27 years, there is one song that stands above the rest: “Bloody Tears.” Originally composed for the second Castlevania title on the NES, this gem of gothic-pop has been remixed for over a dozen other titles in the series, as well as several rhythm games including Dance Dance Revolution.

“Bloody Tears” has one foot in the grave, with its operatic lead synth calling to mind the scores of Phantom Of The Opera and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. A tense whirlwind of minor key blips presents an overarching sense of dread. The other foot stomps into the lively underground dancehall of 1980s chip music. The fuzzed-out noise drum says, “Never stop moving, for certain death creeps behind” while the higher-register synth and its counter-balanced harmonious cousin assure that you are right, you are just, and that your work is important labor deserving no less than eternal praise and admiration. Just because you’re in the midst of slaying the relentless dark master of gloom and doom doesn’t mean you can’t shake your butt a bit in the process. It’s no wonder Konami keeps reusing this song. “Bloody Tears” puts the “fun” in “vampire h(f)unter.”

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47 Responses to “All You Need Is Blood”

  1. DrFlimFlam says:

    Once again, fantastic artwork. Love the idea of replacing a lethal whip with a dude just REALLY jamming.

  2. duwease says:

    Simon Belmont’s iPod Playlist:

    Whip It – Devo
    Whip It – Moby
    Whip It – Nicki Minaj
    Whip My Hair – Willow Smith
    Piano Man – Billy Joel (he just really likes Billy Joel)

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Also:

      Whip The Blankets – Neko Case
      Whipping Boy – Shearwater

      Turns out he is not a fan of Vampire Weekend.

      • craigward says:

         that has nothing to do with vampire being in the name

      • El Zilcho says:

        Sometimes Belmont gets really in the mood to roll a doob and listen to the live cut of Allman Brothers Band’s “Whipping Post” off At Fillmore East.

  3. PaganPoet says:

    Simon must really do a lot of squats. Damn. Fantastic header image!

    And I’m not sure how you whittled the entire Castlevania franchise to this one track. Yes, it’s iconic and amazing, but the series is filled to the brim with iconic music. I would have a hard time deciding between this, “Vampire Killer,” “Dance of Illusion,” or one of my other less-iconic favorites like “Royal Chapel” from SOTN or “The Waterfalls” from SCIV.

    • Matt Gerardi says:

      I’m a huge fan of “Crystal Teardrop” from Symphony Of The Night aka the song from the Underground Caverns.

      • PaganPoet says:

        As am I, as mentioned below. I’m not sure how they made a pipe organ and an oboe sound completely at home in a smooth jazz piece, but damn it, they did it.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Seriously. How can I be expected to fight evil when the mood is set for love? All the enemies in the underground caverns should be ambulatory bear skin rugs and poltergeist soft-focus champagne flutes.

    • Godots17thCup says:

      To the best of my knowledge, it’s only ever appeared in the original Castlevania and a remake of that game (Castlevania Chronicles), but I’ve always been really fond of href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bTAdrq6leQ”>Wicked Child. Every time I reach Stage 3 and the music starts up, I still get a little excited.

      That track just screams “Spooky adventure!”, “NES platforming!” and “I’m whipping an evil, reanimated skeleton in the goddamn face and it is freaking AWESOME!” to me. I love it so much.

    • Girard says:

      It would be interesting to do a Game That Tune that contrasts between the US and Japan versions of a given Castlevania III song, since the US version lacked the custom sound chip of the Japanese version and resultantly had a more spare, mixed-down version of the soundtrack.

      • George_Liquor says:

        Yeah, we kinda got screwed with the NES. No line in for special audio chips, no disk drive, no microphone and that damned blinking red light. 

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I know quite a few people who prefer our version, though I’m not 1 of them.  It’s really 2 great, different things, not an inferior and superior.

  4. Chalkdust says:

    Oh yeah, now you’re speaking my language!  Castlevania’s gothic prog rock will always be a favorite of mine.  For this song in particular, as you say it’s a signature track.  I found a guy who uploaded a compilation of all the existing versions, which is a fun guided tour through the evolution of sound hardware as well as this piece’s various arrangements.  And let’s not overlook Smooth McGroove‘s a capella version!

    Symphony of the Night remains my benchmark for Castlevania music, though, and “Bloody Tears” wasn’t even in the original soundtrack, which just goes to show how fantastic SotN’s music is that it can rise above such an omission.  When the game was expanded and re-released on Sega Saturn, it did include a version of the song which I don’t really like that much.

    • PaganPoet says:

      Favorite SOTN track? I’m partial to “Royal Chapel,” simply because of love the dissonance of grotesque demons and violence occurring in a would-be holy place, and the track is heavenly.

      I’m also a big fan of “Crystal Teardrop.” That smooth, goth-jazz and DAT BASSLINE.

    • NakedSnake says:

      As long as we are discussing music from other Castlevania games, have you all ever listened to this track from Castlevania: The Adventure? Terrible Game Boy game, but it’s a fantastic track.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Oh hey, are we talking about favourite SOTN tracks!?!? Can I play?!

      Although it’s hard for me to choose (this game has one of my all time favourite OSTs. It’s just so inventive and catchy and makes so many unorthodox but undeniably successful decisions), I could probably narrow it down to like a top 5? In no particular order,

      Marble Gallery
      I love the way this track has sort of “actiony” synths running underneath it and a much more leisurely “explorationy” precussion sort of thing on top. Feel like classic Castlevania mixed in with the new.

      Wood Carving Partita
      Basically just pure class. A lot of the tracks sound like video game BGMs, but this to me sounds like the sort of music Dracula would actually have playing in his castle.

      Requiem for the Gods
      A perfect track for a game like SOTN- scary, sad, plenty of borrowed and distorted religious iconography in the form of screeching pipe organs and vowely chanting. Some of the game’s tracks emphasize blood-pumping action or more leisurely songs for exploration heavy areas, but this track rightly prioritizes the game’s haunting atmosphere.

      Lost Painting
      Another good example of a track with some real emotion to it- a deliberately paced, melancholy feeling track with some great subtly reverberating effects in the higher strings and woodwinds. Plus the little sleighbells here and there really emphasize the “coldness” of the track and its corresponding level.

      Wandering Ghosts
      Maybe my #1 favourite track on the OST!? I adore the fake-out at the beginning, where it starts out all atmospheric and spooky, but then fires up a really catchy little diitty by way of introduction to one of the funkiest guitar-driven BGMs in all of gamedom. I also love the squealy horn section that occasionally serves as background support, and sometimes punctuates the lead guitar’s elements. This game has tracks that attempt to go for action, sadness, atmosphere, and horror, but this is one of the tracks on the album that’s basically just straight up cool.

      • PaganPoet says:

        I like Lost Painting on a technical level, but I remember getting sick of it because it’s overplayed in the inverted castle.

        EDIT: It’s also played in the Inverted Library, and if anyone has ever hunted for a Crissaegrim can tell you, you put that crap on mute and play a CD.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?p=74255551#post74255551

      Bloody Tears is my favorite in the series and 1 of my favorite in video games, but I think the rest of my 10 favorite tracks are more interesting.

      I”m not going to hipster out and claim that Bloody Tears isn’t marvelous, even in Beatmania form.

  5. NakedSnake says:

    Yaaayyyyy!! This is seriously one of my favorite video game tracks. The funny thing about it (as Sanskrit implies) is that it subtly pushes you to play the level more aggressively. Ordinarily, classic Castlevania are all about cautious, incremental progress. Whip, retreat, whip, wait, jump forward, etc. But for whatever level Bloody Tears plays, I usually go nuts and just try to plow my way through the level. Since it’s usually reserved for earlier levels, that works out just fine, and it’s glorious.

    The only problem is that there are so many versions of the song that when one is making a video-game-music-cd, it can get kind of daunting which one is the best. I guess I kind of like the NES version than the SNES one, although I’d be hard pressed to explain why that is.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Vampire Killer is only my 8th favorite track in the series, but I think it’s the representative track of the series’ gameplay, you’re right.  Bloody Tears is the “lead single,” though, and it deserves all of its acclaim.  Nice breakdown on Gameological.

  6. Sa3ad says:

    I’m partial to the Rondo of Blood version myself, but there’s something undeniably haunting about the original. It’s really representative of Castlevania music in that it manages to be both ominous and upbeat at the same time.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Rondo of Blood is one of the best game names ever created.

      • PaganPoet says:

        If you have a PSP or a Vita, I highly recommend the PSP version, titled Dracula X Chronicles.

        Not only does it have a 2.5 remake, with redone graphics, music, voice acting, beautiful portraits (in the style of SOTN), and an added Boss Rush mode, but a port of the original Sega Genesis version can also be unlocked. You can ALSO unlock an enhanced port of Symphony of the Night with improved script and voice acting, removal of that awful song that plays during the credits, and the option to play as Maria.

        • George_Liquor says:

          The PC Engine original is available on the Wii’s VC, too. Definitely worth the purchase.

        • Sa3ad says:

          I’m not sure the improved voice acting in SotN is much of a plus though. The cheese of the original dub is glorious.

        • Sa3ad says:

          The original wasn’t for the Genesis though. As stated by George_Liquor it was for the PC Engine, also known stateside as TurboGrafx-16. The game for the Mega Drive/Genesis was Bloodlines, which in the intro of the original translation of SotN is misidentified as the English title of Rondo of Blood. 

      • Sa3ad says:

        Rondo of Blood is probably the best Japanese game with an intro in German.

    • George_Liquor says:

      It’s definitely a great track when listened to by itself. I’d probably like it better then the NES original too, but for the weird cognitive dissonance I experience seeing chunky 8-bit graphics paired to a lush orchestral recording. 

  7. blue_lander says:

    I love this song, but only the original NES version. None of the remixes do it for me. The version from the X68000 Castlevania game is okay, I guess.

    • PaganPoet says:

      I get what you mean. There’s a certain…crispness to 8-bit music.

    • Sa3ad says:

      The level where Bloody Tears plays in Akumajou Dracula x68000 actually has a statue crying blood (which for some reason turns into immortal red skeletons upon touching the ground). It’s also a level hard enough to make the player cry blood. Seriously, it’s insanely difficult. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=MwkKuolGG7Q#t=1147

      • blue_lander says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever finished x68k castlevania. Come to think of it, I don’t think I actually own the game, I just have a copied disk from the previous owner of my x68000. It’s a good game, but it doesn’t really take things to the next level over the NES originals like other 16 bit titles like Rondo of Blood or Super Castlevania. I

    • huge_jacked_man says:

      I like Daniel Tidwell’s cover.

  8. Grimbus says:

    Oh lord, someone’s made a rap beat out of it and put lyrics to it:

    Vinnie Paz – Bloody Tears

    References to baseheads: 1