Castlevania: Rondo of Blood – 1993 Developer Interview
This lighthearted interview and commentary with the Castlevania: Rondo of Blood development team was originally featured in the Akumajou Dracula X cd liner notes. The distinct goofiness of the Konami team is on display here, as each member shares a funny anecdote or “hardship” from the Rondo of Blood development. There's also a short epigraph from composer Michiru Yamane concerning her music for the Megadrive game Vampire Killer (Castlevania: Bloodlines).
Greetings and salutations! Akiropito (Akira Souji) here. I did the sound effects, music, and programming for Rondo of Blood. For this game we used AD-PCM to play back the voice samples in-game. Far and away the most difficult thing for me, though, was finding the right voice and sfx samples. I tried recordings some of the new recruits at Konami, I tried recording my friends… and for the sound of Dracula’s cape, I recorded the sound of me flapping a blanket at home. The sight of me waving that blanket around in my living room was especially pathetic (but I tell you I was not naked, you must believe me!). That was how I got the recordings though: at home, cassette in one hand, mic in the other.
I did some of the vocal recording at Konami’s offices too. I’d borrow a meeting room and set up, but I’ll never forget what happened one day. It was sweltering, the sky was full of clouds, the rain was pouring, it was freezing cold… (HEY! are you sure you’re remembering this right?!). I had two new guys at Konami doing some vocal recording for me, and they were right in the middle of speaking some bizarre, weird lines when the receptionist opened the door on us: “I’m sorry, we can hear some strange sounds coming from in here…” Ah, we laughed so hard after that. Even remembering it now puts me in stitches. Yes, mine has truly been a remarkable life!
—Now I, Akiropito, will interview the Rondo of Blood team. Let’s start by introducing the new Konami hires who did the vocal performances in Rondo of Blood. How was it?
Ryuichi: I kept blowing into the mic, barely able to stifle my laughter. Sound recording is fun, I’d like to do it again. BURNING IN YOUR MANLY HEART, DRACULA X!!!
AKT: Looks like this might end up being my debut game at Konami… what an honor. Akumajou Dracula X68000 is a great game too.
saushirou: I did all the monster voices. A salaryman screaming in a conference room at the office… now that’s something you don’t see everyday. Who knew I’d be able to make use of my weird special voice in my career like this? It makes me happy, but I’m too embarrassed to tell my parents about it. Maybe you could let me do some normal voices next time…?
NOR: I was told to make a bunch of embarrassing voices. When it came to recording I was a deer in the headlights, but somehow, before I knew it, we had it all wrapped up and converted to PCM data. Those enemy death cries I made, though? That was no joke. They’re courtesy of the torture and pain I endured at the hands of Akiropito. But hey… it’s my big debut.
—On to the composers.
Keizo Nakamura: Because this Castlevania game was going to be on CD-ROM, I wanted to take advantage of that and go for a new sound. At the same time, I didn’t want to do anything that would harm the image of the Castlevania series. Balancing those two things was difficult. I think each of the songs has a lot of variety, and you’ll enjoy hearing all the different sounds. I’m also grateful to the people of CoCo recording studio, who were all very nice and made the recording process a lot of fun.
Mikio Saitou, aka Metal Yuuki: I wrote several songs for Rondo of Blood, but when the game was released, I was not yet an official Konami employee. So the three songs I was set to arrange (Vampire Killer, Bloody Tears, and Beginning) were ones I had listened to and loved as a fan of the Famicom games. I wanted the songs I wrote to embody the image of Castlevania that everyone has come to love.
This influenced my approach to those classic Castlevania songs: I didn’t try to re-arrange the songs, but instead planned for a more “transcription” approach. To tell the truth, at first I started writing with a classical music in my mind, but as I did more research on Castlevania I started to notice that many fans had more of a “heavy rock” image of the series’ music. I hurriedly went back and revised my pieces. So how was it? Do the songs on Rondo of Blood sound like your Castlevania?
By the way, this CD features a special track that didn’t make it onto the game called “juujika wo mune ni” (“Cross Your Heart”). This arrangement has a stronger tinge of my original, classical image. I look forward to hearing what you think about it, as well as the other songs “Vampire Killer”, “Bloody Tears”, and “Beginning”! I’ve done very little re-arranging of other people’s music, so it was a fun job for me. Also, I’d like to say thank you to the people who helped me with my research.
Motoaki Furukawa: With Castlevania finally coming to CD-ROM, it could only mean one thing: we can record real guitar now!!! …and indeed, you’ll hear it again and again on this cd. The music on these tracks was a little different from the genre I usually specialize in, so during the recording I made all the more effort to record as much guitar as I could, wherever I could. Usually I add guitar to tracks where I have done most of the recording and arrangement myself. But getting to be just a performer and record on other people’s work like I did this time was actually a lot of fun too. I’m sure more and more games will be coming to CD-ROM in the future, so I look forward to doing more guitarwork for them! Did you hear that, everyone? Write guitar parts for me please!
—Wow, that isn’t the kind of thing I’d expect the leader of the Konami Kukeiha club to say… amazing. Next, let’s hear from the other developers, starting with the character designer. Tell us about some of the challenges of developing Rondo of Blood.
Kouji Yamada (Character Designer): My laundry piled up. The cat took a shit in my garden. Oh, wait! These have nothing to do with the development. Well, as for that, it all went smoothly. (liar!)
Reika Bando (Character Designer): The return bus failed to arrive practically everyday, and I had to walk home on these scary mountain roads. And I had to eat out everyday which was bad for my health.
Toshiharu Furukawa (Character Designer): Graphically, we’ve always had to hold back on the monsters in previous Castlevania games, because they had to be released in the US. Monsters with a humanoid form violated American morals, but Rondo of Blood was a Japan-only release, so I took the opportunity to create a whole bunch of half-human/half-monster and other magical-type enemies. I’ll be very happy if players notice that!
Kuro! (Character Designer):1 The extremely beautiful backgrounds were too much for the PC Engine’s colors to handle… getting them to work on it was super difficult. Making revisions took up a lot of time, so I tried to use the least number of colors possible to get the maps looking as close to the original designs as possible.
The animators also drew us very nice and large animations, but once they were reduced to pixel art and animated on the PC Engine they looked pretty pathetic… this is the first game for Konami that has real animation scenes, but we hope to keep improving their quality, so please look forward to it.
—Next, let’s hear from the programmers.
Shingo Takatsuka (programmer): I’m a hardcore gamer, so I like the difficulty to be high. Accordingly, the first version of Rondo of Blood was insanely hard—easily five times more difficult than the finished version. By the way, even the weak little enemies have a lot of different movements and behaviors that I programmed. Please don’t kill them right away: take the time to enjoy observing them! And I’ll be making even better games in the future so please buy them too!
—That’s true, even the simple skeletons have a lot of different movements.
Shingo Takatsuka: Yeah, and that’s why I (and others) had zero summer vacation. But this year (1993) was a cool summer, so I guess it was just as well… how was your summer, everyone? Next year I’m going to really enjoy it (though probably not, again). Anyway, for those who have bought and played Rondo of Blood, please send me all your complaints!
—Complaints? What complaints! Anyway, next up is Hagiwara, who worked as both director and programmer. Sounds tough!
Toru Hagiwara (director/programmer): Yup, not a single thing went according to schedule… and Maria, that insufferable girl, gave us nothing but bugs! I believe she is cured of her errant ways and bug-free today, though. Of course I wanted to give her a whip, and fishnet tights, and a mask… next game, can the protagonist be female?
Everyone: *gasp* Whaaat!?
Castlevania: Bloodlines (Vampire Killer)
~a story by composer Michiru Yamane~
Our story begins in those carefree days of the summer of ’93. Resident Konami diva Michiru lazily whiled away the hours relaxing in the shade of a tree reading poetry, nibbling on tea and cake, playing her harp, bug checking…
Michiru: “Mm, another beautiful day in paradise. Ahhh, I’m so happy…. and yet, it feels like something is missing in my life. What could it be, what could it be…”
Suddenly the Door of Sound crashed open, and two manly men flew out of it! The men looked around and started walking in Michiru’s direction. Danger, Michiru, danger! But the men spoke to her kindly:
Johnny Morris: “Michiru! Lend us your strength!”
Yes, those two men were the legendary Vampire Killers.
Eric LeCarde: “Will you travel the world with us, and help us with your music?”
Johnny Morris: “With your magnificent voice at our side, we shall surely defeat Dracula!”
Michiru: “But, this all is so sudden…”
Eric LeCarde: “First stop on our itinerary is Romania, then we’re off to the Aegean Sea, followed by stops in Italy, France, England…”
Michiru: “Let’s do this.”
The two Vampire Hunters each took one of Michiru’s hands, and a rainbow colored aura glowed around them.
Michiru: “Yes, this is it! This is what I was searching for! A world of pure sensation! Look out everyone, I’m ready to sing my heart out!”
Then in the next instant, the three of them disappeared in a seven-colored rainbow flash of light. In their place, a Megadrive ROM chip fell to the ground.
…and so, in the world of the Megadrive game Vampire Killer, Johnny and Eric’s adventure unfolded, with Michiru’s music accompanying them all the while in the background.
If you've enjoyed reading this interview and would like to be able to vote each month on what I translate, please consider supporting me on Patreon! I can't do it without your help!
The identity of this designer is still unknown today.↩