Fidelity Concerns: Akumajou Densetsu vs. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

So, as I said in this blog post, the Nintendo Entertainment System lacked the 2 pins necessary to use the sound expansion chips included in many of the Japanese Famicom games.  From time to time, I’m going to post tracks that lost a lot of fidelity and sound because of this issue.

Akumajou Densetsu (or as we know it in the US, Castlevania III:  Dracula’s Curse) is one of the most famous examples of loss of fidelity due to the lack of sound expansion chip.  Konami was forced to use the the MMC5 Nintendo sound expansion chip, which operated differently than the VRC6 sound chip that the original game used.

Here’s “Riddle” from the Akumajou Densetsu Original Soundtrack, using the Konami VRC6 sound expansion chip:

(credit :  explod2A03)

Now, here’s “Riddle” from the Castlevania III:  Dracula’s Curse Original Soundtrack, which had to be remixed to use the Nintendo MMC5:

(credit :  explod2A03)

The main difference is the lack of sawtooth wave.  Sawtooth is EXCELLENT as a synth bass.  Most of that “crunchy” almost “thudding” noise in the VRC6’s bassline is the sawtooth.  It makes a huge difference.  Unfortunately, as I discussed before, the MMC5 track bassline is based off the volume of the triangle wave and the triangle wave on the stock 2A03 (and MMc5) had no way to control the volume.  The added sawtooth gave composers a way to control the volume of the basslines and add more depth.  Not having the sawtooth was a huge limitation that many composers had to overcome.  What’s even more obnoxious is the MMC5 was a VERY expensive chip compared to the Konami VRC6, which was cheaper for Konami to use since they manufactured it.

Note that in the NES version, because of sound/space limitations, the A section only plays once before going to the B section instead of the two times it plays in the VRC6 version.

You’ll also see there’s no true square waves – as evidenced in the running arpeggios in the background.  Instead of sounding bold and strong, they sound tacky.  All the MMC5 does is add another two pulse waves.  The VRC6 adds two square waves and a sawtooth which, when paired with the stock A203’s two pulse waves, triangle wave, noise channel, and DPCM, gave the composer a total of 8 different instrument choices and 6 different instrument sounds.   Clearly, the MMC5 is an inferior chip.  It’s sad that this is the version of the music we heard.  I’m curious as to what the composers thought.  At any rate, I hope this was interesting.  Any comments are welcome.

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

12 responses to “Fidelity Concerns: Akumajou Densetsu vs. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

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