Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is a meaty Dead Cells DLC update that adds things like bosses, stages, and even characters from Konami’s vampire-hunting series. But behind it all are more than 60 songs, including 12 covers of classic tracks and 51 tracks from the series. I got to speak with composer Yoann Laulan about bringing Castlevania’s music to Dead Cells.
“I was really excited to be able to add a little bit of something to these amazing, very important tracks in video game history,” Laulan said. “But at the same time, [it wasn’t] that easy, because it’s something that’s kind of sacred. I wouldn’t say it was an easy task to do.”
The Castlevania series has a rich library of fantastic music from composers like Kinuyo Yamashita, Satoe Terashima, and Michiru Yamane, so I asked Laulan how he chose the songs that he did. Some were obvious choices, like “Vampire Killer” and “Bloody Tears,” he said. Symphony of the Night was a major inspiration for Dead Cells, so he took some tracks from that, like the Dracula’s castle theme.
Here are two of the songs, which you can hear here for the first time — including the game’s take on “Bloody Tears.” Both are great.
Laulan’s goal was to be able to recreate the different tracks to be close to the original pieces. He started with a base that was “as faithful as possible” for every track, and then generally picked two different kinds of interpretation.
For the main action-focused levels, “the music tends to be quite close to the original tracks,” he said, but you might recognize some of the instruments from other parts of the Dead Cells soundtrack. In the case of “Vampire Killer,” for example, that means you’ll hear choirs, strings, and drums folded into the version of the song you might already know.
For the more contemplative areas, like the rooms you encounter between the main biomes, the songs are not as faithful to the originals because they have to be reinterpreted to make a quieter vibe. One example is Laulan’s take on the music from the first level in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, which he says he reconstructed in a more “classic” way, with things like cello and piano to “set the mood for what’s coming.”
I asked if any songs were left on the cutting room floor. “Not really, no,” Laulan said. And he didn’t face many restrictions from Konami in making the tracks; the songs just needed to be faithful to the source material and to the Castlevania license. “Basically, he made more than we planned,” Bérenger Dupré, brand manager of Dead Cells developer Evil Empire, added.
During another part of the interview, Dupré said he was surprised to hear that Laulan was anxious to work on the Castlevania music. “I’m more and more anxious as we approach the release date, actually,” Laulan responded. Based on what I’ve heard so far, I don’t think Laulan has anything to worry about.
Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania will be available March 6th for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.
Correction March 2nd, 12:00PM ET: Clarified the number of songs based on new information provided after we first published this article.