Konami Soundtrack CD Compilations

I love Konami music! Recently I was asked to write the liner notes for Konami Classics: The Best of the NES vinyl from Spacelab9. It’s a varied collection of tracks from assorted Konami NES games, including Gradius, Castlevania, Double Dribble, Snake’s Revenge, Bayou Billy, Rush ‘n Attack, Stinger, Contra, Life Force, Jackal, Blades of Steel, Track & Field II, Base Wars, Laser Invasion, Crisis Force, and Monster in my Pocket. While it was released on Black Friday 2023, it seems to have sold out everywhere, though more copies did make their way out there. But I figured I’d take the opportunity to look at some other Konami CD compilations that have come out in Japan over the past several years.

Gradius Ultimate Collection – Release Date: 1/13/11

This eight CD set includes everything Gradius! That includes all of the core games in the series, plus all of the console games and computer ports, including the PC88, X1, and X68000 tracks of the original Gradius, all three of the MSX games (plus the X68000 port Nemesis ’90 Kai), both of the Game Boy titles, the Gradius NEO cell phone games, and the arcade-only Solar Assault. Also included are several bonus tracks, like the extra music featured on the PC Engine CD version of Gradius II and the PlayStation/Saturn Gradius Deluxe Pack, the tracks from the Gradius minigame in Legend of the Mystical Ninja for the SNES, plenty of remixes found in Konami rhythm games, the remixed Vic Viper theme in Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, the tracks from the shoot-em-up segment in Wai Wai World 2, and plenty of others. In other words, it’s remarkably comprehensive! The only thing that seems missing are the Salamander/Life Force games, because it seems Konami considered these to be a spinoff series. But they’re repped elsewhere.

It’s a nice set, with a dark black box with reflective coloring on the logo. The CDs are all in slim cases, however, neither the box nor the back CD cases indicate exactly what games are covered on which CD. You’ll need to either reference the small booklet it comes with, or take out each CD case individually and open it to see the tracklist inside. Personally, I printed out a small piece of paper and put it in the box for reference. Despite being released in 2011, as of early 2024, this one is still in print.

Konami Shooting Collection – Release 9/22/11

The Gradius Ultimate Collection had all of the Gradius games, while this ten CD follow-up album includes almost everything else. This includes everything in the Life Force/Salamander and TwinBee series, both Thunder Cross entries, Space Manbow, Flak Attack (MX 5000), A-JAX, Trigon (Lightning Fighters), Xexex (Orius), Axelay, the obscure arcade game Tobe! Polysters, the FC/NES games Falsion, Gyruss, and Crisis Force, plus the music for the unreleased Vic Viper arcade game. The bonus tracks aren’t quite as extensive, but there’s plenty of other stuff too, like the music from the Tokimeki Memorial minigame Force Gear, tracks from Wai Wai World 2, and compilation tracks of older Konami arcade games like Scramble, Super Cobra, Time Pilot, Juno Fighter, Mega Zone, and Finalizer.

What is notable in its absence is the Parodius games. Outside of the compilation tracks featured in Gokujou Parodius and Sexy Parodius, there’s nothing else featured here! It’s a big series so it seems they didn’t want to include any more CDs.

You’ll notice that I don’t have any pictures of this one, because I don’t own it. While the other CD compilation sets aren’t cheap, averaging about $90-$100, this particular set is extremely expensive on the aftermarket, with current listings on sites like Mercari asking for about 40,000 yen (or nearly $300 on the current early 2024 exchange rate).

Music from Konami Arcade Shooting – 1/20/21

Perhaps Konami was aware of the high aftermarket value of the Konami Shooting Collection set, but instead of reprinting it, they issued this somewhat different ten CD box set, consisting of music from all of Konami’s arcade shooting games.

The key word here is “arcade”, because unlike the previous two albums, it doesn’t include any of the console/computer entries or ports, even though there’s a lot of crossover. For example, it has the music from the arcade versions of the original Gradius through Gradius IV, but no Gradius Gaiden or Gradius V, since those were console games. Similarly, no MSX games. There’s music from Salamander/Life Force and the TwinBee series, but again, only the arcade games.

The other hand, it does cover the Parodius arcade games, which were almost entirely missing before. It was speculated there were legal issues with this one, since some of the music tracks on the Parodius Collection from the PSP were altered since they were a little too copyright infringing. But everything here is presented just as it was in the original arcade (and PS1/Saturn ports), so apparently there were no more issues. It’s still not comprehensive, as it’s missing console ports of these, plus the MSX Parodius and Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius, since they were computer/console games. The 32-bit version of Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius has a long out-of-print soundtrack release, though the SFC tracks have never been compiled. However, an extra CD containing the MSX version of Parodius was included as a pre-order bonus for the Konamistyle store. It also has music from Otomedius, but not its sequel Otomedius Excellent because again, console exclusive, plus that had its own massive 5 CD album released back around the same time as the game. The old arcade bonus tracks from the Konami Shooting Collection are missing (except for Finalizer, which was stuck on at the end of the ninth CD), as are the tracks from the Vic Viper arcade game, but it does have a bunch of extra music and arranged tracks on the second CD.

This box was nice enough to include a breakdown of what games are on what CDs, so it’s less of a pain than the Gradius Ultimate Collection. It’s a nice set, but there’s a lot of crossover with previous albums, especially the Konami Shooting Collection. But if you’re like me and don’t own that one, then there’s still quite a lot that’s missing, so it doesn’t really feel satisfying. The inclusion of the Parodius games is the one main plus this has over the other sets, but even that’s incomplete.

Moving away from shoot-em-ups, we have:

Music from Konami Antiques: Family Computer – Release Date 11/15/23

This 13 CD set includes 63 games from Konami’s Famicom/NES library. The included titles are: Yie Ar Kung-Fu, TwinBee, Gradius, Ganbare Goemon!, Castlevania, Stinger, Crackout, Esper Dream, Rush’n Attack, Ai Senshi Nicol, Meikyuu Jiin Dababa, Exciting Billiard, Getsu Fuuma Den, Almana no Kiseki, Majou Densetsu II: Daimashikyou Galious, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Life Force/Salamander, Falsion, Dragon Scroll, Konami Wai Wai World, Contra, Exciting Soccer: Konami Cup, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Final Command/Jackal, Risa no Yousei Densetsu, The Adventures of Bayou Billy, Gradius II, Ganbare Goemon 2, Cosmic Wars, TwinBee 3, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Ganbare Goemon Gaiden, Super Contra, Moai-kun, Mouryou Senki Madara, Quarth, Kid Dracula, Parodius Da!, Yume Penguin Monogatari, Wai Wai World 2, Lagrange Point, Crisis Force, Ganbare Goemon Gaiden 2, Esper Dream 2: Aratanaru Tatakai, and Contra Force.

That’s quite a lot! It’s almost easier just to go over what’s missing. All of the licensed titles are gone, particularly the three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games as well as games based on The Goonies, Top Gun, Tiny Toon Adventures, and Bucky O’Hare. (Though Limited Run Games is issuing separate CD albums of all of Konami’s TMNT games.) This also means no Hi no Tori, Jarinko Chie, or Tetsuwan Atom, which were Japan-only, though these are hardly noteworthy titles. Almost none of the North America exclusive games are included either, though many of these were licensed anyway. No Rollergames, Mission Impossible, or The Lone Ranger, either. The sports entries are geared to the Japanese games, including Exciting Billiard and Exciting Soccer, but missing Double Dribble and Blades of Steel (or Exciting Basket and Exciting Hockey, as they’re known in Japan.)  Some international releases had different music, like Castlevania II and III, while this CD includes only the Japanese originals. (There are other Castlevania soundtrack releases that have these tracks.) Laser Invasion and Formula-1 Sensation are absent, too.

Also, Gyruss is completely missing! Perhaps since it was already included on the Konami Shooting Collection, they decided to give the space to lesser known games. The sole American-exclusive entry is Contra Force, stuck on as a bonus on the last CD. Interestingly, the Konami Classics: The Best of the NES vinyl has a lot of stuff missing from this album here, since the track list is more internationally focused, including stuff like Laser Invasion, Snake’s Revenge, and Monster in My Pocket.

Most notable in their absence is the original Metal Gear. While the MSX2 Metal Gear games have had their soundtracks released on older albums, the NES/FC game never has (outside of a recent American vinyl release), even though it’s mostly unique. Why? Either Konami has a grudge against it or they’re saving it for a potential Metal Gear compilation set in the future. Just speculation!

Some track names also try to get around licensing issues. For example, the FDS game Risa no Yousei Densetsu (“Risa’s Fairy Legend”) starred a real life singer named Risa Tachibana, so the game was retitled Idol no Yousei Densetsu (“Idol Fairy Legend”) here. Mikey (from The Goonies) and King Kong (from King Kong 2) are licensed characters that pop up in Konami Wai Wai World, so their tracks are called “M’s Theme” and “K’s Theme” respectively, though their music is original anyway rather than based on anything from their associated movies.

There’s a ton of music here! The big name franchises are Castlevania, Contra, Gradius, TwinBee, and Ganbare Goemon, but there’s a lot of great music on the lesser known games here. My personal favorite of these is Dragon Scroll, but I’m sure Top 47,858 Games of All Time podcast host Xerxes will appreciate the presence of Majou Densetsu 2 (AKA The Maze of Galious). We love these games here at HG101 – we even wrote a whole book about them! The first few CDs jam a whole bunch of tracks on a single CD, because they don’t have much music or the tracks themselves are short, but near the end you have a bunch of RPGs like Madara and Lagrange Point, which take up a bulk (or all) of a single CD.

Konami loved playing with sound hardware, so you also get a journey through different types of Famicom synth. Tracks from Japan-only games like Almana no Kiseki and Meikyuu Jiin Dababa show off some impressive use of the Famicom Disk System’s wavetable sound. And while international folks mostly know the VRC6 add-on from Akumajou Densetsu, the Japanese version of Castlevania III, the RPGs Madara and Esper Dream 2 also make use of it, and they’re both brilliant soundtracks.  Lagrange Point is also the only game to use the VRC7, which included an FM sound chip similar to the MSX-Music standard, making it sound much different from a typical Famicom game. However, it only includes the Famicom Disk System version of Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, so it’s missing the revised cartridge version, which rearranged the music due to the different sound channels.

As a Konamistyle preorder bonus, you’d also get a separate CD with the soundtrack from the Game Boy version of Parodius Da. Why? Who knows, maybe they’re releasing all the Parodius games that didn’t get their own album like this. Konamistyle doesn’t ship internationally, so if I had wanted this disc, I would’ve had to use a proxy, which would’ve made purchasing this whole album even more expensive. Since I didn’t care about this extra CD, I didn’t bother and just ordered straight from CDJapan.

Even though it’s not entirely comprehensive, it’s still an astounding amount of music from some of the best, most prolific developers on the FC/NES, making for an essential album.

Outside of these CD sets from Konami, there were several other CDs put out in the mid-2010s by EGG, a distribution company that mostly concentrates on retro PC games but occasionally dabbles in music or console games. Many of these releases are now redundant, especially thanks to the Konami Antiques: Family Computer set, but there’s still some worth mentioning.

This includes three Konami Chronicle sets, three CDs with various Famicom games, released in 2014 and 2015 (pictures from the VGMDB site linked). Vol. 1 includes Blockout, Green Beret (Rush n’ Attack), Ai Senshi Nicol, Meikyuu Jiin Dababa, Exciting Billiard, and Exciting Basket/Double Dribble (this last one was missing from the Konami Antiques set). Vol. 2 has Almana no Kiseki, Exciting Soccer, Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa, Final Command/Jackal, Konamic Ice Hockey (AKA Blades of Steel, also missing from the Konami Antiques set). Vol. 3 has Getsu Fuuma Den, Dragon Scroll, Bayou Billy, and Moai-kun, as well as music from the unreleased game Battle Choice. Each album has some bonus tracks, which range from stereo arranged tracks on the first two albums, to a wild arrangement of music from Bayou Billy using the VRC6 synth on the third CD. These albums are out of print and fairly expensive, and the small amount of exclusive stuff probably isn’t worth the price, outside of the novelty of hearing tracks from an unreleased game.

A few of Konami’s other prolific franchises also got a few CD releases from EGG. Contra was spread out over two releases. The first, released in 2015, is Contra Chronicle Vol 1 coupling with Hard Corps Uprising. For some bizarre reason, instead of compiling the games chronologically, this two CD album starts with Hard Corps Uprising, the 2010 PS3/Xbox game with music by Guilty Gear composer Daisuke Ishiwatari. The rest of the album has the music for Contra: Hard Corps for the Genesis and Contra Dual Spirits (AKA Contra 4) for the DS. Contra 4 had an old CD release, but this is the first time the other two have been compiled.

Contra Chronicle Vol. 2: The Beginning of Legends, released the subsequent year in 2016, covers the rest of the series, including all version of Contra and Super C (including mobile phone ports), Contra III, Contra for the Game Boy (AKA Operation C), Contra ReBirth, and Contra Force, plus a few bonus tracks from other games, like LovePlus. Contra was poorly served by prior CD releases – there was an album for Contra III/Contra Spirits in the early 90s that included a few tracks from the other games, plus a standalone album in the early 2000s for Shin Contra/Contra Shattered Soldier. But even Neo Contra only got an obscure release as a preorder bonus for SYNTHESIZED3, a rhythm game album by composer Sota Fujimori. Contra ReBirth was also previously compiled together on an album with The Castlevania Adventure ReBirth.

Contra Chronicle Vol. 1 isn’t too expensive, but Vol. 2 went out of print very quickly, probably because it contained the Contra music people actually cared about. (No offense to the Hard Corps soundtracks, either of them, which are both very good, just not what people typically think of with Contra.)

There are a few other albums to highlight quickly, though I don’t own them so I can’t show any photos.

Late 2021 saw the release of two Akumajou Dracula albums, both with 13 CDs. Akumajou Dracula Kuro (“Black”) contains the Classicvania titles (8/16-bit, plus portables, Judgment, and Arcade) while Akumajou Dracula Aka (“Red”)  has the Metroidvanias, starting with Symphony of the Night, going through the GBA/DS games, along with the PS2 entries, and Harmony of Despair. Curiously, Castlevania Bloodlines ended up on the Aka set rather than the Kuro set where it should belong.

This isn’t the first CD compilation of Castlevania music. 2010 saw an 18 CD Akumajou Dracula Best Music Collection Box  which also features the whole series. The Kuro/Aka box sets have 26 CDs between them, so they cover more ground, including all four variations of X68000/PlayStation Castlevania Chronicles soundtrack instead of just one on the Best Music box. While the Aka/Kuro sets are far more comprehensive, the Best Music box has some music from Pachislot games (also released separately across a few albums), plus a CD with original music from composer Michiru Yamane. The Kuro box also has the international versions of Castlevania II and III along with the Japanese originals. Personally, I already own most of the standalone CDs for Castlevania (I did start buying these in the late 1990s when I ran a Castlevania fan site, after all) so I never bothered to buy any of these, even if they do fill in some gaps of CDs I either don’t own or games that never got a separate album.

2017 also saw the release of Ganbare Goemon Sound Tamatebako ~Original Soundtrack BOX~, a 10 CD compilation of music from the 8, 16-bit, and portable Ganbare Goemon games. This only accounts for maybe three-fourths of the series, as it’s missing the N64, PlayStation, and PlayStation 2 games. The N64 entries did get their own separate albums but they’re insanely expensive (think approaching the $1000 range each). In fact, this compilation album, despite only being six years old at the time of this writing, is also extremely pricey, going for about $300-$400, about three times more than its initial retail price. People love them some Goemon soundtracks.

Manage Cookie Settings