2003’s Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is a miracle of handheld gaming in many ways, and its soundtrack isn’t the least astonishing thing about it. I’m particularly down with music that accompanies Soma as he scrambles through the Floating Gardens:

The song makes fantastic use of the GBA’s sound channels, and it plays for nearly two minutes before it loops. The soundtrack was put together by veteran composer Michiru Yamane (with contributions from Takashi Yoshida and Soshiro Hokkai), who proved her game music godhood through 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Now, when I first played Aria of Sorrow, I found my way up into the Floating Gardens long before Soma’s long pale ass was supposed to be there. I was smitten by the music immediately – when those synth strings rise and fall at 0:45, my heart still soars – and I kind of crammed Soma into corners in hopes of surviving long enough to listen to it thoroughly.

Thing is, the Floating Gardens are teeming with cockatrices, and they are wholly capable of smelling Soma’s sad, under-levelled bod (something in the sweat, I imagine. Soma doesn’t start excreting alpha-level sweat until he’s level 30 or so). They lumber towards him, shoot a petrification beam from sixty miles away, and bam. Death by chickendragon.

But even as Soma’s body is torn to pieces, sometimes you still manage to whiff the fading spoor of those strings. Ahhhh.