The 8-Bit Playlist is back and ready for round two in this special, no holds barred edition! Challengers from across the globe have argued about which fighting game has the best tunes to throw fists to, and Power Up Gaming is more than happy to settle the score once and for all.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000, Arcade)
Composer(s): Tetsuya Shibata, Mitsuhiko Takano
Release Date: 2000
Favorite Tracks: River Stage, Swamp Stage, Desert Stage
Album Duration: About 30 minutes
With Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite recently being announced at PlayStation Experience, it seems only fitting that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 should make an appearance here. An eclectic mix of songs with jazz, salsa, rock and electronic roots, I’d be lying if I said this is a typical album that a fighting game might have, as rock and metal seemed to (and still do) dominate the genre.
Infamous for the “Gonna Take You For a Ride” lyric that repeats over and over on the character select screen, MvC2 might not be the most popular choice, but all in all it is quite a treat. Sure, it might be odd to hear trumpets, jazz drums and a soulful singer belt out bluesy tunes while Spider-Man goes toe-to-to with Ryu, but once you let the beat do its thing, it’s not long before you’re rocking to the rhythm and unleashing your most devastating hyper combos on your friends.
It’s also this uniqueness that sets MvC2 apart from other fighters. Because so many fighting games use heavier rock or electronic elements to induce a sense of urgency, it’s novel to hear something a little more smooth in the arena. Who knew jazz could be so tough?
Songs like River Stage and Swamp Stage are perfect examples that show a few quick lyrics might very well have a place in the heat of battle; a trait that, again, not many other fighting game songs possess. So whether you’re ready to throw some rocket punches while playing the legendary three-on-three fighter or just going for your daily jog, MvC2 is sure to get you ready for some action.
Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001, GameCube)
Composer(s): Hirozaku Ando, Shogo Sakai, Tadashi Ikegami
Genre: Remix, Compilation
Release Date: November 21
Favorite Tracks: Fountain of Dreams, Big Blue, Fire Emblem, Break the Targets, Opening Theme
Album Duration: About 2 hours
Played: Far Too Much
Having just celebrated its 15th birthday, SSBM makes it on the list not only because of its original album release, but also the orchestral score, Smashing… Live!, that was released shortly after (I got mine in a copy of Nintendo Power). This is going to be another controversial pick as 1) Super Smash Bros. is filled almost entirely with existing or remixed works from Nintendo IP and 2) Many people will state that Super Smash Bros. Brawl has the superior soundtrack.
While it is true that many of the songs in Melee aren’t original to the title, I would argue that many of them are improved with their inclusion in the series – a hard task considering how renowned Nintendo games have been in terms of musical quality. And, yeah, I’m willing to admit that Brawl has the better soundtrack (one of the few things that Brawl did better), but just because I’m mentioning Melee now doesn’t mean its sequel won’t make an appearance somewhere down the line *wink* *wink*.
As far as Melee goes, though, each track takes a beloved Nintendo tune and gives it an edge – a little extra kick that puts you in the driver’s seat of the slugfest that is Super Smash Bros. Not only is it an impressive accomplishment to successfully remaster so many classics, but it’s downright miraculous that they were able to take happy-go-lucky songs like Princess Peach’s Castle, Dr. Mario and my personal favorite, Fountain of Dreams, and turn them into the pugnacious pieces they are now.
If you’re ever in a Nintendo mood and need to kick some ass, this is the album to go with. After all, you can’t falcon punch people to any old Nintendo song. It’s gotta have some spice!
Street Fighter 3rd Strike (1999, Arcade)
Composer: Hideki Okugawa
Genre: Drum n’ Bass, Hip Hop
Release Date: May 12
Favorite Tracks: Jazzy NYC ’99, Spunky, Killing Moon, You Blow My Mind
Album Duration: Around 1 hour
Here’s an album that’ll make you want to pick fights in the club. Although many of the iconic Street Fighter tracks came from the hit that propelled the series to fame, Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike brought a new sense of freshness to the table. It traded in the SNES sound for an album that sounded more like… well, music. And at the time hip hop and drum n’ bass were popular choices which perfectly fit the almost graffiti feel of SFIII.
What I mean by graffiti feel is that you can almost imagine each track playing in the backdrop of an inner city skate park. Sure, given its name Street Fighter has always been about the rough and tumble, but Street Fighter III took that persona and made it cool. From the class act that is Dudley to the Brazilian basketball player turned to the hadou, Sean, there’s just an extra feel of hipness that the rest of the series hasn’t been able to live up to, and that’s just as apparent if you listen to the soundtrack.
Take the track Spunky as an example. They could have easily just left it at the high-pitched synth tune that plays from the beginning of the track but instead they throw in a snappy drum back beat to speed up the pace, and a few more electronic additions to fill the song out in an almost cyberpunk kind of style. Compare that quickness to the more laid back theme for Dudley, You Blow My Mind, which slows the pace down and throws in some piano. While both tracks harbor the ability to make you want to get up and dance, they achieve that feel in very different ways. So even though each song doesn’t conjure thoughts of a different country like SFII, it still manages to give each character their own distinct personality through the use of different instruments. I also think this album is just more enjoyable to listen to whenever, whereas most of the other Street Fighter soundtracks tend to lose some of their appeal outside of their respective games.
Guilty Gear X2 (2002, Arcade)
Composer(s): Koichi Seiyama, Daisuke Ishiwatari
Release Date: May 23
Favorite Tracks: The Midnight Carnival, Meet Again, Holy Orders(Be Just or Be Dead), Haven’t You Got Eyes In Your Head?
Album Duration: About 1 1/2 hours
If you are looking for a hard-hitting OST and none of the smoother or friendlier albums listed above quite suit you, look no further than Guilty Gear X2. This album was in direct competition with many other fighting game soundtracks that use heavy guitar work as the backdrop for their action, but GGX2 always seemed to edge them out in some way or another. It must be something about the late ’90s/early 2000s that produced consistently killer soundtracks.
From start to finish, this album contends with some of the best metal bands in terms of riffs and will even have you thinking of Castlevania with songs like Holy Orders (Be Just or Be Dead) and Writhe in Pain. But no matter what, this album reminds you of, you’ll always be ready for a scrap with a symphony of guitars so intensely majestic it’s enough to make Brutal Legend feel inadequate. This game is so metal, in fact, that one the characters in the game, Eddie, is named after Iron Maiden’s mascot, Eddie the Head.
Anybody who’s into guitar solos, heavy metal or head banging should take this album for a test drive. Although metal is the main theme of this OST, some songs do have small hints of other influences such as jazz, traditional Japanese music and classical. So if you need metal in your life that offers a bit more than sick solos and double bass, GGX2 is what you need in your life.
Skullgirls (2012, PS3, Xbox 360 & PC)
Composer(s): Michiru Yamane, Brenton Kossak, Blaine McGurty, Vincent Diamante
Genre: Jazz, Swing
Release Date: April 10
Favorite Tracks: Moonlit Melee, Dirge of the Divine Trinity, Pedestrians Crossing, Shenanigans and Goings-Ons
Album Duration: About 70 minutes
If you take MvC 2, drop the singer and add in a pinch of Grim Fandango, you get Skullgirls, the first entry in this list that came out after the early 2000s. I don’t know how, but somehow its composers were able to turn the upright bass into an instrument that incites aggression. It’s beautiful.
Michiru Yamane, best known for her work with the Castlevania series, was recruited for the job and told to write “jazzy” music. She did just that, blending instruments such as the trumpet, saxophone and piano to create the rumble-in-the-nightclub feeling that Skullgirls is known for. However, Yamane does successfully jump to her Gothic roots in songs such as Dirge of the Divine Trinity, where she manages to blend in a synthesizer and guitar to dramatic effect.
Some might argue tracks like A Return to Normalcy and Whiling the Hours Away don’t quite work to propel the sense of chaos that usually marks fighting games, but I actually like the use of slower songs. Pieces such as those make the fast-paced tracks pop but also offer a quick reprieve from the hand-to-hand action. If you liked Grim Fandango, jazz or music that makes you feel like a gangster, you need to listen to the Skullgirls OST now.
Honourable mentions include Battle Arena Toshinden 2, Street Fighter EX, BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, Capcom vs SNK 2, Soulcalibur 2, King of Fighters ’96, Tekken 3, Tobal No. 1, Red Earth, Marvel vs Capcom and, of course, Street Fighter II.
What’s your favorite fighting game soundtrack? As I’m sure there will be plenty “how could you leave out X, Y and Z,” I’d like to know some of the fighting game soundtracks that you’ve come to love.
On the next 8-Bit Playlist we’ll be back to all video games with volume 2 of the best gaming soundtracks. Stay tuned and we’ll see you in two weeks!