Art of Fighting
Art of Fighting
November 20, 1992
Buy Used Copy
Characters such as Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia have become a mainstay of King of Fighters series. However, they were originally conceived in another fighting game, Art of Fighting (known in Japan as Ryuuko no Ken), way back in 1992. While the title is similar to SNK’s other fighters, its musical score — conceived under the lead of Yasumasa Yamada and Masahiko Hataya — is actually quite novel.
The soundtrack asserts its individuality right from the first stage theme, “Art of Fight”. Rather than follow the precedent of melody-driven fighters like Street Fighter II and Fatal Fury, Yasumasa Yamada took a much more rhythmically-focused approach. Orch hits, guitar riffs, and drum beats all reverberate off the Neo Geo’s sound chip to create a hard and compelling sound. The stylings will sound cheesy and the synth is dated by today’s standards, but the theme was still remarkable for 1992’s arcades. In addition to emphasising the action, the track features just enough hooks to be entertaining on a stand-alone basis too.
As with Fatal Fury before it, there are themes to represent all eight of the CPU-controlled characters that heroes Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia face during the game. Themes such as Mickey Rogers’ “Being Tough Feels Good” and Jack Turner’s “Mame mame mame” maintain the rhythmical, urbanised feel of the soundtrack; the former is filled with gritty bass riffs and police sirens, while the orch hits in the latter would make any 80s music producer proud. The sleazy, dangerous depiction of Southtown is continued with “Don’t Look” and “Flying Baang!”; John Crawley’s theme does share the rock emphasis of many Fatal Fury favourites, yet sounds much meaner overall.
Compared to later entries in the SNK’s fighting series, Art of Fighting is a little lacking in the variety department. However, “Chinese Old Man” and “The Tengu Show” are welcome novelties with their traditional Asian instruments and tonalities. By maintaining a hard-hitting percussive emphasis, SNK’s sound team ensured that such tracks still fit the score and differed from those on Fatal Fury. The theme for the primarily antagonist and penultimate boss Mr. Big, “Blue Moon Factory”, isn’t as powerful or memorable as “Kiss for Geese”; SNK controversially decided to focus on the psychological aspect of the encounter, rather than convey the sheer energy emerging from it.
There are plenty of other tracks littered across the album, but most of them won’t have much replay value. There are some tense riffs for the opening encounters, a number of boss intro and outro jingles, and, of course, a complete voice and sound effects collection. Far more interesting is the five minute opening arrangement of “Art of Fight”, which Yamada exclusively created for this album. It expands on the core percussive sound of the soundtrack, while exploring novel tribal territories and incorporating extended semi-acoustic guitar performances. Like the original tracks, it sounds somewhat unpolished and dated, but is still filled with interesting ideas.
Art of Fighting certainly featured a fine soundtrack for its day. With unusual stylings, catchy rhythms, and solid implementation, it continued to push the boundaries of arcade scores. Nevertheless, its album release is likely to have a select audience. After all, not all the music has stood the test of time and the score is certainly dwarved by its successors in terms of length and memorability.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on January 22, 2016.