Fatal Fury & Last Resort
Fatal Fury & Last Resort
May 21, 1992
Buy Used Copy
In 1991, SNK entered the fighting arena with Fatal Fary (aka Garou Densetsu), under the direction of Street Fighter producer Takashi Nishiyama. The Arcade version of the game was well-received and formed the basis of three long-standing franchises, Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and The King of Fighters. Around the same time, they also produced the exceedingly challenging space shooter Last Resort. The two scores were packaged together into an album released by Pony Canyon in 1992. Do the results satisfy?
Starting with the Fatal Fury selection, scored by Toshikazu Tanaka and KONNY, the album opens with the title, player select, and round start themes all melded together into a single track. With their storng rhythmic drive and booming arcade synth, they certainly ensure players are given a big welcome. The rest of the soundtrack is dominated by the stage themes, each used to portray a different CPU-controlled character in the game. Some tracks particularly define that distinctive SNK sound, such as “Michael Max’s Theme” with its light-hearted melodies and thrashing guitar riffs, or “Duck King’s Theme” with its jazzy leads and punchy piano chords. They’re entirely fitting for the characters portrayed and rather enjoyable in their own right too. Later Fatal Fury games, particularly Fatal Fury 3, elaborated greatly on these styles to yield even more impressive results.
Given the diverse backgrounds of the opponents, a lot of the stage themes from Fatal Fury touch into different cultures. For example, the Brazilian origins of Richard Meyer are represented with tribal chanting and ethnic polyrhythms, while martial arts master Tung Fu Rue is portrayed with distinctive Chinese scales and instruments. These imitations certainly bring some colour to the score, while still fitting the pace of the fighting gameplay. They’re also quite a bit more sophisticated both compositionally and technically than what Street Fighter II achieved earlier in the year of Fatal Fury‘s release. Nevertheless, these still verge on gimmicky and could be more authentic.
As the enemies grow tougher, the compositions also grow more intense. Raiden, Billy Kane, and Geese Howard are portrayed by a succession of rock themes, each with slightly different qualities. “Geese Howard’s Theme” is an especially impressive accompaniment to the game’s final boss and captures Toshikazu Tanaka’s signature sound, while making the most out of SNK’s sound drivers. While it has since been surpassed by arrangements for games such as Fatal Fury Special, few game tracks rocked in such a gritty and intense way before this one. It’s exactly the type of music ideal for an intense versus match. The release is peppered with some supplementary themes, such as the chiptune tracks for the bonus stages, an anthemic rock theme for two player battles, and, of course, a relieving light jazz ending theme.
Toshio Shimizu and Yasuo Yamate’s score for Last Resort retains SNK’s distinctive sound. However, it has a more serious tone than Fatal Fury, due to its challenging gameplay and apocalyptic storyline. This is reflected well by the first stage theme “Jack to the Metro”, which rejects the shooter convention of being ‘happy, fast-paced, and melodic’; instead the composer gives listeners a slow-building rhythmically focused theme featuring deathly guitars, orchestral passages, and alarm sounds. “Sonar” and “The Melting Point” are further excellent examples of the deep electro-ambient sound the duo were able to build for the game, rivalling even some of Taito’s best.
It is fascinating how each stage theme builds into a boss themes on the soundtrack release; often the enemy themes are even more disturbing than their counterparts with their aggressive drive and blistering timbres. As the Last Resort soundtrack continues, listeners are offered a range of different colours. “The Ruins of Metro” simultaneously conveys a fallen city and the threat of machines through blending ambient and industrial features. In addition, the way the three themes for the last stage evolve into an intense climax without relying on melodramatic game clichés is especially impressive.
At the end of the album, “Jack to the Metro” receives an exclusive six minute arrangement from the sound team. It continues to offer a unique blend of jazz and rock features characteristic of SNK. The arrangement and implementation of this track are far more mature than the sheer majority of game arrangements occurring at the time. There aren’t any bonus remixes of material from Fatal Fury and those keen for remixes should head straight to the Fatal Fury Image Album instead, which potentially makes the original score redundant. Still, what’s given here is already a sweet bonus on an already valuable double soundtrack release.
For the time, both the Fatal Fury and Last Resort scores were quite progressive. Fatal Fury maintained many of the stylistic and cultural influences as Street Fighter II, but offered more sophisticated compositions and technology, albeit with a significant drop in melodiousness. Last Resort subsequently took things even further by ignoring the conventional shmup sound in favour of a much more atmospheric and fitting accompaniment to the game. All these years on, the principles pioneered by these scores have been developed much further, yielding masterpiece scores. However, these more humble soundtracks can still be pleasant and enjoyable to revisit, especially after having played the games.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.