Fatal Fury -Wild Ambition-
Fatal Fury -Wild Ambition-
March 17, 1999
Buy Used Copy
Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition finally shifted the classic series from 2D to 3D graphics, using the Hyper Neo Geo 64 arcade system. However, the game otherwise preserved the concept of earlier titles in the series, with its familiar character roster, combos, and sound quality. The original score for the title — created by an ensemble team led by Yasuo Yamate — featured plenty of great tracks and diverse stylings. However, its album release was soon superseded by a greatly enhanced arranged score created for the PlayStation version, released on the series’ box set.
While most characters on Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition are familiar, their themes are completely fresh this time around. Terry Bogard’s new theme “11th Street”, for instance, sounds bigger than his anthems in previous Fatal Fury games. Expanding on SNK’s jazz roots, flashy saxophone leads, funky bass lines, and infectious chord sequences all merge to create a bold macho anthem. Despite being a little too sleazy, it’s a great fit for the all American hero and works well in the action. But even with the boost of the Hyper Neo Geo 64’s sound chip, the synthesis of the track is underwhelming for its time, especially compared to titles such as Street Fighter EX or SoulCalibur. Most will therefore favour the arranged console rendition of this track featured on the series’ box set — the studio-recorded instruments, especially the charismatic saxophone performance, bring out all the intentions of the original composition.
Contrary to the flashy start, Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition is actually the moodiest soundtrack in the series. The fall from grace of Toji Sakada is captured well melancholic guitar parts and shakuhachi wails. Meanwhile Andy Bogard’s rounds are underscored with an urbanised electro-orchestral soundscape, albeit one not as spectacular as the arranged versions. The themes for the Japanese characters, Joe Higashi and Mai Shiranui, feature synthesized traditional flutes and strings. These traditional instruments give the tracks a dark, wistful undertone that works magically in context. And this time round, mid-boss character Ryuji Yamazaki sounds truly mean and deceptive in a bluesy piece dominated by distorted guitars. All these emotional themes certainly fit the game’s more elaborate storyline and inspire empathy with the characters.
In contrast to the other characters on the album, schoolgirls Tsugumi Sendo and Li Xiangfei are portrayed with upbeat and catchy technopop anthems. They’re much more listenable in their arcade versions than their over-the-top arranged versions. However, they still won’t appeal to all and are pretty gimmicky. Thankfully, there are a couple of excellent tracks, namely Kim’s “Attack Me!”, Raiden’s “Call from the Earth”, and “Big Shot XL”, that revisit SNK’s uplifting and melodic rock sound. The sound team reserve the most blistering tracks to Billy Kane and Geese Howard. Both sound impressive thanks to their overdriven guitar samples and the latter even has some speed metal influences. But despite the best efforts of SNK’s sound engineers, yet again the arranged console versions sound much more volumous than these synthesised versions.
While most of the featured music is enjoyable, the album release for Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition leaves much to be desired. SNK included a 21 minute voice collection and a 13 minute sound effects collection at the end of the disc. As a result, the actual background music had to be crammed into less than 40 minutes. As a result, most of the character themes don’t loop and the fantastic themes for Kim and Mai simply end after 90 seconds. Also note that themes for the PlayStation exclusive characters, Duck King and Mr. Karate, are absent from this release. There are a few additional tracks on this release for the opening, menu, and ending screens, most notably the lounge jazz staff roll theme “Lost in Thought”. However, the PlayStation version of the score features more extensive additions and really emphasises the cinematic scope of the fighter.
Fatal Fury: Wild Ambition is one of the most stylistically rich soundtrack in the series, offering everything from upbeat jazz anthems, to moody ethnic soundscapes, to hard-hitting rock tracks. However, it’s a pity that SNK’s technological innovations in the 3D graphics weren’t matched by a significant improvement in the sound quality. Most will favour the console version of this score, which stays true to the original score, while enhancing it with rich performances and additional tracks. Purchase the game’s arranged album or the series’ box set above this problematic album release.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.