Fatal Fury Special Image Album Part 1
Fatal Fury Special Image Album Part 1
April 21, 1994
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The widespread success of Fatal Fury Special led SNK to produce a two-part arranged album series. Featuring arrangements of all the character themes from the score, these albums preserved the concept of the gameplay and inspiration behind the original music. Nevertheless, they often enhanced them by incorporating richer stylings and live instruments. The first arranged album features the majority of the character themes from Fatal Fury 2.
The opening arrangement of the title theme sets the scene with its showy guitar leads and exuberant voiceovers. While a little brief and dated, it does a great job of capturing the spirit of a fighting tournament. The team keep the energy levels high with a segue into Terry Bogard’s “Kurikinton”. Arranger KONNY massively enhances the repetitious, derivative original with a big band arrangement featuring charismatic trumpet leads and colourful guitar passages. While the tutti are fantastic, the crowning moment is the extended piano solo from the 1:30 mark, above the authentic backing of walking bass and drum kit. The canned audience noise maintains the arena atmosphere, though many will find it distracts from the arrangement. Many will also find the voice effects of “Working Matador” irritating, though the compelling rhythms and stylish Spanish guitar parts largely make up for it.
Some of the most enjoyable arrangements on the album elaborate on SNK’s rock sound using true instruments rather than 90s synth. The themes for boss characters Billy Kane and Axel Hawk particularly stand out with their rock band performance. Electric guitarist Jun Kajiwara really brings these tracks to life with his mean riffs and flashy solos. The former even features some punk vocals, though — probably for the best — they aren’t expanded upon. Cheng Sinzan’s “Pangyago Houho” meanwhile is a fusion of rock stylings and traditional instruments. Though a few parts run flat, the majority of the composition is a vibrant and humorous expansion of the original. Another solid addition is “Brave Raiden” by Yoshihiko Kitamura, which drives the album towards its climax while preserving the arena rock sound.
The image album also features a song from the vocal single released in conjunction with the game. Entitled “The Beauties of Nature”, it is a surprising arrangement of idol Mai Shiranui’s theme. While Power Ranger‘s Reiko Chiba clearly resonated with young audiences in Japan, her youthful, untrained voice won’t appeal to most Westerners. The melody also sounds contrived when presented on vocals. Despite being co-produced by Tenpei Sato, the arrangement isn’t particularly convincing either. The passages featuring traditional Asian instruments are pleasant, but they clash terribly with the dated pop beats and cheesy string parts. In another questionable choice, the release ends with a full recording of Mozart’s “Dies Irae”, the basis of the final boss theme. Though a masterpiece composition, many regard it as a lazy addition to the game and it doesn’t particularly suit the theme of the album.
This image album definitely captures the concept of a fighting tournament and the images of the featured characters. Some of the arrangements, especially those dedicated to Terry, Billy, and Lawrence, are massive improvements on their mediocre originals with their ambitious arrangements and entertaining performances. That said, this album falls short of being a must-have. Additions such as the crowd noise and vocal performance are likely to irritate most listeners, while a few tracks damage the arch of the album. What’s more, it’s frustrating that only a selection of Fatal Fury Special‘s character roster is featured here and that the album was produced with a second part in mind. While not a must-have, its highlights will make it worthwhile for dedicated series’ fans.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.