Final Fight Original Sound Collection
Final Fight Original Sound Collection
December 20, 2014
Buy at CDJapan
Final Fight Original Sound Collection marks a very important release for fans of Capcom’s popular beat-em-up franchise. City Connection and Clarice Disc’s robust, six-disc double jewel case sports five CDs of music containing nearly every variation of the series’ tunes, a majority of which have never received a legitimate release before. These include the original Final Fight soundtrack on Arcade, Sharp X68000 (FM Synth & MIDI), Super Famicom, Game Boy Advance and Sega CD. Also featured is the music for Final Fight 2, Final Fight Tough (known as Final Fight 3 internationally), Mighty Final Fight, Final Fight Revenge and a few arranged tracks. There’s also a bonus DVD featuring perfect runs of the original arcade version of Final Fight and an official video of the Final Fight Revenge tournament held at Takadanobaba Mikado Arcade in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan back in November of last year.
To preface this, I must admit I was always a Streets of Rage and Double Dragon guy at heart. You can put your throwing daggers and lead pipes away, though; after listening to the entirety of the Final Fight Original Sound Collection, I’ve happily converted to Mike Haggar’s Church of Latter-day Piledriving. Even before I popped these CDs into my computer, it was easy to see the labor of love that went into putting this collection together. The packaging is top-notch, boasting a slip-case and double jewel case featuring the iconic Final Fight promo art by Kinu Nishimura. Speaking of CDs, the discs themselves are visual eye candy, boasting colorful, reflective surfaces adorned with Final Fight sprite art depicting heroes Mike Haggar, Cody and Guy getting down and dirty with the Mad Gear gang.
What’s even more eye-popping is an insert that finally reveals to the world the official composer credits for the original Final Fight soundtrack. A whopping seven of Capcom’s brilliant, classic composers pitched in for the original arcade release, including Manami Matsumae (Mega Man, Mighty No. 9), Yoshihiro Sakaguchi (Street Fighter), Harumi Fujita (Gargoyle’s Quest), Junko Tamiya (Bionic Commando, Strider), Yasuaki Fujita (Mega Man 3, Breath of Fire), Hiromitsu Takaoka (1941: Counter Attack) and even Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II, Final Fantasy XV). Sadly, the composer credits end there, so recognition for titles like Final Fight 2, Final Fight 3 and the endless amount of Final Fight arrangements remain unaddressed. The lack of further composer breakdowns is disappointing, especially since six composers reportedly worked on Final Fight 2 and there’s only one known albeit officially uncredited composer for Final Fight 3 (Katsunari Kitajima).
Audio-wise, everything in the collection sounds clean and crisp. For the uninitiated, Final Fight’s 1990 Arcade and 1992 X68000 versions’ FM synthesis may take some getting used to. The synth lines here are so sharp you can cut them on a knife curiously found inside a Metro City trash can. The X68000 tunes are essentially cleaned up versions of the Arcade version’s music, complete with a big boost in the drum department. The drum boost is especially apparent in Hiromitsu Takaoka’s “ROUND4 INDUSTRIAL AREA2/ROUND6” track, where the bass drum feels more thumping and alive. While the X68000 MIDIs feature cleaner melodies, the music feels too clean and soft in comparison to the grittiness of the original. This might work for sweeter-sounding melodies like the “Ending” theme, but it ends up removing the power and sense of urgency from energetic tracks like “ROUND4 INDUSTRIAL AREA1.”
The Super Famicom/Super Nintendo arrangements, on the other hand, haven’t aged well in the slightest. The game’s first home console port was infamously known for being undercut in many different ways, and the music is sadly no exception. With that said, I do commend arranger Toshio Kajino for at least trying; the instrumentation can shine in certain places, but it’s all very hit or miss. A personal favorite of mine, “ROUND2 SUBWAY PARK1/ROUND6,” is especially hammed up in this version and contains some truly laughable horn samples. Final Fight’s Game Boy Advance counterpart, handled by Seiko Kobuchi, fares much better. The music here is more dance-like thanks to the GBA’s signature faux-chiptune quality, which gets mixed in with heavier and faster-tempo drum samples. I would wager to say that some tracks, like “ROUND1 SLUM1/ROUND4/ROUND6” and “ROUND2 SUBWAY PARK1/ROUND6” sound even cooler on the GBA thanks to the heightened tempo.
One of the most welcome inclusions in the collection comes in the form of Sega CD/Mega CD remixes from T’s Music on Disc 4. We can finally put the days of ripping the game CD’s Redbook Audio to our computers behind us. Despite taking many liberties with the instrumentation, it’s arguably the best arrangement of Final Fight’s music to date. It oozes with the kinds of instrumentation one would find in a late 80s or early 90s cop drama. That means you can expect a ton of reverb on the snare, echoing guitar effects, and Miami Vice-inspired synths. This is especially apparent in “ROUND4 INDUSTRIAL AREA2/ROUND 6.” As much as I love the hard, thumping bass drum in the Arcade original, there’s an ethereal quality to the T’s Sound remix that feels equally satisfying. Is it cheesy? You bet – and I love every second of it.
Whether you like to cut your teeth on the Arcade/X68000 iterations or prefer to listen to the MIDI, SNES, GBA and/or Sega CD mixes, one thing remains clear: Final Fight’s melodies still shine and continue to blow me away the more I listen to them. The gritty atmosphere established by Manami Matsumae’s aforementioned “ROUND1 SLUM1/ROUND4/ROUND6,” the climactic melodic breakdown in Junko Tamiya’s “ROUND 2/SUBWAY PARK 1/ROUND6,” and the energetic keyboard solo in Yasuaki Fujita’s “ROUND 4 INDUSTRIAL AREA1” are just some of the highlights. These tracks, along with the rest of the soundtrack feel so unique and varied that it’s hard to pick just one favorite. I only wish the track names sounded less generic. It’s hard to talk about specific tracks without cringing at a title like “ROUND5 BAY AREA1!”
Prior to this compilation’s release, game music fans had to rely on SPC rips to listen to Final Fight 2 and Final Fight 3’s soundtracks. Thankfully, the full soundtracks are now here in CD quality, and they are a far cry from the original Final Fight’s Super Famicom misstep. In other words: they simply rock. Both games feature equally phenomenal opening stage tracks that contain some of the most impressive changes, riffing and drumbeats in the entire series. Final Fight 2’s “HONGKONG PM12:00 1/JAPAN” sticks out for its energetic keyboard solos, grooving guitar riffs and satisfying breakdowns. The remainder of the soundtrack is a brilliant clash of rock and jazz. “JAPAN PM11:00” is also notable for being an interesting take on 90s house. Dare I say it has a bit of that Yuzo Koshiro/Streets of Rage influence? I have to point out two neat little nuggets in Final Fight 2’s “CHARACTER SELECT” theme. The bassline here clearly references Mega Man 4’s “Get a Weapon” and Street Fighter II’s “Ryu” theme. The composers clearly had a little fun with that one.
The key changes in Final Fight 3’s “TITLE/ROUND1-1” particularly have an upbeat, proggy, Rush feel to them, and the bass-slapping is mindbogglingly complex. I have to commend the composer(s) for diversifying the instruments here and letting the bass guitar riffs break away from the rest of the melody while still complementing it. The follow-up to this track, “ROUND1-2/ROUND3-2/ROUND4-1/ROUND5-2/ROUND5-6/BONUS STAGE1” is a decidedly slower, moodier piece notable for its broodingly low guitar samples supplemented by a high-pitched sustained note. Those sustained notes make it hard not to draw comparisons to Snoop Dogg’s early 90s work. While just a minor issue, it’s still necessary to note there’s a minor audio glitch in Final Fight 3’s ninth track, found on Disc 3 as “ROUND2-1/ROUND4-3/ROUND5-3” in which the track flubs at the 1:55 mark for just a second or so.
The compilation even has lesser-known titles like the Famicom/NES’ Mighty Final Fight and the Japanese exclusive Final Fight Revenge. The former, composed by Setsuo Yamamoto (Mega Man X) and Yuko Takehara (Breath of Fire II, Mega Man 6), sounds more like a long-lost NES Mega Man game than a Final Fight title. In fact, a few melodic similarities can be drawn between “ROUND4 INDUSTRIAL AREA” and Mega Man 6’s “Tomahawk Man.” One standout track has to be the “Boss” theme, an appropriately serious-sounding track with crash hits reminiscent of thrash metal.
1999’s Final Fight Revenge is an interesting inclusion, given its notoriety. Composed by Jim Wallace, the game’s music reflects a late 90s house feel, from the piano samples in “CHARACTER SELECT” to the record scratching in “ENDING “. It was interesting to hear tracks like “HUGER” and “EL GADO,” which are a far more laidback affair with their jazzy lounge influence than a majority of the series’ music. Overall though, it’s not an entirely memorable soundtrack.
The final disc of music is a surprisingly short one, containing only six remixes from Capcom’s Alph Lyla years. The first four tracks were originally found as part of a CD pack-in for Final Fight Guy in Japan, and the remaining two come from a bonus offer with thee X68000 version of Final Fight. These are all tight-sounding renditions of the original soundtrack that feature far more instrumental layers. One track, “Moon Kingdom” is an interesting meld of Japanese folk instruments and synthesizers. The main melody of “ROUND1 SLUM1/ROUND4/ROUND6” is played here by a shakuhachi flute and is backed up by a shamisen, citar and all kinds of synthesized drum, keyboard and bass samples. I imagine this is what the original sound team could have made if not limited by the Arcade/X68000’s hardware.
I’m a little miffed they didn’t add Simon Viklund’s impressive arrangements from 2010’s Final Fight: Double Impact for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Viklund’s exceptionally drum-heavy, contemporary house-influenced tracks continue to be available for free from the official Final Fight website, albeit without any loops or fade-outs. A proper CD release feels like a missed opportunity here to truly make this a complete package; notwithstanding the absence of Final Fight: Streetwise’s licensed music.
Despite my misgivings about the lack of Simon Viklund on this album, Final Fight Original Sound Collection is a must-have for fans of the series. It’s a wonderful gateway into how the series’ music evolved as new hardware was introduced. It’s readily available from sites like CDJapan and the decent $50+ USD price tag at the time of this writing certainly won’t break the bank compared to a number of other recent compilations. My only hope is that City Connection would dig even deeper for future compilations to ensure that no composer goes uncredited.
I somehow missed out on the Final Fight craze during my childhood. Despite that dearth, I was incredibly surprised by how well the music in this series has held up. It’s a pure joy to listen to. Now to save up some Wii U eShop credits to find out what I’ve been missing out on…
Posted on April 21, 2015 by Patrick Kulikowski. Last modified on April 21, 2015.