Neo Geo Collector’s Box
Neo Geo Collector’s Box
PCCB-00126 (VHS); PCCB-00127 (Laser Disc)
September 17, 1993
Buy Used Copy
SNK made quite an impact in the early 90s with their earliest fighting games, Fatal Fury, Fatal Fury 2, and Art of Fighting. Their scores were also enjoyed by fans, thanks to their potent melodies and mainstream stylings. The Neo Geo Collector’s Box, released by prolific game music label Scitron in 1993, compiled the soundtracks for all three games along with bonus video content.
The first disc of the box set features the arcade version of the original for 1991’s Fatal Fury. Few themes from this rather brief score have become classics, though many helped to establish the SNK sound. For example, “Michael Max’s Theme” emphasises their classic rock sound with its light-hearted melodies and thrashing guitar riffs, whereas “Duck King’s Theme” offers a fresh combination of jazzy leads and punchy piano chords. Its also surprising how well the score is synthesized compared to competitors such as Street Fighter II at the time. This particularly comes across in themes for Brazilian Richard Meyer and Chinese kung fu master Tung Fu Rue, which boast surprisingly authentic composition and synthesis. Also impressive are the increasingly intense rock themes for the boss characters, culminating in Geese Howard’s appearance. The score is rounded off with some rhythmically driving menu themes and a soothing jazzy ending theme.
The soundtrack for 1992’s Fatal Fury 2, featured on the second disc, introduced SNK’s more iconic character themes. The returning heroes from the original game are finally given their own themes: Terry Bogard’s “Kurikinton” is an imitation of the jazzy Peter Gunn theme, his brother Andy’s “Pasta” is a traditional Italian dance, and Joe Higashi’s “A New Poem…” is filled with Asian instruments and tonalities. Other characters that make an memorable entrance include Kim Kaphwan with a riff-heavy rock track and Mai Shiranui with an alluring blend of influences. Many of these tracks are derivative and build little on their precursors, but are still catchy and distinctive enough to make an impact on players. The score also receives a considerable synth upgrade from its predecessor, although some tracks — especially the climactic reduction of Mozart’s Requiem — are still clearly hindered by technology. It’s a decent score, but still not as good as successors such as Fatal Fury 3.
The Art of Fighting soundtrack, on the third disc, has a very different sound from Fatal Fury. Rather than offer a melodic focus, Yasumasa Yamada took a much more rhythmically-focused approach. In “Art of Fighting”, for instance, 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. 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. “Chinese Old Man” and “The Tengu Show” are welcome novelties with their traditional Asian instruments and tonalities, but still maintain a hard-hitting percussive emphasis. The ideas aren’t refined, but the creativity is refreshing.
There are a few other bonuses on this box set. Most significantly, the first disc features arranged versions of the themes for Michael Max and Raiden, taken from the Fatal Fury Image Album. The arranger greatly fleshes out the rock stylings of these tracks, while the instrumental performers bring so much grit and energy to the rock riffs. The third disc also includes the “Art of Fighting (Tribal Mix)”, which further explores the percussive sound of the game’s soundtrack. At the end of each disc, there are also complete voice collections and sound effects collections from the three featured games. Finally, the box set was also packaged with two VHSs or Laser Discs, depending on the preference of the consumer. These feature video content such as character profiles, versus matches, and story modes. The first is dedicated to Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury 2, whereas the second features content from World Heroes and its sequel.
The Neo Geo Collector’s Box gives a fascinating insight into SNK’s earliest fighting soundtracks. The Fatal Fury and Fatal Fury 2 discs both sport contemporary stylings and memorable themes, while the Art of Fighting soundtracks is refreshing with its rhythmical focus. The three fleshed-out arrangements are also solid bonuses. That said, the featured soundtracks lack the consistency or breadth of subsequent additions to their respective series. Both series evolved considerably after 1993 and this box set only offers a glimpse of their earliest history. As a result, only hardcore SNK fans should consider picking this one.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.