September 21, 1996
Buy Used Copy
Star Gladiator was a moderately successful 3D fighting game created by Capcom for the Arcade and PlayStation. Two classic Capcom musicians were hired to create the music — Isao Abe (Street Fighter II, Street Fighter Alpha) and Yuko Takehara (Mega Man 6, Breath of Fire II). Together they subtly evolved the classic Capcom sound with an eclectic if often divergent mixture of popular and orchestral styles. The quality of the synthesis is merely average for its time, but the instruments ar nevertheless surprisingly expressive. Let’s take a closer look at what is offered in the soundtrack.
The album starts with the tracks influenced by popular music, most of which were created by Isao Abe. “Stage 1” creates a very dated sound with its groovy funk bass and light rock melodies, but is still very enjoyable thanks to the solos during the extensive development section. “Stage 2” is an accomplished but not always likeable experiment that combines cross-rhythmic bass lines, abrupt pseudo-improvised melodies, and various funk and oriental influences. “Stage 3” shines with some of the strongest and most conventional melodies of the selection, while “Stage 4” becomes a pleasing jazz fusion track after its ambiguous introduction. “Stage 6” rounds off the popular selection with some good ol’ rock ‘n roll faithful to the classic Capcom sound.
“Stage 5” and “Stage 7” provide the bridge between the popular and orchestral selections through atmospheric music inspired by new age and cinematic artists respectively. Yuko Takehara’s “Stage 8” confidently exposes the orchestral side of the album with a rousing militaristic overture. “Stage 9” initially presents hostility with a penetrating slapped bass motif, but the theme slowly blooms into one of the most beautifully arranged on the soundtrack. The final stage is accompanied by an awe-inspiring orchestration that takes plenty of twists and turns despite its overall anthemic nature. Perhaps the biggest highlight of all, “Special Stage” is full of all the exuberance that a secret track should have. It opens with a witty dance motif before becoming temporarily grandiose.
Following the stage themes are the various ending themes. The character ending themes uplift in a variety of ways from the clanky jazz-infused piano solos for Hayato and Gamof to the hard bass riffs of Saturn to the courtly dances for June and Gerelt. These compositions are all quite superficial and end before the minute mark, but are individualised enough to still be an enjoyable bonus. Following the more epic final ending themes, the orchestral “Staff Roll” concludes the score. Filled with Star Wars influences, it makes an initial impact with a rhythmically compelling motif and maintains interest by incorporating plenty of decoration and colour in the development.
Overall, Star Gladiator in an enjoyable album. The stage themes are full of diversity and character from the frivolous funk openers to the dramatic orchestral conclusion. The experimental funk offered here is definitely a select taste, but is overall well done and combines well with some oriental and rock influences. The orchestrations have limitations with respect to their musical and technical implementation, but they are still emotional and persuasive. The rest of the material is mostly supplementary, but everything is acceptable and there are several really charming themes. The main problem with this score is that there is nothing that makes it particularly timeless relative to certain other fighting game scores. While it’s unlikely to ever become a jewel in your collection, it’s still a fine choice for those looking for a score worth listening to every now and again.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.