Street Fighter IV Series Sound Box
Street Fighter IV Series Sound Box
October 1, 2014
Buy at CD Japan
Following the many versions of Street Fighter III which had left fans divided in reception, the much anticipated Street Fighter IV was viewed with great hype. Upon release, it was immediately praised as the “true” successor to the legendary Street Fighter II and is now considered to be a defining title in the modern fighting game scene. Naturally, a plethora of expansions were released in typical Capcom fashion, adding in the expected additional fighters, stages, and music. As the world now waits eagerly for Street Fighter V, Capcom has made sure to keep fans busy with their continual support of the fourth game.
Street Fighter IV additionally featured an expansive and eclectic soundtrack across the main game and its many expansions. Regular Capcom contractor Hideyuki Fukasawa was responsible for the entirety of the original Street Fighter IV‘s soundtrack as well as its various expansions. An album for the original release of the game was released in 2009, while a disc dedicated to the Arcade Edition was exclusively bundled with the massive 25th anniversary collection in 2012. It would take until 2014, however, for Capcom to release a more comprehensive and available soundtrack set. Titled Street Fighter IV Series Sound Box, this 5-disc compilation contains all of the music from every single version of the game, making it truly the item for dedicated fans. That being said, how does the music itself hold up?
Street Fighter IV
Regular Capcom composer Hideyuki Fukasawa was responsible for the entirety of SFIV’s original soundtrack and the first disc of the collection contains all of the area themes to the main game. Much like Street Fighter II which had an ethnic track that matched its respective world stages, Street Fighter IV adopts a similar musical template. Unique to SFIV, however, is an overarching main melody which represents the entire game. This nine-note hard rock motif is used as the theme for the “Volcanic Rim Stage” and later appears on the third disc as variations in tracks like “Main Menu Screen for SSIV” and “Super Street Fighter IV.” Though on the surface simplistic, its sheer memorability makes it a great addition to the Street Fighter canon and is true the series’ musical legacy.
But back to the first disc, we have Fukasawa’s impressive score which opens the collection on a strong note. This being a modern game, the sound is of much higher quality and the overall “exoticness” of each track stands out all the more. The first area theme “Old Temple Stage -Japan-” has an introduction on taiko drums and shamisen, later shifting into a mysterious woodwind theme, likely a synth sample from a shakuhachi. The second half features electronics and more percussion before it loops back. What Fukasawa does best is planting seeds of memorability within the player’s (and listener’s) minds, and this track is a good example of that.
His prowess for Japanese sound mixed with modern synthesizers is additionally demonstrated with the other Japan stage themes. “Deserted Temple Stage -Japan-” uses a fusion of woodwinds and pulsating synths into an extremely effective soundscape. “Overpass Stage -Tokyo-” eschews this format for a more modern bout of electronica and vocoder vocals while still retaining a futuristic techno pop style that feels distinctly Japanese. Moving on to China, Fukasawa goes back to tradition with “Crowded Downtown Stage -China-,” using mandolin, erhu, and orchestral samples in a track that keeps a constantly moving rhythm. The other Chinese track “Run-down Back Alley Stage –China-” is similar in composition, but feels more subdued, as if the bustle of the city can be heard distantly. I particularly enjoyed the synthesized strings which moved in and out alongside the electronic beats. For Vietnam, Fukasawa again combines Asiatic sounds with that of a modern sound system in the frenetic “Beautiful Bay Stage -Vietnam-.”
Two tracks are dedicated to the lush greens of the Brazilian stages. “Inland Jungle Stage -Brazil-” is ambient with its combo of plucked strings and techno, while “Pitch-black Jungle Stage -Brazil-” is rock based. “Snowy Rail Yard Stage -Russia-” features a memorable theme with electronics and Russian balalaika strings alongside some catchy beats. “Historic Distillery Stage -Scotland-” is industrial and brassy with heavy percussion and bagpipe notes. “Small Airfield Stage -Africa-” samples a traditional African chant in combination with techno, while “Drive-in At Night Stage -USA-” feels appropriately American in its keyboard synths and electronic harmony. Lastly, the two tracks (Rounds 1 and 2) for “Secret Laboratory Stage” are darker in composition, cinematic in feel, and the latter portion picks up in tempo and intensity.
Following the area themes, some extraneous tracks round off the disc. “Training Stage” is wholly techno and even inspired by dubstep, while “Results Screen” has the same electronic feel. Some short, but otherwise forgettable cues for menus and other screens are included as well, but there’s little to say about them on a standalone basis. The five different ending themes are also short, all running under a minute, but they do their job in providing closure. Overall though, the first disc is a great effort on Fukasawa’s part and he accomplishes his job well. The themes are memorable and effective, while the sound itself is top notch.
The second disc continues with music from the main game, this time specifically dedicated to individual character themes. Much of it consists of arranged pieces from Street Fighter II, originally composed by the legendary Yoko Shimomura. These compositions are absolute classics, and Fukasawa does great justice to her work. “Theme of Ryu” is a fitting and heroic theme for the martial artist who is known as the iconic main character of the series. It feels both rock flavored, but also peppered with hints of Oriental music, since Ryu is Japanese. For the arrangement, techno synths are heavily used to give it a more modern feel. This approach is also noticeable with “Theme of Ken,” which reflects upon the character being American. His theme is simply one of the best and most memorable pieces of video game music out there. Though I’m more partial to his theme being performed on rock instruments, the synthesizers are done well as are the keyboard sections.
Then we have “Theme of Guile.” Really, what else needs to be said about this one? There’s been so many remixes online and this track is only even more popular with the whole “Guile’s Theme Goes with Everything” internet meme. The track bears some similarities to Ryu’s theme, but sets itself apart with its deeper bass riffs and a bolder melody. If there’s one track that defines the entire series, it would be Guile’s. Fukasawa does a great job with capturing the same level of emotions, impressively combining acoustics, rock, and electronica for the remix. “Theme of Chun-Li’s” is a charming Chinese-inspired piece mixed together with techno flavors that make it sound definitely like a scene on a busy Asian street. The new sound gives the track a boost thanks to the erhu and Chinese woodwind samples. “Theme of Zangief” is the perfect theme for the burly Russian fighter with its low octave synth and booming melody. The groovy vibes are enhanced even moreso with Fukasawa’s interpretation as a jazz-like piece.
Moving on, there are several original themes here “Theme of C. Viper” sounds like a fusion of rock and electronica. The middle section slows things down a bit with piano and chorus, while electric guitar takes over before the piece fades out.There’s quite a bit of combination going on with “Theme of El Fuerte.” Fukasawa cleverly mixes jazz, rock, Spanish flair, and techno all together into one spectacular character theme. “Theme of Rufus” is hard rock accompanied by synth lines, with yells that remind me a lot of Bruce Lee’s yells from his old martial arts films. “Theme of Abel” similarly combines rock and electronica in a cinematic fashion, the deep rhythm being the most notable aspect.
Returning to Street Fighter II‘s boss themes, “Theme of Sagat” is ethnically inspired, having prominent use of Thai strings and voices. “Theme of Vega,” actually M. Bison for western releases, has a cinematic techno melody with strong orchestral flair. Based on the secret character from later Street Fighter II versions, “Theme of Gouki” and its variation “Theme of Gouken” are absolutely fantastic with their composition of Japanese string instruments, deep electronic beats, and tribal chanting based on Akuma’s theme. Later on, “Theme of Gouki vs. Ryu” and “Theme of Gouken vs. Ryu” utilize the same melody, but have a greater sense of finality due to their use in the game’s storyline. “Theme of Sakura” is keyboard and techno-based. The overall track is beautifully composed, jazzy, and all-around memorable. “Theme of Cammy” and “Theme of Rose” both follow a very similar pattern to Sakura’s theme, but stand out with their use of electric guitar. These tracks are very strong, and some of the best character themes from the series.
Ending things quite spectacularly is “Staff Roll,” which incorporates various themes from the game, allowing the player to re-experience their memories with Street Fighter IV. The tracks for Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and more are all included, while the medley itself even adds in some new arrangements. Bonus tracks include “TGS’08 PV BGM” and “Shop PV BGM” which served as promotional background music for the game’s previews. Though not quite as notable on their own, their inclusion is much appreciated. The final track on the disc is “Street Fighter IV –Orchestra ver.” which arranges the game’s main theme as an “orchestral” suite. Unfortunately, the elements are obviously synthesized which leads to some pretty artificial sound. It would have been better if live instruments were used instead. Overall though, the second disc of this collection can basically be considered as an expansion of the first disc. Both collect all the major themes from the base game, and for that reason, I believe that they represent the best aspects of this soundtrack collection.
Super Street Fighter IV
Released in 2010, Super Street Fighter IV was the game’s first expansion and went on to receive critical acclaim with the consensus being that the added content was a substantial upgrade. Ten new characters in addition to several new stages were introduced, allowing the base game’s initial roster to be even more expansive. The third disc of this collection includes the added music, which consists of original compositions by Hideyuki Fukasawa and his arrangements of previous themes. The opening theme to the game, “Super Street Fighter IV” is everything that an introduction piece should be. Beginning with a fast-paced variation of the previously established nine-note motif, this free-flowing medley transitions between characters and their respective nationalities. Even when listening to this track apart from its cutscenes, the spirit of each fighter can still be felt immensely. Well-produced and well-edited to perfection. “Main Menu Screen for SSFIV” continues with another subdued variation of the main theme, while “Character Select Screen for SSFIV” does its intended job well.
Next up are the new area themes. “Festival at the Old Temple Stage -South Korea-” combines a folksy Korean-inspired melody with harmonic electronic elements, while “Exciting Street Scene Stage -India-” is strongly ethnic paired with a consistent beat that provides foot-tapping rhythm. “Solar Eclipse Stage -Africa-” is purely techno comprised of lively synths, something I was not expecting. “Skyscraper Under Construction Stage -USA-” conversely is more of a hard rock track, featuring some high quality electric guitars. “Crumbling Laboratory Stage,” divided into two separate tracks representing rounds, are both eclectic mixes of rock, keyboards, and cinematic orchestrations. The two bonus stage themes for the USA and Scotland both are dubstep-like electronica bouts, offering the right amount of competitive atmosphere for players wishing to rack up combos and high scores. Miscellaneous themes like “Tournament Screen,” “Trial,” and “Channel Select Screen” sound similar to one another with their hard rock/synthesized soundscapes, but are otherwise not notable. The same can be said for “VS Screen -Boss-” and “VS Screen -Final-” which only last a few seconds.
Concluding the disc are the character themes, some new and some old. “Theme of E. Honda” is the same classic Japanese melody you remember, but given an entirely fresh coat of paint with its vocals, traditional instruments, and of course excellent mixing. “Theme of Dhalsim” similarly provides another great listening experience, this time with a charming Indian theme. One of my personal favorite characters, the Bruce Lee lookalike Fei Long, gets a theme worthy of his character. Hard rock, but with tinge of Chinese erhu and other instruments, I enjoyed it the whole way through. “Theme of Blanka” has a progressive electronic and string-based melody while Balrog (Vega in the western releases) is given a suitably Spanish-flavoured arrangement laced with accordion and tango-like backing. “Theme of T. Hawk” follows suit with similar acoustics, but contrasts with its heavy synths that come off as mysterious. The remaining character themes are real gems. “Theme of M. Bison” consists of vocoder vocals, rock instruments, and drum kit percussion. I first viewed this as an odd track for the big baddie who is supposed to be the leader of a crime syndicate, but then I later found out that M. Bison in Japan as actually who us Western games know as the boxer Balrog.
“Theme of Dee Jay” opens with retro-inspired synth and Latin instruments, while rock elements are slowly added on. A fantastic track that’s quite different from the Street Fighter IV synth typically expected. “Theme of Dan” is urban with some laid-back guitar riffs, contrasted by “Theme of Adon” which sounds like a backstreet rock band jam session. Lastly we have the excellent theme for the character of Guy, an innovative melody that is made up of big band brass, jazzy composition, and old school instrumentation. What could have been simply filler proves to be a strong expansion to the main Street Fighter IV soundtrack. The new area themes continue the same standard set forward originally, but it’s really the character tracks which shine through with their sheer uniqueness and inspiration. Though perhaps not entirely substantial on its own, it makes for another great addition to this collection and shouldn’t be missed.
Moving on, the fourth disc finishes off Super Street Fighter IV with the game’s remaining tracks, and additionally includes the added music for the Arcade and Ultra editions. By this point, the listener probably has a good idea of what to expect sound-wise, but Fukasawa and the other composers throw in some interesting ideas to keep things from becoming too stale. Fukasawa himself contributes three character themes for Super Street Fighter IV, and they’re consistent with what he’s previously composed. “Theme of Juri” has some upbeat electronic synths and good mixing, while “Theme of Hakan” is a strange combination of ethnic sound and chiptune. “Theme of Seth,” though a decent “epic” track, is unfortunately somewhat forgettable with its melody.
Capcom regular Hideki Okugawa impressed with his strong characterizations and this is further enhanced by Fukasawa’s arrangements of his work from Street Fighter III. “Theme of Ibuki” is jazzy and ambient, being a pleasant listen. “Theme of Dudley” offers a kicking trance vibe, retro synths, and auto-tuned cries of “Get off the dance floor!” “Theme of Makoto” continues with Okawa’s style of combing old and new electronics, overall being quite mesmerizing. “Theme of Gen” and “Theme of Cody,” respectively composed by Tatsuro Suzuki and Yoshihiro Sakaguchi in their original versions, are urban-inspired with the right amounts of “cool factor,” while the latter from the original Street Fighter is especially memorable. Super Street Fighter IV is concluded with a Staff Roll track, a medley that opens with “Theme of Ryu” and closes with “Theme of Ken.” The new character themes are placed in between in what can be described as an “orchestral” arrangement, though the elements are obviously synthesized.
Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Capcom would later release Street Fighter IV to the arcades and this version would also see a home console release. The Arcade Edition included balance tweaking for every character in addition to four new fighters. With this version came two new characters, and two others who were available as default fighters instead of hidden bosses. Naturally, more character pieces were necessary, which share space on the fourth disc together with the Super Street Fighter IV console edition themes. The twin brothers Yun and Yang get their own separate theme, both having the same melody, but arranged differently. The former takes a hard rock approach, with the latter being more techno themed.
“Theme of Evil Ryu” is a warped version of the original theme. The old heroic and Japanese melody feels desperate, being constantly covered with the dark electronic synth. Should Ryu succumb to the demonic force Dark Hadou, he will become a fighter for evil and hate. Unfortunately, Akuma has already fallen victim to the evil and has become the being known as Oni. Like before, “Theme of Oni” takes the original theme and modifies it, this time with off-key rock. The remaining two tracks for Arcade Edition are “Ranking Display 1 -Re-edited-,” which is a fast-paced techno line of pulsating notes and percussion, and “Ranking Display 2,” a re-mixed version of the electronic theme heard in previous versions.
Ultra Street Fighter IV
The final of version of Street Fighter IV would come in the form of the Ultra Edition, adding in the expected new characters and stages. Other features included more balancing tweaks, ability to switch between different versions of fights, and even some new gameplay mechanics. A brand new theme for Ultra Street Fighter IV was composed by Hideyuki Fukasawa, featured at the end of the fourth disc. Though it has some high quality synths, can’t hold a candle to his far more memorable original theme for the game. The Ultra melody appears again as the Main Menu Screen theme, thought the differences are minimal. While most character select themes for the series are laid-back, “Character Select Screen for USFIV” is rock-based and has more presence.
Ultra Street Fighter IV has six new stages and five new characters. Due to what I can assume to be memory space, the character themes are pushed to the fifth disc. Once again composed by Fukasawa, I had to wonder how much more new ideas he could bring to the table. But once again, I was not disappointed. The track that first stuck out to me was “Half-Pipe Stage -NYC-.” While one would initially assume it to be a standard rock piece, soon the rap vocals kick in. Some might consider the lyrics to be cheesy, but given the context of a fighting game, it feels all the more fitting. “Made Gear Hideout Stage -USA-” was another surprise, in that it sounds hardly anything like an “American” piece. The stringed instruments feel more Asiatic, while the percussion is akin to that of an old Japanese theme. Though perhaps unfitting, it still makes for a great listen.
On the other side is “Pit Stop 109 Stage -Japan-” which itself sounds like it should have been the American stage theme. Brass and guitar sounding straight out of a Western, it feels anything but Japanese. Perhaps Fukasawa wanted to swap them. Continuing, “Blast Furnace Stage -Russia-” contains hints of industrialism, though is primarily techno with rock elements. “Jurassic Era Research Facility Stage -Unknown-” falls on the generic side, while “Cosmic Elevator Stage -Equator-” is a nice mix of electric guitars and trace-beat synth. Everything being considered, the fourth disc can essentially be considered “more of the same,” but that necessarily isn’t a bad thing. The composers thankfully manage to keep things fresh, and their tracks end up being a welcome addition, rather than more fluff.
The fifth and final disc concludes with the five new character themes of Ultra Street Fighter IV and all the promotional music for the game’s many different releases. Three of the new characters were guest fighters from Final Fight, and their themes feel right in line with the rest of Street Fighter IV’s roster. Yoshihiro Sakaguchi’s hard rock track for Rolento is relentlessly “hardcore,” while Hideki Okugawa’s “Theme of Hugo” is jamming as well. With Poison, the controversial fighter whose gender is constantly being debated by gamers, Hideyuki Fukasawa has composed a jazzy and funky theme perfectly befitting of the character. Rounding the character themes off, Okugawa’s “Theme of Elena” and Fukasawa’s “Theme of Decapre” are trance music pieces with strong instrumentation, though with less than memorable melodies.
The rest of the fifth disc is a bit harder to assess, because it merely consists of the background music used in Capcom’s promotional trailers and previews for Street Fighter IV. While it’s great that they are included for completeness sake, tracks like “Special Promotion Trailer 1” and “Battle System Introduction” are not my ideas of casual listening. For what it’s worth, the mixing is generally of high quality and the arrangements of the series’ more well-known themes is admirably done, but the resulting tracks serve more a purpose of background sound. Completionists and the most dedicated of Street Fighter fans will probably be happy of what’s included, but the rest will find it redundant. The only tracks of real notability are “USFIV -Ultra Fix Remix-” and “HFP -Street Fighter IV Wobble Trix Remix-” which are brand new bonus track remixes exclusive to this release. Both are exceptionally strong and creatively arranged, with the latter especially being an entertaining dubstep mix of the rap vocals heard in the Half-Pipe NYC stage.
At over six hours, Street Fighter IV Series Sound Box is bursting at the seams with musical content. Does the quantity equal quality? In a way, the answer can be yes. Seldom are there any weak tracks, the hybrid instrumentation is the best in the series, and I’m sure that it’ll especially appeal to fans of electronic music. Though not on the same scale disc-wise as the massive 25th anniversary box set, I can say with certainty that the overall quality of music is much stronger. Potential buyers are going to have to ask themselves though if they’re a big enough Street Fighter fan to sit through such a large quantity of music. Provided that they are though and that they don’t mind listening to some filler, particularly on the last disc, they should find themselves quite satisfied with this collection. It’s one of the most comprehensive VGM releases I’ve ever seen, and for that it earns a recommendation.
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Posted on July 10, 2015 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on July 13, 2015.