Tekken 3 PlayStation Soundtrack
Tekken 3 PlayStation Soundtrack
May 20, 1998
Buy Used Copy
Tekken 3 is arguably one of the best fighting games from the PlayStation era. It was a culmination of every aspect to a higher level, from the engine to the graphics, to the characters to the music. A worthy successor to the series’ previous titles. The soundtrack is also a step-up compared to those from Tekken and Tekken 2. Some may argue it is weaker melodically, yet it certainly holds its own on that level and there is no competition when it comes to aesthetics. Let’s delve into this hard-hitting urban soundscape…
If you never played to Tekken 3, know that you missed out on an awesome game and, more so, a terrific soundtrack. The latter fits the former like a glove with its high energy and killer grooves. As a whole, the music is a mix of rock, electronic, and techno, with hints of funk in a few tracks. Most tracks have a fast tempo, though fans of melodies might stay on their hunger as this is not Tekken 3’s specialty. Instead, the compositions are based on rhythms with patterns and short melodic hooks that varies mostly by adding layers and through sound manipulations and effects such as gating, forced syncopation, pitch alteration, and more. For this reason, the music loses some of its strength when listened to out of context, notably when concentrating carefully on what’s going on. However, it would be quite fitting and enjoyable to use as training music at the gym, for example. The sound production values are excellent, with a rich and deep sound and polished mix.
The character themes predominate the tracklist. Some of them are actually remixes of their arcade version counterparts, while the others are either completely original or borrowing elements from other themes. The first one to be heard is Jin Kazama’s, one of the remixes. While guitar-driven like the original from the Arcade, the instrument is muted in this take, letting the fat bass be in the front. While repetitive, the riff is certainly catchy and driving. This track is mostly rock-based, but there is a light trance interlude with slow synth arpeggios. Also, a cowbell is featured, which fans of the instrument might not want to miss! Keiichi Okabe evidently wrote one of the best themes for the main character.
Okabe is otherwise mainly responsible for the rock-oriented and funky tracks. His other tracks include Heihachi Mishima’s theme, which is not so far from Jin’s style. It’s not the best theme, yet the bass and drums play a nice groove and the police car siren samples scattered throughout strengthen the urban atmosphere. Okabe used an acoustic guitar in the intro of Kuma and Panda’s theme, which then switches to an electric one. This track as a whole is mediocre, yet the echo in the percussion is commendable and so is the funky electronic outro. Speaking of funk, Eddy Gordo’s theme has this extremely catchy guitar hook that makes you want to dance just like the character, although Capoeira has not the easiest steps to learn from what I have heard. It is unfortunate that the rest of the track is underdeveloped though. Okabe’s best resides in the themes of Nina Williams and Hwoarang. The first has a very slick kind of urban undercover spy groove and the second is immensely energetic thanks to the busy bass line and wah-wah guitar. The bombastic techno-rock opening movie was scored by Okabe as well, which is a short but powerful track.
Nobuyoshi Sano is the main composer with 11 tracks under his belt. While many of his themes incorporates rock elements, they tend to be more electronic-focused. To start with his weaker theme, it would be Anna Williams’ because of the monotony and lack of energy, which is not ideal for a fighting game. But the other tracks of his tend to be more upbeat and kicking, notably Forest Law’s theme which might be the most memorable of all with its funny opening and lush ethereal synth section. The energetic themes for Yoshimitsu, Paul Phoenix, and Lei Wulong are among the rockier ones, yet their explosive nature seem to have weakened the melodic structures. Ling Xiaoyu received a more serious theme compared to the arcade version, but it is rather cool with bright guitar riffs, rising synth lines and rhythmic interludes alternating. The music for King’s stage starts with a bright synth hits that accompanies well the sky/altitude setting, and is mostly percussion-driven afterward.
Another well-fitting theme is Mokujin’s, which includes wood percussion to characterize the wooden nature of the fighter. In terms of melody, it rehashes Lei’s guitar riff in a synth line. Julia Chang’s theme has distinctive deep electronic sound alongside the guitar lines from the “hidden character” theme from the arcade version. There is a good pace to it thanks to the rampaging drums. Sano also wrote the theme for the boss of the game. Actually the “bosses” since Ogre transforms into True Ogre once beaten. Both themes are mixed into a single track, which is alright since they are basically the same tune, only the second half is heavier with supplementary drums, bass, and dark synth effects. The track is tense with a suspenseful rhythm overlaid with occasional distorted guitars and synths.
Three other composers participated to the PlayStation soundtrack by writing two pieces each. Hiroyuki Kawada delivered the most experimental themes of the lot, an unusual electronic pair. Gun Jack’s theme fits the robotic character like a glove with its mechanical sounds, vocoder, and various sci-fi inspiring synth effects. There’s not much of a melody to it, but the percussion still can infuse a sense of action to the piece for it to be suitable for a Tekken game. Then there is Bryan Fury’s theme. It opens with really fast and repetitive “step sounds” and soft muted hi-hat, then introduces light synths and then goes into hardcore drum & bass-inspired electronica. Not highly melodic or catchy either, but it works good enough in-game, though it’s not an album favorite as far as I’m concerned.
The next composer is Minamo Takahashi, who handled two of the special secret characters. The first is the theme of Dr. Bosconovitch, with an appropriate sci-fi-ish sweeping synth enhanced by a catchy funky guitar and a solid groove. However, the composition is repetitive, which is its only problem. Takahashi’s second track is for Gon, the little orange dinosaur. He reused a similar sound palette, although it’s more rock than electronic overall. Another catchy groove can be found here with great production values. The remaining special character was scored by Yu Miyake. In fact, Tiger Jackson was given a rock track, which can be surprising given the disco look and style of the character. Unfitting and slightly humdrum maybe, yet quite energetic and driving. The closing track of the album is the music of the staff roll. The beginning gives the impression that it could be a Latin mambo tune, but it quickly changes by introducing an heavy beat and a rather uneasy atmosphere. It’s not my favorite kind of ending theme and I usually stop the playing of the album when it starts.
Like the game it comes from, this soundtrack is phenomenal. Perfect? No, but definitely a classic in the fighting game music category. While it has its share of so-so tracks, none are actually boring and the good tracks actually outnumber the average ones. The themes of Jin Kazama, Hwoarang, Forest Law, and Nina Williams are must-hears if you consider yourself a true electronic music enthusiast. The sound production is top-notch, sounding as good today as it did in 1998. In addition to this album, you might also want to look into the one for the Arcade version. While the music is quite similar and some themes were remixed for the PlayStation version, I found that it was not as enjoyable overall, so if you are to pick only one of them, go with the PlayStation one. Like many older albums, it’s currently out of print, but trying your luck in various reselling places such as Yahoo! Japan Auctions or online game music communities might lead to something good eventually.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 1, 2012 by François Bezeau. Last modified on August 1, 2012.