This is the sample for this month's Bitmob Writing Challenge: Concept Album. If you're passionate about game music, then write a 400-800 word article on how a game's soundtrack makes the title even more special. All entries will be featured in a Collected Works post at the end of the month. For more information and rules, click here.
Whether by intention or repetition, the stage themes from the Street Fighter games have become attached to the World Warriors of the series. Ryu wouldn’t be the same without the sweeping tune you first heard in Street Fighter 2, and fans get disappointed when these themes aren't incorporated into a game's soundtrack in some form.
There is, however, one game with an incredible soundtrack that doesn't re-use beats first made in 1991, and it's also one of the best games in the franchise: Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike.
Fighters Ready? ENGAGE!
The first thing you’ll notice in the soundtrack is just how different it is to other Street Fighter games. While the music from earlier games imitate traditional instruments, 3rd Strike’s tracks feel like they were done by an underground DJ, with heavy use of jazz and beat machines. The music also often features vocals, from the rap opening to a DJ shouting “THIS IS A STUPID DOPE MIX” in Dudley’s Theme “You Blow My Mind.” Much of Street Fighter 3 was done to show the power of the game’s CPS3 arcade system, and with it the music reaches CD quality.
The highlight of 3rd Strike’s music is how the music changes from match to match. Round 1 starts with the song’s base rhythm. The next round speeds up the rhythm, and he final round is the heaviest alteration as the game's DJ completely remixes the track.
What’s the point? One of the hallmarks of Street Fighter 2’s music is the sped-up “danger” version of a track that plays when someone is about to lose. Few other fighters did this, and the music shifts were later incorporated into Street Fighter 4.
3rd Strike’s takes this to the next level. Round 1 is the beginning of the match when the opponents are feeling eachother out. Round 2 is the rising action when one character takes advantage, and Round 3 is the climax, where the opponents are evenly matched and the stakes are at their highest.
New Anthems for a New Generation
Almost all of Third Strike's music is different from earlier versions of Street Fighter 3. Only Alex’s theme “Jazzy NYC” and Yun and Yang’s “Crowded Street” made the cut from Street Fighter 3: New Generation and Street Fighter 3: 2nd Impact. Alex, the series's main character, has the most-iconic theme in the games, while the kung fu twins’ theme is stripped down to something that could play in a James Bond film.
What about the other characters? While the music from the first two games isn't bad, it isn't memorable either and is also very mellow for a fighting game. In 2nd Impact Hugo’s theme is a mix of jazz and record scratches, which didn’t fit a gigantic brutish wrestler. His new theme “The Circuit” is a massive improvement thanks to a dominant guitar riff and grunt-like repetition. Likewise, a teenage capoeria fighter like Elena would fight to a mindless dance tune like “Beats in my Head” instead of a low-key track like “Tomboy.”
The themes for new characters are also strong. Makoto is a traditional, no-nonsense karate fighter, so the calm “Spunky” works for her. Remy’s theme “The Beep” also suits his character: A guy who looks like a club junkie and fights in an industrial techno club should have an industrial techno theme.
"Theme of Q" is a solid track that saves a character design. The trenchcoat-clad Q is suppose to be mysterious – a cross between a secret agent and a slasher-movie villain – but looks more like a robot than anything else. It's when you hear the theme when you realize how unnerving he’s suppose to be. While Ryu, Chun-Li, and Akuma already have established thems, their new tracks stay true to the spirit of these veterans.
Let’s Get it on Now
Are there any problems? I wish every character had his or her own theme instead of some characters sharing the same music, mostly to see what else the artists could come up with. Also, the raps during the Intro and Player Select are a bit cheesy – rapping about a video game will never be cool, but it does establish the underground setting.
And “underground” is the key word in Street Fighter 3. The SF3 games did everything it could to not be like other SF games, from an all-new cast to focusing on close-range combat instead of fireball wars. Third Strike was the WWF Attitude Era of the franchise, and fans flocked to the game’s gritty, elite mantra. And it's the soundtrack that sets the mood for this alternative take on Street Fighter.