There have been many exhaustively complete releases of video game scores over the past few years - Capcom’s massive 10-disc 25th anniversary collection of Megaman music comes immediately to mind - but most video game scores on vinyl have been rather small affairs. It’s not that they’re lacking in gorgeous colourways or deluxe packaging: most have actually been rather glorious. However, for the most part, they’re like Megaman’s vinyl release: one disc, consisting of highlights, and rather more of a best-of than a proper anthology.
Brave Wave’s Generation Series has shattered that perception with their first release. For their Street Fighter II: The Definitive Soundtrack, the label sourced not only the music from the original Street Fighter II: The World Warrior arcade console, but also that from Street Fighter II Turbo. It’s a four-LP vinyl box set, sourced from the original arcade boards, and then remastered for vinyl in-house by the label.
In the liner notes’ introduction, Brave Wave explains that the Generation Series “stands for definitive editions of legendary video game soundtracks,” and it’s hard to think of a more perfect way to set the tone than with this collection. The sound is obviously paramount, and there’s a sense of delight around swapping discs back and forth, going from the blue vinyl of The World Warrior to the orange of Turbo, comparing and contrasting the different versions of the themes.
There’s a foreword by the Street Fighter series’ executive producer, Yoshinori Ono, wherein he talks about the work of composer Yoko Shimomura, and he really hits the nail on the head regarding Shimomura’s work for this game when he says, “Mr. Shimomura captured the hearts of countless gamers.”
It’s quite true: one’s memories of these games are absolutely tied up in the music, and the composer’s ability to create so many different themes which still manage to fall under a certain thematic overview is something to behold. The rather fantastic liner note booklet continues with a conversation featuring the composer, and Shimomura is very open to explaining how the themes for all the characters came to be. They are, as one might’ve guessed, somewhat rooted in a sort of pseudo-ethnicity - Chun-Li’s theme is described as “something that, from a Japanese perspective, sounded stereotypically Chinese” - but also in a genuine love for certain strains. Vega’s theme was borne out by an appreciation for Spanish music.
The booklet also comes with scads of original artwork from the series, wherein one can see the development of the characters, and concludes with a brief essay by Polygon’s features editor, Matt Leone, talking about how his appreciation of the soundtrack came later, in the process of spending 2013 writing a retrospective history of the game. It’s a fitting wrap-up, and really brings to mind just how important this music is for one’s appreciation of Street Fighter II.
Street Fighter II: The Definitive Soundtrack is exhaustive, but the two hours of music here, spread out over four vinyl LPs, is the sort of physical product which the listener can delve into gradually. Taking it one side at a time, looking at the artwork, reading the essays and interviews within the liner notes - that’s one way to go, here. However, if one is the sort who wants to dive into the deep end, use the included download code to grab everything into the media player of choice, then create a side-by-side comparison playlist, putting Turbo tracks immediately after their World Warrior origins, comparing each and every note and pitch shift.
Whichever way one chooses to experience Brave Wave’s Generation Series debut, there’s no shortage of enjoyment to be found. Given that this is the label’s first release, one worries at how they can ever possibly top this gargantuan work of genius, but we certainly look forward to seeing what other brilliance is to come.
STREET FIGHTER II (1991) / COMPOSER: YOKO SHIMOMURA, ISAO ABE, & SYUN NISHIGAKI / LABEL: BRAVE WAVE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW