Game Music Saturdays – Street Fighter I Soundtrack

Street Fighter 25th Anniversary

Look at that box of Street Fighter goodness. Since I’m somewhat of a cheapskate (a recent trend, I might add), I haven’t picked up any of the most recent incarnations of the franchise. Capcom and I have a rough relationship here; I can play Mega Man any time, any day, any where, but Street Fighter alternates between glee, apathy, and outrage. Much of it comes from the competitive aspect, which vacillates between fun (yay, I won!) and frustrating (I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW MUCH LAG THAT GUY HAD). Of course, it’s enjoyable and worth everyone’s time to get proficient at fighting games, but the rewards require a steep learning curve and facing human opponents – not exactly a match made in heaven, but a proper emulation of the arcade scene.

The box above, however, sweetened the pot to people like me who LOVE video game music; they dumped eleven CDs worth of music, and by golly I’ll review them all. To begin:

Street Fighter I Soundtrack 1987


I’ve never played the original game – probably because it came out on the year of my birth, and probably because Capcom, wisely, decided never to release the game in any compilation I bought (though I am sure it exists). Supposedly, it was released on a machine that used pressure sensitive buttons, similar to how the Playstation 2 originally touted that feature (and then everyone completely ignored it thereafter because…it wasn’t fun). This was an arcade machine, however, and that’s just not a good business model by any stretch of the imagination – they also had a regular cabinet, but the controls still stunk. It didn’t help that the controls were terrible, performing special moves became an inconsistent exercise in frustration, and the game remains hated to this day. Like all horrible games, it somehow warranted a sequel, Street Fighter II, which started the series proper into what it became today; its predecessor remains a historical curio, not a serious tournament fighting game.

The music, however, should not warrant any scorn on the part of gamers everywhere. Considering the time and era of its release, the music sounds just as you’d imagine a game of this era would sound: bright, somewhat chirpy sound samples, and a pretty heavy baseline pervade every song. Take the stage select theme, for example; it’s no QSound-style CPS2 mix, but it’s highly listenable.  I’m not sure what creates the oppressive background beat, but it must have something to do with the arrangement of the arcade board.

02 Stage Select

Since nostalgia couldn’t play any part in my opinion, my approval would seem a rather big boon for the soundtrack. Still, you need to reach a certain mood for this kind of music. None of it sounds nearly as full as many arcade classics. Take SNK’s Neo-Geo arcade system, which boasted two sound chips that could operate independently of each other (weird aside: the two project leads for Street Fighter left the company and were hired by SNK, developing the early installments of all their big fighting games franchises like Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. Possible connections? Maybe.). Street Fighter the original game doesn’t have such a luxury.

The soundtrack, for its part, contains slight variations on the same themes throughout. It appears that each “fighter” theme has two versions based on two different characters. Since Ryu and Ken were only player characters, they don’t even get their own unique stage themes – the horror! Each one, though, accurately captures the flavor of whatever nationality the character may be. For example, take Lee’s Theme:

08 Lee (China)

Not all of them remain that distinct; seriously, do you know the difference between America and Britain, as described by this soundtrack? Apparently nothing! Birdie’s Theme rings with a catchy, if derivative, funky rock anthem. Eagle, on the other hand, sounds much more regal and straightforward than his counterpart from the United Kingdom. In either case, though, America’s music sounds much the same. The instruments for each theme sound almost identical, meaning that the artist did not work with a wide variety of tools to make this music. There’s much more distinction with the Asian fighters -Adon/Sagat, for example, have appropriately Thailand-like gamelan music that fits into their profiles perfectly.

12 Adon (Thailand)

13 Sagat (Thailand)

The Western-styled themes just don’t have the same character – hence, why I haven’t linked them anywhere in the whole article. They’re simply somewhat boring. Whether this has something to do with Japanese xenophobia or not, I can’t help but think we could have a little more variety for white people (not sure if this sounds like a joke or not).

If anything, Street Fighter’s music heralds the brilliance that was to come. A rather dismal game overall with flashes of greatness, who could have thought that a mediocre combat game would lead to a sequel creating its own genre? Amazing stuff. It’s no less amazing that John the Baptist’s self-deprecating speech in Matthew 3:

11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up thechaff with unquenchable fire.”

John the Baptist may have known he would baptize people for the remission of sins, and knew that one greater than him was to come into the world. Yet, even as “lesser” in the world’s eyes, Jesus Christ lets John baptize Him, fitting his own namesake forever:

13 Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permitit at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove andlighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

God raises the lowly and takes them higher than they ever could; so does Street Fighter ride on the success of its sequel. Yet, unlike a video game, God does not leave those who came before behind; everyone’s along for the ride. Who isn’t grateful for that?

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • I think I feel the same way you do about Street Fighter: Glee, Apathy, and Outrage. As for being a Megaman fan? Tomorrow, Megaman 9 and 10 become free on PSN. I’m definitely gonna try them. Not sure if I’ll get anywhere in them. Do you like those versions?

    • @Mjoshua Well, Street Fighter 1 isn’t that good. In fact, it’s just bad. It should be played for historical purposes, but it’s not very fun or interesting. The others I really like.
      As for Megaman 9, played that a bunch. You need to get into that NES mindset, though – it’s a bit about memorization that kills a lot of people when playing 9, in a good way. Forces you to think differently and approach things in new ways. Haven’t played 10 yet, but heard good things!
      I have MM9 for the Wii, but every version’s identical so I imagine it doesn’t matter.