While Street Fighter’s initial outing showed the barest hints of greatness, no one could have prepared for what was to come – especially Capcom. Making a sequel to a well-received, if underperforming, franchise seemed dubious from the start. Still, the company had a habit of making decisions that, from all logical perspectives, wouldn’t make sense. If you remember, Mega Man 2 wasn’t made with official Capcom approval; there were no plans to make a sequel, but the team that made the first game developed and produced it on their own time while developing a completely other game! Perhaps the same lightning struck twice?
Yes, yes it can. Four years in the making, Street Fighter II’s 1991 release sparked a new genre craze over the fighting game. It offered complete 360 joystick motion, special moves, and playable characters that differed in strategy and strength. No one had seen anything like it before; the competition was fierce and engaging on both sides of the Pacific to be the best there ever was (Pokemon!). Memorable character designs immediately endeared themselves to the public, even if they’re mostly based on stereotypes of various countries from a Japanese perspective. Combos, a bug in the system, became a secret feature that eventually became standard. No wonder Street Fighter II received so many updates in such a small span of time.
The most played of these, even still, is Super Street Fighter II: Turbo, the fifth such update. The game merely added balance changes and a speed increase to the original Super Street Fighter II, but it also added new remixes of the originals. Of course, it’s hard to go wrong with Street Fighter music as even those themes present a style and personality to the characters that inhabit them.
The Opening Theme, which just about everyone knows, is fantastic as usual. I’ve heard it synthesized and live, and it doesn’t matter: Yoko Shimomura’s composing skills remain amazing. Fighting game music’s a tricky business; it can’t be too obtrusive or too relaxing, and it also sets a particular mood. This set the epic upbeat feel of a tournament, and what better way to start your game than this? As far as the other composers go…well, I’m not sure how the division of labor went on this particular project, so I’m just going to state vague generalizations about the music, rather than the composer.
Street Fighter music isn’t complete without Ryu’s Theme; its iconic and soaring tones tell the story better than any cutscene ever could; Ryu trains to be the best world warrior, and he won’t stop for anything. The traditional Japanese taiko drums interspersed through this version add to that sentiment.
It really gets your heart pumping, I’ve got to say; many long hours of practices and continual matches come to fruition. It’s almost producing a sense of victory in song, and I’ve rarely heard such music even in video games. No other Street Fighter has topped these musical themes; they’ve merely gone into different genres and different ventures instead. E. Honda’s theme does much the same, except it attempts a more traditional vibe:
Ken’s Theme, though both men come from the same master, has an entirely different tone suitable for the blond American. Rocking and driving beats sound straight out of a rock band rather than a contemplative Japanese karate master:
There’s a bit of variety here and there, as well; it’s not a boring one-trick pony by any stretch of the imagination. As well (and suitable for a fighting game where you’ll play on the same stage more than once), it never becomes boring or outdated. The same’s obviously true for Guile’s Theme goes with everything:
Just take a cursory look at YouTube and the wealth of Guile’s Theme becomes apparent. Appropriately filled with freedom and fistpumping goodness, it remains a notable Internet meme for a reason: it’s so good that it really does go with everything. I don’t even care what version; they knew better than to mess with a good thing, and the SSf2T version remains just as good as the others.
Of course, I could just go on all day about these songs, but you get the idea. There’s something special about the music in this game, and it’s purely from a place of nostalgia for some. Still, it’s difficult to discount (relative to, say Sonic Adventure 2) the quality of these songs outright. They were designed, crafted, and specifically made for each character and each instance with an incredible amount of effort and detail. When you’re working with an arcade board sound chip, that requires a lot of work, yet these composers did make it work – brilliantly, in my opinion.
Most of all, any of the twenty-five million Americans who play Street Fighter II in any of its iterations still remember these iconic themes. They represent good times, bad times, times of struggle and dedication to a task. Hours upon hours of practice were poured into these games, and this music was the soundtrack of that journey to greatness. In this sense, I find Genesis 8 rather remarkable:
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. 2 Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained; 3 and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the endof one hundred and fifty days the water decreased. 4 In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. 5 The water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.
Remembrance and memory remain essential to us as human persons. Our memories and collected experience certainly shape our personality and how we act. That doesn’t make them a determinant, but it certainly trains us up in the way we should. When I think of Street Fighter II or any of Capcom’s fighting game iterations, I can vividly remember particular periods of my life. My insanely large library of games isn’t just my avarice; they’re like a library, an anthology of the things I have done, the things I have experienced, and everything positive and negative that come along with that. They are good reminders; they remind me where I’ve been, where I have gone, and where I’m going.
That God remembers, in that sense, finds its perfect explication in the existence of Holy Scripture. God remember Noah; God remembers us all. The Bible, God’s Word, exists as a stark reminder of that remembrance. God chooses to remember us and grant us His grace and mercy. He certainly never had to do that; it’s within His power to do it in the blink of an eye. Yet, God remembers even the littlest trials, even of a tiny child who prays that he can finally beat M. Bison after dozens of tries and countless failures. God’s almost the embodiment of nostalgia for His children, choosing every moment to remember them and grant them new life.
Nostalgia’s never bad; it’s a road-map of the past that we’d do well to see in a more positive light. God has His own; why not us?