Greetings all! My name is Trent, but some of you may know me as "2Tall". For those of you who don’t know, I love Marvel! The game will live forever! But I’m not here to talk about Marvel. I’m actually going to talk about something else that, I think, is an extremely important part of fighting games and video games in general: music.
This will be a piece about character theme construction and how/why it may vary from game to game. To illustrate, I will use Ryu’s theme. Why? Ryu is my favorite Capcom character and I think his theme from Street Fighter 2 is timeless! Let’s get started. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior released on February 6th, 1991 as a sequel to the original Street Fighter. The game had a roster of 8 playable characters. Along with the new playable characters, the game also introduced something brand new to the Street Fighter series: individualized character themes. Each character had their own theme song which added even more personality to them. The themes were composed by Yoko Shimomura and her work is paid tribute to whenever a new Street Fighter or game featuring Capcom characters releases. These iconic themes have survived through the decades and I thought some examination of them, particularly Ryu’s theme, is a great way to illustrate and analyze sound design in video games and why some design choices are made.
More than a decade after Street Fighter 3 first released, Street Fighter had returned with a brand new installment with Street Fighter 4, released on July 18th, 2008. We saw the return of the original cast of Street Fighter 2, along with some brand new characters we had never seen before. This game ushered in the resurgence of the fighting game genre and helped set the foundation for bringing fighting games to the mainstream audience. Street Fighter 4’s score was composed by Hideyuki Fukasawa and Masayuki Endou was in charge of sound design and direction. On Gamasutra, there’s an interview with the both of them where they discuss the thought process behind the score of Street Fighter 4. One thing that stands out in particular is when Fukasawa said the following: “For my part, I started off by bringing to this game what I personally wanted to hear. In arranging previous themes, my mission was to make the new versions reflect a very modern style, while bringing out new sources of drama in the story of each character and their locales.” If we keep that quote in mind, we can begin to understand why Ryu’s theme sounds the way it does. In the mid 2000’s, electronic music was becoming more and more popular. A modern twist on Ryu’s theme would give it a more electronic sound. However, even with the more electronic and techno type of sound, Ryu’s theme is still as iconic as ever. The melody is kept intact and even has a repeat of the first melodic section with different accompaniment to add emphasis and build up. It also stays true to it’s Japan Stage roots by having what sounds like Wadaiko (Japanese drums) in the background in the first part of the melody and the interim part of the theme that leads up to the latter half of the theme. With Street Fighter 4, we can see why Ryu’s theme was constructed in the way that it was. Given that this was the first Street Fighter game in almost a decade, we see that Ryu’s theme was given a modern twist while still staying true to its roots.
Fast forward a couple years and the fighting game hype continues and is stronger than ever. The fans demanded it and we finally got it. Marvel vs Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds was announced in 2010 and the world was going nuts! Capcom’s robust cast against a myriad of Marvel superheros? It’s the 90’s all over again! In any event, a new game brings a new sound with it so that’s what we’ll look at. The Marvel vs Capcom series has always been over the top. Air combos, hyper combos and dream teams have always made Marvel the flashiest and hypest game around. While there are no interviews with Fukasawa about the sound design process behind Marvel vs Capcom 3, we can see that the sound reflects the nature of the game. Ryu’s theme saw a key change from the usual E Flat to D and octave shift upward. It even sounds louder than his Street Fighter 4 theme. The theme is faster and there’s much more going on in the song as well. The theme still has a techno feel to it, with the intro having a dubstep esque sound and even the beginning melodic portion is changed subtly. The melody is intact but the way it’s executed is different. This is Ryu’s theme on cocaine. A bunch of small sequences have been added to the song to add to the hype. Each melodic portion of the song sees new sequences that add energy and ferocity to the theme. The theme Vs. series games have always gone for is over the top, high octane energy and ferocity. Ryu’s theme in this game sees the changes necessary for it to match that theme.
The year is now 2016 and the new Street Fighter game is here. Street Fighter V released in February of this year as the marquee game for the Capcom Pro Tour. In my opinion, the game is definitely solid, although a little dry. But we aren’t talking about the game, we’re talking about the music. I can actually go on and on about this game's sound design. The returning Fukasawa did an excellent job with most of the tracks, even with the stage and menu themes. The tagline and/or philosophy behind the game is #RiseUp and the sound design definitely matches this philosophy. When we look at the themes, the cast got great remixes all around that follow the #RiseUp mantra but one theme that does this exceptionally well is Ryu’s.
In all honesty, the Street Fighter V rendition is probably the best Ryu theme rendition I’ve ever heard. Mind you, there are some great ones I’m not even getting to in this write up, such as his theme from Asura’s Wrath and Super Smash Bros for Wii U. But in Street Fighter V, his theme perfectly encapsulates the #RiseUp mantra. With this theme, it sounds like Ryu went from World Warrior to World’s Savior. The intro already starts with a ton of buildup with hints of the melody letting you know that something incredibly epic is on the way. There’s a wind instrument that plays subtly in the background and then you’re hit with the guitar that makes way to the melody. The initial melody plays through with a horn type of sound with complimentary horns in the background and it just screams excitement. Then upon the repeat of the first section of the melody, it comes back with the primary instrument being the electric guitar which furthers the sense of hype and rising up. As it carries through to the second half of the melody, it keeps the electric guitar and then switches back to the horns at the start of the latter half of the melody. That melody then repeats again with the electric guitar as primary with some guitar shredding in the background. Then the song cools down. The guitar goes from electric to acoustic and the horns return preparing you for the a loop of the song. Then you can hear the classic intro done in guitar and we’re back to the beginning of the iconic melody. This theme is a roller coaster ride through and through. It could not capture the theme of the game any better.
This is my first piece of content for the Kick-Punch-Block website. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! There will be many more pieces to come and I’m excited about what I’ll be writing about next! Till next time.