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Virtua Fighter :: Review by Charles

Virtua Fighter Album Title: Virtua Fighter
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Catalog No.: TYCY-5386
Release Date: March 23, 1994
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Virtua Fighter was the first instalment of Sega's popular versus fighting series, hitting Arcades around the world in 1994. Takayuki Nakamura's light-hearted soundtrack for the game featured a range of character-based stage themes. The original music, together with an arranged version, was compiled together in the following album release.


As with most fighting game soundtracks, the highlights here are provided by the character themes. The first of these, "Jacky", is a fairly upbeat and carefree with a slight funk vibe. It's quite catchy, though more because of the extent of the repetition of the focal motifs, rather than the melody itself being particularly special. Indeed, those expecting a rich expansive melody on par with Street Fighter II or a deep psychological exploration similar to Tekken 2 will be disappointed. Beyond the melody, the composition is pretty straightforward and shows the effects of time in terms of its synth. It's pretty memorable and effective, but not exactly a classic.

An attractive feature of the soundtrack is how each character has a different styled theme. It makes for a diverse soundtrack that reflects a diverse cast of characters. There are alley-style fighting tunes like "Jeffry" paired alongside more frivolous feminine tracks such as "Sarah". In addition, there are also those inspired by traditional world music, such as "Kage" with its mix of shakuhachi infusions and contemporary elements, "Pai" with its wailing vocals and pentatonic scales. Admittedly, the varied approaches are heavily inspired by the Street Fighter series and the latter, in particular, is a blatant rip-off of Chun-Li's theme. Aside the character themes, there are only three other tracks, the only notable of these being the rocking "Game Start.

While the original version is quite brief, the album does offer some value for money since it is headlined by some arranged tracks. Many of Yoshiyuki Ito's arrangements are synthetic renditions of the original material with some elaborations here and there. "Jeffry", for instance, retains the rock feel of the original but soon becomes dominated by a succession of electric guitar solos, none of which are particularly focused or interesting. The likes of "Kage" and "Wolf" are also considerably thickened from their original versions, though still retain a worldly feel and a quirky edge. They're not necessarily more enjoyable than their originals and sometimes sound absolutely amateurish. Nevertheless, conceptually, they offer a fresh and interesting perspective nevertheless.

The most accomplished arrangements are those by Sega's former in-house band B-Univ, comprising Takenobu Mitsuyoshi and Koichi Namiki. "Fighter's Eyes" shows that the sound team is able to rock when they want to, combining a solid melodic focus with plenty of solos; it is much more successful than "Jeffry" and reflects both musicians' extensive background in rock music. Also fascinating is "Virtua Fighter". This is one of Mitsuyoshi's earlier vocal arrangements, following the success of Daytona USA. It maintains an anthemic quality during the interpretations of the melody, but also features some free styling rap-inspired sections. Like many of Mitsuyoshi's tracks, it is simultaneously ridiculous yet enjoyable. There is also an instrumental version of the track at the end of the arranged version.


The soundtrack does stand out bit, even within its own series. I especially enjoy the light-hearted overall sound and the diversity that reflects all of the characters. That said, much of the soundtrack is underdeveloped and also not quite energetic enough. The original version doesn't totally win me over, but it's a decent start and the arranged version is an interesting, if flawed, bonus. Fans will most likely enjoy this album.

Overall Score: 7/10