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Street Fighter II Alph Lyla with Yuji Toriyama :: Review by Chris

Street Fighter II Alph Lyla with Yuji Toriyama Album Title: Street Fighter II Alph Lyla with Yuji Toriyama
Record Label: Sony Records
Catalog No.: SRCL-2857
Release Date: April 1, 1994
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Ahh, here's a toughie to review. It's an album that is regarded to be a classic by many. Yet it's also an album that I've personally never liked no matter how many times I've forced myself to listen to it. Some background then? In 1994, Sony Records commemorated the soundtracks of two of Capcom's most popular franchises, Mega Man X and Street Fighter II, with albums by famous artists Toshiaki Otsubo and Yuji Toriyama respectively. Toriyama arranged 10 of the 16 character themes from Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers for this album. He took a guitar-focused approach with plenty of use of influences from jazz fusion. That doesn't sound too bad, so what's the problem? To put it simply, Toriyama adhered to that approach waaay too much...


The album opens with an interpretation of Ken's classic theme. As expected, the bold melody, electric guitar focus, and hard rock influences are all there, but there's a difference. This remix is a slow one! Plodding along at 65 beats per minute, the melody initially creates a sense that something great is about to unfold, but the piece soon drags as very little else happens during the five minute duration. The slow pacing of the album is maintained in most other tracks to often atmospheric effect, but there are exceptions. The first two minutes of T. Hawk inspire reflection with their calm jazz fusion tones. However, the arrangement suddenly erupts into a true rock piece with faster pacing and richer timbres than near-enough anything else on the album. While derivative, Cammy's theme is another hard one with driving guitar riffs and a showy overdriven lead. There is a great sense of the 80s in this one.

Yuji Toriyama tends to miss the opportunities needed to make the album a diverse and interesting one. He treats Chun-Li's melody like it was always intended for jazz fusion and just ignores its unique oriental shape. This strips the theme of all originality while leaving it sounding poppy and awkward. The playful voice-overs early in Dee Jay's theme aren't fully elaborated upon. Most of the track is written in a jazz fusion style once again, although it does have a firmer rhythmical groove and a flashier electric guitar solo than the others. Guile is another track that features long and elaborate electric guitar solos. However, one can't but feel these solos have been added to give an illusion of richness given the track otherwise features derivative styles and thoughtless accompaniment. By the time listeners arrive at the yawnsome arrangement in Ryu's theme, it's clear that Toriyama has completely exhausted his ideas.

There are nevertheless arrangements that feel a little different on this album. Fei-Long's arrangement gives an image of Hong Kong with its mild urban and techno influences. The use of steel-stringed guitar is also refreshing. Yuji Toriyama shows a little more versatility in both his arrangement and performance here. Toriyama offers a serious attempt at the type of arrangement Vega's theme has always needed — flamenco! The Spanish guitar lead is the star of the rendition. The mellow renditions of the main melody are very convincing and the elaborate solo work towards the end are well written and performed. The piece is somewhat let down by the barren rasgueado backing that repeats similar two chord sequences throughout the entire arrangement. Given M. Bison was one of six character themes omitted, it's left to Sagat to provide the climax of the album. However, it's yet another track with a dodgy interpretation of the melody that isn't quite redeemed by yet more desperate guitar solos.


In the end, Street Fighter II Alph Lyla with Yuji Toriyama is a very generic attempt at jazz fusion with some occasional attempts at hard rock or flamenco added in. Every track on the album features a type of guitar interpreting a character melody in a straightforward melody before taking things up a notch with a striking solo. It shows that Toriyama can write lead guitar lines very well even if he doesn't always seem to care for the melody he is integrated. However, the accompaniment to all the pieces was written with brute efficiency and there is little interesting to hear aside from the occasional jazz groove or random voice effect. Sometimes that's enough, but individual tracks such as Ken, Ryu, and Chun-Li are tiresome. Worse still, the album feels so laboured and samey on a collective level that it will induce sleep if not treated as background music. Some people think it's a classic for reasons I don't understand, but I find it boring and soulless.

Overall Score: 6/10