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Street Fighter II Image Album :: Review by Chris

Street Fighter II Image Album Album Title: Street Fighter II Image Album
Record Label: Pony Canyon
Catalog No.: PCCB-00075
Release Date: November 21, 1991
Purchase: Buy at eBay


The iconic fighting game Street Fighter II inspired a string of official arranged albums after its release. The Street Fighter II Image Album was the very first of these and remains today one of the best. It offers enhanced and elongated versions of all eight main character themes from the original game and two additional tracks. Between them, Kanji Saitou, Kunihiro Tuji, and Ikuo Kataoka offer quite a variety of arrangements — showing influences from pop, rock, jazz, techno, world, and ethnic music among others. However, the entire album feels continuous as well due to features like melodic emphasis and similar technology throughout. Much of the album was created with now-dated synthesizers, but the producers nevertheless took the exuberance to integrate some instrumental recordings nonetheless.


The album opens with the opening theme from Street Fighter II. Though the original felt a little clumsy due to its heavy bass line, this rendition feels more balanced and nicely pronounces the gliding melody. In the first of several great moments of the album, "Theme of the World Warriors" transitions into the unforgettable character select theme and adds some magical frills on top, before reprising the original theme in a more abstract way. Capcom subsequently gives fans exactly what they want by offering a remix of Ryu's theme. The solo piano introduction captures the bittersweet feeling many get from reminiscing about a classic game. Otherwise uplifting and synthy, the arrangement nicely projects the unforgettable pop-influenced melody and occasionally offers some low-key jazzy elaborations. The jazz fusion interpretation of Guile's theme is very laid back but once again demonstrates the main strength of the album — offering straight renditions of all those amazing character theme melodies.

The arrangers have mainly done justice to the blatant cultural influences of the music for the characters across the world. Although Dhalsim's theme features perhaps the game's weakest melody, there is something about the combination of sitar and ethnic flute here. It makes me at least want to do a silly little dance. Blanka contrasts the wild and gentle aspects of his character with a fascinating blend of ethnic instruments and rock solos. E. Honda's arrangement fleshes out the intimidating traditional Japanese influences of the original while also being pretty zany and silly. It's good to see the album doesn't take itself too silly. Though Zangief's arrangement is a little slow, the hilarious bass groove is kept alive and the techno influences of the original are really fleshed out. Chun-Li suffers more seriously pacing issues and the slow heavy-handed arrangement here loses the gliding lyricism of the melody. One stinker amongst nine classics shouldn't be a reason to miss out on the album though.

An odd choice was to place a medley of the themes for the four villains at the centre of the disc. The medley is actually well done and it's delightful to here the melodies together here. The original themes were all strong enough that they could have each been elaborated upon, but maybe this presentation helps to keep the album sweet and concise. However, the medley's placement disrupts the flow of the album a bit since these themes have always provided such emotional and climactic at the end of Street Fighter II's score. Balrog's nostalgic synthwork, Vega's passionate flamenco, and the savage themes for Sagat and M. Bison just don't feel right elsewhere. Nonetheless, the album ends on a high with, of course, Ken's theme. The awesome opening riff is given just the right punchy rock feel while the rest of the rendition manages to be rich and jubilant without sounding over-the-top. It might not be the most technologically commanded version of Ken's theme, but it's one of the most enjoyable.


The Street Fighter II Image Album captures exactly what Street Fighter II's score was about. With melodic flair, cultural diversity, and lots of personality, it's sure to please fans of the original soundtrack. This arranged album also partly compensates for the lack of a satisfying and easily available official soundtrack for the game given its melodic emphasis and adherence to the original material. However, it has the added benefits of being more elaborate, diverse, and technically accomplished too. Though some of the synths are dated, this partly adds to the charm of the album and there are nevertheless high quality electric guitar and other instrumental solos featured here. A modest and appropriate arranged album that will satisfy the needs of many fans.

Overall Score: 7/10