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X-Men VS Street Fighter Game Soundtrack :: Review by GoldfishX

X-Men VS Street Fighter Game Soundtrack Album Title: X-Men VS Street Fighter Game Soundtrack
Record Label: Victor Entertainment
Catalog No.: VICL-2176
Release Date: November 21, 1996
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Capcom should be taking notes: this is the direction the music for their fighting games should be taking. X-Men VS Street Fighter was a dream match-up, combining not only two legendary franchises with the X-Men and the cast of Street Fighter, but also putting the Street Fighter cast into a fighting engine that I've best heard described as "fighting kangaroos on crack." It was the game that kicked off Capcom's successful VS series, which also includes Marvel Super Heroes VS Street Fighter, Marvel VS Capcom, and its sequel. Accompanying this craziness is an equally-crazy soundtrack, anchored by some of the best versions of the classic Street Fighter themes that you're going to find.


Arcade synth is always something that's going to be hit-or-miss. Some systems, like the classic Neo Geo, are known for their wild inconsistency between soundtracks; others, like the Naomi board which powers the God-awful synth heard in the arcade versions of Guilty Gear X, Marvel VS Capcom 2, and the Capcom VS SNK series, are best listened to with the speakers turned down or completely off. Thankfully, Capcom figured out how to get some pretty powerful sound out of the CPS2 board that powers the soundtrack to X-Men VS Street Fighter (as well as Marvel VS Street Fighter and Marvel VS Capcom). Everything sounds crisp and powerful, with instrument samples that sound enough like the real things to get the point of the main melodies across, loud and clear. There are synthesized drums, guitars, and saxophones to supplement the main synthesizer, and overall, there isn't one second of this album where I find myself preferring real instruments in there. Out of all the game music albums I've listened to this is one of my favorite instrument set-ups. It's simple to listen to and pick up on, but extremely satisfying when listening to or humming the main melodies. I would kill to hear some classic 8-bit music redone with this set (on that note, the CD Rockman 2 The Power Fighters uses this set-up). For the simplistic, old-school nature of the X-Men VS Street Fighter tunes, I can't see them really coming out any differently.

When you combine the classic Street Fighter tunes with this great sound set-up you know you're in for something special. However, let's look at the X-Men themes first off, which I believe are completely original. The first one that comes up on the album is the one for Wolverine and it doesn't waste any time, leading into the main melody with a bass guitar and then settling into a powerful groove with the lead synth guitar. However, just when you think you're only getting a collection of upbeat guitar-rock tunes, pieces like the themes for Cyclops and Rogue surprise with a couple of decent tracks that put the saxophone to good use. Sabretooth's theme is some great, frantic funk, with some horns that get in on the action. Of the X-Men themes, my favorite theme is that of Gambit's. The guitar and the synthesizer just kind of go back and forth, before the guitar finishes things off and the piece goes into its loop. I could probably listen to this one for hours on end without getting tired of it. It does say quite a bit when a bunch of new compositions hold their own with the classic Street Fighter themes on the same soundtrack, but...

... the Street Fighter themes really are the reason to find this soundtrack. Out of all the arrangements I've heard for them, nothing puts them in such a great light as these remakes. Take a listen to Ryu's theme for example. It's always been sort of a laid-back, almost relaxing tune, appropriate for the Street Fighter who calmly and carefully goes about his business. This version keeps that laid-back feel, but also beefs up the instrumentation appropriately. On the other hand, Akuma's old theme from Street Fighter Zero (which is best described as laid-back, but evil) mixes in some crazy beats and really picks up the pace here. Ken, Zangief, Chun-Li, and M. Bison's themes have never sounded better, while Charlie's sounds roughly the same as his theme from Street Fighter Zero; this is not a bad thing to begin with, because it was one of the stand-outs from that soundtrack. My favorite two themes from this entire soundtrack belong to both Dhalsim and Cammy. Dhalsim's plays with the mid-eastern theme his original had, adding in some new notes and even a low-quality MIDI rhythm in the background, which actually sounds incredible inside of the piece. On the other hand, Cammy's theme is either new or it's her original Super Street Fighter II theme arranged so well that I can't identify it. It starts out as a decent synth-rock piece, but about 30 seconds before you reach the loop spot, the lead synth-guitar just goes nuts with looping a particular set of notes. It is very cool and very fun to listen to. I promise this theme will etch its way into your head once you've heard it. Also, take it from me; do not try to hum it either, because that synth-guitar is simply going to blow by you and make you realize how bad you sound.

The only flaws I can come up with for this disc come from the result of it being an original soundtrack. Few of the ending themes stand out and all of the character themes top out between 1:30 and 2:30, though they are thankfully looped in those short time spans. Then again, sometimes it's best when you can say what you need to in a minute as opposed to four or five, where you have to wade through a bunch of unnecessary fluff. With these main themes, you're digging through gold from beginning to end with each one.

Maybe the worst thing I can say is that Capcom has completely ignored the quality they showed with this soundtrack when coming up with the music for their recent Marvel VS Capcom 2 and Capcom VS SNK 1 & 2 soundtracks. Instead of a wide selection of great remakes of classic character themes and rocking new ones, we ended up with boring lounge music (MVC 2), terrible techno (CVS 1) and a lukewarm variety of other styles (CVS 2). In all of these more recent examples, we see Capcom getting rid of character themes altogether and only providing a handful of stage themes. This is just pure laziness. The X-Men VS Street Figher themes not only fit the characters, but the way they change up during the gameplay only adds to the frantic nature of the gameplay (when one character dies the music for the character joining the battle begins to play). Having one generic music track drone on throughout a multi-character fight is not a good way to compose a fighting game soundtrack. This wears on the player's nerves, both those playing and those watching, and there's a sense of detachment from the actual characters in the game without their themes. I mean, if you're playing or watching a match between Ryu and Dhalsim would you rather have one of their themes playing? Or crap like Capcom VS SNK 2's "This is True Love Making" or Capcom VS SNK 1's "Stage of Pao Pao Cafe" droning on and on? I know which one I would pick! The half-assed attempts we have now really drag down what has been a fun bunch of recent fighting games. Given the amount of composers they have at their disposal, which could handle the large amount of needed character themes in the newer games, and the end results, Capcom has pretty much become a joke when it comes to making music for their fighting games. No wonder Guilty Gear is pretty much the only series keeping the fighting genre viable for game music fans these days.


Enough off-topic ranting: just buy this soundtrack if you can find it. It's not available for sale at any of the major VGM retailers, but it does come up on eBay from time to time. It shouldn't go higher than $30 and it's well worth the money you'll spend on it.

Overall Score: 9/10