I turned 30 on February 7th, 2009. What should have been an esoteric examination of my few personal achievements, collected friends and backwards to forwards play by plays of scenes from my life up to that point, suddenly became NOTHING more than tossing quarters into a jar. Instead of probing the past or looking towards some distant future horizon, I was firmly planted inside a tiny Austin, Texas arcade playing Street Fighter 4 for the very first time. There is nothing else, nowhere else in the world I would have rather been that night, or for that matter, any night since the release of Street Fighter 4.
In the near-decade that comprised publisher Capcom’s self-imposed, fighting-game silence, one thing remains clear: it was one born of necessity. The drawing of any new plans for the Street Fighter brand would be heavily wagered against from all sides of its own community. Had Street Fighter 4 been some disconsolate, abysmal or unsalvageable failure, the series itself would have died a victim of its own historical footnotes. Street Fighter 4 would have been the botched progeny, the last and only numbered entry in the franchise to be cannibalized from hair follicles to unkempt toe nails by its ever-voracious and ever-looming parent shadow Street Fighter 2. Street Fighter 4 HAD to work. More importantly, the series had to survive.
It’s obvious at this point that indeed Street Fighter 4 was incredibly successful and so before I stray any further… this article here is concerned with the SOUNDS, the music of Street Fighter 4 and its four successive incarnations: Vanilla 4, Super 4, Arcade Edition 4, and Ultra 4. For every tweak of this engine, a cyclopean entourage of new musical compositions debuted alongside the game’s new challengers and locales. You might not realize it, but counting every flourish of music within Street Fighter 4’s world, numbers well beyond 125 pieces. Indeed with so much ground to cover, so many places to visit, and so many world warrior themes to catalog, I thought It would be helpful for you if I detailed some of the more important people, residences, decrepit domiciles, crowds, and legends that you’re sure to find along your map of its scattered hostels and petrol covered highways. Consider me the Rick Steves of composer Hideyuki Fukasawa’s refulgent Street Fighter 4’s soundtrack. I do hope however, that you brought money, because this tour isn’t one I tend to give to those on a budget.
The Best Of Street Fighter 4’s Most Famous Musical Locales:
Overpass Stage - While certainly nothing to look at from afar, and not really much to take in up close (pictures optional), the urban overpass that our tour begins with is actually one of Fukasawa’s more strangely autographed pieces. It’s one in which the ill-advised, nasally robotic drip of an auto-tune meets the second-rate glamour of out of work Cobra-Kai extras attempting a power ballad. While it may seem bizarre, even ridiculous at first pass… muster the courage to sing along, and you’ll soon be right there with them. Fukasawa’s “Overpass”is nickel and dime, street corner, Hill Street hustling, and his perversion of soured doo-wop curdles and chunks in all of the right places. This is just the beginning, however; it’s time for a luxury cruise.
Listen: Overpass Stage
Cruise Ship Stern – Contains all that money wants: Shrimp, expensive aged liquors, and first row tickets to tonight’s fight, all but guaranteeing your need for both a moist towlette and dry face towel as you’re most assuredly going to be hit with some manner of bodily fluid. I promised you the sights, and for this particular event… feeling them is key.
Listen: Cruise Ship Stern
Small Airfield – It’s the things you’d never know about unless somebody actually bothered to tip you off to them, and I for one think “Small Airfield”deserves a much wider audience. This is one of Fukasawa’s most skilled musical embolizations, illustrating the deftness of his ear, and the instinctual, selective way it blocks the passage of unnecessary internationally flavored musical archetypes. Fukasawa beautifully discerns need from overstated pandering, creating one of the most stripped down arrangements of this enormous musical endeavor. Light and overwhelmingly joyous, “Small Airfield”succeeds where the likes of “Dhalsim’s Theme”just oversteps that desired mark.
Listen: Small Airfield
Inland Jungle/ Pitch Black Jungle – Getting dirty is perhaps the most rewarding part of this vacation, and Street Fighter 4 is not only interested in showing you the vendors and draw of its big city, but also the thrills of its nearby foraging grounds. We start our descent into an area of small game and poisonous berry trees, as the introduction of “Inland Jungle”preps us with the necessary tools to enter the “Pitch Black Jungle,”which by its very nature is the more destructive of these two grumbling and powerful seisms. We can’t stay here too long, but make sure to take a good look.
Listen: Inland Jungle / Listen: Pitch Black Jungle
Solar Eclipse -Emerging from our jungle surroundings we arrive back on the arid and flat fields of Chad. This is Fukasawa’s way of coming up for air. Intent on seeing the wild in the wild, Fukasawa gives contented expression to grazing giraffes, zebras and hippos. Sure you may have come for a one-on-one battle, but squabbling meerkats offer just as much entertainment as the headlining brawl. Gorgeous.
Listen: Solar Eclipse Stage
Training Stage/ Blast Furnace - Street Fighter 4 is about more than just catering to its established, aging, and vitriolic fan base. Street Fighter 4 is just as much about those who will be lacing up their gloves for the first time ever. “Training Stage”moves with an algid and steeled synchronicity where the casual, flaying heel strike meets the calculated crunching of those truly laboring beneath its pitiless regime. It’s Fukasawa’s Russian “Blast Furnace” that really aims to sweat down those stubborn lazy pounds. “Blast Furnace”expands on the tools and techniques derived from the beat of “Training Stage,” and manifests an even crueler form of sensei: live pressure. Sure you learned the moves, pulled them off even, but how about now? While these two locations aren’t even indicated on your tour map, I felt that missing them would be like missing the point of our trip entirely.
Listen: Training Stage / Listen: Blast Furnace
Run-Down Back Alley – You thought you’d seen the filthiest of Fukasawa’s slums already, but you’d be wrong. Here in this dimly lit street overrun with the stench of long-past fermented beer, and trash that would give inspire hesitation even from within a full-body hazmat suit… we find our opponents ALREADY battling each other. Truly, that’s the point of Fukasawa’s “Run-Down Back Alley”.It captures perfectly the nature of a fight’s hostile impulse, that spur-of-the-moment physical engagement, and it plays at its best when delivering the bout’s winded crescendo; the point where the war of footsies begins to wear noticeably on both sides. Fukasawa further entangles the odds – what looked to be a sure thing, now nothing more than inaccurate guesswork. Two may enter…
Listen: Run-Down Back Alley
The Best Of Street Fighter 2’s Character Themes As Heard In SF4:
Theme of Ryu- Become the Storm/ Theme of Ken- Burning Blood -Two of the most important of Fukasawa’s musical Street Fighter 4 creations, and the reason anyone of us signed for this tour in the first place, remains his most faithful to the aging analog presets of Street Fighter 2. Ryu’s fighting stance has not changed and his famously stoic melancholy never seems to interfere with his quarter-circle preoccupation. Ken’s theme plays all the more debutante, as expected. His tousled blonde locks, brand-name fighting apparel, and learned social graces, provide a sort of yang-ish sophistication to Ryu’s perpetually gruff, unwashed pretensions. Just as they were in 1991: excellent.
Listen: Ryu’s Theme / Listen: Ken’s Theme
Theme Of Bison- Silent Gravestone -Fukasawa’s wire taut arrangement of M. Bison’s signature bell adds further layers of ruination to his toll. Seemingly without effort, Fukasawa makes Bison’s jaw line, his eyes and his physical grip an expert study of factionalism and cruelty that has no need for masks.
Listen: Theme of Bison
Theme Of Zangief- Dread! Vaccum Man! – Zangief’s original presentation in both orchestral and illustration was one that wore few smiles. Zangief was a man starved of color. Neither carny nor Bozo clown, he shouldered this loutish tone for almost two decades. His costume, however, is everything, and Fukasawa has been rummaging: estate sales, clearance racks and all things left at the curb. All of this in an effort to betray the many preconceived and long-standing notions about our morose, red wrestler on the verge… From behind Fukasawa’s curtain emerges a man aureate, chatty, effusive and doting. This is a character in love with the vibrancy of his scene change, and he’s alive with laughter and conversation, disproving myth and rumor both. Is this love, or am I dreaming?
Listen: Theme of Zangief
Theme Of Guile- Lonely Wolf -Fukasawa’s theme for Guile is no simple remixed concoction. It doesn’t rely wholly on its anemically thin and trebled source material. This is stereo sound that’s been boosted to the red. These are dangerous levels, and… Fukasawa’s cut is washboard lean, arrogant, imposing and celebratory. Fukasawa’s Guile is a man whose purpose now echoes again the promise and vigilance of a celebrated hero, who for once, however briefly, stole the spotlight from even the series’ marquee stars.
Listen: Theme of Guile
The Best Of Street Fighter 3’s Character Themes As Heard In SF4:
Theme Of Hugo-The Circuit -It’s always been hard to get a fix on exactly how tall Street Fighter 3’s Hugo actually is. That’s because his musical handlers, while immensely capable of capturing his mug shot, labored and failed to photograph his physique, his still life. They could only hint at it. Fukasawa, however, seems infinitely skilled in drawing back the camera’s focus. The outline is the thing and Fukasawa toils and scrutinizes, closing his aperture further and further, washing Hugo’s image in noxious, echoing swells. This is the acid test, and it’s the only accurate record to judge both the size and force of the behemoth now charging at you.
Listen: Theme of Hugo
Theme Of Dudley- Dudley remains one of the most eloquent, stylish and beloved of Street Fighter 3’s cast. To top the likes of Street Fighter 3’s original composer Hideki Okugawa, Fukasawa would need to somehow make Dudley’s collection of weaves even lighter than was previously thought possible. It would have to be God moving across the face of water or nothing at all. Dudley’s vast agglomeration of moves would have to be effortless… single motions, where neither cautious sliding nor ungainly gliding would suffice. Fukasawa’s Dudley is more of a full-on ballet than some lowly fists-for-cash prizefighter. True beauty needs not excessive gloss nor creams and powders to conceal imperfections. True beauty is natural, and Dudley is just that.
Listen: Theme of Dudley
Theme Of Elena- Beats In My Head- When you’re describing Street Fighter 4’s Elena, the bulk of that description should concern itself with her many points of articulation. Where Dudley embodies the grace and fluidity of movement, Elena’s focus is her overwhelming range of motion, twisting and turning pinwheel style, unencumbered by her own joints. Fukasawa fully pronounces the B in “Beats” found so prominently in the lyrics here, capitalizing on every twitch of her leg, clapping in unison, and moving you directly alongside her. A risky theme to re-imagine, but Fukasawa nails it flat.
Listen: Elena’s Theme
The Best Of Street Fighter Alpha’s Character Themes As Heard In SF4:
Theme Of Cody- Smack talk should be considered an art form. Throwing out a slew of harsh insults simply isn’t enough. There has to be some manner of comedy included, because threats alone only serve to focus your opponent, where the mixture of comedy draws the focus from the center: it distracts. Cody’s theme does away with his pre-recorded Alpha 3 musical setup almost entirely, and redresses him not only as a formidable adversary, but a biting and masterful stand-up comedian.
Listen: Theme of Cody
Theme Of Sakura – While Fukasawa’s take on Chun-Li’s classic Street Fighter 2 theme is great, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit too mature. There’s a line between sounding aged and wise and actually looking like the village elder. It’s alright though, because when it comes to Sakura, she’s not aged a day since her mid-90’s Alpha debut. Irritatingly spry and distractingly bubbly, Sakura still IS that self-assured and overly confident schoolgirl who haplessly seeks the affection of World Warriors’ almost twice her age.
Listen: Sakura’s Theme
The Best Of Street Fighter 4’s New World Warrior’s As Heard In SF4:
Theme Of Poison -Free of the restraints that held Fukasawa down for the bulk of this project (fan-service, expected homage, and explicit contractual ink), he does some of his most brilliant jam sketches with the christening of Street Fighter 4’s new world warriors. With no existing patent to follow, one of his most startling reveals has to be Poison. Her five-star theme is a stroll down the most gaudy, lascivious, and crass boulevards in all of Street Fighter’s existing fiction. Fukasawa’s brilliant saxophone chops provide THE tell-all conduit to Poison, an unencumbered channel of profane stumbling raunch. As David Bowie posits: “Golden Years…Golden Rule”.
Listen: Poison’s Theme
Theme Of Abel – Abel was a safer character by design. He’s someone whom the community would feel more comfortable playing, while they worked themselves into the new systems and overall feeling of Street Fighter 4. To complement his persona, Fukasawa may have also played it safe, but by doing so, he gave Abel one of the most commanding, hungry and palatial ring entrances in the history of the Street Fighter series. Abel’s signature brand of pacing about an arena filled with screaming spectators is a relentless, diaphoretic endeavor, where referee, two knock-down rule, and the tap out cease to exist. This one is all about muscling through it.
Listen: Theme of Abel
Theme Of Hakan- This may be an understatement, but Hakan’s not an easy read. What do you make of him? How do you make of him? Human? Terrestrial? Body artist? That first look is harrowingly deceiving. Despite guidance from Fukasawa’s marching band of baglamas, uds and didgeridoos, Hakan remains difficult to pin down. The theme of Hakan is a busy patchwork: a workman’s brew spanning endless regions and showcasing a true dedication to unearthing the greatest and most fragrant of spices.
Listen: Hakan’s Theme
Theme Of Decapre – There’s something inherently voodoo about the idea of winding up a record and then proceeding to play it backwards. The fear of encrypted messages, hidden intent, and the workings of the indecipherable… it’s all there, you just have to listen. It’s an idea beautifully realized and utilized in the design of Ultra Street Fighter 4‘s Decapre. She’s so close to the look and feel of her obvious counterpart Cammy, but there’s something in those curves. It’s a wickedness not immediately evident, but certainly suggested at: her subtle tics, physical cues, and general temperament all raise questions. Where Fukasawa could have hammed her up, piling gloom upon destruction upon absurd villainous monologue, he opts to play her with a shadowy, cool suavity. Fukaswa’s piercing reverse design creates one of the darkest of Street Fighter 4’s bible passages.
Listen: Theme of Decapre
While the music of Street Fighter 4 encompasses something much larger than an article’s worth of nods to a number of its truly outstanding compositions, I would like to think of this piece as something of a starting point for you. There were SO many exemplary and amazing recordings made by Hideyuki Fukasawa for Street Fighter 4 that describing each and every one of them would have taken months to write. Like any good destination of travel, however, you’re never going to see it all in that first pass. Hence the many return trips you have yet to plan.
Purchase the Street Fighter 4 Soundtrack now!
For most of you reading this article, I imagine this happens on an almost hourly basis.
I myself have racked up some 500 plus hours of Street Fighter 4 flight time since 2009. Until the next numbered Street Fighter… here’s to composer Hideyuki Fukasawa for all his genius musical work, and to Capcom for all iterations of every Street Fighter game known to man.
Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love. He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake. Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.