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Hands-On: Streets of Rage 2 Original Soundtrack

Genre: Music Developer: Yuzo Koshiro Publisher: Mars Colony Music Released: 3/20/01

The greatest addition the move to 16-bit systems brought is the advent of the sound test. Granted, this is coming from someone who thinks the ability to pause a game is the best thing to come out of the 8-bit generation, but as someone who has always loved good video game music, it was a boon to finally be able to listen to those game tracks without having to load the game, advance to a particular spot in a level, and then find a safe spot and sit there. The stereo capabilities of the Genesis and improved sound performance just made the generation jump that much more enjoyable.

This is a large part of why it was such great news when Mars Colony Music announced that it would be licensing the Streets of Rage 2 original CD soundtrack and at long last bringing it stateside. While video game music CDs are a common occurrence in Japan, far too little in the way of game soundtracks ever made it outside its shores. Plus, as difficult as it was to import stuff back in the 8-bit and 16-bit days before the Internet was so prevalent, those Japanese CDs were difficult to come by back then, let alone today after years have passed since the initial printing. Streets of Rage 2 remains one of the best soundtracks on the Genesis, and much of Yuzo Koshiro’s success and name recognition today can be attributed to the quality of the series’ music he produced.

Sure enough, the linear notes agree: Created nearly ten years ago and regarded by many gamers as the best music ever created for a Sega Genesis game, Yuzo Koshiro’s soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 has stood the test of time and remains as fresh and exciting. Yuzo Koshiro was clearly ahead of his time… Streets of Rage 2’s electronic soundtrack was more than mere background music – rather, the techno-jazz-rock fusion took center stage, canvasing the punches and body slams in a shower of sound which set the tone for the game. With clear and unique beats backed by a seamy, dominant bass line, the rhythm section really tied all the diverse styles presented together, giving life to Koshiro’s aural vision.

What makes the music so special is just how the often times plain weird arrangements blend together so well. From the fat, loopy bass and sirens of “Alien Power” to constantly changing cacophony of sounds in Jungle Base using its near constant simple high hat beat to tie it all together, the songs features atypical electronic compositions and unique arrangements, even by today’s standards. Though most songs feature a harder sound, laid back tracks such as the jazzy “In the Bar” and the reworking of the seminal Streets of Rage piano-based theme in S.O.R. Super Mix gives the listener a brief respite between the more action-oriented pieces. The track order is well constructed to provide such breaks so that the CD doesn’t top load itself with the heavier songs or whatnot – the listening order is well thought out, bookending each song between complementary tracks so that there is no sense of repetition, either by the songs’ rhythms or general feel and atmosphere.

The CD packaging, though not extravagant, does well in giving appropriate reverence with excellent jewel case artwork, both on the cover and behind the disc. Though the linear notes are just a single folded page, it does come with a long, folded poster depicting the Streets of Rage 2 cast along with Mr. X. The frosted art of Axel and Max on the CD itself is a nice touch, too. Considering how poor the US artwork was in comparison to the original Mega Drive’s packaging (and the changes and recoloring that would come about when Bare Knuckle 3 left Japan), these are nice and deserved touches for the excellent soundtrack. It should be noted that the packaging is changed from the original Japanese CD release, though I’d say it’s for the better, as I’ll take great game-related artwork over a city shot and pictures of the composer any day.

One gripe is the absence of Motohiro Kawashima’s name from the writing credits. While Kawashima is listed as a “recording assistant,” he did compose three of Bare Knuckle II‘s original tracks: Expander (track 14/BGM 19), Max Man (track 16/BGM 13), and Little Money Avenue (track 20/BGM 09), along with co-writing Jungle Base (track 12/BGM 05). Nonetheless, Streets of Rage 2 is largely Koshiro’s baby; Kawashima would become more involved with the creation of Bare Knuckle III‘s soundtrack for better or worse (though I love the music, many fans dislike it). Thankfully, this minor credit quibble in no way affects the enjoyment of the disc.

The music quality here is terrific. All of the in-game tracks are represented on the 55-minute, 20-track disc save the end of level and game over jingles. The arranged music uses clearer and better samples, though you may have to listen to both the disc and game side by side to notice since the arrangements are more often than not the same as found on the cartridge. Exceptions include the opening track for the red light district (Go Straight), which splices parts from the two versions found in the game to create a single track, and the looped music played during the game’s character selection screen (Walking Bottom), which uses the CD to expand on the melody with added parts and increased length not found in the game.

Other than those two instances, though, there is little new material present on the disc. This is strictly for those wanting to enjoy the music away from the game or love the soundtrack enough to seek out a better sounding version of the familiar tracks. Fans already know these songs, and they’re largely the same as found on the cartridge as far as the arrangements are concerned. The music holds up exceptionally well, still sounding fresh and groundbreaking when compared to other, similar music, game or otherwise. Mars Colony Music’s 2000 release of Yuzo Koshiro’s Bare Knuckle 3 soundtrack is a very welcome if far too belated release, as it remains just as poignant and enjoyable today as it was back in 1993.

Track Listing

1. Go Straight
2. In the Bar
3. Never Return Alive
4. Spin on the Bridge
5. Ready Funk
6. Dreamer
7. Alien Power
9. Too Deep
10. Slow Motion
11. Wave 131
12. Jungle Base
13. Back to the Industry
15. S.O.R. Super Mix
16. Max Man
17. Revenge of Mr. X
18. Good End
19. Walking Bottom
20. Little Money Avenue
Total Time


Rating (out of 5):

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