Game music of the day: Virtua Fighter 3

For whatever reason, fighting game music doesn’t get the same degree of recognition as music from other genres. The only fighting game scores that really seems to have reached “classic” status is Yoko Shinomura’s original Street Fighter II soundtrack and some of Daisuke Ishiwatari’s Guilty Gear compositions. It’s a mystery why other fighters don’t get the same sort of love – I can think of all sorts of stellar soundtracks from SNK, Sega, and Namco that deserve high praise.

During the ‘90s, the Virtua Fighter series was on the cutting edge of graphics, and it’s known for introducing a host of technological innovations not only to fighters but gaming as a whole. What a lot of people don’t remember, though, is that the music in the series was also fantastic.

Game: Virtua Fighter 3

Song: Open the Deadgate (Rooftop – Pai Stage)

Composer: Takenobu Mitsuyoshi

Above: Open the Deadgate from Virtua Fighter 3

A fairly short but sweet track, Open the Deadgate stands out as one of Virtua Fighter 3’s most memorable compositions. It’s energetic, catchy and fits the stage (and character it was designed for) to a T. The composer for this and many other tracks in VF2 and VF3 was Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, who you probably know as “the Daytona guy.” He’s the not only the golden voice behind our beloved Rooooolllling Staaaaaaart, but he’s also one of Sega’s most accomplished composers. He’s also really, really into his work.

Sega produced an album called Virtua Fighter 3 On The Vocal, which features Mitsuyoshi’s vocals arranged versions of the VF3 BGM tracks. And it’s pretty good, too! Among the arrangements are a vocal version of Pai’s stage music - though, oddly, the lyrics actually relate to Lau. But it doesn’t really matter, because you can tell just by his enthusiasm how much Mitsuyoshi is loving this whole gig.

Mitsuyoshi’s handiwork can also be heard prominently in Virtua Fighter 2, which also had some fantastic and memorable tunes. Akira’s stage music in Virtua Fighter 2, “Ride the Tiger,” is another major standout for the series.

Since about the fourth game, though, Mitsuyoshi stopped doing composition for the series. The music in the VF series has been sliding more and more into a pool of nondescript mediocrity, with the occasional noteworthy track (and the occasional ear-grater). Perhaps it was some sort of cosmic trade-off: the music quality would go downhill from VF4 onwards, but we’d see the introduction of my favorite game character everin exchange. I guess it all worked out!

As an interesting endnote, the most recent arcade versions of VF5 have offered a feature where players can actually choose to use BGM from the older games during their matches. Not surprisingly, I’ve been seeing this feature get a lot of use during tournament play…

Rolling Start by Mitsuyoshi, Namiki and Takenobu

Ripple Field by Jun Ishikawa

Interception by Saori Kobayashi