Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today, a knock-down, drag-out brawl to the death between two little-heard arranged versions of Capcom’s most enduring fighting game. Fight!
1994’s Super Street Fighter II Turbo (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) was the final form, at the time, of the Capcom surprise-hit that changed arcades forever. And it was hard to play at home. SNES and Genesis only got ports of its wanly received predecessor, Super Street Fighter II, so fans had to turn to weird-ass machines like 3DO or, god forbid, Amiga CD32 to experience the magic of super combos at home. (I only had a Ryu/Chun demo of Eurocom’s DOS version. I practiced their new moves over and over, wishing I had the full game…)
Arcade perfection wasn’t guaranteed back then, far from it. In fact, all these early home versions were eclipsed just a few years later by still-imperfect PlayStation and Saturn ports. These days, it’s fun to look back at how janky (3DO, CD32) or relatively decent (DOS!?) some of these ports were.
Of special note were their soundtracks. 1994’s Japan-only FM Towns rendition of Super Street Fighter II (longplay) enjoyed, as many games did on that obscure computer, a real cool arranged CD soundtrack, and 1994’s more widely known 3DO port of Super Turbo (playlist / longplay) inherited this music. (As did, later, other versions.) Who arranged it? I have no idea! But it’s quite good:
Capcom / CaptainGordonVGM (YouTube)
Then in 1995, across the globe, Eurocom/GameTek put together ports for the Amiga CD32 (gameplay, yikes) and PC DOS (playlist / longplay). The latter included both MIDI and arranged CD audio by Neil Baldwin and Steve Duckworth, who did a fine job:
So, 3DO vs. PC…which archaic, forgotten version of Super Turbo sings supreme? To find out, I evaluated the 16 main character themes from each soundtrack, pitting like against like, and keeping a tally of how many such match-ups each version won. Ready? Let’s go.
PC Ryu’s got a bit of a funk groove, wah-wah thing, which is a recurring sound in Eurocom’s release. 3DO Ryu enjoys a strong bass presence, sparse but effective use of Japanese instruments, and the odd orchestra hit. It works! Point: 3DO.
I had a single note for the PC’s take on E. Honda: “faithful.” 3DO Honda, meanwhile, has a very authentic-sounding Japanese vibe going on that’s real pleasant, and more interesting than most renditions of Honda’s theme. Point: 3DO.
On PC I found the beat brisk and the sound clean. It has really cool “synth sweeps” going on in the background, another recurring feature of this PC soundtrack that I love. Overall, it sounds like Blanka’s theme but with nice upgrades, and reminds me why I liked Blanka’s theme in the first place many eons ago. High praise! However. The 3DO version features brand-new flourishes to accent the familiar melody, and everything comes together beautifully. Great arranging. It’s close, but point: 3DO.
PC’s Guile theme starts off super synthetic, and has a bit of that porn groove again. It sounds too thin early on, but improves by the end with a nice fullness to the electric guitar. 3DO Guile is very safe but very competent, delivering a real solid take on the classic song. Good bassline, nice percussion. Reluctant point to 3DO.
Oof, weak MIDI guitar at the start on PC. Some real nice strings in the middle, but then a weak guitar again at the end. Again, 3DO Ken enjoys a much fuller sound, with meaty electric guitar, some organ, and even a few orchestra hits. Easy win for 3DO.
PC’s Chunners sounds clean as always. My beloved synth sweeps make an appearance at 30 seconds, I love them so much. “Good vibes,” I concluded. But on 3DO I note, “Once again a fresh sound! Has depth. Mid-song lead instrument sounds weird.” This one’s a toss-up: Tie.
The PC version kicks off with computer-y synth sounds! Then a bit of a dance feel before the regular melody kicks in, which itself has an electronic edge. “This is rad.” The 3DO version makes extensive use of orchestra hits and later, has some pretty piano accompaniment. Good track dragged down by all the orchestra hits. Plus, the PC version just rules. Point: PC.
PC’s Sim has a surprisingly crisp beat, then blossoms into the familiar melody in a pleasing way. Mild electronic sweepy sounds buzzing in the back (I approve). 3DO Dhalsim, meanwhile, features ornate instrumentation carrying the usual melody. It’s super-solid and feels very, very fancy. Close, but point: 3DO.
Dee Jay’s got a cool crowd on PC, cheering and murmuring throughout. Nice steel drums, fun overall. 3DO Dee Jay’s not as overtly creative, but as usual, is very skillfully arranged and nails the melody with high-quality instrumentation. Another tie.
PC’s Cammy sees a return of the wah-wah ‘70s porn-y sound, but is otherwise very close to the arcade original. 3DO’s take sounds airy and has a weird bass hum that I’m not fond of. Overall fine, but not a standout. Point: PC, barely.
On PC Hawk’s main horn instrument is just alright. Decent beat, and overall faithful. Average. 3DO sounds more realistic, but the beat feels kind of slow and the horn drones a bit. I don’t love either, but point for overall richness: 3DO.
The opening percussion on PC sounds weak, and the track’s average overall. Good energy though, and faithful. 3DO Fei has that weird low thrum again, worse than in Cammy, and feels low energy. Point: PC.
Love the PC’s take on Boxer’s iconic Vegas theme. Electronic synths abound, and I adore the “laser sweeps” that start at around 0:25. Best boxer version out there, maybe? 3DO Rog is a bit quiet, with a low-energy start. The main instrument is hollow and airy. Passable, but strong point to PC!
PC’s Claw suffers mediocre, MIDI-ish instrumentation at the start, but the main refrain 30 seconds in is suitably moving. 3DO’s a treat. Its unusual take on the guitar intro has a kind of low-level intensity that’s interesting, and the track has good instrumentation choices throughout. Point: 3DO.
Sagat’s got a cool intro on PC! Lotta variety: slightly wonky main horn, then wah-wah kicks in, then horn plus electric guitar. Sometimes a mild electronic tinge. Credible! Over on 3DO, the intro’s a bit all over, adding new notes. The main instrument’s a bit weak. Interesting attempt at Street Fighter II’s strangest song, but not satisfying enough in itself. Point: PC.
Another cool flourish at the start on PC. It quickly builds into a pleasant cacophony, with a good bass breakdown, even a few electronic sweeps. Meanwhile 3DO is damned by faint praise: “It’s fine.” The electric guitar is super fake, a weird choice. Nothing special. Point: PC.
Two ties, seven wins for PC, and seven for 3DO. A damn tie?! That’s not a Fatality, that’s a Friendship! Sorry, didn’t plan it, but that’s how it turned out. The way I had the tracks ordered 3DO took an early, and I thought commanding, lead. But then in the back half PC came roaring back, racking up win after win in the new challenger and boss themes. #Inspiring!
They’re both really good at different times, and some of the differences exist outside of the areas we looked at. For example, 3DO has a heck of a great Akuma theme and some killer ending renditions, while Eurocom’s PC version has a lot of fun with the typically boring theme variations that play at critical health, sometimes going rogue with completely original and very fun new compositions. Check out Zangief’s and Ken’s for example. Lovely!
Capcom / CaptainGordonVGM (YouTube)
If I were making a stage-by-stage best-of playlist I’d choose tracks from both games. Both have a lot to recommend, and a few duds! Just um, stick to emulating the arcade version if you wanna actually play Super Turbo. These two oldies sound great, but outside of that they belong, if not in a museum, on nerd-shelves in the background of YouTube videos.
That’s a wrap for today’s Morning Music! It uh, turned out very long. What’s your take on this match-up? Am I on point, or does one version sing the other into oblivion? (Nah, I’m always on point.) See ya tomorrow!