Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s new, daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. If you were Namco in 1994, designing your Virtua Fighter killer, what would it sound like? In Namco’s case, it sounded like Tekken.
...Which is to say bright, high-energy techno with a fair share of quirk. A little all over the place. Today the original Tekken (longplay) is eclipsed in just about every way, but its music remains a pretty good listen.
Tekken‘s stages consisted of just a simple backdrop and an infinitely scrolling plane, so the music played an outsized role in determining their atmosphere. (Side note, Tekken was unique in the series for basing most of its stages around real-world locations, and calling it out in the lower-right corner.)
First came the very late 1994 arcade version, collected in Namco Game Sound Express Vol.17: Tekken (VGMdb). (Note: The final two tracks are remixes.)
Namco / Arisu (YouTube)
I find some tracks just OK, but like quite a few! My favorite’s traditionally been “Venezia, Italy,” which has a very mysterious, dramatic vibe. “King George Island, Antarctica” sounds as chilly as its stage. The pulsing “Marine Stadium, Japan” is classic high-energy Tekken—to me emblematic of this first entry—and I find the light detour (0:27) in the otherwise heavy, industrial “Chicago, U.S.A.” really pleasant. Great match for that dark cityscape, and very, very ‘90s.
Namco’s tradition of creating new arranged soundtracks for its PlayStation ports began with Tekken, giving the arcade tracks a pleasant polish. The glow-up’s not as dramatic as in future ports, but you’ll definitely notice far better drums and some extra flourishes, like additional instruments and new intros in some songs.
I feel like I must be wrong, but as far as I’m aware the PlayStation arranged soundtrack was never officially released until this year’s vinyl Tekken Original Soundtrack (Arcade + Playstation) (VGMdb). What am I overlooking?
Anyway, see if you dig the changes. (Note: After track 14 it goes back to the arcade OST.)
Namco / Tekkenforce.net (YouTube)
Ah, I haven’t listened to these arranged versions in quite a while, and gotta say, they’re doin’ it for me. Tekken 2 will always be my all-time favorite Tekken soundtrack, but I find a lot to like in this original. The series’ music has changed pretty radically over the last 25 (!) years, but this is how it began.
Cue the rather pleasant credits!
That’s it for today’s Morning Music! I tried to write a bit shorter here but only half-succeeded. While I hope these tunes put a bounce in your step, please resist the urge to EWGF undeserving randos. Let’s chat in the comments! I’ll see y’all tomorrow.