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Virtua Fighter Maximum Mania :: Review by Charles

Virtua Fighter Maximum Mania Album Title: Virtua Fighter Maximum Mania
Record Label: Toshiba EMI
Catalog No.: TYCY-5409
Release Date: November 30, 1994
Purchase: Buy at eBay


Virtua Fighter was the first instalment of Sega's popular versus fighting series, hitting Arcades around the world in 1994 and then being adapted for a Saturn release. Takayuki Nakamura's light-hearted soundtrack for the game featured a range of character-based stage themes and was arranged by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi for its Saturn port. Virtua Fighter Maximum Mania features these arranged tracks.


As with most fighting game soundtracks, the highlights here are provided by the character themes. The first of these, "Jacky", is a fairly upbeat and carefree with a slight funk vibe. It's quite catchy, though more because of the extent of the repetition of the focal motifs, rather than the melody itself being particularly special. Indeed, those expecting a rich expansive melody on par with Street Fighter II or a deep psychological exploration similar to Tekken 2 will be disappointed. Beyond the melody, the composition is pretty straightforward and shows the effects of time in terms of its synth. It's pretty memorable and effective, but not exactly a classic.

An attractive feature of the soundtrack is how each character has a different styled theme. It makes for a diverse soundtrack that reflects a diverse cast of characters. There are alley-style fighting tunes like "Jeffry" paired alongside more frivolous feminine tracks such as "Sarah". In addition, there are also those inspired by traditional world music, such as "Kage" with its mix of shakuhachi infusions and contemporary elements, or "Pai" with its wailing vocals and pentatonic scales. Admittedly, the varied approaches are heavily inspired by the Street Fighter series and the latter, in particular, is a blatant rip-off of Chun-Li's theme. Aside the character themes, there are only four other tracks, the only notable of these being the rocking "Game Start".

There are relatively few changes in the Saturn soundtrack compared to the Arcade version. All of the tracks have been resynthed by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi to achieve a fuller, finer sound, though still leave quite a bit to be desired. There are instances where Mitsuyoshi has elaborated on the originals, but this is not always advantageous. For example, the high-pitched synthesizer solo in "Akira" is quite annoying and dominates too much of the track. Exclusive to the ported version is the piece "Advertize", but it is too abrupt to be noteworthy, though admittedly the arrangement of the ending theme is quite cute with its vocals. It's also of note that the stage themes are looped for over five minutes in this release, but this often emphasises their inherently repetitious nature.


It's debatable whether this album is a superior release to its predecessor. On the one hand, most of the changes in synth for the Saturn port are advantageous, but the arrangements are far from spectacular. Furthermore, the Saturn album lacks the fully-fleshed arranged version of the Arcade version and loops certain tracks too much. Listeners might determine which album to go for — if any at all — based on whether they have spent more time with the Arcade or Saturn versions of the game.

Overall Score: 6/10