FIGHTING EX LAYER Soundtracks (SRIN-1160)

Many are aware that Shinji Hosoe and the SuperSweep team worked on the Street Fighter EX series, but most probably don’t know just how many different soundtracks this includes. The new FIGHTING EX LAYER Soundtracks collection from SuperSweep Records compiles the arcade and console soundtracks for Fighting EX Layer, Street Fighter EX, Street Fighter EX2, Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha, Street Fighter EX2 Plus, Street Fighter EX3, and Fighting Layer in a single 7-CD collection with a bonus DVD that includes multi-track data for ten fan-favorite tracks. Contributing composers include SuperSweep’s current lineup of Shinji Hosoe, Ayako Saso, Takahiro Eguchi, and Fumihisa Tanaka along with SuperSweep and/or Bandai Namco alums Takayuki Aihara, Yasuhisa Watanabe, and Kazuhiro Kobayashi.

The original Fighting EX Layer soundtrack opens with an eclectic mix of jazz fusion, chugging metal, funk, and lots of rock with plenty of guitar solos characteristic of any fighting game. It sets the stage for what’s to come with the Street Fighter EX soundtracks, which start with the original EX arcade release. The arcade soundtrack has a dated sound compared to the console soundtrack, but most of the themes remain the same. Highlights include the Asian-flavored “Rising Dragoon,” the energetic laser-like “Strange sunset,” the sitar-laden “Arabesque,” and the industrial pumping “Cold Pipe.” “Precious Heart” is an upbeat jazz tune and “Future Objects” incorporates interesting electronic ticks and whirs, both being exclusive to the console version. Street Fighter EX2 also gets both the arcade and console versions presented, with the soaring “The Infinite Earth,” hard-hitting “Passage of Lotus,” and the explosive “Flash Train” all standing out. The console version’s icy “Digital Ignition” and dramatic pop tune, “Irene,” are also highlights. Street Fighter EX3 gets the wild west harmonica-laden “Move,” dace-inducing “Cute Mafia,” the classic rock “Temptation Gun,” the Latin-flavored “BIRI-BIRI Red Heat,” the fusion “Indra Bridge of TA-SO-GA-RE,” and the smooth “Character Edit” bringing the series full circle with the eclectic offerings of the original Fighting EX Layer soundtrack. The closing disc is dedicated to the original Fighting Layer with fast-paced arcade action heard through the explosive opening, lightning-fast character select theme, and blend of pumping rock and electronic sounds.

This is a real treat for fans of Street Fighter, fighting games, or SuperSweep in general. It’s great to hear the arcade and console versions side-by-side for the first time. The discs come housed in a cardboard cade and the booklet includes Japanese commentary from all the composers. The entire set can be imported via CD Japan.

Review: FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES Remastered Edition Original Soundtrack

Square Enix has remastered Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. That means a new generation of fans get to hear Kumi Tanioka’s lovely Celtic-flavored score that enchanted fans on the GameCube. Much of the music is remastered and re-recorded by a Celtic music ensemble with some new tracks by Hidenori Iwasaki and the main theme performed in English by Donna Burke (known for her work on Metal Gear Solid).

The album opens with dreamy bells that transport you to another dimension before the upbeat and adventurous “Morning Sky” comes in with vocals by Yae (the English version featuring Donna Burke) and a bagpipe solo. There’s the charming sweetness of “Today Comes to be Tomorrow,” the jovial “The Village Where it Began,” and the guitar-laden “Caravan Crossroad” to start things off. “Setting Forth” is both ominous and adventurous all at once, “Dust in a Dream World” gets a bit of mystery, and “With Three of Us…” sounds much like a children’s song. The siren-like singing of “Oaths are Forever,” the lovely waltzy folk tune in “My Maggie, My Everything,” and the all-new reflective and somber “Until That Time Comes” are all standouts. There’s rolling percussion in the epic march, “Enemy Stronghold,” the beloved moogle theme in Celtic style in “I’m a Moogle,” searing and guttural synth bass in “Burning in my Heart,” otherworldly bells and triangles in “Mag Mell,” angelic and ethereal choir pads in “Light and Shadow” and “To the Keepers of the Crystal,” and a vocal lullaby again in both Japanese and English with the gorgeous “Moonless Starry Night” are just a taste of what this soundtrack has to offer. It’s all very well done and makes for a wonderful listening experience.

It appears to have been quite an undertaking breathing new life into this already-amazing score, but Square Enix has done it. New recordings with live players, new English-language vocal themes, new compositions, and if you pick up the first-press edition, you also get a bonus disc with the original versions of all the remastered tracks. The album is available on the Square Enix North America store for those who are interested.