The staff at OC Remix scored a major coupe in getting soundtrack duty for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, the first time for fan arrangements to take the spotlight in such a major commercial release. Other game music fans have scored somewhat of a coupe as well, as the soundtrack is available to all as a free, officially sponsored album download. Yes, it's free, and it's quite good.
Not all of Street Fighter II's original character themes are necessarily classics, but the ones that do qualify retain that status here with powered-up performances. Chun Li's dancey theme is as catchy as ever, gaining a fun flute improvisation in its second go-around, while the new version of Zangief's energetic theme has a harder edge thanks to electric guitars and some ferocious turntable scratching. Ken's theme gets separate arrangements for his own stage as well as a few menu screens, with each version hard-rocking some old-school 80s guitar. E. Honda's and Blanka's themes didn't stand out as favorites in the original but their new arrangements do; the combination of shakuhachi with chill electronica in E. Honda's theme is particularly impressive.
Nostalgia may be a perk for listeners of the soundtrack but it isn't a requirement. I personally had no familiarity with the character themes from the "Super" edition, yet they stand out as some of the best of the album. Spaghetti Western and fighting game isn't a combination that comes to mind but it works wonders in T. Hawk's theme, as do the simple but dramatic strings and gritty, Matrix'esque electronic instrumentation in Fei Long's. Cammy's theme takes an entirely different direction with some smooth R&B stylings and a generation-one Timbaland beat.
The boss themes as a whole are a bit disappointing. The Vegas lounge jazz in Balrog's stage works as a warm-up, but sooner or later you expect some drama in your boss themes, and neither Vega's hip-hop reinterpretation nor Sagat's New Age electronic piece provide it. M. Bison's theme takes a step in the right direction, and Akuma's theme finally adds the menace you would expect.
Individually, only a couple arrangements betray their origin and feel like they never should have left the realm of fandom to enter a real Street Fighter game. The simplistic bass and percussion in Ryu's arrangement sound like software presets with no tweaking involved, and Dee Jay's theme is your standard Basement Jaxx latin house, but with a few less layers of complexity and far less excitement. (An extended version of his ending theme would have served much better as the stage music.)
Each character theme receives a "heavy damage" version which takes a short segment from the regular version, emphasizes the percussive elements, then ramps up the speed and pitch. These HD versions are too basic in nature and limited in length to be a draw on their own, but as brief diversions to accompany the proper stage themes they warrant their inclusion. In a couple instances they even outshine their big brothers, particularly M. Bison's supercharged drum 'n bass version. Also included are the various half-minute ending themes for each character. Normally having such thirty second diddies scattered about the soundtrack would be a source of disgust, but credit goes to the OCR crew for giving even these relatively unimportant compositions tender loving care.
If one were to think hard enough about it, there are ways to make the soundtrack better. Though the two-minute stage themes and even shorter HD versions are precisely the right length for a fast-paced fighter, given the arranged album quality one can't help but wish for arranged album length. The live instrumentals which are present are so good it wouldn't hurt to hear more, and the often bright, gamey synth could get a harder, more studio-sounding edge to it. But that's not really what the soundtrack is about.
Just as the game is a spiffed up, faithful rendition of the original with a few interesting design choices, so is the Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix soundtrack. And in that capacity it works superbly. The many gamers who have spent a few rounds battling in one Street Fighter II's various releases, and even those who haven't but are interested in an energetic and varied old-school fighting game soundtrack, really owe it to themselves to check it out.