Game Music Revue: Streets Of Rage (2015 Data Discs Edition)

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A few years ago Death Waltz Records opened up shop and promptly took the the record geek community by storm with its high quality vinyl re-issues of classic horror soundtracks, presented with heavy duty sleeves and pressed on creatively-colored vinyl.

Since then, we seemingly become lousy with labels looking to cash in on this sudden re-issue trend. Some, like One Way Static and Invada, have done good by releasing quality soundtracks that sound great and feature amazing art. Others, like the atrocious Waxworks and the flipper-friendly Mondo (who bought Death Waltz rather than compete with them) have often sacrificed audio quality and consumer friendliness in efforts to put out ultra-limited edition items that not only sound horrid, but become impossible to find thanks to their finitely small print runs.

So I was a little skeptical at first when I found out about Data Discs, a new label dedicated to releasing classic game music on vinyl. With the vinyl craze continuing to reach new heights, I feared they were just in it for the money, hoping to snag a quick buck off of hipsters who put presentation and nostalgia over actual audio quality. Still, when I saw that they were releasing the soundtrack to Streets of Rage on vinyl, I had to take the bait and grab a copy.

I was hoping for the best and fearing for the worst – but thankfully I was pleasantly surprised.

But before I get to that, I suppose I should talk about the actual music first.  Simply put, the soundtrack to Streets of Rage is one of the greatest game soundtracks of all-time. If you were to make a Top 10 list of greatest game music ever, I feel that it would fit right alongside the original Mario music and the score to Taito’s Darius. It’s an amazing accomplishment, combining acid house, funk, rock and drum and bass in an entirely unique way. A lot of game music from this era was “arranged” on CD, that is, remixed or remade to feature instrumentation not possible in the original versions. Such an arranged mix of the Streets Of Rage soundtrack exists, but it is entirely unnecessary. Koshiro perfectly crafted this music to work within the tech limitations forced upon him, and it sounds all the the better for it. A masterpiece of music composition through and through.

It’s a release that deserves a certain amount of respect, and Data Discs certainly didn’t drop the ball in that department. the presentation of this package is absolutely gorgeous in every way imaginable. The sleeve itself is simply stunning, and features the original game art in all its wonderful glory. In an era when too many labels try to one-up the original vintage artwork by replacing it with their own hideous concoctions (Mondo, I’m glaring at you), Data Discs have done right here by taking the original, fantastic artwork and making it look as damn near perfect as possible. An OBI strip is included as well, and while usually I hate these things as they cover up part of artwork, Data Discs have alleviated this problem by also including a hard stock 12 x 12 insert that features the cover art in all its glory sans text or OBI strip markings. It also includes a second insert featuring the original Japanese box art. Sweet.

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Beautiful full-color inserts do the original artwork justice.

The vinyl itself also looks great. Three variations of this were made available; plain black, blood red, and a blood red with black splatter. The last was limited edition and I couldn’t score it (sigh) so I have the red one. While I would prefer them to just put out one awesome-looking version and leave it at that (limited edition variants serve speculators, not fans), at least they went through the trouble of making a non-limited colored edition that looks almost as cool.

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And in addition to looking good, the record sounds good as well. There is some surface noise that pops up from time to time, but that is a limitation of the vinyl format and should be expected. The music itself sounds great, and at times surprisingly different than the previous CD version I have, as most of the tracks were taken not from the game itself, but from the original PC-88 computer sound files. In addition to sounding different, the tracks are in some cases slightly shorter than they were in previous releases. Don’t fret though, you’re not missing any music. Remember that most of these tunes are just loops (complex loops, but loops nonetheless) that repeat over and over. I assume that Data Discs just made these loops slightly shorter in order to fit everything on a single LP. Makes sense, and it doesn’t detract from the presentation in the slightest.

All that being said, keep in mind that this release is thirty dollars and does not come with a download code. And while it sure does look really pretty and sound really nice, it won’t fit on your iPod unless you’re a madman like me and invest in an external soundcard and record your LPs to your hard drive. You can buy this same soundtrack on iTunes right now (also taken from the PC-88 files and featuring three more tracks) for just six bucks. If you’re only interested in the music and nothing else, do that. If you want a nice collectible that happens to sound good, pick this up.

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