[ShockWave is a monthly feature which highlights video game music and our favorite soundtracks, for the music lover in every gamer.]
Hello everyone and welcome to ShockWave, your monthly spot for the best offerings from the world of video game music. This month, we’ll be taking a listen to a game from one of my favorite gaming franchises of all time: Tekken. Before Tekken 6, the entire numbered series was on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation. This particular game launched around the same time as the PS2 itself, some ten years ago.
I’m talking about Tekken Tag Tournament, one of the first games for the PS2. Players did battle with a huge cast of characters and gawked at (then) marvelous visuals whilst jamming out to a fat soundtrack that crossed industrial with electro and dance with techno like it wasn’t insane. The result was the phenomenal Tekken Tag Tournament Original Soundtrack.
- Album: Tekken Tag Tournament Direct Audio (OST)
- Genre: Ambient, Techno, Dance, Electronica, Industrial, Fusion, Experimental
- Credits: Various: Keiichi Okabe(Xiayou), Nobuyoshi Sano(Jin, Yoshimitsu, School), many others
- Original Release: 1999
- Price: New $30, Used $15
- Runtime: Seventy two minutes
I’d be lying if I said I was familiar with any of the many artists credited on this soundtrack, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how awesome their work is. There are actually two versions of this soundtrack. The first came out before the game in 1999 and was named Tekken Tag Tournament OST. The second version of the album came out the following year (much closer to the release of the game actually).This one was called Tekken Tag Tournament Direct Audio.
The difference between these albums was a small group of sounds and songs that appeared in the game but weren’t themes. The song that plays after you’ve lost a match in arcade mode, for example, is one of these tracks. Since it has the most tracks, Direct Audio is the one you’ll want. TTTOST has the better artwork though, in my opinion. Also noteworthy, I’ve listed the release date of the OST as the original release date. The most notable exclusion from the OST version is the theme from the opening movie, which is actually one of my picks for the best tracks.
Taken as a whole, the album is perfect for a fighting game. Although it crosses many genres, the music stays up tempo and fast paced. I always say that dance music is the best for fighting games, even though most series go for a more rock and roll sound. This album also isn’t really expensive and it is totally worth buying. Fans of the game may experience some serious nostalgia. See the link above in pricing for the full track listing. Picking out my choice tracks honestly wasn’t that difficult since nearly the entire album is already on my iPod. I simply checked which songs had the most plays and picked them as the choice tracks. The songs also give you a good mix of variety, with the thumping disco number Xiayou and the dramatic layers of Ogre. They represent the album really well.
[Series front man Jin Kazama, son of Jun Kazama and Kazuya Mishima. Track 5 is Jin’s them. Kazuya is the grimacing guy on the cover of the album. Jin inherited the Devil Gene from Kazuya. He was introduced in Tekken 3.]
Track 5: Jin
Let’s start this party with the electric Jin. The repeating synth and funky clap will have you nodding incessantly in just a moment. The stuttering percussions give the track a very robotic, electric sound. The low bass thumps and the song is altogether very fast and in your face. The low artificial voice seems to be saying something along the lines of “Playground, Full grown”.
About a minute in your treated to the distorted sound of a guitar and then a variety of deep, aural sounds begin to step in and out of the song. The slow pads in the background clash interestingly with the speedy claps and synths and the clean ending is a tasteful way to bring an end to this aural trip of a song. A second opinion told me this song wasn’t very easy to get into, but I completely disagree with that. It’s noticeably more industrial than the rest of the album though.
Track 9: Yoshimistu
Very similar to Jin, Yoshimitsu picks up with its faster, more repetitive composition. A monotone artificial voice opens this song, backed by a simple bubbly bass. Things get more complex quickly though as a synth fades in and out and a chime begins to repeat. Then, before it gets out of a hand, the rolling bass takes the wheel.
When the synth comes back, it is loud and strong, giving the song a techno or even techno-pop taste. From this point, the song loops what has been played so far. In my opinion, this only prolongs the awesomeness. I can practically confirm that the lyrics are “No eyes, no ear, no nose, no mouth, no body, no mind, no shape. No shape”.
It’s kind of funny when you consider this is Yoshimitsu’s song and he actually doesn’t seem to have a lot of those things. The only real purpose the lyrics serve is to add to the already intriguing sound. I love the techno vibe this song exudes and its beauty lies in its repetition and clear direction. This is a strong techno song, not watered down like many releases in the genre nowadays.
Track 15: Xiayou
Let’s chill out with what is by far my favorite track on the entire album, Xiayou. The classic disco opening rides into a very groovy dance number that is just to die for. This same fading effect is used numerous times throughout the song and each time it restarts, the song seems more epic. The piano is the most constant element in the song. Then, just as things get awesome, a breakdown comes in and pauses things just for a moment, before it sets the song back up to continue its captivating display.
The electronic voice reminded me a lot of Daft Punk and I think it’s saying “Are you getting groovy? Getting in this music?” and I’ll answer that with an absolutely. This song is what I think music in fighting games should sound like. It’s exciting, fast, and most importantly, very catchy. That violin is a disco staple and acts a big draw in the song. It can be heard in more mainstream hits like Jamiroquai’s Canned Heat, which is most famous for its use in the dance scene from Napoleon Dynamite.
This song really captures the attitude of the entire Tekken series pretty well, I think. It’s a party, a carnival, an affair of fun, the King of Iron Fist Tournament. I remember choosing the Xiayou stage many times just to here this song and it’s a true standout of the album.
[Ling Xiayou, a playful martial artist first introduced in Tekken 3. Track 15 is her theme. She also connects to Jin Kazama as a love interest, though it seems that it’s mostly just her crushing on him.]
Track 1: Opening Movie
It is because of the first six seconds of this song that I will always remember the first time I played TTT all those years ago. The dramatic sounding piano quickly vanishes to give way to a fast, techno piece. Buzzing and riding synths take over with the sound of low intermittent percussions. It sounds like something pretty grand is about to happen.
The piano dives back in beside a rumbling bass and this vibe goes on for several more seconds. Then a light violin can be heard adding drama to the sound of the piano and then, just as quickly as it began, the song is over. This bite sized track is just over a minute long, but it is certainly very good while it lasts. It doesn’t really remind of the game, but it’s sophisticated and stylish and a pretty standout track. It’s also the perfect song to open the album with.
Track 13: School
The school bells ringing in the beginning of the song are a nice allusion to the song’s name and the stage in which it was used in the game. Then, the quickly starting and stopping percussions and base speed things up. After just a moment of this, something that sounds like an alarm or siren of some kind starts firing in sync with the bass.
Yet another artificial voice starts chanting something in a voice that’s way too hard to decipher. Then it starts stuttering, as the alarm and bass ride out. A synth fires up and rides beside the alarm and then you hear the bells return. Altogether, it sounds a lot like a dance track, but it isn’t. The start and stop nature of the song is addictive and all the elements in the song work to achieve the final result.
In my opinion, you’ll need to give School a few listens just to catch all the different parts in it. It loops, but only after throwing numerous elements at you. Then the voice changes and it sounds something like “Stamp it stamp it stamp it stamp it…”, again making you want to dance. School is an excellent track and a very good representation of the TTTOST.
We have to close things on a high note, and what better song to do this with than Ogre? The eerie and ambient beginning is just the catch to the song. The sad sounding piano drops in and out, making the song sound very dramatic. Then a buzzing bass line starts thumping beside a rather relaxed percussion.
The song is pretty slow, way slower than most of what we’ve heard so far. You can still hear the creepy aural voice or pad in the background. The violin begins crying and the song breaks down to a very slow, very beautiful symphony of violin, piano and ambient pad. When it picks back up, the instruments are still fairly dominant and the synths back it up wonderfully.
It’s a shining example of a good fusion song. The techno elements and the classical elements are practically holding hands. Doesn’t seem like it’s well suited for a fighting game does it? I guarantee you it is. The breakdown comes back in later into the song, and this time the violin is absolutely desperate. Just as the tension mounts, things close quietly and beautifully. While Ogre doesn’t exactly ‘match’ the rest of the songs on the album, it’s an incredible piece of music and absolutely a standout.
[The beastly Ogre, a tyrannical character for sure. Like Xiayou, he was first introduced in Tekken 3. He is allegedly responsible for the murder of Jun Kazama, Jin’s mother. Track 11 is his theme.]
Track 7: Hwoarang
Track 17: Unknown
Track 10: Lei
Great music is timeless and video game music is no exception. The eleven year old Tekken Tag Tournament Soundtrack is a marvelous piece of work and is considered by many series fans to be the best music of any game in the series and I kind of agree with that. It’s a fast paced, aggressive collection of tracks and I think it maintains a modern sound and appeal despite its age.
This album has a unique sound, and it represents an awesome game. I can only hope that the upcoming sequel to Tekken Tag Tournament can capture a sound this unique, diverse and legit. While I recommend everyone check this out, fans of techno, electronic and experimental music owe it to themselves to check this one out. Thank you for joining me for another installation of ShockWave. I hope that you enjoy this album as much as I do.