Who doesn’t like classic rock and metal? Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, and their contemporaries made some of the most enduring popular music of all time. Their riffs continue to entertain and inspire angry youths decades later. But no matter how much fondness you have for electric guitar and improbable hairstyles, you don’t love classic rock as much as Daisuke Ishiwatari.
Ishiwatari is the story writer, character designer, and composer responsible for Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. While Ragna and friends did an admirable job of carrying Arc System Works through the last few years, my warmest affections will always be with the original franchise. There is certainly an argument to be had about which series is the technically superior fighting game, but if you’re looking for sheer force of personality and attitude then look no farther than Guilty Gear‘s vast catalogue of tunes.
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge the staggering debt owed to Freddy Mercury. Half of the game’s attacks and songs are overt Queen references, from “The March of the Wicked King” to the character named May. Of course, the leading man Frederick (Freddy?) himself reserves the right to the most shameless plugs. His in-game character profile lists his Hobbies as, “Listening to Queen” and his Likes as, “Queen’s ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ album.” Subtlety, thy name is Ishiwatari.
Badguy’s theme song is always a variation of “Keep Yourself Alive,” which you should recognize as the name of the first song off of Queen’s debut album. This is only the tip of the rock reference iceberg though, as nearly every character is in some way paying homage to a musician of the 70′s or 80′s. Axl Low is Axl Rose, Zappa is Frank Zappa, and Slayer, Testament, Venom, and A.B.A. don’t even bother disguising their references. All of this inspiration carries over into their rocking theme tunes, which are given equally evocative names.
Interestingly, the Guilty Gear OST oeuvre is so beloved that it managed to inspire two albums of vocal arrangements. Dubbed the “L.A. Edition” and the “N.Y. Edition,” these two collections vary somewhat in quality and execution, but they are interesting once you’ve become familiar enough with the tracks to distinguish the difference between an X composition and a XX composition at a single note. For my money, “Haven’t You Got Eyes in Your Head? (Slayer’s Theme)” is the best of the lot, so check it out if you’ve ever wondered how fighting game music would sound with lyrics.
This is usually the part of my Music Mondays article where I lament the lack of a digital release of the soundtrack in question. Luckily for us, this is one of those rare cases where quite a few of the tracks are available on iTunes at this very moment. The collections are relatively expensive ($24.99 for X and XX), but it is certainly better than having no legal option to purchase and download them at all. If you can find room in your entertainment budget, I heartily recommend them for all your instrumental rock needs.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.