GAME MUSIC HELL: Marvel vs. Capcom 2 by malachy_19

Welcome to a new segment here at Classical Gaming:  GAME MUSIC HELL.  Each post features a  gamer, blogger, or musician discussing their least favorite video game soundtrack.  This segment takes a good long look (and listen!) at what we perceive to be “bad” music.  I’ve left that interpretation open to each individual writer.

Today, we’ll take a look at Malachy_19’s least favorite soundtrack.  Malachy_19 is a close friend and a life long gamer.  His blog, Initial Reviews, reviews movies, games, and anime culture.

Now, for your reading pleasure, I present to you our first game to be inducted into GAME MUSIC HELL:  Marvel vs. Capcom 2 by Malachy_19.  Enjoy!

Ever since video games first began to develop and become popular, I’ve found that music has been a key and important factor in them.  And ever since music started being used in games, there has been “bad” music.  While thinking of what I would consider the worst music, it seems easy to think back to the early era of gaming.  I’m talking about back when composers had little to work with and those bleeps and bloops could easily become aggravated scratches and screeches that would make Skrillex look like a master composer.  But I kind of have to give them a half a wave off.  They didn’t have much to work with and game music was in its infancy.  No, what is more offensive is when you have a game, in the modern era, that has all the possible tools and still remains to fail.

It takes a lot more to fail then just bad music.  Sometimes it is not the fact that the music is bad, but that it is incessantly boring and/or out of place.  Sometimes the bland music of a game can be such a detriment that it lingers in videogame zeitgeist for eternity.  It becomes a joke that we, as gamers, try to pretend it never happened.  One such example is Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  So sit back, remember playing this game, and let me take you for a ride.

(credit:  000TheDude000)

It’s obvious that if you played the game and had to remember a track from the game, the first thing you’d think of was this character selection screen which played “I’m gonna take you for a ride!” over and over and over again.  But besides that, try and think back.  Can you remember ANY of the other music?  Can you sing it?  Can you hum it?  No.  The reason is it makes one of the most grievous mistakes in music gaming:  it is so boring it is barely even there.

(credit:  IIIFIREBIRDIII)

The music in Marvel vs. Capcom 2, when placed in a vacuum by itself, is not all that bad.  It is this funky jazz type of sound.  I could even see myself driving down the highway listening to some of these tracks and having a ball.  I’m sure this soundtrack would fit great if placed along a funky style racing game as in Outrun or Cruisin’ World… or maybe even in a weird 3-D platformer, such as Nights.  But the problem is, it’s not one of those games!  This soundtrack was placed into a fighting game where the music is supposed to be exciting, unpredictable, and wild… and definitely not calm and funky.  The game needs music that you should want to kick someone’s butt to;  music that is epic and memorable; music that really makes you feel like you are in the fight!  And not music you want to snap your fingers and bob your head to.  It’s similar to having the entire musical score of Citizen Cane being replaced by music by Journey.  Just because the music is good doesn’t mean you can jam it anywhere you want and make it a good soundtrack.

A lot of people may think I am being too harsh on Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  You may say that even though the music isn’t memorable that doesn’t make it bad.  I mean, it definitely is better than the horror that is the soundtrack to Action 52.

(credit:  mapaniju)  (Classical Gaming’s note:  This might be the worst thing I’ve heard in my entire life.)

But I would disagree.  Action 52 was a terrible game with a terrible soundtrack to go along with it.  The entire game was uncared for, rushed, and cheaply made.  But Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was neither.  It was a very well built fighter that would be the backbone for the fighting genre for years to come.  Yetm it was sullied by this horrendously boring soundtrack.  It is almost insulting in its inability to synch up the right soundtrack to the right game.

So, the absolutely worst part is that they actively had to try to mess this up.  At least half the characters were already from previous fighting games,  each of which with their own specific music and theme.  They could have done what every other fighter does and give each character their own music.  All they had to do was remix existing themes already on record and maybe write and design a few extra for the new characters.  Instead they decided to throw all that perfectly good music out the window and make a series of jazz tracks for specific stages and run with it.  And it failed.  Miserably.

Let us look at an example.  Here is the music to the “Swamp Stage” in Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

(credit:  mkdragon65)

It’s not terrible.  It’s not bad.  It’s just bland.  Are you ever going to remember this?  Is this going to get you pumped and excited about a massive 20-hit combo followed by a Hyper Attack?   No.  It’s just kind of going to be in the background and ultimately forgotten.  It  does not represent ultimately how I felt when I played Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  The music was so boring my brain literally just blanked it out.  Now compare it to this.  “Guile’s Theme” from Street Fighter II.

(credit:  davpreec)

Listen to that.  Listen to that wonderment!  That excitement!  That epicness that makes you want to suplex your enemy and hit them in the face with a Sonic Boom!  This is what fighting music should be.  And the best part is I probably didn’t even have to add that link.  All I had to do is say “Guile’s Theme” and I guarantee the music is already coursing through your head.  And that is exactly what good music should do!  You play enough of a great game, with a great soundtrack, and that music will be with you forever.

And that is the ultimate fault with the soundtrack to Marvel vs. Capcom 2.  It is the bland and boring blemish that will forever scar the memory of one of the greatest fighters of our generation.  And it is for that reason that I say that Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has one of the worst videogame soundtracks of all time.  -Malachy_19

Thanks for reading folks!  Comments are welcome and if you, yourself, would like to nominate a game soundtrack to be sunk into GAME MUSIC HELL, let me know!

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

5 responses to “GAME MUSIC HELL: Marvel vs. Capcom 2 by malachy_19

  • Muuurgh

    Malachy_19 and Steve,

    Can I be the first to admit that I enjoy MVC2’s soundtrack? Haha. It’s a little uncharacteristic of my normal tastes, really, but there’s something about this soft jazz funk that works for me… it’s like some kind of more jazzed up Earth, Wind, and Fire music. I know that might sound a little absurd at first glance, but the first song I listened to off of YouTube to confirm my suspicions, well, confirmed my suspicions. Here:

    What I agree with you on is that some bits of the soundtrack seemed like an afterthought. As far as there being a tune for every character, I empathize with them because there are, what, 50 characters? However, a lot of the tunes are on pretty short loops, so if you’re not playing timed and you’re having a long fight you can quickly get sick of them. And of course, that character select… it’s hilarious but come on! Haha. In all seriousness, it’s turned into a comedic jewel of the game world and I’m happy it exists.

    There are a couple of your assertions that I don’t agree with. First, you call the music “boring” and say that it’s supposed to be “unpredictable.” The only things unpredictable to me are the instrumentation and the short loop, but other than that, the songs are full of instrument solos, sharp horn lines, drum hits, montunos… that super fat bari sax sample that comes in every once in a while… The stuff in the music is certainly there if you’re listening. I can understand how, if you’re not, it runs together, but if you pay attention you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    The other thing is that I actually really enjoy having this genre of music in a fighting game. Grooving stuff charges me up in a way that your typical heavy music doesn’t. I think it’s interesting to get both a push and pull; for example, for the Factory Stage, the electric piano will pull back on the music while the sharp horn lines and drums push everything ahead. There’s still a sense of urgency, but I still feel a need to keep cool in the fight–having a “sugar rush” in every piece of music doesn’t do anything more for me.

    It’s a funny time for this review to come up, too, because I just composed a piece that I wrote about on my blog that’s supposed to be a battle theme in an RPG, yet I felt compelled not to make its goal to supercharge the player. My reasoning was that boss fights should be reserved for that and everything prior should have a level of urgency that is plenty under the boss theme so that when the boss comes, the player’s senses are spiked because of the craziness of the music. MVC2’s boss themes are different, but not crazy (again, I don’t mind too much, though they could have kicked it up a little more). You can check out the tune on my blog to see what I mean–it happens to be a push by the drums and pullback by a Rhodes, which is similar to the action in this soundtrack.

    Anyway, this all being said, I completely understand your point of view and enjoyed reading your review. And yeah, that ‘Action 52’ stuff was atrocious, haha. ‘Til next time!

    • classicalgaming

      It’s weird. Looking at the music for this game again for the first time in a long time, I realize I forgot a lot of it. While I believe that the music itself is actually nice, I think my problem with it is that it’s… just not Street Fighter series. I was also really annoyed because in Marvel vs. Capcom they wrote individual themes for ALL the characters that played each time you summoned the character. I remember playing MvC2 in the arcade and wondering: where’s Spiderman’s theme? Why is this lady asking me to swing my body?

      Shibata (composer for MvC2) also did the music for Power Stone and Devil May Cry 2-4 so he’s definitely a composer of merit. I feel like this was a risk by him. AND Shibata also wrote the music for Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Darkstalkers 3. So I’m confused as to why that music wasn’t referenced.

      Also, I’m VERY surprised in that I find that there’s really two schools of thought regarding the music to MvC2- a lot of people have commented on this post to me and said they agree strongly or disagree strongly. Who knew so many people cared? Hahaha.

      Thanks for reading!

  • Whats Your Tag?

    “I wanna take you for a ride. To hell.” Is what this article should have been titled. Love the game, absolutely hate that song.

  • GAME MUSIC HELL: Breath of Fire by BEthStardust « Classical Gaming

    […] Malachy_19 said in a previous column when making his case, it’s not that I chose this game because it has the “worst music ever” […]

  • Zak

    This OST is unironically of my favorites ones of all time. I still hum the songs when I play at the arcade and everyone is like “what is wrong with this guy”, but I do understand that it doesn’t fit the game at all.

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