Street Fighter Alpha: Warrior's Dreams, known in Japan as Street Fighter Zero, was the first title in Street Fighter's prequel series. Like the game itself, the soundtrack was a mixture of continuity and change. It blended jazzy arrangements of Street Fighter II character themes with a range of new character, ending, and miscellaneous themes. The score combined the music of Street Fighter II veterans Isao Abe and Syun Nishigaki with four others; one of them was Final Fantasy XI's Naoshi Mizuta in his first ever video game work. Is this soundtrack a worthy addition to the Street Fighter series' ever inflated discography?
One of the main draws of the soundtrack are the arrangements of various Street Fighter II character themes. "Ryu Stage" sounds more technically accomplished than its previous renditions and also benefits from the backing of a jazzy horn section. Other themes maintain the jazz vibes, such as Chun-Li's playful xylophone-supported remix or Naoshi Mizuta's cheesy bass-driven interpretation of "Ken Stage". Unsurprisingly, the jazzy format works very well on the originally funk-inspired theme for the antagonist Sagat. Isao Abe returns to inject it with gritty bass use and decent solos. Top dog M. Bison once again sounds pretty formidable due to the divergence of the treble and bass features. This relatively attainable soundtrack also compensates for Akuma's obscure appearances in Street Fighter II's discography. Rich with energetic beats and perplexing oriental instrumentation, Street Fighter Alpha features one of the very best versions of his theme.
The new character themes for Street Fighter Alpha are a mixed bag. The theme for Guile's brother Charlie raises the bar with its emotional answering phrases and elaborate solos. Rose is given a tinge of warmth and mysticism while maintaining the rhythmical thrust of the soundtrack. Birdie doesn't develop as much as it could do, but is still a very enjoyable theme due to the funky bass riffs and catchy interludes. On the other hand, the themes for Final Fight's Guy and Sagat's pupil Adon are not as memorable as most Street Fighter themes — they feature typical rock features yet few melodic or rhythmic hooks. They're still effective in context and moderately enjoyable. Another disappointment is Final Fight reprise "Sodom Stage," which adheres too closely to Henry Mancini's Peter Gunn theme and doesn't have enough substance of its own. At least secret character Dan is portrayed in an appropriately farcical way while staying close to the characteristic tones of the soundtrack.
The pacing of the soundtrack is interrupted somewhat by the intercalation of ending themes between each character themes. Fortunately, these themes are far more interesting than the Street Fighter II ending themes so are hardly unwelcome. The ending themes for Ryu, Chun-Li, Sagat, and Akuma feel very personal and add a lot of emotional warmth to the soundtrack. They are simple but also elegant. Other ending themes such as for Charlie, Adon, Rose, and M. Bison inject more drama and attitude to the game. The remaining themes for Ken, Guy, Sodom, Birdie, and Dan are basically catchy jingles with some relation to the relevant character themes. As with other Street Fighter soundtracks, there are a few miscelleneous themes to round of the soundtrack. Some feel generic, such as "Opening Demo" or "Continue", whereas others like the horn-punctuated "Player Select" or the meditative staff roll themes are more enjoyable. The soundtrack ends with the nicely isolated voice and sound effects collections.
The Street Fighter Alpha soundtrack is a pretty good effort for a prequel soundtrack. Probably the biggest highlights are the renditions of six Street Fighter II themes with jazzy instruments and improved technology. However, the new character themes tend to be pretty good as well and the ending themes add a personal touch. The soundtrack is unique for its jazzy tone, but lacks many new melodic draws except possibly the semi-exclusive Akuma's theme and the emotional Charlie's theme. Though it probably isn't good enough to be a definitive purchase, it is worth buying if you're a big fan of Street Fighter's music.