I forgot that Chinese New Year was happening this week. Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) is celebrated for four days (first day is the eve of it, the other three is the real deal). This year marks the Year of the Dragon, one of the more awesome signs of the Chinese Zodiac. Plus I was born that year too. So what better way to celebrate Chinese New Year than to listen to some Chinese inspired videogame music. Since most games back then were made in Japan, there’s a slight tinge of stereotyping by the Japanese here, but then again they made some awesome music. More recent games have been a bit more fair when using Chinese instruments and melodies and creating something worth listening to. Since most of the songs I’ve heard came from fighting games, most of these will be from that genre. Anyway, get the fireworks ready and start-a-listening!
Deus Ex – The Synapse
The song starts out with the typical Chinese fare methodical melody progressions. But soon enough it takes a backseat to a more calmer and chill atmosphere. I’ve never been to Hong Kong, but it feels like you’re there during the 90s. Strangely enough, this sorta feels like the time before Tekken 3, before they replaced the more upbeat music with grittier hip-hop and rock.
BlazeBlue Series- Oriental Flower
It’s no question that BlazBlue‘s Litchi Faye-Ling and the town she’s from is unapologetically Chinese. From the Yin-Yang symbol on her hair and character seal to the panda holding her hair together, Litchi wears her pride proudly. The song starts off with one hell of a regional riff, then it kicks in with that BlazBlue rock style. This is one of the few Chinese themed rock songs I’ve encountered in all my years of gaming.
Super Mario Land – Chai Kingdom
And here’s this song. This is played in the fourth and last world of Super Mario Land. Listening to the song, it’s like the composer (Hip Tanaka) had a checklist of things to add to the song to remind the player, “Hey, you’re now in the kinda-like-China world.” Though most people remember the stages for the hopping ghosts that didn’t die. Still, it’s actually a nice song when you take the time to hear it.
Tekken 2 – Two Different Sides
Ah this theme takes me back. Before we had Easy-Automatic Mode in Tekken 3 (Eddy Gordo), we had regular Easy Mode in the form of Marshall Law and his double backflips. As kids we always thought Bruce Lee was awesome and this was the closest we’d get to playing as him. The song here doesn’t deviate much from the melody, but simply adds or changes instruments to the melody. Since Law is Bruce Lee in the Tekken world, I’ll have to give a quick mention to their world’s Jackie Chan, Lei Wulong and his theme “The Place, 1997”
Street Fighter II – Chun-Li’s Theme
You probably saw this coming a mile away, so I’ll keep this short. Chun-Li’s debut in Street Fighter II not only marked the first time a woman appeared in a fighting game, but also popularized Chinese characters in videogames (whom beforehand were either culturally confused Asian or were the enemy) While yeah they were still depicted with all the stereotypes that comes with being Chinese (this was Japan doing most of these after all, and you know how they are with the Chinese), it was still quite a milestone and paved the way for the creation of characters like Pai Chan, Ling Xiaoyu, Marshall Law and Lei Wulong, Ada Wong, Mei Ling, Litchi Fay-Ling, and practically everything in Dynasty Warriors. So big ups to Chun-Li.