Bringing A New Beat To A Classic: Meet The Team Behind Streets Of Rage 4 Soundtrack

Overhauling a seminal video game franchise...

Sega’s Streets Of Rage franchise is not only remembered as one of the best beat ‘em up games from the 16-bit era but also for having one of the best, if not the best, videogame soundtracks in history.

Streets of Rage 4 is out now, 25 years after the last chapter, available to play on PC, XBOX One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch courtesy of LizardCube, Dotemu and Guard Crush Games. It’s typically on-point soundtrack is also available on all digital platforms through Mutant Ninja Records, whole a vinyl version is in-the-works by Brave Wave Productions.

Clash caught up with the team responsible for the new soundtrack, helmed by veteran French video game composer Olivier Derivière, recognized by his works on Alone in the Dark (2008) and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Freedom Cry (2013), to name a few.

We chatted about working with Streets Of Rage originators and Japanese gaming legends Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashi, and how to go about upgrading a classic game to the modern era.

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Clash: What can you say about your first experience with the Streets of Rage franchise?

Olivier Derivière: It’s been one of those games that you just can’t forget. These games are part of my childhood and it is true for a lot of gamers. I was basically playing with my older cousin who owned a Mega Drive (Sega) at the time. I was so jealous because it was the first game that really made a difference with the SNES (Nintendo) that I owned.

The music also made a huge impact on me because it felt “real” and not sounding like some classic chiptune we were all used to.  

After 25 years how do you approach the task of producing the soundtrack to a game that is considered to have one of the best, if not the best, soundtracks in whole videogame history?

You just don’t consider it that way or else you just freeze. And I did freeze.

I guess it was difficult for everybody on the project to feel legitimate but I came in after some big decisions were made, such as the style of the visuals that were not pixel art but real drawings. Same with the gameplay, there was an addition of combos and many different layers of mechanics that were not in the first games.I then decided to be as free and respectful as they were in bringing those new components.  

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How did the original work of Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima influence the new score, and how was it to work with them?

What really helped me was the approach they took about 30 years ago and it was to take influence on the club music in the 90’s. So, I went on a personal quest of gathering every club track that happened since then to try to pick the ones that fit with the new game. The hardest part was to make it sound coherent and create this “vibe” befitting of the franchise’s DNA.   

How does the new game speak to the current musical era?

The plot of the game involves some robots. So, I decided early on to make music out of my computer. I know that Koshiro is very keen on making analogue synth and it was another reason to go with a computer-based synth. It creates a different sound. Music production has very much changed from the old days and computers are everywhere giving you some really deadly possibilities that I took full advantage of.

It was really fun to turn some West and East Coast vibe such as Wu-Tang Clan or Dr. Dre and make them sound more edgy. Same for Aphex Twin and many more, but I couldn’t beat Skrillex!   

For the boss fights you brought other artists to collaborate. Who are they, and what did each of them contribute to the final work?

It was a decision Cyrille Imbert (CEO of Dotemu) and the team took. We wanted each boss to feel very different from the levels and also to have their own personalities. The guests are half from the East and include many stars such as Kawashima and Shimomura and the other half from the West like Das Mortal and Scattle. In the end, I think players will enjoy the diversity from both the levels and the bosses.   

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Streets Of Rage is one of the most recognized and cherished IP from SEGA, as well as being considered one of the best beat ‘em up games. Did you feel any pressure?

I think we all tried hard to be as respectful to the original games as possible. However, we were not making a remake, but a sequel, so we had to make some decisions that were quite difficult sometimes. I, myself, am a big supporter of interactive music. I love when music supports the player’s experience beyond being an illustration.

In this game, we managed to develop the music through each moment of every level to make them, hopefully, unforgettable to players.   

How do you deal with fandom commentaries and inputs from the internet?

It is really hard. I know how SOR2 music can’t be beaten for the fans and it is not just about music anyway, it is more about the memory it created – you can’t beat this. I only hope they will enjoy the game for what it is, and in any case, they still can turn off my music and choose the retro soundtrack instead, so I am safe!

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'Streets Of Rage 4' is out now.

Words: Gabriel Leão

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