Skullgirls, the all-new 2D fighting game on the block, had its soundtrack released on iTunes and Amazon a while ago.
So let's review it!
Mostly a joint effort between Flower's Vincent Diamante and the Castlevania series' Michiru Yamune, Skullgirls is an attempt to lead a 50s infused game (well, somewhat) with a jazz tone, as well as some common tropes in fighting game soundtracks. Some of the tracks are exclusively one genre, some try to mix and match different elements and some are just there for kicks.
A lot of the songs are indeed straight up lounge jazz headed by Diamante (with some by Yamune and others), with bouncing bass and all the hi-hat and ride cymbals you can eat. These tracks occur during menus, segues, cutscenes and the credits. The first track on the album, Echoes, consists of a mere few trumpet blasts. It's the very first track in the game as well, and in both instances it's a good set-up for the tone of it.
Other “lounge jazz” exclusives include Pedestrian Crossing (the main menu music), an excellent investigatory, buzzing piece, In Rapid Succession, a fast drum beat mized with bongos to create some tension within its two minutes running time, and probably the most conventional song on the album, the credits theme, In A Moment's Time. It's a well-weathered vocally performed female soul/jazz piece with some “hilarious” lyrics and a pretty kvlt piano solo that inevitably leads into a beautiful orchestral outro. It's probably my favourite song on the album.
As far as jazz generally goes...I couldn't actually tell you how well it generally stacks up. I suppose some of this could have potentially gone into L.A. Noire if circumstances were different, at least in terms of overall tone. These songs are calming and chill, and are impossible to hate in any measure, but then jazz may not be for some.
You have some more eccentric and experimental tracks, mostly headed by Castlevania's Michiru Yamune. Castlevania's music has always been both atmospheric and memorable all its own, and Yamune's talent has not failed her here. She pretty much takes the mantle of all fighting stage music. Each one of these has its own motif to go with the visuals (obviously, this does little for the album itself), and each follows its own trade pretty well.
Moonlit Melee has the more jovial elements of jazz mixed with mysterious electro-orchestra that's just as much fun to listen to outside of the game. Skull Heart Arrhythmia, the boss battle theme, projects a great amount of scale and progression with great use of opera vocals to create en epic mood.
Other tracks of this sort fare less well. Learning One's Craft, the training mode stage, has nothing to call its own except this pseudo-industrial sound effect which just sounds terrible. The Lives We Left Behind is a bit too slow and generic for a fighting stage song, although it has its own very interesting elements buried within. All of these songs suffer from longevity issues, going for six minutes and having to repeat once or twice within that time, with The Fish Man's Dance arguably taking the worst hit.
In between these tracks, you have a smattering of assorted themes, like cutscene music and menu music, as well as a bonus Japanese rendition of In A Moment's Time, which is quite similar to the English one. No duh, right?
A lot of these bonus bits were built for specific characters and endings. You can tell, for example, that Shenanigans and Goings-Ons is Peacock's song with how jaunty and novel it is. It's not just the ordering or title that gives the organ-blasting Fugue of the Three Goddesses away, either. A lot of these tracks are perfectly fine in the game, but vary in how well they translate outside of it. This may be a good thing in the long run, as it shows that the Skullgirls soundtrack was built in and around the game instead of the composers simply trying to make good music.
I've heard rumblings that some songs from the game are missing in the soundtrack. I could not tell you for sure, but I have played Skullgirls quite a lot, and nothing appeared to be missing. Perhaps there is a Painwheel “theme tune” I'm skipping out on, as nothing on this album calls out to here like other characters' themes, but again, I cannot give a definite answer.
Skullgirls is a very decent 2D fighter, and the soundtrack on the whole follows suit. Giving the entire thing one listen isn't recommended due to how long some of the tracks can be without giving equal value in return, but it does appear to be one of the better videogame soundtracks of the year. It's currently running for $10 US on iTunes, and I'd wager it's worth the money if you're into this sort of thing.
We'll have to see how it can stack up against Lollipop Chainsaw later this year, though. The battle for best videogame music isn't always large, but it is a tenacious fight.