Video game soundtracks

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Video game soundtracks

Post by Porcupine »

Although progress has declined lately, people are now able to rip and play the proprietary sampled music formats for most games and consoles in their original quality. These are typically lossy ADPCM based formats, which perform worse than transformation based MPEG audio formats at low bitrates, but better at high bitrates. Most consoles have used medium bitrates so the audio quality is good but not always perfectly transparent. The types of audible artifacts differ between the two styles of compression.

Some of these proprietary ADPCM formats allow for controllable looping. Most of them are terrible at seeking: each song has to be played from the beginning to reach any given point, so there is a delay to skip around parts of a song and a huge amount of CPU resources are taken up during this time.

With the greater storage capacities available today MP3 is less popular, now replaced with FLAC and other lossless audio formats. I prefer to encode with WavPack. The standard comparisons haven't been updated in decades. I've found no significant difference in decoding speed between them and when using comparable quality settings thus far WavPack provides 0.3% to 5% more compression than FLAC depending on the content. Both encoders have extra ways to increase compression at the sole cost of encoding speed and I only just started using WavPack's most esoteric settings.

WavPack further has an optional lossy mode that works similar to ADPCM, that FLAC doesn't. There are other lossless formats such as APE that provide significantly better compression than both, however they are extremely slow and not ideal for realtime playback, and may also have the aforementioned seeking problem.

The best quality choice for a source can be either a direct game rip or an official CD soundtrack. In terms of quality the CD should usually be better, but in reality some are made from the lossy game rip. Completeness of the music collection and consistency with volume levels can be more important than audio quality. There are custom FLAC soundtracks on the internet which are made from game rips: those are a huge waste of hard drive space if the game audio files can be played directly.

As I download or encode game soundtracks I'll add some here, highlighting the versions that I think are best.

#1 Street Fighter Alpha Anthology for PS2, 1.43 GB, 15.7% compressed RAR (4-bit 48 kHz ADX)

Huge library and best collection of Alpha music. Contains multiple versions and arrangements of battle stage BGM for many games, but not all versions of menus and endings. Super Street Fighter 2 battle stages and select Final Fight tracks are included due to being a part of Hyper SFA3. Gem Fighter is a playable game but only its added console arranged tracks were successfully ripped. Complete original and arranged Puzzle Fighter soundtracks are included despite not being a playable game in this collection.

Alternative versions for the Alpha series can be found in the Capcom master torrent which contains only CD soundtracks, most in FLAC. I can't hear any improvement in quality but kept the SFA3 official soundtrack to be safe. I also kept the SFA2 soundtrack despite it being 192 kbps MP3 due to it having a different version of the ending tracks and a sound effect collection.

#3 Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo for 3DO, 184.5 MB, 27.8% compressed RAR (8-bit 44.1 kHz AIFC)

I learned about this remixed arrangement from the Alpha Anthology above. It's a high quality remix and can be used to complement or replace certain songs in the PC soundtrack that I describe below. This has the menu and ending tracks that the Anthology lacks, and better audio quality. However it can't be looped, and the 3DO game itself likewise doesn't loop the battle stage music.

#2 Super Street Fighter 2 for FM Towns, 236.0 MB, 0% compressed RAR (16-bit 44.1 kHz WV)

The FM Towns was a Japanese PC variant and is the original source of the SF2 music mix that was reused in the 3DO version. I don't hear any difference in audio quality with the 3DO files. Since this game isn't Turbo the intro and a few other songs are different. The repetitive "hurry" battle themes are excluded from this port. I downloaded an image of the game, extracted the CD audio, and encoded using WavPack -hh -x5.

#1 Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo for PC, 347.8 MB, 0% compressed RAR (16-bit 44.1 kHz WV)

The MS-DOS version has by far the best remix of SF2 ever made. Capcom doesn't have the rights so this music can only be found on this release. Parts of Ken's iconic battle theme and Cammy's ending music were removed to make them shorter. Akuma's theme is missing despite him being in the game. The encoding parameters that gave the best compression for this were WavPack -hh -x6 -j1.

I lost my original disc and had bought another on Ebay decades ago. Digging it out to rip to lossless, the jewel case was generic with color copied Puzzle Fighter inserts. I wondered if it was a bootleg so I looked it up. Turns out the original cases were plain. Furthermore my disc is a genuine, rare European printing with multiple language support. The box packaging I have is the USA version.

Super Street Fighter 2 Collection for PSX, 379.9 MB, 0% stored RAR (16-bit 44.1 kHz WV)

The original arcade tracks have issues with the quality of the game board samples used back then. There are many official soundtracks and game rips with the original tracks but I don't have a favorite. Their sound engineering methods vary so they have different bass levels, frequency equalization, stereo separation, filtering and the like.

The PSX version features the original arcade music, resampled as CD audio which I encoded with WavPack -hh -x5 -j0. I prefer this particular mix but most endings are shortened to fade out when the actual game normally does. Other sources with the arcade tracks can be found in the Capcom master torrent. SFA2 Gold is also on this PSX disc but presumably didn't utilize CD audio.

#1 Street Fighter 4 Series Sound Box, 736.9 MB, from torrent (16-bit 44.1 kHz MP3)

Heavily remixed versions of all Street Fighter 2 character themes are present in Street Fighter 4 as the Rival Battle BGM. Most are too fancy for my taste but a few are good, and for Sakura who first appeared in SFA2 it's one of her few existing better quality mixes.

Game rips of the SF4 series are messy because their format attempts to utilize surround sound. There are multiple custom soundtracks available in FLAC online but those I downloaded were a nasty combination of rips and official soundtracks, with volume levels and track starting delays that didn't match.

This official 5-disc CD set is the best and most complete source in my opinion. Unfortunately I could only find MP3 for it. I dislike the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Sound Box which can be found in the Capcom master torrent. It contains abbreviated music sets from all Street Fighter games, with low sound volumes on all 11 discs. I kept only disc 2 which contains an odd rendition of the original arcade SF2 music, and disc 7 which contains just the SF4 character themes, all in FLAC format.

#1 Vampire Sound Box, 1.56 GB, from Capcom master torrent (16-bit 44.1 kHz FLAC)

This is a nearly perfect collection, with the most complete set of sound effects and all music up to Darkstalkers Resurrection. A few jingles are missing and the winning themes are very short and can't be looped. Volume levels are full, unlike the simultaneously released Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Sound Box.

Darkstalkers Collection for PS2, 441.3 MB, 11.5% compressed RAR (4-bit 48 kHz ADX)

Another nearly complete collection, it has a few jingles and sound effects the Sound Box lacks, but is missing others. I don't do the ripping so I don't know if this happens because the files couldn't be found or were just left out. Music can be looped. Sound quality is slightly worse than Vampire Sound Box.

Vampire Chronicle for DC, 137.5 MB, 11.4% compressed RAR (4-bit 44.1 kHz ADX)

Another loopable set of music for all the original Darkstalker games. The endings are not present but there are a couple extra jingles, while most others are missing. Sound quality is slightly better than on PS2. The sound mix is identical for most tracks but is different on the jingles.

Vampire Savior for PSX, 404.1 MB, 22.7% compressed ZIP (4-bit 37.8 kHz XA)

This also contains music for all original Darkstalker games. Not loopable. Sound quality is worse than the others but it's not the same mix to begin with. High frequencies are louder despite the lower sampling rate. This has yet another chosen set of jingles. I didn't keep this because I already wasted enough hard drive space on Darkstalkers so the files need to be downloaded from the source and labeled.

#1 Bloody Roar for PSX, 118.5 MB, 24.1% compressed RAR (4-bit 37.8 kHz XA)

This fighting game series was originally titled Beastorizer in the arcade. Strangely, all the console versions have different music from the arcade versions. The arcade music is selectable on the console port so both music sets are in this rip. I like certain songs from the arcade version. The console music for the entire series is crap. The audio quality is poor but I downloaded the offiical arcade CD soundtrack as MP3 files and it sounded exactly the same.

vgmstream decoder and winamp plugin, 355 KB
required additional vgmstream libraries, 253 KB
wavpack plugin for winamp, 197 KB

Here are the files I use to play all the above music formats. Newer versions can be downloaded if preferred.