Game Music

Return of Hiryu – Strider 2014 OST (Review & Interview)

March 19, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Return of Hiryu – Strider 2014 OST (Review & Interview)on Twitter

It has to be hard to have to be the person who is tasked with creating the soundtrack to a remake of a beloved classic game. The expectations are high from the studio creating the game and even higher from the fandom of the original. Will you have the same tracks as the original game arranged? Will you make completely new tracks? Will it be a similar style as the old game or something radically different? Or will it be any combination of these traits? It certainly cannot be an enviable position to be in and have such pressures weighing you down.

However when it came to composing the soundtrack for the updated Strider game from Double Helix Games, Michael John Mollo took the ball from original Strider composer Junko Tamiya, ran with it, and didn’t look back.

Strider originally had its roots cemented deep within the realm of both sci-fi and fantasy, and combined the classic themes of a ninja-based game with a futuristic setting. As such, Mollo went with a very synth-centric style in the majority of the new soundtrack’s composition, while also rounding it it out with generous amounts of rock guitars, powerful violins and percussion.

It’s hard not to think of Strider without thinking of the song “Raid” which made its debut in the original arcade and was popularized as Hiryu’s theme in the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise. This new version stays true to the classic form, but gives it a brand new shiny coating of  the aforementioned violins layered on top of synthetic melody. Why change what’s not broken? The same is done with “Kazakh Theme”, given a similar grand revamping from its NES incarnation that really brings out the richness of the tune that previously couldn’t be utilized, but still keeps all the best parts.

“Kazakh City” slows things down with a somber monastary-like choir that twists into a Gregorian chant that puts on a sense of urgency, while “Coup” turns around and speeds things back up and is one of my favorite pieces of the soundtrack with its catchy beats and is a grand improvement on the original versdion. It’s this switch back and forth between the slower and more grandiose pieces to the faster-paced action tracks that polarizes the soundtrack nicely by knowing when to utilize what as either background atmosphere or heart-pounding tunes meant to get you pumped.

Strider (2014) – “Coup”

Overall the new Strider soundtrack capitalizes on the oldschool themes laid by Tamiya and offers fresh updates to the tunes of the original game while offering it’s own contributions to the series. Michael John Mollo does a great job of blending his style of music along with a sci-fi twist into the music of the game and the finished product comes out feeling like a worthy contribution to the legacy of the series.


I had a chance to contact Mollo and ask him a few questions as to his experience with composing the soundtrack to the new Strider game.

OSV: According to your discography, this seems to be your first foray into fully composing for a video game soundtrack. How has the process differed from your work on arranging and composing for other media such as films and television? Have you enjoyed it?

Mollo: You are correct. ‘Strider’ is my first game score.  I was referred to Double Helix Games by film composer Michael Giacchino. The VP at Double Helix, Patrick Gilmore, had worked closely with Michael on the ‘Medal of Honor’ franchise.  They knew they were looking for an electronic infused score and it just so happened that I was doing electronics and programming with Michael on ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’ at the time.  There are many similarities between scoring for games and scoring for film. Its really about contributing emotion, a sense of pace and trying to add to the overall experience of the medium for the viewer or in the case of games, the player.

That said, the actual nuts and bolts of composing music that was interactive required a significantly different set of skills. The music needed to be incredibly elastic and had to support many states of game action. So I had to structure the score in such a way that the sound engine could add or take away elements to support that action all the while maintaining musical integrity. It was a challenge but a lot of fun. I very much look forward to composing for the game environment again.

OSV: Had you played the original Strider games at all prior to being asked to compose for the new game, and what were your feelings on being approached to work on the new game’s music?

Mollo: I remember playing Strider on NES when I was 8 or 9 years old. It was totally an honor to get to work on this game.  I’m happy to be part of the ‘Strider’ legacy.

OSV: How do you feel the reception has been on your work with the new soundtrack? How do you think the fans of the series feel about your take on the Strider music?

Mollo: I feel like I had a lot to live up to and I think the reception has been great so far.  Many people have reached out with thanks and praise. Time will tell how the new material holds up to Junko Tamiya’s original material but overall I’m am incredibly happy with both the music and the game as a whole. We’re #1 on the PS4 charts for February 2014 and I think the team at Double Helix really deserves a mountain of praise not only for this game but for turning the studio into a powerhouse.  I’m excited to work with those guys again!

OSV: Any thoughts on future work with video game soundtracks? Anything you’d love to compose for or work on in the future?

Mollo: Yes. I’m super pumped to get going on another game. I have a few things brewing but nothing to announce quite yet.  There is so much crossover emotionally between films and games and really enjoy fantasy, dystopian settings and psychologically thrilling material. So I’m keeping my eyes on the horizon for a game that will combine those elements for my next project. That would really give me something to sink my teeth into.

Currently it seems the only way to get the soundtrack to Strider is through Steam offered with pre-orders of the game or manage to get your hands on the Japan-only Strider Hiryu Special-A Class Limited Edition that includes soundtracks to all 3 Strider games. Any future distribution changes of the soundtrack will be reported by OSV lickity-split, as it’s a solid addition to anyone’s game music library.


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