Music to My Ears: Brave or Grave


Brave or Grave is one of those songs that I’ll always remember, even as I encounter hundreds and thousands of other tracks along the way. It’s the music from the final boss fight against Shin M. Bison in Street Fighter Alpha 3, and when presented with the choice between “Brave” or “Grave,” Shin M. Bison chose to put me six feet under every time.

See, here’s the thing about Capcom fighting games – they aren’t always fair. The fighting game community got its roots in the arcade, after all, and arcades wanted your quarters. All of your quarters. Sometimes that meant impossible enemies popping up on the screen in rail-gun games like Time Crisis. Sometimes that meant paying six or eight quarters just for a three-song set in Dance Dance Revolution. Sometimes that meant spending a million dollars just to survive one game of Gauntlet.

And sometimes that meant a final boss with a brutally unfair special move.

Shin M. Bison had a Psycho Crusher like his regular M. Bison counterpart, which didn’t come as a surprise. What DID surprise me, however…

  • He teleports before using it, making it almost uninterruptible
  • The psycho energy nearly fills the screen vertically, making it impossible to avoid except for characters with good teleport options
  • It’s much faster than a normal Psycho Crusher, almost like a rocket lifting off
  • It’s pretty much a one-hit KO if you’re not blocking
  • If you’re already in the air when the super animation starts up and you selected an “ism” where you don’t have air block, RIP
  • If you’re fortunate enough to be blocking, you still take something like 15-20% chip damage

I remember being relatively young still when I played Alpha 3 in arcades, maybe 12 or 13. I also remember a sense of dread as Bison’s X-ism super meter started to get close to full, because I knew I was about to have a bad day. And after I had a bad day, did I put in another quarter and prepare myself for a rematch? Hell no! I let the continue timer go down to zero, then put my quarter in and started from the beginning. That’s how you make your grandparents’ dollar last for an hour at the arcade, kids. (If arcades still existed. Wah wah.)

Brave or Grave turns out to be the perfect backdrop for one of the most iconic fights in the entire series. You get a tense guitar opening as Bison descends from above onto a flat, rocky area with dark clouds and lightning filling the skies. (It’s not quite as cool as Alpha 2’s grassy stage, but it’s close.) Then business picks up with the synth and Bison is eating your face. Good luck from there.


I wish I’d spent the time to get better at Street Fighter. I feel like I’m a decent player with great reactions and okay fundamentals, but I never really put in the time to get beyond that. The only chance I got to improve was through trial by fire on Shin Bison or Cyber Akuma (Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter) or Onslaught (Marvel vs. Capcom 1) whopping my ass over and over again. That might explain my bitterness, but it also explains why I love some of these tracks.

Brave or Grave (Street Fighter Alpha 3)

Music to My Ears covers soundtracks or individual songs from video games every week. You can view all posts in the series by clicking here.

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