January 2, 2013
ActRaiser, Beyond Oasis, Chiptunes, Etrian Odyssey, MAGFest, Streets of Rage, VGM, Video Game Music, Video Games, Wangan Midnight, Ys, Yuzo Koshiro
Crowned “arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age” as recently as 2006 by the now-tragically deceased publication Nintendo Power, Yuzo Koshiro was born in the city of Hino in Tokyo, Japan, on December 12, 19671. At the age of three, Koshiro’s mother started teaching him piano, and he went on to study with Mamoru Fujisawa – better known as Joe Hisaishi, composer for many Hayao Miyazaki films, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away – for three years when he was eight. A multi-instrumentalist, Koshiro picked up the violin when he was five and later learned to play cello and guitar as well2, 3.
As a schoolboy, Koshiro would cut his classes and head to the arcades, where he would spend his time feeding Namco, Konami, and Sega machines2. Although he really wanted to be a game programmer, he had a knack for creating music, and so he made mockups of the music that he heard in the games he played on a PC-8801 soundboard3. Having been influenced by the sounds of Gradius, Space Harrier, and Tower of Druaga, one of his goals was to bring the high quality of arcade game music to the PC since, to that point, there wasn’t much in the way of great, inspirational PC game music4. It was by sticking with that vision and producing high quality music on that soundboard that he caught the attention of those that worked at the game company Nihon Falcom.
During summer vacation, at the age of eighteen, Koshiro spotted a job listing for an opening within Falcom in a PC magazine2. Since the company was close by, he applied and scored the job. In fact, Falcom loved the music demos that he sent so much that they even used some of those demo tunes in his first game project, Xanadu Scenario II (1985). The rest of the soundtrack was pieced together similarly—instead of writing music off a visual, Koshiro wrote music that he liked and then applied that music to parts of the game that seemed a fit, giving the music an “unexpected quality” which, to him, “created the game’s unique worldview”3. On composing this music, he states in an interview with Square Enix Music Online:
“… I was a mere beginner, so I composed blindly, as if in a trance. I didn’t have a special approach; I just wanted to create PC game music with the kind of drive that I liked in arcade game music, and that was my main motivation.”
December 21, 2012
Castlevania, Kinuyo Yamashita, MAGFest, Mega Man X3, Music, VGM, Video Game Music, Video Games
It’s December, which means that the gaming event of the calendar year, MAGFest XI, is swiftly approaching. If you are unaware of MAGFest, I highly recommend you check out my three posts covering the event here, here, and here. Not only do I think my posts will satiate your curiosity, I want you to know why it’s awesome so that you’ll be there this year with me and the thousands of others who crave the coming of the following year’s event every waking day that they’re not at MAGFest.
Alternatively, you can just skip reading those posts and take your chances with my recommendation by going straight to the MAGFest website to buy tickets and book a hotel room. Nothing wrong with that!
I’ll be doing a few posts between now and January 3rd covering some of the headliners. These crash courses will give you enough fodder to prepare some questions for the guests and/or just simply enjoy their presence more since you’ll know who they are and what they’ve done.
First up is VGM composer Kinuyo Yamashita, who is most well known for composing the soundtrack to the original Castlevania.
Yamashita was born on December 31, 1965, in Amagasaki, a city that is located in the Hyogo prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan1, 2, 3. Growing up, Yamashita studied piano as a child, but aside from that received no formal musical training4. It seems, however, that music had left its mark on her life, as, despite having graduated with a degree in Electronic Engineering from the Osaka Electro-Communication University, she had a desire to base her career in working on musical instrument hardware5. In turn, despite there being a limited job market for women in that line of work, upon graduating she scored her first job, which was with Konami, in 1986.
Inspiration struck early—Castlevania was Yamashita’s first video game soundtrack. When coming up with musical ideas for the game, she “aimed to create music suitable for the image,” citing both “the gothic images of the background” and – intriguingly – “the dynamicism with which the player moves” as influences6. Having absorbed those elements, a rock-tinged flavor usurped any influence that came from her musical idols – the likes of Nat King Cole, Chopin, and Beethoven. This direction “came naturally” and “gradually”—she had no specific plan as to what the vibe should be.