Yuzo in his studio
Recently I got in contact with Yuzo Koshiro, the man that composed the music for such classic games as The Revenge Of Shinobi, Actraiser, and the Streets Of Rage series. More recently he worked on music for the Dreamcast epic Shenmue. He graciously agreed to an interview, which I'm presenting here. Thanks, Yuzo!
Yuzo: Since my mother was a piano teacher, I learned to play from her when I was 3 years old. That's the time I started to become involved in music. Because of her, I've been influenced by many classical composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc.
Yuzo: 3 diy-based pcs, Logic Audio.
Yuzo: First of all I learned basic composition from Joe Hisaishi for 3 years when I was 10 years old. Since then, it's all been self-taught. The music for the PC-88 (very old pc in Japan) version of Ys is actually the first composition I did and was proud about. But the all-arranged, PC Engine version was not mine.
Yuzo: During the Falcom years, I created music for Xanadu 2, Romancia, Dragon Slayer Family, Sorcerian, and Ys II. After that, I started freelancing.
Yuzo: My own favorite compositions are SOR2 and Actraiser and I love many older works from composers of such companies as Namco, Konami, and Sega. I have also started to love Jeremy Soule's work recently.
Yuzo: Both are SOR2.
The Revenge Of Shinobi
Rob: The first time I had heard music you'd composed for a game was when I first got The Revenge Of Shinobi (The Super Shinobi in Japan) in 1990. It completely blew me away when I first heard it - it sounded incredible! It still does, actually - I just played through the game recently, and I had to crank the music through my stereo because it still sounds so good. I was wondering - did you have any particular influences or anything particular in mind when you composed the music for it?
Yuzo: For the song in the industrial-looking stage, Prince's "Batman" influenced me but everything else was self-inspired.
Yuzo: "The Shinobi" - I based the rest of Shinobi's music on this song.
Yuzo: Sega used to have many divisions of console game developers awhile back. I guess a different division developed Shinobi III and Shadow Dancer, and already had their own composer. I think that might be a reason why I was only offered work from the team who did Super Shinobi.
Streets Of Rage
Rob: Did you have any particular influences when you wrote the music for the Streets Of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) games? The music for the first and second SOR games always seemed to me to be particularly moody and in a lot of cases, sounded like something you'd hear in a dance club.
Yuzo: I went to many clubs/discos and listened a lot of dance music then. That might be the reason why my music during that time was dance influenced. Soul2Soul, BlackBox, Maxi Priest, and Carron Wheeler were some of my favorites.
Yuzo: That music was an acquired taste! :) Since it was not standard music, I knew many people were sure to hate it for the time being. But I'll bet everyone understands by now!
Yuzo: That's just a rumor for now.
Rob: Actraiser is another favorite of mine. The music for the game has always been so stirring and heroic, almost along the lines of the soundtrack to one of the Star Wars films, for instance. Were there any particular influences that you had while composing the music for either Actraiser or Actraiser 2?
Yuzo: John Williams is all that! I've been greatly influenced by his orchestration techniques for more than a decade now. I hope that I can use a real orchestra with a music style like his, if I were to make music for another Actraiser in the future.
Rob: A lot of people in the U.S. that I know have never even heard of one of the Sega Saturn games you'd worked on, Culdcept. Could you give us a brief rundown on it?
Yuzo: Culdcept is a multiplayer board game. The overview is similar to Monopoly, but its graphic-style is based on a fantasy. You move your characters on the board and use them to battle. The scene will change into a battle mode when your character moves to a piece of land (frame) occupied by someone else. In the battle mode, two cards, which have a style similar to Magic the Gathering, zap into the scene and start fighting. Once you win the battle, you can claim the land.
Yuzo: Wangan Midnight (Namco) and Car Battler Joe (Victor) are the most recent games that I worked on.
Yuzo: Thanks for listening! It makes me feel gratified when I hear that people enjoy my music. :)
The cover for "The Super Shinobi & Works"
*This exclusive interview is © 2002 SCAR Productions. Use without permission is strictly prohibited*