Yuzo Koshiro (古代 祐三 Koshiro Yūzō, born December 12, 1967 in Hino, Tokyo) is a Japanese video game music composer, arranger, music programmer, and president of the game development company, Ancient. He is often regarded as one of the most influential innovators in chiptune and video game music, producing music in a number of genres, including various electronic genres (such as breakbeat, electro, hardcore, house, jungle, techno, and trance), experimental, symphonic, hip hop, jazz, and synth-rock.
Yuzo Koshiro at Chicago's "Play! A Video Game Symphony" concert in 2006
|Born||December 12, 1967|
|Origin||Hino, Tokyo, Japan|
Nintendo Power once stated that Koshiro was "arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age" and that he "created some of the most memorable game music of the late '80s and early '90s." 1UP stated he was the "king" of FM synthesis chiptune music. He has produced some of the most influential role-playing video game scores, for titles such as Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer and Ys series, as well as ActRaiser and Beyond Oasis. GameAxis Unwired stated that his "progressive, catchy, techno-style compositions" for games such as The Revenge of Shinobi, Misty Blue, and the Streets of Rage series were "far more advanced than what players were used to" and set a "new high watermark for what music in games could sound like." The Streets of Rage soundtracks are considered ahead of their time, featuring a "blend of swaggering house synths," "dirty" electro-funk, and early trance elements.
His influence also extends to the popular music industry, particularly within the electronic dance music genre. His work remains highly regarded within the chiptune community, and has influenced artists outside of it, including electronic music artists such as Ikonika, BT, Labrinth, Martyn, Joker, Darkstar, Danger, and Just Blaze. Koshiro's Streets of Rage soundtracks in particular have been compared to later electronic dance music, and have influenced electronica, grime and dubstep producers. Outside of composing music, Koshiro, along with his sister, found the game development company Ancient in 1990, where he has composed for many of the games the company has produced.
Early life (1967–1985)Edit
Yuzo Koshiro was born in Tokyo on December 12, 1967. His mother, Tomo Koshiro, was a pianist. She taught him how to play the piano at the age of three, and by the age of five, he had a strong command of it. In 1975, he began taking music lessons from the acclaimed film composer Joe Hisaishi (later known for his soundtracks to Hayao Miyazaki films), and studied with him for three years. Everything Koshiro has learned after that has since been self-taught.
While he was still in high school during the early 1980s, Koshiro began composing music on the NEC PC-8801 as a hobby, including mockups of early arcade game music from Namco, Konami, and Sega. The sequencing skills and experience he gained from this would later be utilized in his early video game projects. The video games that influenced him most were The Tower of Druaga (1984), Space Harrier (1985), and Gradius (1985). The video game music soundtracks to these games inspired him to become a video game composer.
In a 1992 interview, Koshiro said that his favorite music genres are new wave, dance music, technopop, classical, and hard rock, and that his favorite Western bands are Van Halen and Soul II Soul.
Nihon Falcom (1986–1988)Edit
Koshiro's first composing job was with Nihon Falcom in 1986 at the age of 18. Falcom used compositions from the PC-8801 demo tape he had sent them in their Dragon Slayer action role-playing game Xanadu Scenario II, for its opening theme and several dungeon levels. He also wrote the opening song in Romancia that same year. His compositions for these early games were influenced by arcade game music and Japanese bands such as The Alfee. He then produced the soundtrack to Dragon Slayer IV / Legacy of the Wizard (1987), which was influenced by the sounds of early Konami games. His most well-known Falcom works are his soundtracks for Sorcerian (1987) and the early Ys games, Ys I (1987) and Ys II (1988). These early music productions mainly featured rock and fusion music. The TurboGrafx-CD versions of the first three Ys games (from 1989 to 1991) are notable for their very early use of Red Book audio in video games. Music from the Ys games were also employed in the Ys anime.
All of these early soundtracks were produced using the FM synthesis sound chip of the PC-8801. Despite later advances in audio technology, Koshiro would continue to use older PC-8801 hardware to produce many of his later video game soundtracks, including the Streets of Rage and Etrian Odyssey soundtracks. His soundtracks for early Nihon Falcom games, such as the Dragon Slayer and Ys series, are widely regarded as some of the most influential role-playing video game scores.
Early freelance work (1988–1990)Edit
Following his separation with Falcom, Koshiro became a freelancer, composing music for many other companies. His early freelance projects included the Sharp X68000 port of Bosconian, Bothtec's action role-playing game The Scheme (1988) for the PC-8801, and Enix's visual novel adventure game Misty Blue for the PC-9801 in 1990. The latter two soundtracks featured early Eurobeat music. His most notable freelance work was for Sega, where he composed music for the Shinobi series and the Streets of Rage series, as well as Quintet, where he composed the soundtracks to ActRaiser (1990) and ActRaiser 2 (1993).
His first freelance work for Sega was the soundtrack to The Revenge of Shinobi (1989), for which he produced house and "progressive, catchy, techno-style compositions" that fused electronic dance music with traditional Japanese music. His soundtrack for ActRaiser (1990), on the other hand, was mainly classical and orchestral. While working on ActRaiser, in order to get around the SNES's 64 KB memory limitation which limited the number of instruments that can be used and prevented the reloading of samples, Koshiro developed a sample loading system that worked with the ROM cartridge memory, swapping samples from the ROM data on the fly. This allowed him to "load parts of the music gradually as needed, and also change it quickly between stages or parts of a stage" which the "original system couldn't do it with its restrictions." A similar system was used by other companies for later SNES games such as Squaresoft's Seiken Densetsu 3 (1995) and Namco Tales Studio's Tales of Phantasia (1995).
Founding of Ancient Corp. (1990–1994)Edit
In 1990, Koshiro helped found Ancient Corp., which contributed to the development of a number of games, such as the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog and Beyond Oasis. The company was also founded by his mother, Tomo Koshiro, while his sister Ayano Koshiro works at the company as an art/character/graphic designer and was also the art designer for the ActRaiser games. His sister Ayano has designed characters and graphics for several games Koshiro has worked on, including the Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) series, Ys, and ActRaiser.
While working with Ancient, he composed the soundtrack for the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. He adapted several pieces of music from the original 16-bit version, while the rest of the soundtrack consisted of his own original music.
His soundtracks for the Streets of Rage series (known as Bare Knuckle in Japan) from 1991 to 1994 were composed using then outdated PC-8801 hardware alongside his own original audio programming language. According to Koshiro: "For Bare Knuckle I used the PC88 and an original programming language I developed myself. The original was called MML, Music Macro Language. It is based on NEC's BASIC program, but I modified it heavily. It was more a BASIC-style language at first, but I modified it to be something more like Assembly. I called it ‘Music Love'. I used it for all the Bare Knuckle games."
The soundtracks for Streets of Rage (1991) and Streets of Rage 2 (1992) were influenced by house, techno, hardcore techno, breakbeat, funk and ethnic music. He also attempted to reproduce the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 beats and Roland TB-303 synths using FM synthesis. The soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 in particular is considered "revolutionary" and ahead of its time, for its "amazing blend of swaggering house synths, dirty" electro-funk and "trancey electronic textures that would feel as comfortable in a nightclub as a video game."
His CD soundtracks became best-sellers in Japan during the early 1990s. In 1993, Electronic Games listed the first two Streets of Rage games as having some of the best video game music soundtracks they "ever heard." They described Koshiro as "just about universally acknowledged as the most gifted composer currently working in the video game field."
For the soundtrack to Streets of Rage 3 (1994), he created a new composition method called the "Automated Composing System" to produce "fast-beat techno like jungle." It was the most advanced techno technique of the time, incorporating heavily randomized sequences. This resulted in innovative and experimental sounds generated automatically that, according to Koshiro, "you ordinarily never could imagine on your own." This method was very rare at the time, but has since become popular among techno and trance music producers to get "unexpected and odd sounds." The soundtrack also had elements of abstract, experimental, gabber, and trance music. The experimental electronic music was not very well received upon release, but has since been considered to be ahead of its time. According to Mean Machines, "ironically it pre-dated the 'trance' era that came a short while after release."
Later career (1994–present)Edit
Also in 1994, Koshiro co-composed a well known soundtrack for the Mega-CD version of Eye of the Beholder, a dungeon crawl role-playing video game ported over from the original by Japanese developer Opera House and published by Sega. That same year, his soundtrack for Beyond Oasis utilized a late romantic style of music, which he later also utilized for Legend of Oasis (1996), Merregnon (2000), and Warriors of the Lost Empire (2007).
He also composed the soundtrack for Sega's Shenmue (1999) alongside Takenobu Mitsuyoshi and a few others, with Koshiro contributing fifteen original compositions to the soundtrack. Three other staff members of Ancient also worked on Shenmue. He later composed the soundtracks for the Wangan Midnight series (2001 onwards) and Namco × Capcom (2005). These were the first projects where he wrote the lyrics along with the music. For the Wangan Midnight series in particular, his compositions were mostly trance music, a style he was previously unfamiliar with.
He composed the main theme of the French TV channel Nolife, which launched in 2007. The theme was released as part of the album Tamiuta in 2008. Some of Koshiro's latest work includes music for the Etrian Odyssey series, the Wangan Midnight series, and the 7th Dragon series. He was also brought back to compose for Streets of Rage 4, along with Kawashima, Yoko Shimomura, Hideki Naganuma, and Keiji Yamagishi.
|2004||Symphonic Game Music Concert, Gewandhaus||ActRaiser Medley||Music arranger|
|2005||Chamber Music Game Concert, Gewandhaus||ActRaiser Medley|
|2006||Play! A Video Game Symphony, Rosemont Theater||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Symphonic Game Music Concert, Gewandhaus||The Revenge of Shinobi|
|2007||Play! A Video Game Symphony, Stockholm|
|Play! A Video Game Symphony, Prague|
|Play! A Video Game Symphony, Singapore||Disc jockey|
|Symphonic Game Music Concert, Gewandhaus||New Super Mario Bros.||Music arranger|
|2008||Symphonic Shades – Hülsbeck in Concert||Jim Power in Mutant Planet|
|2017||Diggin' In The Carts - World Tour, The Regent Theatre, Los Angeles||Disc jockey with Motohiro Kawashima|
|Diggin' In The Carts - World Tour, Liquidroom, Tokyo|
|Diggin' In The Carts - World Tour, fabric, London|
|2018||Diggin' In The Carts, La Gaîté Lyrique, Paris|
All works listed below had scores written by Koshiro unless otherwise noted.
|1986||Xanadu Scenario II||with Takahito Abe|
|Romancia||Composed the opening theme|
|1987||Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished||with Mieko Ishikawa|
|Legacy of the Wizard|
|Space Harrier||sound effects for the X68000 version|
|Sorcerian||with various others|
|Dark Storm: Demon Crystal|
|The Gate of Labyrinth|
|1988||Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter||with Mieko Ishikawa and Hideya Nagata|
|The Return of Ishtar||MSX version|
|The Curse of Mars|
|1989||Wanderers from Super Scheme|
|The Revenge of Shinobi|
|Bosconian||X68000 version with Hideya Nagata|
|1991||The G.G. Shinobi|
|Streets of Rage|
|Sonic the Hedgehog||8-bit version|
|Star Wars: Attack on the Death Star||arrangements|
|1992||Super Adventure Island|
|Eye of the Beholder||PC-98 version with Yuji Yamada|
|Batman Returns||sound producer on the 8-bit versions|
|The G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|Streets of Rage 2|
|1993||Slap Fight MD|
|1994||Streets of Rage 3||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|Eye of the Beholder||Sega CD version with Motohiro Kawashima|
|1995||Miracle Casino Paradise|
|Manji Psy Yuuki||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|1996||Zork I: The Great Underground Empire||PlayStation version with Motohiro Kawashima|
|The Legend of Oasis|
|Vatlva||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|1997||Culdcept||with Takeshi Yanagawa|
|1999||Shenmue||with various others|
|2001||Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune|
|Shenmue II||with various others|
|Car Battler Joe||with Tomonori Hayashibe|
|2004||Amazing Island||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune|
|Dokapon the World|
|2005||Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2|
|Namco × Capcom||with various others|
|Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2||composed "You gotta move it"|
|2006||Ueki no Housoku||with Motohiro Kawashima and Takeshi Yanagawa|
|Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin||with Michiru Yamane|
|Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3|
|Katekyo Hitman Reborn! Dream Hyper Battle!||with Motohiro Kawashima and Takeshi Yanagawa|
|Warriors of the Lost Empire|
|2008||Super Smash Bros. Brawl||arrangements with various others|
|Etrian Odyssey II|
|Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 DX|
|Half-Minute Hero||with various others|
|2010||Dragon Ball Online|
|Etrian Odyssey III|
|Protect Me Knight|
|Jaseiken Necromancer: Nightmare Reborn||with Takeshi Yanagawa|
|Criminal Girls||with various others|
|Dead Heat||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|2011||7th Dragon 2020|
|Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4|
|2012||Kid Icarus: Uprising||with Motoi Sakuraba, Masafumi Takada, Noriyuki Iwadare, Takahiro Nishi, and Yasunori Mitsuda|
|Etrian Odyssey IV|
|Layton Brothers: Mystery Room||with Takeshi Yanagawa|
|Time and Eternity|
|2013||7th Dragon 2020-II|
|Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl|
|Momoiro Billionaire!||with Motohiro Kawashima|
|2014||Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5|
|Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth||composed "Disturbances - The One Called from Beyond"|
|Gotta Protectors||with Hisayoshi Ogura, Motoaki Furukawa, Shinji Hosoe, and Hiroshi Kawaguchi|
|Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U||arrangements with various others|
|Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight|
|2015||Etrian Mystery Dungeon||with Takeshi Yanagawa|
|Chunithm: Seelisch Tact||composed "Grab your sword"|
|7th Dragon III Code: VFD|
|Project X Zone 2||composed the main theme|
|Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5 DX|
|2016||Cosmic Cavern 3671|
|Puzzle & Dragons X||with Kenji Ito, Akira Yamaoka, and Keigo Ozaki|
|Etrian Odyssey V|
|2017||Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2|
|RXN -Raijin-||with various others|
|2018||Secret of Mana||arrangements with various others|
|Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 6|
|Etrian Odyssey Nexus|
|The Takeover||with James Ronald|
|Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom||with Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, Keiki Kobayashi, and Takeshi Yanagawa|
|Super Smash Bros. Ultimate||arrangements with various others|
|2019||16bit Rhythm Land||with various others|
|198X||with Anton Dromberg and Daniel Rosenqvist|
|SolSeraph||composed the main theme|
|Sega Genesis Mini||dedicated console featuring over 40 emulated Sega Genesis games; Koshiro composed the menu music|
|TBA||Streets of Rage 4||with Motohiro Kawashima, Yoko Shimomura, Hideki Naganuma, and Keiji Yamagishi|
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Yuzo Koshiro, the musician responsible for ActRaiser's amazing score, is arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age. Equally comfortable composing classical or techno, Koshiro built up a faithful fan base by creating some of the most memorable game music of the late '80s and early '90s.
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