Throughout the Nintendo Life Video Game Music Festival we're speaking to a range of composers and musicians for a mixture of in-depth interviews and shorter, sharper (and perhaps a little goofier) Q&As where we ask just ten rapid-fire personal questions; we're calling these shorter features 'Quick Beats'.
Today, we've got the CEO of Ancient and legendary veteran of such series as Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, Dragon Slayer, Ys, Shinobi, ActRaiser, Etrian Odyssey, and many more — Yuzo Koshiro.
This composer is a personal hero of Team NL, so let's find out some tidbits about him, including his musical heroes and what keepsake he'd save from a burning building...
What was the first song or album you remember buying?
Kinderszenen, Robert Schumann.
What was the last music you listened to?
Heartbreak Anthem [by Galantis, David Guetta and Little Mix].
What was the very first video game you wrote music for, and how do you feel listening back now?
Xanadu: Scenario II [Dragon Slayer II] by Nihon Falcom. When I listened to it recently, I thought I made it better than I expected regardless of the first composition on commercial PC games.
Which piece of yours are you most proud of?
Streets of Rage 2. Not to mention many people in the world still love it, and I'd say it's one of the most successful pieces of my life. Also, I love making music on Genesis.
Which piece by someone else do you wish you had written?
Gradius series. I love the music of the entire series so much, so I hope I write even just one song for it someday.
What do you listen to while you’re driving?
A car radio. I love to hear great songs accidentally and check them on Shazam in a moment to find what the songs are.
Do you have a musical hero?
Yes, but it's too many heroes to count. So it's so hard to choose one. I've loved J.S.Bach since I was a little child, and it has never changed. It's probably only him that I've loved for such a long time. I'd say that he is my musical hero.
Which decade had the best music?
All the decades have their great songs, so it's hard to choose, but I dare say it's the '80s. The '80s music is a cross between traditional and modern. It feels [like there's] so much humanity, warmth, and depth because of less computer sequencing and taking [a lot of] time to create music. I really love that musical atmosphere.
Ocarina, harp or bongos — which magical instrument do you take on an epic adventure?
I would choose harp. It would give me healing performing a beautiful melody after a fierce battle.
If your house were on fire and you only had time to grab one keepsake before you flee to safety with your family, what would you take?
Now that photos of my family that are significant for me are on the cloud, and a grand piano is too heavy, I would choose credit cards.
Our thanks to Mr. Koshiro for speaking with us — you can follow him on Twitter.
Be sure to check out our previous Quick Beats Q&A with BAFTA-winner Austin Wintory, and our other Nintendo Life VGM Fest articles in this ongoing season of music-focused interviews and features.
What a legend! It’s hard to pick my favourite OST of his, SoR2 and 3 are fantastic, so are the first couple of Ys games on PC Engine, then Etrian Odyssey IV on 3DS.
Yuzo isn't my favorite composer, but the soundtracks for Actraiser and Streets of Rage 2 are amazing.
He’s so rad. SOR3 soundtrack is amazing also, kinda like it more than 2 as it’s more experimental.
Watching that clip he posted, I had no idea he did character voices for the games too!?
Great feature. The SOR series on Genesis and ActRaiser were great parts of my youth and the music was a major part of that. Fillmore still gives me chills, even this way: https://twitter.com/yuzokoshiro/status/1413185677420765189
I listen to his live SoR concert all the time on YouTube. He is in the top echelon of game composers. ActRaiser was a launch title and no game pushed the SNES audio chip harder during that time. Streets of Rage 2's soundtrack is timeless. I rock the Retro soundtrack option through most of my SoR4 playthroughs.
His work on Actraiser and in the Etrian Odyssey series is just phenomenal.
Actraiser immediately pushed the boundaries of what the SNES soundcard was capable of and consequently set the bar pretty damn high for all other composers to follow. As a child who grew up with Atari and NES, the quality of the music in this game was just utterly mind-blowing to me.
As for the EO series - not gonna lie, I was initially turned off by the FM synth sound of it but - over time - I began to really love it. By the time the remasters appeared on the 3DS, a lot of the music received an upgrade with real orchestral instruments, guitars, and the like and...it was just fantastic!
I would cite a number of songs from that series in particular as having directly influenced me as a musician.
(As an aside, I really miss EO - it sucks that it's been stuck in a perpetual limbo.)
Baroque era composers, 80’s and Sega Genesis music...A man after my own heart. Just amazing 😉
@Andy_Witmyer Well, Atlus likes to take their time. It took years before Persona 5 was released, so I think an EO announcement is still to come.
This was a nice quick interview.
He's no Koji Kondo ...
But his Streets of Rage soundtracks are banging (3 is a bit of an aquired taste I guess)
Still my favourite game composer.
I still love the Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack, could listen to it on loop and not get sick of it. In my top 3 with Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Ocarina of Time.
So Yuzo is confirmed for Gradius VI 🥳
My top 3 soundtracks:
Streets Of Rage 2
My top 3:
1. Gradius 3 (SFC)
2. Midnight Resistance (MD)
3. Akumajou Dracula (X68000 SC-55 MIDI)
3.5 Ganbare Goemon (SFC)
Streets of Rage 2 and the 1st Genesis game of Shinobi will always be my favorite music.
Koshiro-san is my favorite game composer, and I have most of his soundtracks. Hard to argue with his own belief that Streets of Rage II is his best work. I consider it the best game soundtrack ever produced.
Anything that has Yuzo Koshiro's name on it immediately gets my attention. Looking forward to Sol Cresta next!
I want to say thank you to this legend of a man. I think my fave is the second stage of streets 1 xxx
well... I think some of these questions were lost in translation.
Great interview. I just bought a vintage copy of Streets of Rage 2 for my Mega Sg. Just a masterpiece of a game.
Yuzo needs to fill up his API 500 series lunchbox. It looks like has but a pair of preamps in that thing. Let’s start a fundraiser.
He was simply the best composer on Megadrive/Genesis. The majority of games for that system had crap sound, regardless of how good the compositions actually were. But THIS guy, he knew how to use the system to get the most out of it.
Growing up though, I was on Super Nintendo, so my favourites of his would have to be Actraiser and Super Adventure Island.
I would argue it was Yuzo Koshiro that made me fall in love with Streets of Rage 2 when I played it for the first time on NSO. His songs absolutely captivated me as I played which made me want to stick around and keep playing, leading me to discover the sheer depth of each characters moveset and playstyles. Go Straight and Dreamer are two of the greatest VG songs ever made and really, without him, I would never have given the game a chance past the first level. I now plan on picking SoR4 when possible and hopefully having a blast with that as well.
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