Features Interviews

Interview: Yuzo Koshiro (Composer)

It’s impossible to talk about game music without mentioning Yuzo Koshiro. The composer of some of the most beloved soundtracks in Genesis history, he has been a mainstay in the industry for over twenty years, and his work can be found on virtually every console released since the 8-bit era. Koshiro’s work ranges from the popular techno beats of the Streets of Rage series to the soothing melodies of Shenmue, and he consistently manages to find new ways to bring his creative vision to the latest generation of video games.

Something of a rarity among prominent Japanese video game personalities, Koshiro is quite accessible and very willing to talk to fans. Throughout the years, he has never lost his humility, nor has he strayed away from the “every man” qualities that have made him so popular with the press.

Sega-16 was lucky enough to pin down Mr. Koshiro for a few minutes for some quick Q&A.

Sega-16: The soundtrack to Revenge of Shinobi is considered a fan favorite of the 16-bit era, and many people were disappointed when you weren’t the composer for part three. What happened? Were you ever approached to do the music for Shinobi III?

Yuzo Koshiro: Thanks. But I think they had gone with some different concept than the previous Shinobi. If that was the case, it was better to take the other composer.

Sega-16: Were there any tracks for Revenge of Shinobi that you had to leave out? If so, what happened to them?

Yuzo Koshiro: No, none were omitted.

Sega-16: The soundtrack to Streets of Rage sounds a lot clearer and is more bass-heavy than Revenge of Shinobi. Did you have access to better tools or was it just a question of being more familiar with what the Genesis hardware could do?

Yuzo Koshiro: I used the same tools. I didn’t change anything at all in the system. However, I purposely created the new bass sound for adding more punch to the low-end frequency. This gave more emphasis to low-end, which is very important for common club music.

Sega-16: Your score for Streets of Rage 3 seems a bit more experimental than the others, and it garnered some criticism when the game was released. How do you feel it fits into the series musically?

Yuzo Koshiro: I didn’t care about the criticism because I make an effort to add “fresh air” to music whenever I work on my compositions. The sound of SOR3 was influenced especially by the hard techno that became popular under the early ’90s club scene. For this kind of experimental and innovative sound, I programmed a so-called “auto music composition system” which generates musical scores automatically and quickly. Thanks to this system, you can generate some musical thought and sounds that you ordinarily never could imagine on your own. This method was very rare at the time, but recently it’s been becoming popular especially among techno/trance creators. They purposely use it to get unexpected and odd sounds.

Sega-16: What exactly happened with Streets of Rage 4? It’s been said that the executives at Sega were unfamiliar with the franchise when you approached them. Were they really so out of touch with their own brands?

Yuzo Koshiro: I think it was because a long time (more than five years) had passed since SOR3 had been released.

Sega-16: With the release of Streets of Rage 1 and 2 for the Wii Virtual Console, the second game now on Xbox Live Arcade, and the recent BomberGames remake, the franchise is still very much in the public eye. Is there a chance we’ll ever see a new Streets of Rage game someday?

Yuzo Koshiro: I heard that the Streets of Rage series for the VC has been maintaining high profitability since its release, so I think that there is some possibility to make a new installment of it. Or better yet, they should just do it! But I don’t know if I deserve involvement in it.

Sega-16: Beyond Oasis is a favorite among Genesis fans, and the Saturn prequel was well-received. Will we ever see another Oasis game?

Yuzo Koshiro: I don’t currently have any plans for one. But it’d be great if one would be released for the DS someday.

Sega-16: What is Ancient’s relationship with Sega now?

Yuzo Koshiro: The sound division may get involved in some game in the near future.

Sega-16: What’s next for you and Ancient?

Yuzo Koshiro: Etrian Odyssey II.

Many thanks to Mr. Koshiro for his cooperation with this interview. As big fans of his work, Sega-16 is truly honored to have had the opportunity to speak with him. For more information on Ancient’s projects and history, check out their website and our article on Yuzo Koshiro. Sega-16 would also like to thank Hasan Al Almaci and Heidi Kemps for their help in making this interview possible.