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Interview: Noriyuki Iwadare (Composer)

It’s highly unlikely that you’ve yet to play a video game that wasn’t scored by Noriyuki Iwadare. Over the past twenty years, he’s provided stunning soundtracks for such hits as both Lunar titles, Grandia, and most recently Rogue Galaxy┬áfor the PlayStation 2. In all, more than forty games bear his signature music, and he’s gone on to become a legend in the industry. From his humble beginnings converting music for Genesis games, Iwadare has gone on to carve out an incredible career writing music for all consoles, and his talents are sought out be developers the world over.

Genesis fans have a long history with Iwadare, enjoying his music in games like the Langrisser series, Silpheed (Sega CD), Lunar, and several others. With a deep knowledge of the console and what it takes to make it sing, Iwadare was able to give the machine some of the more memorable soundtracks in history. His work on the Genesis helped launch an incredible career, and it put him among the elite game composers working today.

Sega-16 was fortunate enough to briefly chat with Iwadare-san about his work on the Genesis and Sega CD.

Sega-16: You’ve composed music of virtually all types. Which style is your favorite?

Noriyuki Iwadare: I couldn’t choose a favorite. I’m interested in all types of music, because I like to challenge myself by tackling all genres.

Sega-16: Were all your influences classical in style, or do you have any modern inspirations as well?

Noriyuki Iwadare: When I compose, I’m always influenced by the sounds around me at that time. But I use multiple genres to express those feelings. Basically, I just translate into sound the things that come into my head. I’m sure most composers operate the same way.

Sega-16: You once said that the After Burner II soundtrack didn’t sound as “raw” as you would have liked. Was this an issue with the Genesis hardware itself, or was it caused by schedule/budget issues?

Noriyuki Iwadare: Well, there were a variety of reasons for this of course, but the biggest problem, I’m sad to say, was my own inexperience. It was my first project of that type, and the first time I’d used those particular development tools, so I really wasn’t able to exploit their capabilities.

Sega-16: How many Genesis conversions were you involved with? What exactly was your role?

Noriyuki Iwadare: I was involved with a bunch around the time of Lunar, but… sorry, I really can’t remember too well.

Sega-16: The Genesis isn’t famous for its sound chip. Was this ever an issue? What is your opinion of its sound capabilities?

Noriyuki Iwadare: Realizing the full potential of that hardware required a lot of time and a lot of experimentation. The Genesis didn’t have a long period of time to mature as a game machine, so there wasn’t a lot of software that took full advantage of its capabilities. However, a machine that was really easy to develop for and get the most out of was the Dreamcast (although maybe only in Japan?).

Sega-16: Your Langrisser Hikaru (Warsong in the U.S.) score is highly acclaimed, but none of the other games in the series were ever released domestically, meaning American gamers have missed out on some great music. Which Langrisser game has your favorite score?

Noriyuki Iwadare: I have extremely fond memories of the whole series, but I suppose two and five stand out the most for me.

Sega-16: When many Sega CD gamers think of the Lunar series, they immediately think of the musical score. How big a role did it play in your success?

Noriyuki Iwadare: I think most people who are aware of me now, first became so through my work on Lunar. It’s also been a big help for me that my music attracted interest from all over the world and not just in Japan.

Sega-16: Were you surprised at how well the Lunar soundtracks were received?

Noriyuki Iwadare: Yes, the fact that I’ve received mail about it from all over the world was a great shock to me.

Sega-16: Why were some of the Sega CD songs cut and replaced from the Saturn/PlayStation remakes? The original games had some amazing songs that weren’t in the remakes.

Noriyuki Iwadare: Because the title of the Lunar remake (Silver Star Story) was actually different than the original, copyright issues forced me to change the music.

Sega-16: Any chance we’ll see you compose the soundtrack for another Lunar game?

Noriyuki Iwadare: I certainly hope I’ll be given that opportunity.

We would like to thank Iwadare-san for this interview, and we give a special thanks to Mr. James McCawley and CocoeBiz.,L.L.C, Kahori Ezaki. For more information on Noriyuki Iwadare, click on the banner below and check out his website!

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