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Noriyuki Iwadare: Japanese composer who worked on various video games

The composer worked on a variety of video games like 'Langrisser.' (Supplied)
The composer worked on a variety of video games like 'Langrisser.' (Supplied)
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08 Apr 2024 10:04:36 GMT9
08 Apr 2024 10:04:36 GMT9

Amin Abbas

DUBAI: Noriyuki Iwadare is a famous Japanese composer known for his work on various video game series such as ‘Lunar,’ ‘Grandia,’ ‘Langrisser,’ ‘Ace Attorney’ and more.

Exclusively to Arab News Japan, Iwadare shared his inspiration for video games, saying, “When I was a kid, I played ‘block crushers,’ ‘ping pong games,’ and ‘invader’ games. My relatives happened to have these gaming machines at their house. I sometimes went to game arcades, but I was never really crazy about them. I didn’t even have a Nintendo NES.”

“I prefer to gather with friends and have fun together, so I prefer video games that can be enjoyed by a large group of people. I liked the kinds of video games played by a lot of people, like ‘Mario Party’ or the ‘Super Smash Bros.’  series,” he added.

The composer cited his fifth-grade homeroom teacher as his inspiration. “He loved music,” he said. “We practiced choral music in the morning homeroom, played the recorder in concert during lunch break, and played brass instruments after school. I practiced the bass after school as well.” 

“After graduating from elementary school, I continued to receive singing and conducting instruction from him. This was so much fun that I ended up doing music for the rest of my life,” he continued. 

He started composing music when he was in high school. In university, he bought a multi-track recorder and a synthesizer to experiment with music. “My concept for creating music was self-expression, (so) I created what came to mind at the time,” he told Arab News Japan. 

Iwadare composed music for the 1991 video game series ‘Langrisser’ after its producer asked him to. “I think we created a cool, dynamic song (in Langrisser I) based on rock music in about a week. It was surprisingly easy,” he said. 

“For Langrisser II, I composed almost all the songs. I had a lot of fun making the game for various consoles, including PC Engine FX, Super Nintendo, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Windows. I don’t know much about Langrisser III because I wasn’t involved in most of it. For Langrisser IV, I wrote the opening, ending, and a few other songs, and for Langrisser V: The End of Legend, I wrote all the songs. Until now, I’m making a new song every year for the Langrisser Mobile game,” he added. 

In 2019, the composer visited South Korea to attend a Langrisser Mobile fan festival. “I realized that the game is loved by so many users outside of Japan,” he said. “I never expected that the game would be transferred to so many different consoles or remade, but I’m very proud and happy to be involved in this beloved game by people all over the world.” 

Additionally, he also created music for the 1992 video game series ‘Lunar,’ which was his first time producing music for a role-playing game. “I love creating music based on images, but I love to compose music based on stories even more,” he told Arab News Japan. “It was my greatest pleasure to work on this game and to work with such a great crew.”

“Every song was made in about 30 seconds. We worked on various ways to make it so that people would not get bored even after looping for many times, but there were still many things that could not be depicted musically in 30 seconds, but the users gave good remarks to the music. I also made music for Lunar: Walking School (on Sega Game Gear in 1996). The main characters are small kids, so the music is a lot milder and softer,” he added. 

The game won the Best Game Music Award in 1992. “I was very happy to see our efforts to create the best music recognized,” he shared. 

The artist often find inspiration in nature and his surroundings. For example, he was inspired by the wind in a wheat field to create the theme song for the game ‘Lunar: Silver Star Story.’ “I often come across the ideas of songs, and what they have in common is that they are all inspired by nature,” said Iwadare. 

Furthermore,  Iwadare created music for the Grandia video game series. He found out about the composer audition the day before the deadline. “I had to write a song and submit it that night, and I was selected among five candidates,” he shared, adding that he composed the game’s theme song in three days. 

“The scenario involved traveling around the world, so I was listening to a lot of folk music from all over the world. It was very interesting to analyze the characteristics of each country and region’s music and to learn about the instruments,” he said, reflecting on his inspiration. “It was exciting to create “new music” that did not exist anywhere else. For example, “City of Palms” was inspired by the time of the Industrial Revolution in England, so I used bagpipes and the sound of steam engines, and “Lily” was inspired by a French chanson, to which I added Arabic music.”

The game won the Best Game Music Award in 1997. “When I heard that I had won the award, I was filled with joy that my work had been accepted by so many people. I was also impressed that the popularity of the music was greater than my expectations, such as many interviews, my first signing event, the publication of the piano score, and additional editions of the CD.”

For the sequel, he worked with the Japanese singer Kaori Kawasumi. The two created a song in Portuguese, instead of Japanese, to avoid localization problems when selling the game to the United States. “I would write the song, then we would come up with the lyrics. We would list key words and ask the audience to guess the meaning,” he said.  

In 2000, Grandia 2 won the Best Game Music Award. “Since the first game was so well received, I was worried about whether or not people would accept the music for the second game,” the artist shared. 

In March 2020, the first two games were ported to Nintendo Switch and, more recently, to other platforms as an HD Collection. “I’m very happy that new people are playing and listening to the game music in this way these days. I hope people will continue to love the series in the future.”

Iwadare also created the music for Capcom’s ‘Ace Attorney’ video game series. “I went to Osaka with the president of the company and met with Shu Takumi, and we officially decided to compose the music,” he shared. 

“After that, for ‘Ace Attorney Investigations 2’ (released only in Japan on Nintendo DS in 2011), I composed all the music for it as well as for ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies’ and ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice.’ I really enjoyed being able to experience in real time how the work was growing. Not only games, but also orchestra CDs, jazz CDs, orchestra concerts, concerts by bands, movies, stage performances, animations, musicals…It was exciting and fun when this work spread through various media. I get to share the joy of creating it with the staff, and we got excited for good news, and when I learned that people in many different countries loved this work,” he added.

He expressed his gratitude towards making music for the series, saying, “I have never dreamed that I would be able to be involved in this series for such a long time, and I had the chance to communicate with so many enthusiastic fans. I think it is rare to find a game that is loved so much by people all over the world. I was also very lucky to have been able to compose for many of the games throughout the series. I hope to be able to continue to be involved in some way in the future.”

About the challenges that he faced during his projects, Iwadare said, “First of all, no music project is the same, and every project has a different staff and concept. The music request is also different. You can push your ego, but since game production is teamwork, it is important to create music that many staff members (and many users) can connect to, and this is quite difficult. Because everyone has a different opinion.”

“Each game has its own memories, and there were many difficult times when I was making them, they now remain with me as good memories. The first video game I created, ‘Invader Resurrection Day’ for the PC Engine, was submitted as a score only, but till today I still can vividly recall the touched feeling I had when I heard the sound on the console for the first time,” he added.

The artist has never been to the Middle East before but plans to visit various tourist attractions and historical sites in the future. ” I’m really interested in (Middle Eastern) music. I think there is belly dance inspired music in the game ‘Radiata Stories,’ and the music of the Middle East is very unique and fascinating. I’m sure each region has its own music, and I’d love to hear the music in person.”

For those interested in becoming music composers for video games, Iwadare recommends being interested in all kinds of music. 

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