15/08/2011

HITOSHI SAKIMOTO: THE EARLY YEARS

Today I'll be taking a look at the early career of one of my favourite videogame composers, Hitoshi Sakimoto. Probably best known these days for his work on Final Fantasy XII, Sakimoto has had a long career filled with top-notch musical work on some excellent soundtracks. So, let's start at the very beginning.

Revolter (1988)



Sakimoto's first soundtrack was for the PC-88 shooter Revolter, which he composed along with long-time collaborator Masaharu Iwata (who is a fine composer in his own right). The pair have worked together many times, and in 2002 they formed the sound design company Basiscape. Sakimoto's career starts of well, with some excellent synth work. Not content with writing the music, he also developed a software driver called "Terpsichorean" to improve the sound, the bloody showoff.

Metal Orange (1990)



Moving on to the PC-98, Cyberblock Metal Orange is an Arkanoid clone with a hentai twist, so beware: this video does contain anime girls in their skimpies, so maybe you shouldn't watch it at work. Normally I'd be wary of any game that tried to boost its appeal with some cartoon grot, but to be honest Arkanoid needs all the help it can get. Happily it also contains some excellent music, especially the intro theme.

Verytex (1991)



Back to the shooters with Asmik's Japanese-only Megadrive / Genesis release Verytex. While the music is great, I think the most impressive thing about it is the quality of the sound Sakimoto wrangled from the Megadrive. I can't think of many better-sound Megadrive games, that's for sure. Also, it perfectly captured that style of music which I can only describe as "shmup music". I just like to think that it's a mandatory part of space-pilot training. "Hey kid, you can fly this advanced space fighter, but only if you listen to extremely catchy, up-tempo digital rock music while you do."

Magical Chase (1991)



A Turbografx / PC Engine shooter starring a cutesy anime witch who blasts her way through hordes of equally adorable enemies, Magical Chase may sound like Cotton, but... well, okay, they're pretty goddamn similar. Still, it's got better music than Cotton.

Devilish / Bad Omen (1991)



I wrote about Devilish / Bad Omen a while ago, and I'm going to reiterate the same points here - a poor game with some really excellent music. More Megadrive wizardry, with an especially nice bouncing bassline in this particular track. One of my personal favourite Megadrive soundtracks, although I suppose nothing will ever top OutRun.

Super Back to the Future II (1993)



Okay, so Sakimoto didn't technically compose this one; it's Alan Silvestri's theme for the Back to the Future trilogy. Great Scott, eighty-eight miles per hour, you get the idea. Still, it's nice to hear it coming out of a SNES, and very well arranged it is too. In fact, to me it sound like it could be "airship" music for a SNES RPG, or perhaps even a lost track from Starfox.

Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen (1993)



Probably the earliest soundtrack that brought Sakimoto wider recognition, it was again a collaborative effort between Sakimoto, Iwata and Hayato Matsuo. Epic, somewhat militaristic themes for roleplaying games would become something of a theme for Sakimoto in the future, especially in Final Fantasy Tactics.

Shippū Mahō Daisakusen Kingdom Grandprix (1994)



This isn't an RPG, though. Nope, it's the batshit crazy tale of a world that has replaced wars with people racing around on dragons, and the gameplay itself is a curious mix of vertical shooter and racing. As you might expect, the soundtrack has that same shoot-em-up feel to it, although... is it just me, or does this track sound like "Escape" from the Transformers The Movie soundtrack?

And now that we're reaching the transition from 16 to 32-bit consoles, it seems like a good place to end this little recap. So there you have it - Hitoshi Sakimoto has been making great videogame soundtracks for many years, and hopefully will still be doing so when I'm hacking my lungs up in a hospital bed, playing a Playstation 27 and complaining about those damn kids and their hover-boards.
BONUS: Here's an interview with the man himself.

1 comment:

  1. Aww, this article misses Star/Ship Rendezvous, which is musically a sequel to Revolter.

    Sadly, Sakimoto just does mostly boring orchestral now. Iwata still does some cool tunes sometimes; Mushihimesama stage 3 comes to mind.

    ReplyDelete

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