Yuzo Koshiro

Yuzo Koshiro

Yuzo Koshiro at Chicago's "Play! A Video Game Symphony" concert in 2006
Background information
Born (1967-12-12) December 12, 1967
Origin Hino, Tokyo, Japan
Years active 1986–present
Labels Ancient Corp.
Associated acts
Website Ancient Corp.

Yuzo Koshiro (古代 祐三 Koshiro Yūzō, born December 12, 1967 in Hino, Tokyo) is a Japanese video game music composer, arranger, and music programmer. He is often regarded as one of the most influential innovators in chiptune and video game music, producing music in a number of genres, including various electronic genres (such as breakbeat, electro, hardcore, house, jungle, techno, and trance),[1][2][3] experimental,[3] symphonic, hip hop, jazz, and synth-rock.[1]

Nintendo Power once stated that Koshiro was "arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age" and that he "created some of the most memorable game music of the late '80s and early '90s."[4] 1UP stated he was the "king" of FM synthesis chiptune music.[5] He has produced some of the most influential role-playing video game scores, for titles such as Nihon Falcom's Dragon Slayer and Ys series,[1] as well as ActRaiser[2] and Beyond Oasis.[6] GameAxis Unwired stated that his "progressive, catchy, techno-style compositions" for games such as The Revenge of Shinobi, Misty Blue, and the Streets of Rage series were "far more advanced than what players were used to" and set a "new high watermark for what music in games could sound like."[7] The Streets of Rage soundtracks are considered ahead of their time,[8][9] featuring a "blend of swaggering house synths," "dirty" electro-funk,[8] and early trance elements.[3]

His influence also extends to the popular music industry, particularly electronic dance music.[9][10][11] His work remains highly regarded within the chiptune community,[10] and has influenced artists outside of it, including electronic music artists such as Ikonika,[11][12][13] BT,[9] Labrinth,[13] Martyn, Joker, Darkstar,[11] Danger,[14] and Just Blaze.[15] Koshiro's Streets of Rage soundtracks in particular have been compared to later electronic dance music,[8][9] and have influenced electronica, grime and dubstep producers.[11][13]


Early life (1967–1985)

Yuzo Koshiro was born in Tokyo on December 12, 1967. His mother, Tomo Koshiro, was a pianist. She taught him how to play the piano at the age of three, and by the age of five, he had a strong command of it. In 1975, he began taking music lessons from the acclaimed film composer Joe Hisaishi (later known for his soundtracks to Hayao Miyazaki films), and studied with him for three years. Everything Koshiro has learned after that has since been self-taught.[16]

While he was still in high school during the early 1980s, Koshiro began composing music on the NEC PC-8801 as a hobby, including mockups of early arcade game music from Namco, Konami, and Sega. The sequencing skills and experience he gained from this would later be utilized in his early video game projects.[1][17] The video games that influenced him most were The Tower of Druaga (1984), Space Harrier (1985), and Gradius (1985). The video game music soundtracks to these games inspired him to become a video game composer.[17][18]

In a 1992 interview, Koshiro said that his favorite music genres are new wave, dance music, technopop, classical, and hard rock, and that his favorite Western bands are Van Halen and Soul II Soul.[19]

Career at Nihon Falcom (1986–1988)

Ys I & II – "Feena" (1989)
"Feena" from Nihon Falcom's Ys I & II (1989), an arranged TurboGrafx-CD version of the chiptune "Feena" from Ys I (1987). It was one of the first video games with a CD soundtrack.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Koshiro's first composing job was with Nihon Falcom in 1986 at the age of 18. Falcom used compositions from the PC-8801 demo tape he had sent them in their Dragon Slayer action role-playing game Xanadu Scenario II, for its opening theme and several dungeon levels.[20] He also wrote the opening song in Romancia that same year. His compositions for these early games were influenced by arcade game music and Japanese bands such as The Alfee. He then produced the soundtrack to Dragon Slayer IV / Legacy of the Wizard (1987), which was influenced by the sounds of early Konami games. His most well-known Falcom works are his soundtracks for Sorcerian (1987) and the early Ys games, Ys I (1987) and Ys II (1988). These early music productions mainly featured rock and fusion music.[1] The TurboGrafx-CD versions of the first three Ys games (from 1989 to 1991) are notable for their very early use of Red Book audio in video games. Music from the Ys games were also employed in the Ys anime.[21]

All of these early soundtracks were produced using the FM synthesis sound chip of the PC-8801. Despite later advances in audio technology, Koshiro would continue to use older PC-8801 hardware to produce many of his later video game soundtracks, including the Streets of Rage and Etrian Odyssey soundtracks.[10] His soundtracks for early Nihon Falcom games, such as the Dragon Slayer and Ys series, are widely regarded as some of the most influential role-playing video game scores.[1]

Early freelance work (1988–1990)

Following his separation with Falcom, Koshiro became a freelancer, composing music for many other companies. His early freelance projects included the Sharp X68000 port of Bosconian, Bothtec's action role-playing game The Scheme (1988) for the PC-8801, and Enix's visual novel adventure game Misty Blue for the PC-9801 in 1990.[1][10] The latter two soundtracks featured early Eurobeat music.[1] His most notable freelance work was for Sega, where he composed music for the Shinobi series and the Streets of Rage series, as well as Quintet, where he composed the soundtracks to ActRaiser (1990) and ActRaiser 2 (1993).

His first freelance work for Sega was the soundtrack to The Revenge of Shinobi (1989), for which he produced house[1][22] and "progressive, catchy, techno-style compositions"[7] that fused electronic dance music with traditional Japanese music.[23] His soundtrack for ActRaiser (1990), on the other hand, was mainly classical and orchestral.[1] While working on ActRaiser, in order to get around the SNES's 64 KB memory limitation which limited the number of instruments that can be used and prevented the reloading of samples, Koshiro developed a sample loading system that worked with the ROM cartridge memory, swapping samples from the ROM data on the fly. This allowed him to "load parts of the music gradually as needed, and also change it quickly between stages or parts of a stage" which the "original system couldn't do it with its restrictions." A similar system was used by other companies for later SNES games such as Squaresoft's Seiken Densetsu 3 (1995) and Namco Tales Studio's Tales of Phantasia (1995).[17]

Founding of Ancient Corp. (1990–1994)

Sonic the Hedgehog – "Bridge Zone" (1991)
A sample of the chiptune "Bridge Zone" from the Master System version of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog (1991).

Problems playing this file? See media help.

In 1990, Koshiro helped found Ancient Corp., which contributed to the development of a number of games, such as the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog and Beyond Oasis. The company was also founded by his mother, Tomo Koshiro, while his sister Ayano Koshiro works at the company as an art/character/graphic designer and was also the art designer for the ActRaiser games.[16] His sister Ayano has designed characters and graphics for several games Koshiro has worked on, including the Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) series, Ys, and ActRaiser.

While working with Ancient, he composed the soundtrack for the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. He adapted several pieces of music from the original 16-bit version, while the rest of the soundtrack consisted of his own original music.[1]

His soundtracks for the Streets of Rage series (known as Bare Knuckle in Japan) from 1991 to 1994 were composed using then outdated PC-8801 hardware alongside his own original audio programming language. According to Koshiro: "For Bare Knuckle I used the PC88 and an original programming language I developed myself. The original was called MML, Music Macro Language. It is based on NEC's BASIC program, but I modified it heavily. It was more a BASIC-style language at first, but I modified it to be something more like Assembly. I called it ‘Music Love'. I used it for all the Bare Knuckle games."[10]

The soundtracks for Streets of Rage (1991) and Streets of Rage 2 (1992) were influenced by house, techno, hardcore techno,[2] breakbeat,[24] funk and ethnic music. He also attempted to reproduce the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 beats and Roland TB-303 synths using FM synthesis.[25] The soundtrack for Streets of Rage 2 in particular is considered "revolutionary" and ahead of its time,[8][9] for its "amazing blend of swaggering house synths, dirty" electro-funk and "trancey electronic textures that would feel as comfortable in a nightclub as a video game."[8]

His CD soundtracks became best-sellers in Japan during the early 1990s.[26] In 1993, Electronic Games listed the first two Streets of Rage games as having some of the best video game music soundtracks they "ever heard." They described Koshiro as "just about universally acknowledged as the most gifted composer currently working in the video game field."[27]

For the soundtrack to Streets of Rage 3 (1994), he created a new composition method called the "Automated Composing System" to produce "fast-beat techno like jungle."[2] It was the most advanced techno technique of the time, incorporating heavily randomized sequences.[1] This resulted in innovative and experimental sounds generated automatically that, according to Koshiro, "you ordinarily never could imagine on your own." This method was very rare at the time, but has since become popular among techno and trance music producers to get "unexpected and odd sounds."[3] The soundtrack also had elements of abstract, experimental, gabber,[28] and trance music.[29] The experimental electronic music was not very well received upon release, but has since been considered to be ahead of its time. According to Mean Machines, "ironically it pre-dated the 'trance' era that came a short while after release."[29]

Later career (1994–present)

Also in 1994, Koshiro co-composed a well known soundtrack for the Mega-CD version of Eye of the Beholder, a dungeon crawl role-playing video game ported over from the original by Japanese developer Opera House and published by Sega.[6] That same year, his soundtrack for Beyond Oasis utilized a late romantic style of music, which he later also utilized for Legend of Oasis (1996), Merregnon (2000), and Warriors of the Lost Empire (2007).[1]

He also composed the soundtrack for Sega's Shenmue (1999) alongside Takenobu Mitsuyoshi and a few others, with Koshiro contributing fifteen original compositions to the soundtrack. Three other staff members of Ancient also worked on Shenmue.[16][30] He later composed the soundtracks for the Wangan Midnight series (2001 onwards) and Namco × Capcom (2005). These were the first projects where he wrote the lyrics along with the music. For the Wangan Midnight series in particular, his compositions were mostly trance music, a style he was previously unfamiliar with.[17]

He composed the main theme of the French TV channel Nolife, which launched in 2007. The theme was released as part of the album Tamiuta in 2008.[31] Some of Koshiro's latest work includes music for the Etrian Odyssey series,[10] the Wangan Midnight series, and the 7th Dragon series .

Concert performances

Year Venue Performance Work
2004[32] Symphonic Game Music Concert, Gewandhaus ActRaiser Medley Music arranger
2005[32] Chamber Music Game Concert, Gewandhaus ActRaiser Medley Music arranger
2006 Play! A Video Game Symphony, Rosemont Theater Sonic the Hedgehog Music arranger
2006 Symphonic Game Music Concert, Gewandhaus The Revenge of Shinobi Music arranger
2007 Play! A Video Game Symphony, Stockholm The Revenge of Shinobi Music arranger
2007 Play! A Video Game Symphony, Prague The Revenge of Shinobi Music arranger
2007 Play! A Video Game Symphony, Singapore[33] Wangan Midnight, Streets of Rage Disc jockey
2007 Symphonic Game Music Concert, Gewandhaus[32] New Super Mario Bros. Music arranger
2008[32] Symphonic Shades – Hülsbeck in Concert Jim Power in Mutant Planet Music arranger
2013 MAGFest 2013, National Harbor, MD, USA[34] ActRaiser
Wangan Midnight
Streets of Rage
The Revenge of Shinobi
Disc jockey


Video games
Year Title Role Co-worker(s)
1986 Xanadu Scenario II Composition/programming Takahito Abe
Romancia Composition/programming
1987 Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished Composition/programming Mieko Ishikawa
Legacy of the Wizard Composition/programming Mieko Ishikawa
Space Harrier (X68000) Sound effects Hideya Nagata and Tetsu Matsushima
Sorcerian Composition/programming Mieko Ishikawa, Takahito Abe, Reiko Takebayashi,
and Hideya Nagata
Ojousama Club Composition/programming Various others
Dark Storm: Demon Crystal Composition/programming
The Gate of Labyrinth Composition/programming
100 Yen Disk No.2 Composition/programming Onion and God
1988 Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter Composition/programming Mieko Ishikawa and Hideya Nagata
The Scheme Composition/programming
The Return of Ishtar (MSX) Composition/programming
The Curse of Mars Composition/programming
1989 Wanderers from Super Scheme Composition/programming
Wanderers from Jumpper Composition/programming Onitama
Algarna Composition/programming
The Revenge of Shinobi Composition/programming
Bosconian (Sharp X68000) Composition/programming Hideya Nagata
1990 Misty Blue Composition/programming
ActRaiser Composition/programming
Thrice Composition/programming
1991 The G.G. Shinobi Composition/programming
Streets of Rage Composition/programming
Sonic the Hedgehog (8-bit) Composition/arrangement
Star Wars: Attack on the Death Star Arrangement
1992 Super Adventure Island Composition/programming
Eye of the Beholder (PC-98) Composition/programming Yuji Yamada
Gage Composition/programming
Batman Returns (Master System & Game Gear) Sound management
The G.G. Shinobi II: The Silent Fury Composition/programming Motohiro Kawashima
Streets of Rage 2 Composition/programming Motohiro Kawashima
1993 Slap Fight MD Composition/arrangement
ActRaiser 2 Composition/programming
1994 Streets of Rage 3 Composition/programming Motohiro Kawashima
Eye of the Beholder (Mega CD) Composition Motohiro Kawashima
Robotrek Sound producer
Beyond Oasis Composition/programming
1995 Miracle Casino Paradise Composition/programming
Manji Psy Yuuki Composition/programming Motohiro Kawashima
1996 Zork I: The Great Underground Empire (PS1) Composition Motohiro Kawashima
The Legend of Oasis Composition
Vatlva Composition Motohiro Kawashima
1997 Culdcept Composition Takeshi Yanagawa
1999 Shenmue Composition Osamu Murata, Ryuji Iuchi, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi,
and Takeshi Yanagawa
2001 Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune Composition
Shenmue II Composition Various others
Car Battler Joe Composition Tomonori Hayashibe
2004 Amazing Island Composition Motohiro Kawashima
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune Composition
Dokapon the World Composition
2005 Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 2 Composition
Namco × Capcom Composition Various others
2006 Ueki no Housoku Composition Motohiro Kawashima and Takeshi Yanagawa
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin Composition Michiru Yamane
2007 Etrian Odyssey Composition
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 Composition/programming
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! Dream Hyper Battle! Composition Motohiro Kawashima and Takeshi Yanagawa
Warriors of the Lost Empire Composition
2008 Super Smash Bros. Brawl Arrangement
Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard Composition/programming
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 3 DX Composition
2009 7th Dragon Composition
Half-Minute Hero Composition Various others
2010 Dragon Ball Online Composition
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City Composition/programming
Protect Me Knight Composition/programming
Jaseiken Necromancer: Nightmare Reborn Composition Takeshi Yanagawa
Criminal Girls Composition Various others
Dead Heat Composition Motohiro Kawashima
2011 7th Dragon 2020 Composition/programming
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 Composition
2012 Kid Icarus: Uprising Composition Motoi Sakuraba, Masafumi Takada, Noriyuki Iwadare,
Takahiro Nishi, and Yasunori Mitsuda
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan Composition
Layton Brothers: Mystery Room Composition Takeshi Yanagawa
Time and Eternity Composition Takeshi Yanagawa
2013 7th Dragon 2020-II Composition
Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl Composition/arrangement
Drift Spirits Composition
Momoiro Billionaire! Composition Motohiro Kawashima
2014 Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5 Composition
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth Composition (One track)
Gotta Protectors Composition Hisayoshi Ogura, Motoaki Furukawa, Shinji Hosoe,
and Hiroshi Kawaguchi
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Arrangement Various others
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight Composition/arrangement
2015 Etrian Mystery Dungeon Composition/arrangement Takeshi Yanagawa
Chunithm: Seelisch Tact Composition/arrangement
("Grab your sword")
7th Dragon III Code: VFD Composition
Project X Zone 2 Composition/arrangement
("Main Theme")
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5 DX Composition/arrangement
2016 Cosmic Cavern 3671 Composition
Etrian Odyssey V Composition
2017 Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom Composition Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, Keiki Kobayashi,
Takeshi Yanagawa, and Haruka Shimotsuki


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Chris Greening & Don Kotowski (February 2011). "Yuzo Koshiro Interview: Innovator in Game Music and Sound Design". Game Music Online. Retrieved 2014-09-27.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Davis, Jeff. "Interview with Yuzo Koshiro". Gaming Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Horowitz, Ken (February 5, 2008). "Interview: Yuzo Koshiro". Sega-16. Archived from the original on 21 September 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  4. Nintendo Power, Volumes 208–210. Nintendo Power. 2006. p. 102. Retrieved 5 August 2011. Yuzo Koshiro, the musician responsible for ActRaiser's amazing score, is arguably the greatest game-music composer of the 16-bit age. Equally comfortable composing classical or techno, Koshiro built up a faithful fan base by creating some of the most memorable game music of the late '80s and early '90s.
  5. Barnholt, Ray (June 2012). "The Magic of FM Synth". 1UP.com. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
  6. 1 2 Barton, Matt (23 February 2007). "Part 2: The Golden Age (1985–1993)". The History of Computer Role-Playing Games. Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
  7. 1 2 Santos, Wayne (December 2006). "Songs & Sounds In The 21st Century". GameAxis Unwired. SPH Magazines (40): 39. ISSN 0219-872X. Retrieved 2011-08-05.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 McNeilly, Joe (April 19, 2010). "Game music of the day: Streets of Rage 2". GamesRadar. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Mustin. "Streets of Rage 2 Original Soundtrack (US): Review". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Szczepaniak, John. "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2011-03-29. Reprinted from Retro Gamer (67), 2009
  11. 1 2 3 4 "Recording Under the Influence: Ikonika". Self-Titled Magazine. April 21, 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  12. Lawrence, Eddy (11 January 2011). "Ikonika interview: Producer and DJ, Ikonika had an incredible 2010". Time Out. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  13. 1 2 3 Lawrence, Eddy (18 January 2011). "Ikonika interview: Dubstep has taken the world by storm over the past 12 months". Time Out. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  14. Danger (7) – 09/17 2007 at Discogs
  15. http://www.redbullmusicacademy.jp/jp/magazine/digging-in-the-carts
  16. 1 2 3 "TNL Developer Spotlight: Ancient". The Next Level. March 11, 2003. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Kikizo (October 14, 2005). "Yuzo Koshiro Interview". VideoGamesDaily.com. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
  18. Interview with Yuzo Koshiro – Game Music on YouTube
  19. GameFan, volume 1, issue 1 (October 1992), page 8
  20. Kevin Gifford (June 3, 2010). "Xanadu Scenario II". MagWeasel.com. Retrieved 2011-03-25.
  21. Patrick Gann. "Falcom Special Box '90". RPGFan. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  22. Yuzo Koshiro at Allgame
  23. RocketBaby (October 1999). "Interview with Yuzo Koshiro". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  24. "Yuzo Koshiro – Bare Knuckle II". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  25. http://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2014/09/yuzo-koshiro-interview
  26. https://archive.org/stream/Computer_and_Video_Games_Issue_192_1997-11_EMAP_Images_GB#page/n101/mode/2up
  27. https://archive.org/stream/Electronic-Games-1993-06/Electronic%20Games%201993-06#page/n45/mode/2up
  28. "Yuzo Koshiro / Motohiro Kawashima – Bare Knuckle III". Discogs. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  29. 1 2 "Streets of Rage 3 review – Sega Megadrive". Mean Machines. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  30. Andrew Long. "Interview With Shenmue's Composer". RPGamer. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  31. Nolife TV Theme, released on the album Tamiuta
  32. 1 2 3 4 Symphonic Game Music Concerts, The Concert Programs Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  33. Yuzo Koshiro The DJ, IGN.com, March 2, 2007. Retrieved March 17, 2012
  34. MAGFest 2013 Performers Archived January 5, 2013, at the Wayback Machine., MAGFest.org. Retrieved January 6th, 2013
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