Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The influence lives on A Yuzo Koshiro Music Spotlight - Pt 2

Part Two - Beats of Rage 

A few years later Koshiro was set to work on a new game for Sega. The premise - Three former police officers quit a corrupt police force and use their combined might and martial arts skill to take the streets back from a criminal organization... ok so that's basically the plot of every 90's low budget martial arts film that came out, but It was original for it's time. And The game itself expanded on the core arcade nature of previous games like Golden Axe. Over in Japan this new game would be called Bare Knuckle: Ikari No Tekken, but here we knew it by another name entirely.

Koshiro already had an idea of what type of music he wanted to compose for the game that would ultimately be known as Streets of Rage. In fact he was gathering inspiration from a rather familiar source...

From Sega 16

" in those days I used to go to many dance clubs and love to listen a lot of dance musics. And I took those essences into the sounds and programmed eagerly to recreate for SEGA Genesis. SOR1's style is like house music, and SOR2's one is like hard-core techno. As both SOR covered many kind of dance musics, I figured out a new composing formula for SOR3, so called 'Automated Composing System' to create fast-beat techno like jungle"

Here's a little bit about the programming he did in order to create the sound for the game.

" For Bare Knuckle specifically, I used the NEC PC-88 computer and an original programming language I developed myself. The original was called MML, Music Macro Language. It's based on the 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." [laughs] I used it for all the Bare Knuckle Games."

of course you can pick and choose what type of dance music influenced the tracks of the first streets of Rage game. There is one notable track I would like to bring to your attention, reader.

Notice the "ughn" in both the boss fight and the Mr X tracks? You probably think it's a random soundbyte, but I'm here to tell you otherwise. In fact this was sampled from James Brown's "Funky Drummer" which along with "Funky President" and "Think" were highly sampled tracks that ultimately wound up on such dance hits as ROb Base and DJ EZ Rock's 1988 hit "It takes two" as well as tracks from Roxxane Sharte, Slick Rick, Fatman Scoop, Mariah Carey, EPMD Chub Rock and a few other artists.

Two interesting side notes: There are at least two notable video games that also sample James Brown's popular "Yeah Woo"  soundbyte including the Street Fighter III (New Generation - Jazzy NYC),and the craptacular Action 52 for NES. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then there are at least five more, but I'll save that for a later post.

The second is that Yuzo's sister was in charge of the character designs for the SOR games, which just goes to show you that greatness runs in the family.

At the time Koshiro cites that he had been influenced by groups like Soul II Soul, Maxi Priest, Black Box and Caron Wheeler (who sang with Soul II soul on two of their biggest hits.) Here are some of the references between a few of SOR 1's tracks.

"City Streets" and Techntronic's "Pump Up the Jam"

"Freight Elevator" and Black BOx "Everybody Everybody" (Album Ver)

"Keep the Groovin'" and Maxi Priest's "Close to you"

In da club

Yuzo and Motohiro Kawashima teamed up to work on the follow up game to the immensely popular Streets of Rage. This new sequel would go on to be noted as one of the best video game soundtracks ever.

As Yuzo said in his interview that he intended SOR 1 to be more dancey based tracks where SOR 2 was more closer to the mid 90's clubby jams. As always the first stage music was set to get people hyped for what was a really awesome game. "Go Straight" was no exception. It's bouncy rhythm makes you want to punch people in the face to the beat. The second half of the stage chills out with "in the bar" which is again another personal favorite track, Then again the entire soundtrack was fantastic especially boss themes "Never Return alive" "Max Man" and "Revenge of Mr. X" .If anything can be said about Koshiro's and Kawashima's work it's the fact that all the tracks feel appropriate to their stages. Basically adding as much atmosphere in this game to the urban decayed streets as he did in Revenge Of Shinobi.

Speaking of Revenge of Shinobi there are also songs that have their fair share of analagous references to popular dance tracks. Here are just a few that I've found.

Wave 131 and Black Box's "Everybody" (Single ver)

"In too deep" and Public Enemy's "Rebel without a Pause"

"Under Logic" and Shamen's "Move every mountain"

S.O.R. SUpermix and Enigma's "Sadness"

Kawashima's tracks which were awesome as well included "Expander" "Max Man" and "little money Aveneue" which was previously unused in the main game. Jungle base was a combined effort from both composers.

Jungle House and computers

Kawashima and Koshiro would team up yet again to do a third Streets of Rage game. this time instead of using the club music or dance hits they decided to go for something a bit more experimental. This time the goal was to capture the Jungle music scene into this new game which had a more technology heavy plot than the previous games (Various figures were being replaced by Androids in a global conspiracy headed by Mr. X himself!). This soundtrack was met with more criticism than the previous two, but Yuzo still stands firm in his belief that it was a valid offering.

"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."

I have to admit at first I wasn't really too thrilled with this soundtrack, but as I played SOR 3 I have to say some of the tracks grew on me. Some of the more notable tracks for me were "Dub Slash" (this track had a real 'grimey' sound to it), "Fuse", "Inga Rasen" "Happy Paradise"

Disco despite being incredibly short, was also a decent track, if not for the fact that there were enemies dancing to it in the club part of stage 2

On what I was saying in part 1 about SOR 3's music. I seem to feel like It's not just Jungle that's in these tracks, but A little bit of everything. DnB, Progressive House, and everything that lead to Dubstep which is a further evolution of the crafts of everything. I could be wrong, but I still stand by this belief.

Before I end this segment I want to throw in one more quote on Yuzo's theory of composing music for games such as Shenmue and SOR.

"Kikizo: What do you think is the difference of scoring a large-scale epic game like Shenmue as compared to something like Bare Knuckle? 

Koshiro: Well, Shenmue was a huge, huge project! Yu Suzuki had a LOT of power over the game. We actually had meetings once a week in regards to the music. He was very specific of the sort of music he wanted. He ruled everything with an iron fist. It was pretty difficult... But with something like Thor, well, I wanted to create long tunes with a lot of variety. With long games, I think people tend to get bored if the music is short and repetitive. That way the player doesn't get tired of listening to the music. With Bare Knuckle and Shinobi, I was really focusing on rhythm and beat. They provided a strong base for the action. It's a little difficult to explain, but... with action games, I think people prefer more dance-style music. Orchestral music usually doesn't go over so well."

Next time we'll be talking more of how the influence lives on into the present and to the future.

Game on!

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