Composer Spotlight #1: Hiroyuki Iwatsuki

Hiroyuki Iwatsuki is the master of the generic beat 'em up track. What does that mean? Well let's find out!

Works featured in this post:

  • Choujin Sentai Jetman (NES)

  • Ghost Sweeper Mikami: Gokuraku Daisakusen (SNES)

  • Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GB)

  • Pocky & Rocky (SNES)

  • Shin Kidoesenki Gundam Wing - Endless Duel (SNES)

  • Spanky's Quest (GB)

  • The Ninjawarriors (SNES)

full list of works


One thing to note about Iwatsuki is that it's hard to get his "sound," so to speak, because he frequently collaborated with other Natsume sound team members, most notably Iku Mizutani and Haruo Ohashi. However, four out of his six chiptune works were solo ventures, so from these we can get some insight into the man's usual style.

"Area E"
Choujin Sentai Jetman (NES)

"Stage 1"
Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GB)

We can already see some similarities in the structure of the songs. Each loop has three basic sections: an intro, main body which ends in an upward sequence, and high conclusion. Both songs also have a driving bassline and percussion too. We'll see the tripartite structure and backbone in the next two co-composed samples from the SNES.

"Crazy Woods"
Ghost Sweeper Mikami: Gokuraku Daisakusen (SNES)
co-composed with Kinuyo Yamashita

"Last Boss"
The Ninjawarriors (SNES)
co-composed with N. Tate

I've been hand-picking tracks on purpose to reinforce the first sentence in the post, that Iwatsuki is the master of the generic beat 'em up track. All four games featured so far are side-scrolling/platforming beat 'em ups. More important, though, is how similar these songs are; the games Iwatsuki has worked on are chock full of songs just like these that grab you and yell out, "Beat up enemies to me!"

However, what I like about these soundtracks are just how eminently listenable they are. "Generic" does not automatically mean a song is bad; despite the four songs I picked being mostly interchangeable with one another (discounting the synth qualities of the three platforms), each track has its own decent melody and hooks, variety, and development. If these types of tracks are up your alley, then you should definitely check Iwatsuki out, because there are lots more tracks just like these.

Now that I've talked about how his music is all the same, let's look about some of his work that actually does sound different!

"Staff Roll"
Spanky's Quest (GB)

"Haunted House"
Pocky & Rocky (SNES)

Shin Kidoesenki Gundam Wing - Endless Duel (SNES)
co-composed with Haruo Ohashi

So in addition to beat 'em up tracks, we also have almost Kirby-like ^___^ness, almost RPG dungeonness, and almost technocrapness. I used "almost" and "-ness" in all three of those "genres" because each track does manage to still retain a little bit of the Iwatsuki flavor. Staff Roll and Haunted House have pumpin' basslines, and Airport still gets you ready to kick the crap out of something. Iwatsuki has a consistent style in his works that just rocks.


Another Soundscape said...

This sure is an interesting read. It's like you decided to post pieces of VGM history here and I love you for doing it :)
Keep up the good work

CHz said...

I don't always intend to dig through VGM history like I did with this entry; for example, the works I'm going to feature in my next Spotlight are both from 2004, and I'm also going to mention albums the subject worked on in 2005 and 2006.

But, of course, it's always nice to revisit our roots, especially regarding people who deserve perhaps more credit than they are given. Glad you enjoyed the piece. :)

Another Soundscape said...

Oh, you know, with history I mean anything that isn't 2007 ;) Just composer spotlight! it's one of the best ideas I've heard of. So many composers that needs recognition. If you're ever in the mood, check out Kou Hayashi and Daisuke Nagata for some insane shmup soundtracks with modern electroquality. :)

CHz said...

To tell the truth, I don't really like those two altogether that much. I think they are capable of some absolutely wonderful music, like the stage 1 theme to Karous, but those are the exception rather than the rule and overall I'm not really a fan of soundtracks like Chaos Field's and Radio Allergy's.

That doesn't mean that they're unworthy of a spotlight, though, because they're in the obscurity range I'm looking for and I know some people who are really big fans (like you!). They've got their own unique style of music.