Symphonic Suite from ACTRAISER – Demon Beast Appears ~ Strong Enemy ~ Satan (Yuzo Koshiro)November 4, 2009
Today’s Daily is an absolute classic. This is the Symphonic Suite from ACTRAISER (1991), one of the best vgm albums of all time. The soundtrack is an orchestral remix of the Super NES classic, ActRaiser (1991), composed by Yuzo Koshiro, who also arranged the symphonic suite. I first discovered this album back in the late ’90s and have listened to it off and on for over ten years. The original compositions were amazing, and the orchestral soundtrack takes them to a completely new level.
ActRaiser is epic. The music perfectly captures the feel of Dark Ages and Viking action when men with swords fought monsters – in fact, I was studying Beowulf at the time, and considered this to be an equivalent to the poem’s soundtrack! I regularly give a copy to my Medieval professors. This battle mix contains the miniboss, level boss, and final boss themes. The snare drums are driving, and the big brass gives a fantastic feel to the size and ferocity of the giant monsters the player has to fight. And just when you think they’re down, then another one appears! He left it dead, and with its head, he went galumping back! Note that the arrangement takes each of the battle themes and plays them twice, but with enough variation and integration that it feels like one complete composition, due in large part to the fast pace of the song.
In the game, the player takes the role of God, who lands on earth as a human warrior and must rid the world of demons in order to rebuild civilization. The game is divided into two parts, a sidescrolling action sequence where the player must clear out a level full of monsters, and an overhead world-building section where the player creates cities while protecting them from monsters (kind of like Sim City). In the end, God enters the demon’s lair and defeats Satan and his minions in the epic showdown captured in this track.
While the full running time of the Symphonic Suite is just over 30 minutes, each composition is of such high quality that there is little reason to complain (there was also a soundtrack of the original game music as well as a PC-88 Soundboard II version that was recently remastered). The album also included sheet music for each of the songs (create a vgmdb account to view them). Sadly, the album has been out of print since the early 90’s and badly needs a reprint, especially considering used copies regularly sell for well over $100 on ebay. If more music like this got digital distribution, it would certainly increase the number of people who listen to vgm.
Yuzo Koshiro is one of the top composers. One of his most famous works is Sonic the Hedgehog, but he also did the Zelda mix back in Week 1. A large reason why his music is so good is he was able to produce his own sound libraries for the games he worked on, which gave him both a technological and a compositional edge over other composers. Koshiro originally composed ActRaiser on a PC-88 (a Japanese PC) using the Soundboard II audio card before porting it to SNES hardware. (ActRaiser was an early system title, and so Enix did not have all the hardware available when they started production). His sister, Ayano Koshiro, also helped design characters for the game, which is now available for the Wii Virtual Console.