Posts Tagged ‘Miki Higashino’

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Suikoden II – “Fugue ‘Praise to My Master’ (North Window Castle BGM)” (Miki Higashino)

November 10, 2010

Following up on “Toccatta and Fugue in D minor”, this next song covers what the second half of Bach’s piece is – the fugue. Fugues are another musical form that came into its own in the Baroque period, this one characterized by two melodies playing in counterpoint – or contrapuntal (again, easily observable in the bar visualization). Essentially, this means that there are two or more melodies playing simultaneously, and both usually respond to (or play off of) the other.

“Fugue ‘Praise to My Master’ (North Window Castle BGM)” from Suikoden II (1998) is a fine example of a fugue in organ. Here, the two melodies are very clear, with each playing in call and response before crossing over to play simultaneously – so this is an example of a permutation fugue. Again, the piece appears in a large castle (this time that of the Neclord, a vampire). There is certainly an amount of praise going on here (particularly the triumphant rising section at 1:40). Unlike most vgm, this piece also has a conclusion. Further, it turns out the Neclord is actually playing this theme on the organ and the piece stops the moment you enter the room (actually, that website is pretty cool…). Kind of ironic too that the song is called “Praise to My Master” We can thank Miki Higashino (Suikoden series, Contra III: The Alien Wars) for this amazing composition. It’s too bad the game is impossible to find for less than $100 – Konami really needs to re-release it on PSN.

I would like to say there are more fugues in game music, but they tend to be quite rare in earlier compositions (mainly because there were so few instruments possible, but also because fugues are not easy to compose). One piece that is actually named a fugue doesn’t appear to be one – “Funky’s Fugue” from Donkey Kong Country. While it’s a wonderfully hip surfing dude theme befitting of the Main Monkey (and some awesome “HI-YA!” sfx), I’m not seeing much in the way of multiple melodies here – it is more a layering of multiple instruments. There is a little bit of countermelody at the 30 second segment, but I don’t think it’s enough to warrant the title, particularly as it is not sustained throughout. It’s not that Robin Beanland can’t write fugues, or that it is impossible to write one using the instruments chosen, it’s just that the track appears to be only in name for the benefit of alliteration.

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Contra III: The Alien Wars – “No Hope of Life” (Konami)

June 11, 2010

Today’s daily is actually a jingle – the game over jingle from Contra Spirits (aka Contra III: The Alien Wars, 1992). This is mostly because jingles often don’t get a lot of coverage for longer songs – that and I just got back from jazz night at The Hunter/Gatherer in Columbia, SC and I don’t think I’ve got anything on hand that could possibly follow up – they were THAT good! So for now, “No Hope of Life” works. (Actually ok, the ending from Contra 4: Rocked ‘n’ Loaded is pretty badass!). Anyway, I think this is the best game over jingle out of everything I’ve heard (and there are some pretty good ones out there). Even better than Super Mario World, and Castlevania III, and those were jingles!

Contra III: The Alien Wars – “No Hope of Life” (Masanori Adachi, Tappy Iwase, Miki Higashino)

The game over jingle is actually something of a remix of the game over jingle from the original Contra by Hidenori Maezawa. That theme is pretty memorable because a) you probably heard it a million times if you’ve ever played the game and b) it’s got a nice commando ditty followed by an oopsie ‘bwah-bwah-bwah-bwaaaah!’ (Game over! Try again!) Anyway, the version from Contra III has some nice drums and punctuated notes that make it easy to remember, and you have to love the deep bass rumble at the end. Yup, the Alien Wars are over for you, son! Time for the Konami Code!

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Thunder Cross – “First Attack” (Miki Higashino, et al.)

June 7, 2010

Thunder Cross (Arcade, 1988) is another Konami shooter from the golden days, when companies were pumping them out right and left. This one is is another spinoff of the Gradius series, a sidescroller set in the same universe with the main opponent as the Black Impulse rather than the Bactrion Empire (though is there any difference between one alien invader and another when they’re both reduced to space garbage just the same?). Though reported to be a rather quality game on HG101, the game was largely forgotten as it never saw a home console port, which is too bad, really. The soundtrack was composed by the same team who did  Gradius III (1990) (and Gradius IV), so many of the tracks sound similar (or rather, Gradius III sounds similar to Thunder Cross!). Particularly similar tracks include “Sand Storm” and “Try to Star.” Of course, the sound team included Miki Higashino, one of Konami’s best composers who has been making music since the original Gradius (featured earlier).

Thunder Cross – “First Attack (1st.BGM)” (Miki Higashino, et al.)

“First Attack (1st.BGM) opens to an awesome launch sequence that transitions to a Gradius-style thunderstorm. The melody here has some similarities with “Sand Storm”, and the style of active, happy melody suitable for a shmupper’s flow state sounds like Miki Higashino’s trademark. The body of the track is made up of three sections, the first a low, bubbling intro with some interesting whistles, the second and third sections made of a simple melody with long, memorable notes, accompanied by a star-like piano. The ever-rising melody builds to a great climax which loops nicely to produce an ever-forward driving motion.

Naoto Shibata did a nice rendition of “First Attack” in Konami Shooting Battle II (1995) (Naoto Shibata‘s work on the Battle series is some of Konami’s most memorable). It’s a pretty nice guitar arrange, though the intro and ending are a little crazy, with some insane guitar and slide piano. The main melody, however, works well on both synth as well as guitar. Read the rest of this entry ?

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8-Bit Mondays: Gradius – “1st Stage” (Miki Higashino)

April 5, 2010

After months of technically having posts a day late (I usually post after 10 PM), I decided to skip ahead and do the 8-Bit Mondays on Sunday night so they would, in fact, be available on Mondays. Today’s is from the original Gradius. Gradius is one of the longest-running soundtracks still in use today (incidentally, predating Super Mario Bros. by a few months). Released in 1985, the arcade Gradius featured pleasant music with loops averaging about 30 seconds each – one of which, the “Boss” theme, is still used today! Seven stages plus boss battles means that there was a little over 4 minutes of music total (not including the “Morning Music”). That said, Gradius makes full use of those four minutes to create several impressive and memorable tracks, my pick of which is the “1st Stage” theme. The soundtrack was composed by Miki Higashino.

8-Bit Mondays: Gradius – “1st Stage” (Miki Higashino)

“1st Stage” is pleasing to the ears with the long notes in major scale that we’ve come to identify with memorable vgm. The song is very short, with only an A and B section. The note range reflects the maneuvering of Vic Viper, notes rising and falling with the ship. The music instills joy and confidence in the player, moving the game pleasantly forward – it is, in short, the idealized thrill and freedom of cartoon combat flight. In an  interview with Yasunori Mitsuda (conducted while collaborating on Ten Plants), Higashino states, “I tried to create songs that would stimulate the listener’s ears and send out pleasant pulses to their shooter-brains.” This philosophy was based on what the player’s experience would be during the game, and changed depending on the type of game as well as the stage within it. Indeed, what she chose was a good fit (though a couple of the mid-stage themes I don’t find terribly fun). It is vgm at its earliest and purest form.

The Gradius arcade soundtrack was first released on cassette in 1987 and featured musical scores as inserts. The B side of the album also had gameplay recordings – game music arrangers weren’t quite sure at this time what the best way of putting game soundtracks onto an album would be. A cleaner copy can be heard in the Gradius Arcade Soundtrack (2002), which compiles music from all four arcade games. “1st Stage” was remixed in Gradius Perfect Selection as “Challenger 1985“, a wonderfully groovy rock piece with a slick guitar and brazen synth trumpets.

Miki Higashino, who also composed the Salamander arcade soundtrack (as well as Gensousuikoden), is the composer of the Gradius soundtrack (done while freelancing as a part-time worker). She was one of Konami’s first composers Read the rest of this entry ?