Phantasy Star – Composer Retrospective

Phantasy Star – Composer Retrospective

These light and somewhat wistful reminiscences by Phantasy Star composers Tokuhiko “BO” Uwabo and Izuho “IPPO” Numata were originally included in the Phantasy Star 1st Series Complete liner notes. Their comments were noteworthy for being the first public Phantasy Star-related statements from BO in over a decade, and possibly the first statements from IPPO ever published.

Izuho “IPPO” Numata (nee Takeuchi)
composer for PSIII & PSIV

One day, I was rummaging through an old bookshelf when I found a large, rolled up paper lying hidden in the back. I had no memory of seeing it there before. Wondering what it could be, I unrolled it and discovered it was a Phantasy Star IV promotional poster. “How did this get here?!”, I puzzled, but then nonchalantly put it back on the shelf. And then one week later, an e-mail arrived in my inbox about a Phantasy Star cd soundtrack…

Long time no see, everyone! IPPO here. It’s been 20 years now since the birth of Phantasy Star. I never dreamed that this music would be released on CD (and the original versions no less!). It was a big surprise. Listening to all this music after so long really brought back a lot of memories.

It was in my second year of joining Sega: one day, out of the blue, my boss called me into his room, with all of the senior staff lined up. “Takeuchi, you’re going to do the sound for Phantasy Star III.” When I heard that, I froze. It was unusual to be assigned work like this, and I’d never been singled out and handed a task like this before. I wondered what in the world was going on, and I started to feel a strange sweat bead up on my face.

And so the project started, but up to that point, I’d hardly played any RPGs. So I “hit the books”, receiving lectures from planner S-kun and trying out different RPGs… I’m embarassed to admit all that, but it’s a true story.

Several years later, the Phantasy Star IV development got underway. Normally I would do my work in a separate sound room, but for this project (and only this one), I worked in the same room with the rest of the team. This was also very strange. But since the staff was always right next to me, I think it was really the ideal environment. Thanks to that, I was able to mesh the sound and game in much greater detail: “When this old guy tells his joke, make the BGM stop at the punchline!” or “Let’s make Demi and Wren’s footsteps sound different.” There were a lot of little touches like that.

Unfortunately, the development schedule left us absolutely no breathing room, and the developer’s room became a 24-hour Land of No Sleep. In order to get out of sleeping over at the office, I said that I had a pet hamster I was taking care of, but ultimately I ended up having to bring the hamster to work with me… I have many, many more stories from that time. While it was very hard on me physically, it was also an incredibly fulfilling time in my life. I remember very clearly how, the day after we’d finished submitting the final game, and everyone was exhausted, the staff gathered in a meeting room together. But no one said anything—we just sat there in silence, at a loss for words.

The sound and music I did for Phantasy Star remains my fondest memory of all the work I did. It’s like a child to me. To know that these children are still beloved by fans out there is the greatest joy to me. Finally, I would like to say express my gratitude to all the people involved in the making of Phantasy Star over the years, and all the fans who played it.

Izuho Numata (center) and Tokuhiko Uwabo (right) with Phantasy Star 1 & 2 programmer Yuji Naka, taken at the tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra’s Phantasy Star Series 25th Anniversary Concert “Sympathy 2013”.

Tokuhiko “Bo” Uwabo
composer for PS and PSII

It’s been 20 years since the release of Phantasy Star.

With all the dramatic changes in the world we’ve been through, it came as something of a shock to hear that an original version OST of the Phantasy Star music was going to be released. I am very grateful to the many people who expended their time and energy in realizing the release of this CD.

I still have a very special cassette tape that I’ve kept all these years. It was given to me by a fan, about a month after the release of Phantasy Star. He recorded all the music for the game on it. Alongside the handmade case cover, he also included a letter with these words of encouragement: “Please continue to make such moving music.” That is just one many memories that I still cherish to this day.

It was the era of the economic bubble in Japan, just before the peak. It was a heady time, and there was an out-and-out frenzy for video games—and the passion for Phantasy Star too, is certainly a part of this era. The music for Phantasy Star was bound up with that enthusiasm, and I believe I was channeling some of that with my work as “BO”. It’s partly why the music of Phantasy Star evokes such feelings of spirited energy, vigor, and animation. I think those of us who lived in those days can hear and feel that.

Of course, Phantasy Star isn’t the only game from that time that has a special place in my heart. But it is one the big ones.

The revolutionary 3D dungeons were a huge inspiration to me, and I threw myself into writing the music so much that I neglected both food and drink. Everytime I hear this CD, the rhythm of those days, the faces of all the people I knew, and so many other memories well up in me with crystal clarity. What was a seed yesterday lives on today and into tomorrow, and in that sense, this is not simple nostalgia. I think many people feel that way, and I, one of the tillers of that soil, feel the same.

It is my hope that this CD can serve as one new bridge between generations, for all the new people involved in the continuing challenge of making games.

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