Toaplan (Masahiro Yuge) – 2012 Developer Interview

Masahiro Yuge – 2012 Developer Interview

This excellent and long interview with Masahiro Yuge of legendary shmup developer Toaplan first appeared in STG Gameside #4. The interview is split into two parts, focusing first on Yuge’s experience as a programmer and then his work as a composer. Several lingering mysteries about Toaplan’s games, including the infamous Zero Wing meme, are finally brought to light.

—How was it that you got into the game industry?

Yuge: Before I got a job and was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, I thought that I should choose a career that would be around for awhile. It seemed something related to computers would be good for that. At that time I saw a large job ad for programmers and hardware engineers, and that company was Orca. The company looked big and really good to me. But I didn’t know they made games at first! After being hired and finishing two weeks of training, they told me games are profitable now and so the company is making games. And that they weren’t doing anything other than games. (laughs)

—Had you studied computers before?

Yuge: No, I was a complete layman when it came to computers. I didn’t even know the difference between hardware and software, and when they asked which I wanted to do at the interview, I said “I’m fine with either.” (laughs)

—Were you into shooting games?

Yuge: Yeah, I played them. At the time I was into Galaxian, and before that Space Invaders and games like that.

Masahiro Yuge

Since elementary school or so I had been into games in general, not just shooting games. Pinball games imported from America were popular at that time, and I’d play those almost every day and get scolded by my parents for it. (laughs)

—It seems like a strange twist of fate that you’d get hired by a game company without knowing it, then!

Yuge: It was like that with music, too. Since childhood I’d been learning piano, and it was a hobby and something I was familiar with. So it did seem oddly fateful that I would end up joining a game company and writing music for a living. And I’ve been doing this ever since.

—What games did you develop at Orca?

Yuge: Mostly garbage at first. (bitter laugh) There was Marine Boy, where you dived undersea as the screen scrolled down… since it was the ocean the screen was entirely blue, and my vision went really bad from looking at it all the time during development. (laughs) I also worked on Hopper Robo, Net Wars, Looper, and Buster, I believe.

—After Orca, but before joining Toaplan, you also worked at another company, right?

Yuge: That was also a game company. They were developing games for the MSX.

—Was “Performan” the first project you worked on with Tatsuya Uemura after Toaplan asked you to join them?

Yuge: I took over a little bit of the coding and sound on Performan from Uemura.

—That was around the time Uemura had his motorcycle accident, I remember. Uemura told us you also rode, but do you think that feeling of high speed from your experiences with motorcycles influenced the shooting games you made?

Yuge: Hmm, I don’t think there is any relation. The commonality between shooting games and motorcycles is “risking your life” (laughs).

—By “risking your life,” you mean that razor thin line between life and death.

Yuge: Yes, and at Orca, you know, we never once got paid upfront. (laughs) We wanted to put out a hit game so we could eat.

Performan, which Yuge took over from Uemura.

—Tiger Heli and Kyuukyoku Tiger became big hits. Was it an emotional experience when you finally started making money?

Yuge: Yeah. When I saw the 100 yen coins piling up at the location test, I was truly happy. More than the money, it was the feeling that so many people had played our games, and it was like being acknowledged by the players. I was skipping with joy on the way back to work that day.

—It was moving to have your own work recognized.

Yuge: Yeah. Up till that time, when I would say I worked at a game company, many people wouldn’t understand and would say things like, “Oh, so you just play games all day?” (laughs) I wanted them to recognize my work someday.

—I hear Toaplan had the atmosphere of an atheletic club or some crazy party where everything gets smashed up.

Yuge: That started in Orca. We had too many wild hotheads. We were fighting programmers, what with risking our lives and all. (laughs)

—I heard that at a company trip all the men were jumping into the river stark naked…

Yuge: That kind of thing was an everyday occurrence. At Toaplan everyone had to be restrained. (laughs)

—What kind of company was Toaplan?

Yuge: There was a strong feeling of fellowship, so it really felt like we were all in the same boat. Whether we were working or playing it was always done together. When Toaplan was making a profit we’d go out drinking 6 nights a week (laughs). I only got about two hours of sleep a night for about a year.

—It sounds like you were risking your life while you played, too… (laughs) While that shows Toaplan’s wild side I think, on the other hand, “Slap Fight” is quite a thought-out, finely detailed game.

Yuge: We were very particular about the details of our games. We had this concept for a game that featured the idea of “secrets,” so we put many secrets in Slap Fight. We even put in the “space invader” secret as an homage to Taito. (laughs)

—I thought the consideration for the player was impressive in Slap Fight. For example, the way the difficulty would change depending on the strength of your weapon.

Yuge: We wanted players to be able to relax and enjoy our games. That was a fundamental aspect of our design. We wanted our games to be deep and full of little details, but we also wanted people to be able to just enjoy them without knowing about any of that.

Slap Fight, an early Toaplan classic.

—Toaplan’s games are tough, but if you practice enough you can clear them.

Yuge: We aimed for a kind of game in which, when a player died and wondered what killed him, he would be able to say to himself “Next time I should do this.” In that regard I think we learned a lot from Xevious. In Xevious the speed of the game was designed such that players had to do devise all these plans, like moving their ship to a certain point when the screen had scrolled just so far. Things like that really taught us a lot. But we also thought of ways to get rid of the impatience inherent to the slow pacing of that game. What livened things up for us was when we added bombs, rather than making everything be about precise aimed shots.

—Lately shooting games mostly use the bomb as a way to save the player.

Yuge: Yeah, that’s true. With Tiger Heli and Kyuukyoku Tiger, we wanted the players to use the bombs as aggressive weapons, but the fact that beginners ended up using them to save themselves was a good thing, even if unexpected, I think.

—Which of Toaplan’s shooting games sold the best?

Yuge: That would be Kyuukyoku Tiger. Though there were a lot of bootlegs of it circulating at the time. Even with that damage though, it still sold the best.

—How did Tatsujin do?

Yuge: It sold very well in Japan, but it didn’t sell that well overseas.

—Why do you think Tatsujin sold so well, personally?

Yuge: I think it was the blue laser. When we started making the game, the laser was the first thing I created. I added it thinking it would be the main weapon in the game.

—The laser in Tatsujin is really stunning, the way it feels like it covers the whole screen.

Yuge: With cocktail arcade cabinets at the time, a player sort of had to peer down into the screen while he played. When a player would unleash the fully charged Tatsujin laser, the people next to him would look at the player’s face and see it fully aglow with reflected blue light. (laughs) It sounds creepy but it was somehow really cool.

—With Tatsujin, Toaplan started to put their company name on the title screens.

Yuge: Taito had been distributing our games up till then, but when Tatsujin was ready to go on sale a person from their management told us they wanted us to remove their name from our games from now on. As a result, it became ok for us to put “Toaplan” on our games.

—The title of Tatsujin is really cool. Toaplan’s titles were always fantastic and very individualistic, but with Kyuukyoku Tiger, was there any special meaning behind “Kyuukyoku”?1

Yuge: Kyuukyoku, yeah, at the time it wasn’t that popular of a word yet. It came from the Japanese translation of the Yes album “Going for the One,” which I was determined to use somewhere.

Tatsujin was hugely influential, for both its sprite art and the “proto-manic” feel when your ship is at full power and speed.

—It came from a progressive rock album?!

Yuge: At the time I felt we ripped them off a bit, and I was a little guilty about it too. (laughs)

—This looks like an example of a connection between your interest in music and games.

Yuge: Actually, when I presented the title to Toaplan, no one really got it. The president especially asked, “why did you name it like that?” So I was like, “The tiger helicopter becomes the ultimate weapon, see, look at these bullets!” (laughs)

—I think its cool when kanji and english characters are used together like that. For Tatsujin,2 was that title meant to imply “a challenge for advanced players” or anything like that?

Yuge: Not a challenge so much as we were trying to refer to the player himself. It was meant like “At the expert level, the players are incredible,” so you are an expert. We thought that players often feel like they themselves are the ship when they play.

—For Tatsujin, you wrote out the kanji with English letters.

Yuge: We thought about kanji, too, but since it was sci-fi, we created all sorts of different logos. Looking at the samples, we felt that the English alphabet would look better, so we had our designer Naoki Ogiwara come up with what you see today.3

—It seems Toaplan’s shooting games are divided into two styles, the realistic and the futuristic.

Yuge: We did realistic games, but because a sci-fi scenario allows for a higher degree of freedom in the design, we had a lot of people who wanted to do sci-fi for that very reason. When we began Kyuukyoku Tiger, Naoki Ogiwara had already secretly started working on the designs for Tatsujin. (laughs) He had been saying to me “I want to do sci-fi!” and I would reply “Just wait a little longer, we’ll do something sci-fi next.” By the time Kyuukyoku Tiger had been completed, the art design for Tatsujin was completely finished.

The awesome Tatsujin cover for PCE.

—As the game that took Toaplan from realism to science fiction, thereby opening up the possibilities for future games, Tatsujin is very significant.

Yuge: I think so too. I keep talking about Naoki Ogiwara, but his designs gave us a lot of inspiration. He was just coming up with all these enemy character designs, and we’d see them and get ideas like “oh, he should move like this,” or “this guy is round, so when he stops let’s make him spin around once.” It was really inspiring.

—It sounds like your ideas for how enemies could attack was really expanded by the shapes and designs of the enemies.

Yuge: That’s right. We’d want bullets to be fired at this point, so let’s place cannons on the enemy here… we had lots of conversations like that.

—Toaplan’s placement of ground and air enemies is really superb. Did that take a lot of time in development?

Yuge: I’d say it used up roughly 1/3 of our time, maybe. We started with the question “what will players think of this?”, and we’d have people at Toaplan play the game on free play. But the opinion of someone who doesn’t have to pay money for a game is often quite different from a paying player, so we’d observe them while they played and make note of places they died and so on.

—For that kind of detailed testing, it seems like a big merit that the designers of the game were also the programmers.

Yuge: People often said we were like craftsmen, which was really an honor to hear.

—Since the laser in Tatsujin was so well received, was that the reason you created the screen covering flamethrower in Same! Same! Same! ?

Yuge: Yes, the flamethrower is the successor to the Tatsujin laser. To be honest, we were really stressed out making Same! Same! Same!. We were trying to find that special “it” factor that would sell the game, and we thought if we added the flame like that, it would be too similar to Tatsujin’s laser. So we made the flamethrower’s movements sway to the left and right instead.

Tatsujin laser vs. Same! Same! Same!'s flamethrower.

—On the Megadrive version of Same! Same! Same!, the bearded man on the cover looks intense.

Yuge: We called him “Ken-san” at Toaplan, because he looked like the actor Takakura Ken.

—It seems the art designers understood that stoic, manly feel of Same! Same! Same!.

Yuge: Yeah, I think so. We were always going for that feel, not only in Same!. It was a foundation of our game design. But rather than having the game be very complex on the outside, we thought it would be more fun if the complexity was found within the details of the game.

—The way the crew sees off the plane in the beginning of Same! Same! Same! is very moving.

Yuge: We thought it would be funny to make them move like that, so we coded it in our spare time for fun.

—When you were developing Zero Wing, I heard that when you were stuck on composing for it you would go drinking, night after night.

Yuge: Its true, we really drank a lot. It was always like, “Well, let’s go have a drink.” (laughs) When we were stuck, it was good to rest our brains and do something else. It might be hard for people working at companies nowadays, but back then we’d often go to billiards or bowling, or go see a movie or something, all during work hours.

—Were you going to work, or going to play? (laughs) Is the legendary story I’ve heard true, that when a phone call would come in, someone would have to go get all the junior employees who were over at the pachinko parlor?

Yuge: It started out as just a way to unwind and relax, but they got really obsessed with it. They couldn’t stop.

—Your boss must have been a really generous person to allow all that.

Yuge: The president was at our main office, in Hachioji. There was no one but us programmers in the developer’s office. (laughs)

—You truly were left to your own devices. (laughs)

Yuge: The president was a really amazing guy though. He’d do nice things like send our paychecks to us by express mail. He also gave us a company credit card and was like, “just put it all on this.” (laughs)

—Even when you were playing around, you always made your deadlines though.

Yuge: We set out deadlines ourselves, but if we gave ourselves too much time it would be embarassing to us as programmers. Everyone felt that way. Also, whether we were screwing around, eating, or sleeping, all we thought about was games. You know the way the items in Kyuukyoku Tiger swirl around the screen? One day when I was on lunch break, I saw the zigzag pattern in my donburi ramen and though, “this is it!”, and hurried back to the office to code that pattern in for the items.

—Really?! I thought the items were coded so as to move away from your ship when they were released.

Yuge: It wasn’t like that. That’s just the donburi pattern being faithfully reproduced.

—When you’re starting to see algorithms like that in your donburi ramen bowl, I think that’s a kind of occupational sickness.

Yuge: During that time it really was the case that no matter what I was doing, I was always thinking about games, whether I was asleep or awake. I kept a notebook by my pillow, and as soon as I woke up I’d write down what I was dreaming about, thinking “this could be a game!” I really loved games that much.

—Starting with Tatsujin, Toaplan entered the console market, and its surprising how well done that was for your first game.

Yuge: Our getting into console ports was really a last minute thing, I think. We had to do it on a short schedule, and I think something like this took us about a month to finish.

—Was the Megadrive easy to port to?

Yuge: Well, I say it only took a month, but it was actually really difficult. The color palette wasn’t sufficient and the scrolling didn’t match up.

—Toaplan also ported Zero Wing to the Megadrive. Who came up with the broken English “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” from the overseas attract mode?

Yuge: It may have been this guy who was in charge of our exports at the time. He was always having business meetings with people from overseas, and I went to a few of them myself, and his English was really terrible (laughs).

The infamous perils of poor English.

—I feel like the riddle has been solved. (laughs) Its really amazing that not a single sentence of that whole thing is correct. Were you focusing on the overseas market a lot at that time?

Yuge: It had been a target ever since we began making arcade games. 70% of our sales were from overseas.

—From Slap Fight on, you regularly did the programming and music composition in tandem.

Yuge: There were hardware limitations, and I also had my own ideas about how things should be–for instance, I didn’t want any orchestral sounds in the games. When figuring out how do all that, it was very effective to think about the programming and the sound at the same time. If they had been separated, I worried that something would end up getting rushed.

—I think that when one person creates both, its nice how the tempo of the music and the game match up.

Yuge: Yes, though Uemura wasn’t as particular about the content of the game, and I think he wrote his music with whatever tempo and feel he personally preferred. As for me, I was very conscious of whether the music synced up with the particular part of the game.

—Since you played piano, would you compose by playing while you watched the game?

Yuge: Yeah, it was like that. I’d watch the screen and try to write stuff. I played piano, but Uemura was really amazing on guitar.

—Your two styles combined created the “Toaplan Style.”

Yuge: When we first heard that phrase “Toaplan Style,” Uemura and I were like “What the hell is that?” (laughs) We wrote in the liner notes for one of the CDs that we were just doing things our own way.

—I’ve listened to the Tatsujin Ou soundtrack on CD, and I really love the song for stage 5. But the game is too difficult for me so I’ve never heard it in the game center. (laughs)

Yuge: That is my favorite song from Tatsujin Ou, too. I didn’t program Tatsujin Ou, but I apologize if it is too difficult. (laughs)

—After 1991 the number of games you programmed decreased. Is that because you were doing management?

Yuge: Not that so much as I wanted to focus on sound. I believe it was around when Sakai joined that I started to think doing sound and programming together was becoming too difficult. The hardware was getting better and better and I just couldn’t keep up with both. So I created a sound studio room and sort of holed up in there.

—When you were doing sound, Toaplan had started to put out their game music on cd. What was it like seeing your music on CD?

Yuge: I was extremely happy. When a game is made, it doesn’t have any sound at first. I love that moment when a soundtrack gets added–I think sound is really that important to games. I was always conscious that the sound and gameplay together make a single product, so I never thought we’d release the music separately on CD. I was really happy though that people could listen to the CD and relive their memories of playing the game. Also, I mentioned the stage 5 theme of Tatsujin Ou, but I worked really hard on that song and thought it was great, so before the CD came out I had been a little frustrated that not many people would get to hear it.

Tatsujin Ou, st5 theme by Yuge.

—You recorded sound effects on your CDs as well.

Yuge: The sound driver has to control how the sound effects and the music are layered, so I would write both at the same time. I have the same affection for the sound effects that I do for the songs. And thanks to the sounds being on CD, they can be used in other formats, you know. Even today some of Toaplan’s sound effects are used for TV shows, which makes me really proud.

—Toaplan on television?!

Yuge: They like to use them because the sounds are different than what you can get through MIDI sequencing. These are sounds that were made specifically for arcade games of that era… I feel like they have never had a spotlight shone on them. I’m very glad we got to have this conversation (laughs).


—I understand you studied classical piano as a child, and were a fan of Beethoven.

Yuge: I took lessons from my second year in elementary school up till my first year in middle school, and continued playing as a hobby after that. I did like Beethoven, and I really liked Chopin too.

—I know you liked Yes, but how did you get into progressive rock? Did that influence you to learn guitar?

Yuge: I got into rock during the era of the Beatles, so that was a big influence. I started to learn guitar after that, too. I listened to all kinds of progressive and hard rock in the 70s, but I especially loved the music of Yes, and they were my favorite band to listen to.

—And yet, its interesting that your songs really don’t sound like progressive rock.

Yuge: Yeah, I wonder why that is? (laughs) When I wrote music I wasn’t really consciously trying to emulate a certain genre, though.

—When did you write your first composition?

Yuge: It wasn’t until I joined Orca that I wrote anything that I kept as a finished product. Before that I had written a lot of random, improvisational lines on piano, but I never wrote any of it down.

—Would you tell us how it was you started doing sound at Orca?

Yuge: My resume at my interview said my hobby was piano. They saw that and said, “good, you’ll do sound too.” I didn’t have any say in it. (laughs) But I was actually very happy that I was going to get to write music. As far as my first sound project, it was Marine Boy. We were using PSG at this time and had only one channel for both the melody and accompaniment.

—At Toaplan you put together all the sound drivers; did you start doing sound driver development at Orca?

Yuge: Yeah. You couldn’t really do that much with PSG. I learned how to create an echo effect, and some fundamentals like “if I do this, the sound changes this way.” At that time with game music, you’d start with programming the sound drivers, but if in the middle you thought “oh, it would be nice to have this sound” while you’re composing, you had to go back and revise the drivers.

—I see, it all starts with the sound drivers. That’s a contrast with Uemura, who already started from the intention of writing songs constructed like a rock band. Your collaboration with Uemura started with Tiger Heli, and I always had the impression that your different styles came together very smoothly. Did you propose who would do which songs?

Yuge: No. In the beginning we’d only decide basic things like “there needs to be 10 songs, so lets each do half.” We didn’t decide any particulars like who would do which songs, but I always loved doing the opening theme and name entry theme, so I would always selfishly say I was writing those. (laughs) I especially loved writing the name entry themes. Shooting games are like a sport, you know, you build up a sweat and get exhausted playing them. And when its all over, there’s relief, joy, sadness… you have a real wide range for musical expression.

—People say that simple basslines are a feature of the “Toaplan Style.” What do you think of that?

Yuge: For me, it was simply that our hardware didn’t have much memory for music, so I couldn’t really do complex phrases. (laughs) Though it is true that when you hear the same rhythm over and over you sort of get brainwashed by it. That might be the core of the “Toaplan Style” right there. To be honest I still don’t really know what that means.

Hishouzame st1 bgm. Note the Tatsujin melody fragment.

—I get the sense that where Uemura really focused on melody writing, with your music, on the other hand, you emphasized a feeling of programmed game music.

Yuge: Actually, it wasn’t really like that. Its just that I always started with a catchy melody I could hum, and then added all the sub lines and phrases that matched that. Since it was built up step by step, only in that sense would I say it felt “programmed.” It was rather the case that classical instrumentation couldn’t be done very easily. The problem was that if two sounds resounded together oddly even in some small way, there was nothing you could do about it. If you felt that way even a little you’d have to start all over.4

—With the introduction of FM sound in Kyuukyoku Tiger and Hishouzame, the rock feel in the music got stronger. As all the songs feature guitar, I thought Uemura had composed them all, but in fact you composed the Stage 1 theme and others. How is it that you changed gears like this?

Yuge: I’ve always liked rock music, but the PSG hardware was limited in its expressiveness, and I just couldn’t hear rock music coming out of it so I didn’t write that way. With the advent of FM sound you started to have access to guitar-ish sounds, so I tried it then. Also, when starting a new project, I liked to feature a single instrument to focus on in order to deepen and enrich the world of the game, and I remember for Hishouzame that was guitar.

—Did you have any troubles learning the FM hardware?

Yuge: Since I was a programmer already, in that respect there were no particularly high hurdles for me. It was rather that I admired the different composers who could get all manner of sounds out of FM.

—Did you pay much attention to the game music being made by other companies?

Yuge: I was listening to all kinds of things and didn’t make a distinction between “game music” and other music. The first time I heard the Gradius name entry screen I thought “this is amazing!” But I didn’t have any kind of competitiveness with other composers. If I had been that way, I don’t think I could have worked well with Uemura. Our relationship was one where we encouraged and stimulated each other… and we never criticized or judged each other’s work negatively.

—According to Uemura, there was talk about starting a Toaplan company band much like other musicians had at other game companies.

Yuge: When I look back on that today I think its really a shame that it didn’t happen. If I recall, we didn’t have anyone to play the drums. I was also bad at improvisation, and there wasn’t an A-type personality to really organize any more detailed plans… those may have been the main reasons it didn’t take off. I always had the image of a band in mind in terms of how I constructed my music, and for a long time I had been wanting to get out there have some fun performing it.

—Were you frustrated by being a step behind other companies in adopting FM and PCM hardware?

Yuge: We always wanted to use new things as quickly as possible, but due to budget and other business considerations, we didn’t make any demands about it. But we also realized that if we fell behind other companies too far, that would be bad for Toaplan in its own way. So our timing was such that when we finally couldn’t wait any longer, we’d switch to the new hardware, though a little later than other companies.

Incidentally, while we used FM and PCM sound for Tatsujin Ou, the reason we went back to FM only for V-V was because we wanted to clear out the FM sound chips from our inventory. The decision was completely based on business circumstances. Since V-V was done by a team of new hires, there was a feeling that it didn’t matter whether it sold well or not, so when the pcb was printed they tried to cut costs as much as possible. But V-V exceeded our expectations and turned out to be a really great game, and then we wished we could have done it entirely in PCM… later we felt we had sort of screwed over the new developers.

The V-V OST, for which Toaplan returned to FM.

—In V-V the songs have improvisational solo phrases that really stand out, and many of the songs are in a new style not seen before in Toaplan. You get the sense that the developers weren’t going to let themselves be beaten by the lower hardware specs.

Yuge: Those songs were done by laying down the basic tracks and improvising over them again and again, then selecting the best takes from among them. I’d become something of a sound specialist at that point, so we were able to try different things.

—By the way, how involved were you in the music for the console ports?

Yuge: Overall I didn’t have much involvement. The port I was most involved with was the Megadrive port of Same! Same! Same!. You know, regarding the Megadrive, I have this one bad memory that I’ve always wanted to apologize for, and that’s the tempo being too fast in the Tatsujin port. We didn’t receive any instructions from Sega on the sound hardware until 2 weeks before the mastering deadline. So I was really rushing to program everything and get the data coded, and we didn’t have a lot of time to tweak things, and that fast tempo resulted.

—I was certain it was some kind of remix done specifically for the Megadrive. Toaplan’s music staff gradually expanded, with Lee Ohta doing Daisenpu, Toshiaki Tomizawa doing Vimana, Tomoaki Takanohashi doing Teki Paki, and Yoshitatsu Sakai doing Batsugun. How did they come to work at Toaplan?

Yuge: Lee Ohta joined when Toaplan only had 5 or 6 employees. He said “I know I was hired for sound, but is it ok if I do programming as well?” and he ended up doing both. His music is constructed very uniquely and I personally like it a lot. But the only shooting game he did was Daisenpu. As for Tomizawa, he joined under similar circumstances. Takanohashi was originally hired to do sound, but as part of his instruction we had him learn programming as well. He really hated it (laughs), but in fact he handled part of the programming for Teki Paki all on his own.

But when I heard the sound he had done for Teki Paki, I realized that if we made Takanohashi do any more programming there was a danger his talents would be wasted, so we let him focus only on sound after that. He had created sounds I’d never heard before, so we realized that was a better fit. As for Sakai, he too was hired to do sound. By the time he was hired, we had learned our lesson and no one said anything about making him learn programming.

—Have you continued doing music since Toaplan?

Yuge: After I joined Takumi I did the name entry music for Giga Wing. I was originally hired to do sound programming and sequencing, and Takumi had different people composing the music, but one day one of those composers came to me because he was stuck on a composition. I sat next to him in the office, so I helped out and was able to write that one song (laughs).

All Toaplan shmup music is now available in one box set.

I haven’t had any chances like that since then, and I haven’t been writing music as a hobby. I just can’t write music in my spare time like that. If I’m going to do it, I need to totally immerse myself in it… so I have thought that if I ever change jobs, I think I’d like to focus on music composition. Actually if there were such an offer today, I’d probably take it! (laughs)

—Finally, I’d like to say that Toaplan’s music really defined a certain model of “shooting game music”, even if you yourselves were not aware of or intending for that to happen. Do you have any message for this generation that grew up listening to your music?

Yuge: I feel like a lot of my music isn’t complete, or that I had just only just opened the door of possibilities, and while I’m still alive I’d really like to be able to go back and get our music into a more complete, final form. For those who have enjoyed our music I have nothing but gratitude, and if I write new music, nothing would make me happier than sharing it with you. I’m really hoping for that chance, and will do all I can to make it happen, short of, you know, “risking my life” (laughs).

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  1. kyuukyoku means “ultimate”

  2. tatsujin means “expert” or “master”

  3. In Japan, a title written in kanji can impart a historical Japanese feeling to things because of the rich literary and cultural legacy embodied in individual kanji characters. On the other hand, English characters can appear more “futuristic” simply because they don’t have those deep connotations for Japanese readers. Games like Musha take advantage of this tendency in the opposite direction; using the kanji heightens the quasi-historical aesthetic of that game.

  4. Although he is a little vague about it, Yuge is expressing a preference he mentioned earlier for not using orchestral sounds in his game music at Toaplan; with early PSG / FM / PCM music, orchestral instrumentation was limited, and trying to make things sound good together like an emulated orchestra was probably very difficult.

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