The heartwarming tale of how Yuzo Koshiro became famous in an era when game developers worked in obscurity also has a Studio Ghibli connection.

Yuzo Koshiro has been one of the video game industry’s most famous and respected music composers for decades. Part of that is thanks to coming into the industry at just the right time in the late ‘80s, just as technology was allowing video game sound to move evolve past rudimentary beeps and bloops and into genuine music. Koshiro rode this wave with his eclectic tastes and talents in everything from techno to classical, producing landmark game soundtracks for Streets of Rage, The Revenge of Shinobi, Actraiser, and Ys.

But wait a second, if Koshiro came into the industry in the ‘80s, how did he rise to name-recognition stardom? This was the pre-Internet era, and for gamers generally the only way to find out who worked on a game was to beat the thing and wait for the credits to roll, and even then, most gamers were too flushed with adrenaline after defeating the final boss to pay much attention.

Koshiro, though, managed to get his name prominently displayed at the beginning of some of the games he worked on. For example, aside from publisher Sega, Yuzo Koshiro is the very first name that appears when turning on The Revenge of Shinobi, before even Spider-Man and Marvel.

▼ “Music ©1989 Yuzo Koshiro”

Since many of the titles Koshiro worked on were hits not just in Japan but overseas as well, it earned him an international fanbase.

▼ “Music ©1991 Yuzo Koshiro”

It was a brilliant marketing move, and helped establish Koshiro’s presence right from a very early point in his career (born in 1967, he hadn’t quite turned 22 when Revenge of Shinobi was released in Japan). However, it turns out the credit for the clever idea doesn’t actually go to Yuzo Koshiro, but to Tomo Koshiro, his mom, as well as one other titan of the Japanese music world, as explained in a tweet from Yuzo himself.

Tomo is a musician too, and personally taught her son how to play the piano at a young age. Once he grew up and started working professionally, she was still looking out for him, and suggested that he ask video game publishers to list his name on the title screen. However, Tomo herself was influenced by Jo Hisaishi, the Studio Ghibli composer responsible for the soundtracks to Spirited Away, My Neighbor Tototor, Princess Mononoke, and several other Hayao Miyazaki-directed anime classics.

As a matter of fact, Hisaishi was briefly Yuzo Koshiro’s music teacher, instructing the younger Koshiro for a period starting when the boy was around eight years old (Yuzo says he can’t remember his exact age at the time). Well, “instruct” might be too strong a word, as Koshiro says Hisaishi didn’t impose a curriculum of rigid drills and forced composition framework. Instead, Hisaishi would start playing a piece of music, then stop and leave the rest up to Koshiro to finish, which the video game composer says nurtured his ability to improvise and innovate.

This wouldn’t be the last time Yuzo’s family members had a positive effect on his career, or he on theirs. In 1990, Yuzo and Tomo co-founded the Tokyo-based video game development company Ancient, where his sister, Ayano, has also worked as a graphic artist.

Yuzo is currently working on music for Streets of Rage 4, the first new entry n the series in more than 25 years. While the new game isn’t being created by Sega, the developers still reached out to him, since his name has become synonymous with the franchise in the minds of fans, thanks to a suggestion from dear old mom.

Sources: Twitter/@yuzokoshiro via Reset Era via Jin, 2083 Web
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he fondly remembers reading an interview with Yuzo Koshiro in the very first issue of Diehard Gamefan.