Why did I play this?Why did I play this?

Posted on Jun 10th 2015 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Wolf Team, sega cd, mega cd, renovation, telenet, tales, namco, camelot, sonic, shining, star ocean, tri ace

RPG fans have likely heard much more of this composer than they realize. The stars aligned rather early in Motoi Sakuraba's composing career and he became one of the most respected Japanese composers of all time. However, he is one that is seldom discussed when compared to a few of his peers. Progressive rock has always been a massive influence on Sakuraba, and he was in a few bands of this style before he started composing for video games. He started his career by joining two other composers, Masaaki Uno and Yasunori Shiono at a a small, but talented developer called Wolf Team. At first, Wolf Team made games for popular Japanese PC systems of the time, namely the X68000 and MSX systems. The company made games of many different genres, and were known for making high quality games, and well done ports.

Sakuraba started work in 1989, and some of his work appeared the same year in the games Zan: Kagerou no Toki, Arcus II: Silent Symphony, and Arcusyu. The following year saw some of Wolf Team's first games leave Japan. This was because Wolf Team's majority holder of the time, Telenet Japan, opened up Renovation Products and began publishing many of their titles for North American release on Sega's Genesis and its CD add on in later years. Granada was the first of these with Sakuraba's work, followed by Final Zone and Sol-Feace in the same year. Sol-Feace was his second solo game soundtrack, Zan: Yasha Enbukyuoku is the first one, while all other games so far were at least dual efforts. Sol-Feace was downgraded from a Mega CD game to a Genesis cartridge for North American release, and this version was called Sol-Deace. Sol-Feace would become one of the games bundled in with the Sega CD at launch, and that let Renovation take a spot as one of the Sega CD's major third party supporters.

Afterwards Sakuraba started to work solo more often than not. Some more of Wolf Team's games got released in North America in 1991, a trilogy of games starting with Earnest Evans was released, as well as its first follow up, El Viento. El Viento's release oddly came first in North America, since it was a simple region port and translation, while Earnest Evans was completely downgraded from a Mega-CD game to something that could fit on a Genesis cartridge. The third game in this series is called Annet Futatabi, and stayed in Japan. Arcus Odyssey also made the trek across the Pacific this year.

Sega's CD add on saw some support for ports of older, Laserdisc-based arcade games, the type that have QTE patterns and high quality animation. The high point of this genre is considered to be Dragon's Lair, but there were many examples of Japanese arcade developers that used the style in the mid-80s in its wake. Wolf Team ported Time Gal, Road Blaster (as Road Avenger), and Ninja Hayate (as Revenge of the Ninja) with Sakuraba doing the new arrangements for the first two, and sound effects for the last. Only Time Gal and Road Avenger were released by Renovation in North America.

After this, Renovation's efforts in North America waned, and Wolf Team started work on an ambitious new game, a role playing game. This was essentially the end of Wolf Team, as Telenet signed a contract with Namco to promote the game with a publisher that could pull in more sales both domestically and overseas. This game would end up being released as Tales of Phantasia. With Wolf Team splintered, it opened up new contacts for Sakuraba. Camelot Software Planning was released from Sega in 1995, and quickly managed to release Beyond the Beyond for the Playstation.  They also hired one of Wolf Team's former composers, who had glowing reviews for her old coworkers, so Sakuraba composed all of Beyond the Beyond before moving on to work with Camelot on the Shining series.

Most of old Wolf Team proper founded a company called tri-Ace, and invited Sakuraba along to compose their new RPG, Star Ocean. It is through all of these contacts that Sakuraba branched out and became the main compositional force behind many classic franchises. The Tales series being his most current rising force in the Western Markets.

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I love video game music, but I know so little about it and could never discuss relevant composers intelligently. Thanks for these articles, I'd love to see more of them in the future.

Editors note: The "T" in tri-Ace is not capitalized. Yeah, I had to look that up. Wink
Love, LOVE the Sol-Feace soundtrack!
@noiseredux: Just wait, part 2's gonna rock just as hard!
The soundtrack is part of what saves Sol-Feace from being a painfully average shmup.  I'll have to go back and play that one again for the soundtrack, because I never cared much for the game.  I always found the hit detection to be a bit dodgy.  Very interesting stuff, and I like hearing about VG composers like this.  Obviously he was overlooked, as compared to heavy hitters like ZUNTATA, Nubuo Uematsu, Yuzo Koshiro, etc.  Looking forward to reading more!
@MetalFRO: I've got a bunch of others in this series buried in my blog's archives.
I played so much Sol-Feace as an early SEGA CD adopter. Great music, and I think I'm just going to keep this page open for a bit before I hit submit to keep listening...

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