Though probably best-loved for his trio of scores for Sega’s Streets of Rage trilogy, the bulk of Yuzo Koshiro’s work has been for fantasy games such as The Revenge of Shinobi and the Ys series. One particular highlight and a favourite of mine is his soundtrack to the genre-blending ActRaiser.
Much like its purposefully rigid side-scrolling segments, ActRaiser‘s music also owes more than a little to the Castlevania franchise. This is most evident in opening stage Filmore which sports an epic prog rock number that immediately gets you pumped to vanquish the minions of Satan.
While Koshiro’s fantasy offerings share some similarities to the style of John Williams, there is one track in ActRaiser that flagrantly rips off one of his compositions. Anything sound familiar in this this theme from the second Northwall stage? Yup, several passages sound exactly like the music that plays during the Death Star attack in Star Wars: A New Hope.
Curiously, Koshiro also worked on Star Wars: Attack on the Death Star for the obscure Japan-only Sharp X68000 computer which released just one year after ActRaiser. A segment of music that plays during the game’s epilogue is also a blatant recreation of the 20th Century Fox’s fanfare, the distribution studio behind the Star Wars movies.
Despite these outlandish inclusions, I believe that ActRaiser still deserves its reputation as one of the great 16-bit era soundtracks. It set an incredibly high bar in terms of technical and compositional quality for the newly released Super NES and was rarely bettered in either aspect on the platform.
Clearly the makers of the game recognised the importance of Koshiro’s work as the game’s music was honoured not only with a soundtrack CD release but also a full symphonic album. Symphonic Suite From ActRaiser followed the trailblazing footsteps of other early orchestrated albums of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy music and is truly a majesty to behold.