Talk:Norio Nakagata

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Burai Fighter (NES)

The game lacks credits. However, Nobuyuki Shioda verified that Norio worked on the game's music.

Interview Translation

Quarta 330: Mr. Nakagata, how did you come to join Namco in 1983 and start creating game music?

Nakagata: I originally came to Tokyo promising my parents that I would return to my hometown in Fukushima Prefecture and become a teacher. So I also did an educational internship. Doing the practical training almost destroyed my four years of college. Then all the "job fronts" were over (laughs). I was impatient. I loved my job as a teacher, but on the other hand, I had a strong desire to make a career in music. So I went around to the music industry, but I was told, "Come here the day before yesterday," and I was turned away at the door (laughs).

One day, a college classmate told me, "Namco is an interesting company, you should apply. At the time, Namco was hiring regardless of the "job hunting front," and had a policy of "taking interesting people. So I took my demo tape and went to take Namco. I had also made 8mm science fiction films for the film study group, so I brought some of those films with me.

Quarta 330: You are so versatile!

Nakagata: No, no (laughs). So, I don't know what was good about it, but I got the letter of employment.

hally: You were not in charge of sound when you joined the company, were you, Mr. Nakagata?

Nakagata: Yes. Namco was originally an amusement company called Nakamura Seisakusho, which made amusement park rides on the roofs of department stores. As a remnant of this, there was a big project called "PICPAC" (1984), in which robots performed a musical with a band, and I was included in it.

I worked on Picpac for a year after joining the company, and since the hardware was already almost complete, I was in charge of the software aspects, such as scenarios and music. Pop singers like Taeko Onuki and EPO wrote the main theme song, and I wrote the other songs.

Later, when my senior colleague, Yuriko Keino, went on maternity leave, I moved to the game development and production department. The music production environment at that time was based on direct hexadecimal programming, which was very confusing at first.

Quarta 330: Did you write the score first and then type it in?

Nakagata: I didn't even have time to write music scores (laughs). It was hell, especially after the launch of a division called Namcot, a brand for the Famicom. After that, I was already staying overnight in a sleeping bag at the office. After staying there for about a week, my body would start to smell, so I would leave my bathing gear at the office and go to the public bathhouse in Kamata. At the time, there were only two "sound people" in the company, myself and Junko Ozawa. So I asked my colleague, Hiroyuki Kawada, who was in the planning department, to help me out. and invited Hiroyuki Kawada, a colleague of mine in the planning department, to join me. So finally there was three people. But it wasn't enough, so I asked Shinji Hosoe, who was working part-time as a pixel artist on "The Tower of Babel" (1986), to join my band.

hally: Both Mr. Hosoe and Mr. Kawada were originally not going to do music production, but they were pulled in (laughs).

Quarta 330: Sounds like a start-up company these days.

Nakagata: For "Tower of Babel," I did everything I could, from map creation to debugging. Pac-Land and Battle City (both in '85) had me debugging to death. But it's hard to get to the end because it's so difficult, you know (laughs).

hally: It was unique in the game industry at that time that the sound person was also doing debugging!

Nakagata: It was the early days, so upper management did not fully grasp how much time and human resources were needed to produce the game. (By when, do something anyway!) (ah ... yes ...) kind of groove (laughs).

For "Famista," the project planners gave me a very difficult challenge: I couldn't make "out" and "safe" sounds, so I had to make them sound like "out" and "safe" on the PSG (laughs). But that's how it was for everyone in the development field at that time.

hally: Mr. Nakagata had forgotten until recently that he himself had played the Famicom version of "Genpei Toumaden" (laughs).

Nakagata: That's right (laughs). I was really busy at the time... I kept myself busy, too. I also felt that I could not be satisfied with just producing game music. I wanted to express in some way that this is how I feel about making music.

At the time, Namco provided a radio program on TBS called "Raji-Ame (Radio is American)," and the president of the production company was Mr. Nakamura, the younger brother of Namco president Masaya Nakamura. I asked the Chairman to introduce me to Victor Musical Industries, and we made a record called "Video Game Graffiti" (1986), which was an arrangement of video game music.

Quarta 330: You wanted to record and preserve the music you made as a proper record as well.

Nakagata: Yes. On the other hand, we also wanted people to hear game music at the show. Carrying his own synthesizer, he traveled from Sapporo to Kyushu to perform live in a public recording for "Radio Ame."

In addition, when the "Visual Image Project" was launched within the company to consider film production, we also launched a project to make a promotional video for "Genpei Toumaden" and asked Keita Amemiya, who was just an illustrator at the time but later became a film director, to make one for us. This led to the production of the "Future Ninja" movie ("Future Ninja: Keiunki Shinobi Gaiden," 1988). A young guy who had only been with the company for a few years was doing such things on his own (laughs).

However, Namco at that time had the depth of nostalgia to allow us to freely do such things. When I think about it now, I think it was a truly wonderful company.

For "Zombie Nation," I made music using only PCM sound sources (laughs).

Quarta 300: The arcade version of Nakagata's masterpiece "Genpei Umaiden" was released in 1986, wasn't it? I first played the Family Computer version (in 1988), and the sounds and illustrations were too scary for me as a child at the time (laughs). The characters were so finely drawn that I couldn't even look directly at the small fry characters (laughs).

Nakagata: That's right (laughs). Namco's main characters were cute ones like Pac-Man and Mappy, but we took the liberty of creating "Genpei Toumaden," a dark hero story. I think it must have been very strange for Namco fans at the time.

Quarta 330: I see (laughs). The sound source for the arcade version of "Genpei Toumaden" is FM, isn't it?

Nakagata: Yes, FM was a groundbreaking sound source. Until then, Namco's system board was a waveform memory sound source..., which was also Namco's traditional tone. The works of seniors such as Ms. Keino and Mr. Nobuyuki Ohnogi are typical of such works.

When I was working on "Genpei Toumaden" and "Thunder Cepter" (1986), Yamaha's FM chip was to be on board. But just because you receive a sound chip does not mean you can immediately produce sound. We had to create our own tone editor and sound tools while doing the analysis. I had to talk with the sound programmer and decide on the specifications as we went along, so at first it was almost a hands-on process.

Quarta 330: When porting from the arcade to the Famicom, was it difficult to choose which sounds to replace with PSG, given the number of simultaneous pronunciations, as well as the brilliant tones of the FM sound source?

Nakagata: The Famicom could only produce three notes plus noise, so I had a lot of trouble. It was quite difficult to create harmony with only three notes.

hally: Mr. Nakagata has a long history with the Famicom, and from the days when only three primitive sounds could be produced, such as in "Tower of Babel", to "Metal Slider Glory" (1991), which made full use of extended sound sources, you know the process of evolution of sound drivers to allow flexible use of sound sources.

Nakagata: "Metal Slider Glory" and "Zombie Nation" were the last of the Famicom era. The ability to use PCM sound sources was a big deal.

hally: You felt that it would be frustrating to just use the sounds of the Famicom in a normal way.

Nakagata: Of course I did. We wanted to do something that wasn't being done anywhere else. That's why I tried to make music using only PCM sound sources for "Zombie Nation" (laughs).

I was the first person in Fukushima Prefecture to buy a mini KORG 700S.

Quarta 330: I like Mr. Nakagata's music, "Burai Fighter" (1990). I thought that music was very brass band-like.

Nakagata: I miss it (laughs). The shuffle rhythm in "Burai Fighter" comes from "Thunder Cepter."

I played trumpet and horn in the brass band in junior high school and played in the orchestra in high school. Maybe the remnants of those days were unintentionally showing up.

Quarta 330: Mr. Nakagata, you were active in a progressive rock band called AQUA POLIS before you joined Namco.

Nakagata: Yes, I did. I grew up listening to Yes, Pink Floyd, and other progressive music. The music scene in the 70s was very chaotic and interesting. I was a middle and high school student at the time, so I was directly and greatly affected by it.

hally: Progressive music uses a variety of instruments, but were you fascinated by the synths?

Nakagata: I played the piano and loved the music of Isao Tomita since I was a child. Mr. Tomita was one of the first to pay attention to synthesizers, so I thought, "Synthesizers are an amazing instrument."

At the same time, prog rock bands started incorporating synths into their rock music, and I thought, "Well, I have to buy a synth!" I tricked my parents into paying for it and bought a mini KORG 700S, almost the first domestically produced machine, when I was a senior in high school. These were the days when KORG was still called Keio Giken. I must have been the first person in Fukushima Prefecture to buy a 700S, and I once received a postcard asking, "Would you like to be a monitor for our synth?"

Quarta 330: At that time, synths were a key item for starting something new, weren't they?

Nakagata: Yes. It was like, "Without a synth, there is no beginning." After that, I was using Polysix, Delta, and MS-20, and then I had to choose Korg (laughs). Since joining Namco, I've been working on Prophet 5...

Quarta 330: The price has suddenly gone up (laughs).

Nakagata: I had always admired the sound of Prophet 5. I thought that if I was going to have them buy it on the company's equipment application anyway, the more expensive the better (laughs). Later, I would also buy an Emulator II, which costs over 2 million yen.