An extension of the Best Game Ever column, this new space allows me to not just love and gush over my favorite games, but caress and manhandle some of the people who made my favorite games. An obvious first choice would be someone like Shigeru Miyamoto, Yuji Naka, Sid Meier, or Will Wright, but that wouldn’t be very exciting and where’s the elitism and snobbery in picking someone everyone already knows? Their days may still yet come in the pages of Idol Worship, but for now we will examine two little known composers who worked for Sega in their golden age, Tokuhiko Uwabo and Izuho Takeuchi, better known as Bo and Ippo (well, to me at least).
Sega, like Atari, refused to give credit to their staff well into the 90’s. That’s why these two composers are not usually credited by their real names and have become known to fans as Bo and Ippo. Sega eventually stopped being assholes, so we now have the real names of their old staff, but it is still problematic matching the names to their pseudonyms. Bo has also gone by “Mr. Bo”, “Hairy Uwa”, “T. Uwabo” and “Noah Toku.” Ippo has been listed as, well, Ippo and I Takeuchi. It’s possible the two have done a lot more work than people know due to the pseudonym practice, and some still argue there is no solid proof linking the real names to the fake. Let’s just assume Bo and Ippo are Uwabo and Takeuchi.
Bo did the compositions for such huge hits as Alex Kidd in Miracle World and Zillion. He also did the obscure Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star 2 and ported the music from Space Harrier and Fantasy Zone from arcade to the Master System. He is a hard guy to find without knowing Japanese, so I am not sure if he has done anything since the early 90s.
Alex Kidd was Sega’s Mario slayer so the company put a lot of trust in Bo by giving him the project. Unfortunately for Sega, it wasn’t better than Mario so it works out that the music was also not as good. So the music from Alex Kidd is not amazing, but the game was one of my childhood favorites and I still remember some of the tunes. Here are a few of the better ones, and note the sound quality isn’t great due to a lowered sample and bit rate (server space doesn’t grow on trees):
This is the main theme and is a classic to me and eight other people. Normal
This one is pretty cool early on then it just loses it. Nice try. Castle
Zillion was a solid game, if a bit short and easy if you aren’t ten when you play it. The best part of the game for me was always the music. Bo only wrote a handful of tracks for it but they were each long and damned catchy. I think he went on to do the music for the far inferior sequel, but the info is sparse and contradictory. Here are some Zillion tracks:
Watch for the infectious hook at around 53 seconds. On planet
And the same track only anime intro: Show theme
The badass part for this one comes in around 38 seconds. Inside planet
Bo is undoubtedly known best for his work on Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star 2. The music in the two does not sound very similar and I am partial to the first games, but the sequel seems to garner more acclaim for its sound. Here are some tracks from the original:
The sand planet’s theme. Motavia
This dungeon must be pretty laid back and “chill.” Boss Dungeon
The theme from Medusa’s dungeon, my favorite track in the game. Notice the virtuosity. Medusa
Phantasy Star 2’s soundtrack used the superior Genesis soundchip, which was actually the same chip the Master System used as its processor, so the sound quality is undeniably better. The tunes are more futuristic sounding, keeping with the theme of the game.
This is an absurdly upbeat town song. Pleasure
And this is the battle theme. It’s all you’ll hear for about 75% of the game. Rise or Fall
Ippo worked with Bo on porting the Y’s music, originally composed by the oft mentioned Yuzo Koshiro, from the TG16 [correction: old Japanese computers] to the Master System. It may be blasphemy, but I prefer the “inferior,” non-orchestral version Bo and Ippo came up with. This may be the only project the two of them worked on together, but the Phantasy Star series ties the men together.
Phantasy Star 3 was a disaster. A key series designer, Rieko Kodama, who went on to create Skies of Arcadia (and PS4) and lead programmer Yuji Naka were not part of the design team. The game was obviously rushed, as the plot was thinner than that guy in that movie, I forget what it’s called. Most fans of the series, myself included, think it’s just a piece of crap. Luckily, the soundtrack included a few gems. Plenty of the tracks, by my man Ippo, just suck, and the instrumentation is terrible. But Ippo really nailed a few and showed the vast potential he would tap into when the next Phantasy came along. Here goes:
This is the game’s main theme. Pretty sweet, too bad the generation system was stupid. Generations of Doom
The first plot event triggers this one. Abduction
This is the final Boss music. Dark Force