Go Shiina, Go!

susumuLast week, another Web site put up an article about my favorite video game music composer, Go Shiina. But what caught my eye was a comment posted under the article from one of my good online friends. He said in his comment that the other site should’ve paid me to write about Go Shiina because I would’ve done a really good job, too. So I decided to write about Go Shiina anyway. Not because I wanted to make a better blog, but because someone ENCOURAGED me to do so.


Go Shiina Style

Anyway, enough of that. Masaru “Go” Shiina (that’s his full name) is a video game music composer who works for Namco Bandai Games. I only discovered him through those games, so I don’t know what he did before that, so no biography here or anything. The reason why Go Shiina is my favorite is because he has a distinct style. Actually, a lot of game composers have their own telltale style. You just have to listen for it. You’ll have to forgive me, I took piano lessons since third grade, was in marching band all through high school, and even took some music theory and history classes in college, so I may get a big geeky in the next few paragraphs.

Koji Kondo, for instance, has a distinct style. His music is easy to find, as he’s the one who wrote two of the most famous songs in video game history, the Super Mario Bros. and Zelda themes. Anyway, Kondo tends to use a lot of fanfares and triplet notes in his songs. In music, a triplet is three notes that are played in one beat. They’re all over the place in Kondo’s songs. One good example is the intro part of the Zelda theme song. Right before they go into the main melody, the same note is played about nine times. If you know which part I’m talking about, those are triplet notes!

Another one of my favorites, Yuzo Koshire, his songs have a driving, moving feel to them. Depending on the game, his songs can have a fantasy, rock, or techno vibe. Nobuo Uematsu, the Final Fantasy composer, you can tell he’s inspired by the classics, which is why his songs work so well in a sweeping orchestra setting. His songs are also easy to listen to and catch the melody. There’s a couple of his songs I can even play on the piano just by hearing them (Terra’s theme from FF6 is pretty simple since it’s just a bunch of arpeggios).

Anyway, Go Shiina’s musical style is very peppy and jazzy. He uses a lot of certain instruments and sounds, like violin and other string instruments, as well as chanting voices and synth. His songs are very unique from other video game soundtracks, so for the next few paragraphs, I’ll list some of my favorite examples, and I want you all to try and pinpoint Go Shiina’s style when listening.

Go Mr. Driller

When I first got out of college, a couple of friends and I went to GameWorks late one night when they had a special deal going on. You could play any game for ‘free’ for the next two hours by paying an initial fee. Near the front of the arcade was a new at the time machine called Mr. Driller, and my friends made fun of it. But I remember reading about it on the Web on Namco’s site, and it was supposedly a classic style game like a cross between Dig Dug and Tetris. Well, I got totally hooked on that game and played it all that night. Nobody else wanted to play it, so I had the machine all to myself. But being in a loud arcade, I didn’t get to hear the music yet.

Until they announced the home version. A lot of people were disappointed when this happened (this was Namco’s follow-up to Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast), but I was cheering. And I finally got to listen to the music, and I was floored. I was amazed that a 16-bit looking, pastel-colored game had such an epic and unique sound.

The song I wanted to showcase from Mr. Driller for your listening is actually from a GameCube sequel called Mr. Driller Drill Land. It was the last really good Mr. Driller game, and I’m very sad it never came out in the US (make a Wii version, Namco!). Anyway, this song is a good showcase of Go Shiina’s style. It’s played in the Indiana Jones spoof level: Drindy Adventure, starring Mr. Driller’s dad, the original Dig Dug! You can also hear Go Shiina’s Drill Land songs recycled in the Wii and Xbox Mr. Driller games, but I don’t recommend downloading them as they’re not very good. The ‘online’ part of Mr. Driller Online DOESN’T EVEN WORK! Anyway, I’d like to thank and credit YouTube for letting me blatantly rip off their site.

Mr. Driller Drill Land Song

Go Tales of Legendia

Legendia in Namco’s Tales RPG series is kind of the black sheep of the family, as it was done by a separate team and has a different, rebellious feel. Legendia has its share of problems: it takes palette swapping enemies to new levels, there’s no multiplayer support, and the second half of the game feels rushed. Strangely enough, it’s still my favorite Tales game. When I told a Namco PR rep at PAX that it was my favorite, he looked at me like I had two heads!

Anyway, I really liked the funny and lighthearted characters in Legendia. Everything that came out of Grune’s mouth was hilarious, and Moses and Norma were pretty funny, too. But the other reason why Legendia is my favorite is that Go Shiina composed all the music for it. In other Tales games, Motoi Sakuraba did all the music. I’m not a big fan of Sakuraba’s Tales songs, though, because I feel they are too bland and unmemorable. I can’t hum any of the Tales songs except for the ones in Legendia. Here’s samples of some of my favorites.

In the Legendia game, there’s a made up language that is used in some of the songs. It’s very Klonoa-esque. The last dungeon starts out with a female choir in the background, and as you delve deeper into the dungeon, the voices change to a lower bass male choir! But the song I chose to show off the vocals in Legendia is played in the first ‘maze’ you encounter. It’s one of my favorite songs in the game:

The Bird Chirps, I Sing

There is only one town in Legendia, and you always come back to it to replenish and upgrade your supplies. For some reason, this town reminded me of Six Flags theme parks with the wide sidewalks, bright buildings, and many ‘you are here’ maps. When I finished a dungeon and needed to go back to get supplies, I would say, “Well, it’s time to go back to Six Flags again.” The peppy town music also made me think of Six Flags. When you hear this song, listen for Go Shiina’s telltale violin and string perchance.

The Meeting Place is the Fountain Plaza

And finally, just to showcase Go Shiina’s jazzy style, here’s another favorite of mine. Keep in mind this song is played in one of the dungeons, usually reserved for dark, moody pieces of music!

Chasing Shirley

Go Klonoa 2

After Tales of Legendia and Mr. Driller came out, I started trying to learn as much as I could about Go Shiina’s work. I learned that he did a couple of songs from one of my favorite PS2 games: Klonoa 2. Near the end of the game are a couple of darker areas with foreboding music with eerie laughter and vocals. Perfect for Go Shiina’s style. I’m really glad I found out he helped with this game, as the Klonoa series is one of my top games.

Klonoa 2: Mirage

Go Ace Combat

Another thing I learned while looking up info on Go Shiina was he wrote music for some of the Ace Combat flight games as well. I’m not a big fan of Ace Combat games, but little brother Jeff sure is! Some of the over the top, epic scenes would be really fitting for Go Shiina’s style, I imagine.

Ace Combat 3: Liquid Air


Actually, don’t ‘go’ IDOLM@STER. It’s a series of Namco games that has thankfully stayed in Japan. One of the things I learned from the other site’s article is that Go Shiina did some of the music for this game, too. I don’t really know much about the series, because when I try to do research on it, I start feeling a little embarrassed. In the game, you manage a group of teen and young adult female pop idol singers and dancers, and there’s even an anime about it, too! But what I don’t know is, what’s the GAMEPLAY like? Is it a simulation game? A music and rhythm game? Or one of those yucky Japanese dating simulators? I don’t know!

One thing I do know, and it also compels me to learn about this series, is that there a lot of classic Namco game references and songs in IDOLM@STER, and you all know I like that kind of stuff. There are Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and other songs and costumes. I don’t know if Go Shiina did this song, but the one I chose to showcase is from a Namco game I’d really like to play: Libble Rabble (made by the same guy who did Pac-Man). And this video was the most tasteful.

Idolmaster Libble Rabble

Go Tekken 6

Another great thing I learned from the other site’s article is that Go Shiina did the music for Tekken 6! It’s good to hear that he was chosen to work on such a high profile game! When I would select YouTube videos showcasing Go Shiina’s music, I tried to pick ones that were different than what was in the other article, but for this one, I had to pick the same song as him because it best insinuates Go Shiina’s style. I really can’t wait to play Tekken 6 now!

Tekken 6: Anger of the Earth

Go Eminence

Another thing I learned while researching Go Shiina is that his music is featured in concerts by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra. This Sydney, Australia-based orchestra does a lot of concerts with video game and anime songs, and Go Shiina’s work has been in some of these events. I’m not entirely sure how involved Go Shiina is with this orchestra, but it sounds like it could be quite a lot. I heard that Eminence even provided the orchestrated music in Soul Calibur 4!

Go Interviews

I found some live Go Shiina interviews on YouTube, and I thought I’d share them simply so you can see what the dude looks like. And if you ever run into this guy, who has crazy reddish spiky hair, tell him I said ‘hi.’ And also tell him I said good job with his music. And ask if I can have an autographed copy of all his soundtracks! Ha ha!

Here’s an interview he did for CocoBiz. I don’t know what CocoBiz is, but it sounds delicious.

And here’s another interview he did after an Eminence concert.

Go Criticism

So now it’s pretty obvious that I’m a big fan of Go Shiina, but everyone has their faults. If there is one thing I would criticise about Go Shiina, it’s that, as you may have noticed, a lot of his work sounds the same. I mean, there’s a trumpet solo in the ending of Mr. Driller Drill Land, and the SAME exact solo is also in the ending of Tales of Legendia. Is Go Shiina in danger of being a one trick pony? Well, nobody’s perfect!

Go Encouragement

And now my blog comes full circle, as I started out by explaining that someone encouraged me to write this blog. I always like to tell people when I think they do a good job at something. And as a big Go Shiina fan, I think it would be neat to send him a nice letter giving him encouragement and kudos for his music. But I don’t know any way to contact him, and even if I did, he might not be able to understand it if he doesn’t know much English. One thing I did do to show my support was buy and import the full Tales of Legendia soundtrack, as opposed to downloading it illegally for free. I figured that’s probably the best way to show my support, aside from writing this blog. I can only hope that Go Shiina surrounds himself with friends, family, and co-workers who all encourage him and support his work.

In the same fashion, I hope that all of you are surrounded by friends and family who support and encourage you! What I’d like for all of you to do now, is look and see if maybe there’s someone you know in your life who could use a few nice words today. Never pass up the chance to say something nice to someone when they need it. Who knows? A kind word of encouragement could end up being the best gift someone gets this holiday season! –Cary

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