|CUBE||Music Production||1990 - 1993||Composer|
|TWOFIVE||Music Production||1993 -||Composer|
|GE-ON-DAN||Artist Collective||2009 - 2011||Member|
|Noriyuki Iwadare’s Special Band||Music Group||2010||Founder, Producer, Keyboards|
Noriyuki Iwadare is a prolific musician famous for his works on series such as Grandia, Lunar, Langrisser, and Ace Attorney. Born on April 28, 1964 in Matsumoto, Iwadare has enjoyed music since listening to romantic symphonies in his youth. His tastes diversified as a teenager to include a range of ’70s and ’80s rock and pop artists, a selection of film and anime scores, and the dynamic works of Mahler, Shostakovich, and Ravel. Self-taught, Iwadare’s first experiences composing were adding music to various kinds of poetry and using the guitar and piano to create original music. He continued to compose at university after people started to enjoy his music and begun to use synthesizers and computers to produce electronic music and multitrack recordings. Continuing his dream to write music, he became a composer and keyboardist for an instrumental band with Hiroshi Fujioka and others after graduating. The band were hired to arrange music for three prominent albums, Zan: Kagerou no Toki, Takeda Shingen 2, and Devil Crash / Alien Crush; unlike his rock-oriented bandmates, Iwadare was responsible for the orchestral and acoustic arrangements on such projects. While this marked the composer’s involvement in video game music, that these projects were related to video games was initially trivial to him.
Iwadare considered entering the industry after Hiroshi Fujioka became a game composer. After being scouted by Fujioka, he created a well-received track for Taito’s Space Invaders: Day of Resurrection for the TurboGrafx-16. While his role was minor, the enjoyment he derived from creating music to fit scenes in the game inspired him to enter the industry full-time in 1990. Iwadare subsequently joined the music production company CUBE Corporation to program and arrange games adapted for Sega consoles. By working intimately with the compositions of other artists on After Burner II, Space Invaders ’90, Ys III: Wanderers of Ys, Granada, and Zero Wing, the composer assimilated many new approaches into his repertoire. He soon received the opportunity to define scores of his own with Gambler Jiko Chuushinha, Gynoug, and Head Buster, establishing a reputation as a dependable composer at Game Arts and Masaya. Given the game industry was a developing field, Iwadare embraced the novelty of writing music for such games and was stimulated by the constant struggle of developers to be innovative and progressive despite hardware limitations. On each of these titles, he relied upon their scenarios to inspire his imagination; after establishing a melody and style to work in, he was able to write individual compositions within three hours, but found the work far more difficult and time-consuming when he lacked visual inspiration.
Iwadare’s breakthrough work was 1991’s tactical RPG Langrisser (aka Warsong), developed by Masaya development team CareerSoft. He portrayed the turns of the player and enemy with different music, while motivating listeners with rock flavours and heavy beats. A year later, he worked on Game Arts’ Sega CD RPG Lunar: Silver Star, creating a soundtrack that was simultaneously upbeat and action-packed but also sentimental and soothing. The score was awarded eminent prizes and attributed him with much of his current Japanese fanbase. Having established his involvement in two long-running series, Iwadare subsequently worked on a multitude of lesser-known titles at CUBE for the Genesis and Sega CD. These included the space shooter Gley Lancer, featuring a motivating rock-flavoured score, and Steel Empire, with its tense bass-driven soundscapes. The artist also worked on several other Sega CD projects, namely Rise of the Dragon, SimEarth, and Wing Commander, exploring the technological possibilities of the console to offer high quality works. On these works, he developed close relationships and shared ideas with his co-workers at CUBE, especially Isao Mizoguchi, Hiroshi Fujioka,and Yoshiaki Kubodera. He also assisted in non-composing roles on Silpheed, Ranger X, and Crusader of Centy.
Iwadare left CUBE in 1993 to become contracted by music production company Two Five Records. Exploring new territory, he created his first dating simulation scores shortly thereafter for the Turbo CD’s Sotsugyou: Graduation and Sotsugyou II: Neo Generation. Setting precedent to numerous similar works, he offered a youthful sound on both titles featuring a mixture of lively and sentimental pieces. In similar vein, he offered a mixture of sensitive piano-led themes, ethereal synth-based compositions, and upbeat jazz pieces for the fairy raising simulation Mercurius Pretty, between working on two movie adaptations for the Game Boy. As a freelancer, Iwadare has nevertheless remained closely involved with the Langrisser and Lunar series. For 1994’s Langrisser II, he created a more elaborate but similarly style score to the original and also arranged the music into a rock-based album. The same year, he created what he feels is his defining work, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue; he was especially proud of his sensitive portrayal of Lucia crying and smiling at the same time in an iconic scene. Iwadare’s melodic and emotional music was also featured the prequel Lunar: Walking School, featured across two album releases. It was these works that really emphasised the composer’s deeper understanding of those who play his games and those who feature in them.
Embracing the 32-bit era, Iwadare was contracted to compose the majority of True Love Story in 1996, having impressed developer Bits Laboratory with his other dating simulation works. The composer revisited his naïve emotions as a teenager in order to depict junior high school days when students discover love. He carefully depicted the game’s characters with instrumental themes, mostly in a light jazz style, between writing three theme songs. Though not as widely known as his RPG works in the West, the title and its successors proved quite popular among Japanese audiences and inspired a line of soundtrack releases, vocal albums, and, eventually, even a box set. While working on the score, Iwadare also created a light rock score for the RPG Monstania, a range of sentimental music on Tanjou S: Debut, and the opening theme of Doukyuusei if. Iwadare was also given the opportunity to use the relatively flexible technology of the Saturn for the remake Lunar: Silver Star Story; his arrangements and new compositions demonstrated more elaborate musicianship and greater sensitivity thanks to his work on Eternal Blue. His music was also widely recognised in the West due to Working Designs’ adaptation Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, which was packaged with a bonus externally arranged CD.
Establishing himself as one of the Saturn’s leading composers, Iwadare worked on several other major projects thereafter. On Grandia, he exploited its console’s ADX tools to stream 11 emotional orchestral tracks and also created numerous sequenced tracks such as the rock-flavoured battle themes. Guided by empathy for the game’s young protagonists, he produced a fitting and endearing score with adventurous, romantic, comical, sinister, and heroic moments. Having emerged as a marketable composer, Iwadare produced two double disc soundtracks, a small ensemble arranged album, and a ’best of’ album were released for the game. Selections from the score were also ported to the PlayStation, the Saturn enhancement Grandia: Digital Museum, and the Game Boy Color’s Grandia: Parallel Troopers. The same year, Iwadare co-composed Langrisser IV to no soundtrack release and created a new score for Lunar: Walking School’s remake Magic School Lunar! However, he had no direct involvement in Lunar: Eternal Blue’s remakes, where Isao Mizoguchi was responsible for the arrangements, and the externally produced Lunar anime project. Instead, he spent his time single-handedly scoring Langrisser V, producing one of the series’ most diverse and atmospheric scores. He had become Sega’s answer to Nobuo Uematsu.
Following these works, Iwadare maintained his niche producing RPG and dating simulation soundtracks. CareerSoft selected the composer to score the first instalment of the Langrisser’s modern day successor Growlanser; he created another defining work blending warm melodies, a jazz fusion focus, and references to his other styles. Iwadare also built on the musical foundations of True Love Story for its second instalment and created music to beautifully complement the visuals of the Dreamcast’s Mercurius Pretty: End of the Century. The score for 2000’s Grandia II provided a further breakthrough for the composer in the West. The soundtrack was mostly continuous with its predecessor given its similar character, but featured enhanced sound quality, and stronger more rock and pop influences, and Kaori Kawasumi’s Portuguese vocal themes; by respectively representing God and people, "A Deus" and "Canção do Povo" embodied the game’s world and its two soundtrack releases. After composing both the background music and vocal themes for True Love Story 3, in one of his demanding assignments to date, Iwadare returned to the series two years later for the PlayStation 2’s Grandia Xtreme. He composed in a similar format, deciding the game’s militaristic focus should not influence the score’s emotional flavour; however, he was more economical with the number of themes he composer, given a lot of his work was unused on its predecessor.
Through his affiliations with Two Five Records, Iwadare also sustained an enormous amount of work outside the video game field. Since 1994, he has contributed compositions to accompany the HAY Dance Company’s regular performances and now serves as musical director on their behalf. He has also created music to accompany many of the popular attractions at Tokyo Disneyland since 1997, resulting in a series of associated album releases. His music has been a source of appeal on children’s television shows, musicals, radio shows, parades, and countdown events. For a time, he also served as a contributing editor to Dreamcast Magazine in Japan. Also willing to contribute to smaller projects, he has created music for local artistic events such as plays and festivals and specific organizations. Keen to expose children to music, the artist has also had various roles at school – performing as a live musician, creating compositions and arrangements, and serving as a judge and instructor. However, certainly his most high-profile non-game project was 2003’s vocal album Ingmar -for the beginning-, sung by Grandia II’s vocalist Kaori Kawasumi. Telling the abstract story of the meeting and parting of two lovers in an almost theatrical manner, the album received glowing reviews for its emotional intensity and musical variety.
Despite reaching such heights in solo career, Iwadare’s scoring roles diminished following the fall of Sega’s consoles. Development of the Grandia, Lunar, and Langrisser franchises ceased, while the scoring duties for the Growlanser passed to his former collaborator Hiroshi Fujioka. The composer’s attempt to enter the online gaming business also failed when the high-profile MMORPG he was involved in, Shining Lore Online, was cancelled. The composer did manage to continue working in the continue in the bishoujo genre, with vocal themes for Wind: A Breath of Heart and The Miracle Garden, before closing his involvement in another popular series with a holiday-themed score for True Love Story Story Summer Days and yet… Iwadare bounced back from this stroke of bad luck in 2004 by scoring Capcom’s Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations. Although in-house employees had composed earlier Phoenix Wright instalments, Iwadare was selected for the eagerly anticipated third game given his popular prominence and professional reputation. He built on a successful formula established with previous scores for the series to create tension and drama in the courtroom, while excelling with his fitting and memorable portrayals of characters. During this production, he was also asked to create the melodic techno piece "Higher The Air ~ Air Force Stage" for Mega Man X7.
In 2005, Iwadare was also specially selected to score Radiata Stories for tri-Ace and Square Enix. He enhanced the fun and humour of the game with a large diverse score and, to compensate for replacing Motoi Sakuraba’s usual role, arranged several of his battle themes on the project. The artist also elaborated on some of the better pieces in the score with an arranged album featuring mostly jazz and vocal tracks. On 2006’s Grandia III, Iwadare returned to produce an elaborate synth orchestral score that preserved the series’ characteristic sound. Continuing to be one of the industry’s most emotionally guided composers, he demonstrated his empathy with the game’s audience once again with a range of emotional centrepieces. While the long-awaited title proved a moderate hit, the score wasn’t quite as deep or creative as some expected. Iwadare showed his dedication to further bishoujo projects by scoring KimiKiss in 2007. Rather than pioneer a novel approach, he largely maintained the characteristic light jazz flavour of the True Love Story series. In other scoring roles, he produced the epic orchestral opening and ending themes for the tactical RPG Elvandia Story, between working on the low-profile DS action game Kanji no Wataridori and Korean MMORPG Project Wiki. Also asked to served on several collaborative productives, he contributed diverse and emotional arrangements for Dark Cloud 2, Phantasy Star Online, Rogue Galaxy, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
At Capcom’s request, Iwadare was delighted to direct and arrange most of the Gyakuten Meets Orchestra arranged album in 2006. Having had experience with both scoring the series and orchestrating other productions, the project was an ideal fit for the artist. It was so well-received that it inspired three best-selling symphonic concerts where Iwadare had planning, arrangement, and special guest roles. At last, Iwadare fulfilled his dream to see his music performed by orchestra live. Following this success, Iwadare arranged the series’ jazz arranged album, offering fun interpretations of classic melodies and directing competent improvisations from the Metropolis Jazz Band. Having become more willing to explore his artistic side, the composer also recently transformed his approach to composing dating simulation games for Enterbrain. On the True Love Story spinoff True Fortune, he elaborated upon intrinsically simple ideas to produce wholesome multifaceted compositions. His richer approach to the title was inspired by a number of factors – the modern setting, female target audience, and various technological developments. He took things a step further on Amagami, offering both a full sound version featuring heartrending instrumental performances – often performed by himself, due to budget limitations – and a retro sound version that emphasised the melodic aspects of the compositions. He returned to the latter for its PSP adaptation, radio dramatisation, and character vocal singles.
In 2009, Iwadare returned to the centre stage once again with a series of sequels and remakes. Handling the majority of the score for Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (aka Gyakuten Kenji), the artist once again demonstrated his capacity for portraying characters, notably offering catchy piano-based jazz compositions and lavish orchestrations to portray the protagonist. The limited edition of the game was packaged with an orchestral mini-album, featuring performances by the Tokyo Philharmonic. On the remake Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, the composer focused on enriching the quality of the franchise’s beloved existing pieces with instrumental performances and high quality samples. He also largely preserved the sound of Growlanser for its PSP adaptation, but added some music for the novel scenarios. Perhaps more excitingly, he produced an all-new score for the long-awaited Grandia Zero (aka Grandia Online). As the only staff member to have been consistently involved in the series, Iwadare ensured he retained the series’ sound and inspired other developers with his music. He adapted to the extended online gameplay by offering more elaborate and subtle compositions, while offering several nostalgic arrangements and a new vocal theme. While many of these productions were lavish ones, Iwadare notes he still adopts a traditional ‘pen and paper’ approach for finding ideas, before using technology and ensembles at a later stage.
Iwadare has continued to work on some diverse album productions. Maintaining a close relationship with Team Entertainment, he developed the concept of a ‘musical RPG’ as the arranger and co-composer of the vocal album Tindharia’s Seed in 2007. Working closely with singer-songwriter Haruka Shimotsuki throughout the production, he enhanced the scenario with high-quality acoustic and world instrumentation. Iwadare returned to the follow-up releases Griotte The Sleeping Beauty and Aria of the Spilled Sand, this time as part of an ensemble composer team. In each, he developed the narrative with numerous beautiful melodies and emotional soundscapes. The artist’s talents as a songwriter were also requested on Shirokuma Bell Stars, Legend of Chusen Original Image Songs, and the original album Message. The artist also developed his relationship with Michiko Naruke by arranging her theme songs for Nora and the Engraving Studio and Yuusha 30 Second. The pair went on to adapt the music of Idea Factory’s Hakuoki titles for a duo of arranged albums, favouring the simplicity and sentimentality of just a music box. Iwadare has also created a series of spectacular contemporary-flavoured additions to the arranged albums dedicated to Cave’s shooters Ketsui, Mushihimesama, DeathSmiles, and DeathSmiles IIX.
In recent years, Iwadare has also made noteworthy live performances across the world. Iwadare celebrated his career with retrospective performances at Paris’ Japan Expo and Tokyo’s 4star Orchestra during 2010; the artist established a special band for these concerts, leading them on keyboards. Two years later, he wrote a special Grandia suite for the Video Game Orchestra’s performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall. All three concerts were well-received and Iwadare loved being part of them. Also staying active as a game composer, Iwadare recently produced the feathery pop score for dating simulator Photokano and, having impressed Masahiro Sakurai on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, several climactic orchestrations on the retro revival Kid Icarus: Uprising. Remaining the principle composer of the Ace Attorney series, the artist also handled the music for Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2, building upon the styles and themes of the first game. For this occasion, he also penned a fully-fledged orchestral arranged album that was packaged with the collector’s edition. Iwadare’s upcoming works include Langrisser Schwarz, the long-awaited online revival of the popular series, and Ace Attorney 5, the eagerly anticipated next instalment of the series for 3DS.
- Various Game & Album Credits
- Official Site (English)
- Official Site (Japanese)
- Interview with RocketBaby (English, October 1999)
- Interview with RocketBaby (English, December 2000)
- Interview with RPGFan (English, November 2002)
- Interview with Lunar Net (English, April 2003)
- Interview with Capcom Unity (English, June 2009)
- Interview with Game-OST (English, January 2010)
© Biography by Chris Greening (November 2007). Last updated on December 30, 2012. Do not republish without formal permission.