Composers Yuko Komiyama and Norihiko Hibino Talk Contra Operation Galuga

Recently I got to speak with Composers YukoKomiyama and Norihiko Hibino about their work on the new Contra game.

(Yuko Komiyama, was translated by Eriko Muraji)

Komiyama-san, the original Contra came out in the ’80s, and this new version is set in 26XX AD. Did you play the original game again or do anything special to be able to create the music that pays homage to the original while modernizing it?

Yuko Komiyama (YK): Since I wasn’t a good gamer, I couldn’t play the game because it was too difficult for me at the time. When I was given the opportunity to be part of this game, I didn’t have any Contra game or game consoles for it. So, I went to YouTube and other video sites and watched videos of Contra from the first to the most recent version. My husband was also playing it at the time, so I secretly asked him about the world view of it and what he liked about the game so that he wouldn’t know that I was developing the game.

Hibino-san, in composing for a videogame, what is the biggest difference in your approach compared to when you compose therapeutic music?

Norihiko Hibino (NH): As for a videogame sound production, a music list exists and the client has a certain direction for how the music should be, and what I do is just follow them while adding my own experience.

On the contrary, the therapeutic music approach should not include any “intention” of how it is received, rather, I focus on how the music helps those who listen to connect to higher spiritual self. My experience, or my cliche way, may not work, so always I have to be free from my own self to make this kind of music.

What or who inspired you to become music composers?


YK: I wanted to be an *electone teacher since I was a little girl. So I took music lessons and went to music college. I studied composition and electone performance techniques there, but before I could find a job, I was told that I write good music but I’m not a good performer. So I was thinking maybe I should become a composer because I’m not good at playing… That’s why I took the entrance exams for the sound departments of various game companies.

*Electone :

NH: Music is my language instead of verbal Japanese. I was a very shy kid who didn’t want to communicate with others. In my mind, feeling and words are never tied together until right now. But music is different. Only through music can I think, feel, and express what I have in my mind and soul.

In terms of getting composition/arrangement skills, Harry Gregson-Williams is definitely my biggest mentor. I learned so much working with him, how to layer tracks to create depth.

What were your favorite video games growing up?


YK: The first videogame console I ever played was a Famicom (NES) that my grandparents gave me for Christmas. Urban Champion and Hyper Olympic were the first games I played. NES, Super NES, Game Boy, Sega Saturn, PS1, NEOGEO, PS2… I played so many games when I was younger, that it’s difficult to pick one of them…

By the way, I was hooked on Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty the game Hibino-san was in charge of, when it was released before I joined Capcom, and even after I joined the company, I was playing the game at night at work, playing for a few weeks and collecting dog tags for the soldiers!

NH: Actually, I didn’t play videogames when I was a kid because I didn’t have them!


Describe your favorite and least favorite part about being a musician.


YK: Basically, I love music, so when I’m surrounded by music of any genre, my ears are drawn to it and I enjoy it. But when I am struggling to compose music, I don’t want to listen to any music or even the sounds of life, so I have a hard time avoiding music in my life then…

NH: Since I do lots of work outside of being a musician, such as directing actors in studio studios, organizing concerts, and running a kids nursery, among other things… being a musician is a just a small part of my life, but still I feel like I’m alive when I play saxophone in front of an audience or in a studio. It is like gasoline in my life. In that sense, playing/creating music is so natural to me that I never categorized myself as a “musician.”