For a time past of very limited music and sound effects in video gaming, the Sunsoft game development company was truly ahead of its days.
During the late 80s and early 90s, Sunsoft produced some memorable greats for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Though the company did not last as long as Konami, Capcom, Namco, players will never forget some hits, Blaster Master, Batman, Journey to Silius. The games of Sunsoft brought a distinct, wonderful flair to the label, setting their games apart in style and appeal.
Their sound in particular was Sunsoft’s special signature, through its musical tracks and sound effects. To play their games was to experience a setting of mood and involvement to the worlds they presented (also well done in visuals). Their scores emitted experimental tones, mixed in with new-age electronica, a genre still in its pioneering stage to the mainstream pop. The use of digitized bass samples, noise waves, triangle waves, and other bits and beats used to heighten the mood of gameplay; either as sound effects or mixed with deep melodies. If you listen carefully in many of the Sunsoft games, you can hear multiple effects and samples recycled, a signature proudly represented.
Much of Sunsoft’s musical scores are credit to its master composer, Naoki Kodaka.
Little is known online about the young Japanese musician, other than his dedication to Sunsoft and teamwork with sound programmers, Nobuyuki Hara and Shinichi Seya. He produced game music for Sunsoft from 1985 to 1997. His tracks would live on through classic gamer nostalgia fandom, and various remixes of his work.
Here below are my personal favorite tracks composed by Naoki Kodoka, presented in their original game track format (with special thanks to the YouTube posters of each). Have a listen …
Blaster Master Area 1 – An instant classic mood-setter for the long adventure ahead. Also, my current phone ringtone…
Blaster Master Area 4 – Great stalking theme and buildup to this stage’s giant boss battle. Hint to what that may be: listen carefully at the end of the build-up..
Blaster Master Area 5 – Peaceful and chill, furthering out the water and diving themes of this stage.
Journey to Silius: Title theme – The kind of theme that you should take your time and listen to before pressing Start.
Journey to Silius Level 4 – One of the hardest game levels of my NES days, but the music does push the player to meet the challenge..
Batman Area 1 – Not as memorable as the Danny Elfman movie theme, but the opening stage score sets the tone of Batman’s 8-bit crime-fighting skills.
Batman Boss Battle – Fantastic digital drum beats going on, with multiple tempo layers to get the plumped for the tough boss battles…
Gremlins 2: the New Batch Office Theme – This tune well plays off the comedic, anarchic mischief of those Gremlin creatures.
Gremlins 2: the New Batch Gremlin theme – Great buildup and variance, all because you ignored the rules. Also reminds me of the main theme of the original movie score.
Fester’s Quest Title Theme – A strange licensed game featuring Uncle Fester of The Addams Family. Sunsoft’s take on the theme was quite creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, altogether ooky…
Fester’s Quest Boss Battle – the game as a whole, not as fantastic as the Blaster Master or Batman, but the boss theme was quite kick-ass and pushed the limits of the NES sound chip capabilities.
Super Spy Hunter Stage 06 Plane Fight – A cross mix of the classic Sunsoft style, with the James Bond inspirational of the franchise…
Ufouria: the Saga: Hebe in the Cold Area – From a game not released in the US, with a complex theme that almost feels like a story in itself..
Batman: Return of the Joker Ending Theme – Naoki Kodaka’s final NES game, and an end to an era for Sunsoft. it feels fitting, as a goodbye to all the best we got out of the NES, thanks to Sunsoft and many other games pushing the limitations of its console.
– Orion T