It’s not everyday you speak with an industry legend, but I was lucky enough to have this opportunity just a few weeks ago.
As some of you know, I’m a huge fan of video game music. I don’t think game composers get the credit they deserve, and I’m always here to sing their praises and spread the word about what they do. Which is why I jumped at the chance to interview Harumi Fujita, a game composer who’s worked on a litany of big-name franchises throughout her career.
You name a series and Fujita got involved. Mega Man, Bionic Commando, Streets of Rage, Ghosts ‘n Goblins, the list goes on. Some of the biggest gaming franchises have been enhanced through the work of Harumi Fujita, and more recently she lent her incredible talents to WayForward’s Spidersaurs soundtrack.
In the interview below, I chatted with Harumi about her incredible career in the gaming industry, the legacy of her compositions, and her contributions to Spidersaurs. It was an absolute dream come true, and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed the opportunity.
From Mega Man to Spidersaurs, Fujita’s work is truly legendary
LARP: First of all, your work is absolutely iconic. From Bionic Commando to Mega Man, Chip ‘n Dale to Tomba, you’ve contributed to some of the most memorable game soundtracks ever released. Have you ever thought that your work would attract you such an audience or become so timeless?
Harumi Fujita: I had no idea that my work would ever garner such a following. The internet didn’t exist at the time I was composing for these titles, and my awareness was limited to anything happening in very specific areas of Japan. When I finished working on Strider, the sales department told me that the game would only be released outside of Japan; I was so unfamiliar with the world outside of Japan that I thought Strider was sent to die. Looking back now, I can see that the outside world is much bigger than Japan itself. I never really thought about how many people outside of Japan would listen to my music or how popular it would be there. Today I get a lot of messages from people on Facebook and Twitter saying how much my music resonated with them, which is very surprising, but it’s something I’m also very happy to hear. I’m grateful.
LARP: What has changed in your creative process from the beginnings of gaming until today, and vice versa, what has remained the same?
Harumi Fujita: The process of creating melodies and converting them into data has not changed at all. When I make music, it doesn’t matter if it’s with a band or an orchestra or the sounds playing in my own head, all the sounds are the same. That said, when arranging these sounds, like taking a big orchestra and converting the melody to 3-channel PSG or FM audio, there are many sounds to choose from these days, which is different. Making a good melody that no one gets tired of listening to and that stays in the hearts of listeners remains unchanged from the past.
LARP: People will then be able to hear your music in future Spidersaurs. How did this collaboration with WayForward come about?
Harumi Fujita: WayForward approached Brave Wave Productions, the label I belong to, and that’s how we were able to collaborate.
Fujita’s latest efforts can be heard in Spidersaurs
LARP: How many pieces did you put together for Spidersaurs, and how long did the process take overall?
Harumi Fujita: I think I created about 24 songs for that. It took about five months to compose everything, as I was working on the music while development of the game was progressing. I think I did five tracks at once.
LARP: There seems to be a strong electric guitar focus in your Spidersaurs songs. What prompted you to rely on this instrument among others?
Harumi Fujita: One of the characters in the game uses a guitar as a weapon, so I ended up using a lot of guitar in the music. I’m not really good at using guitars in my music, so I wanted to challenge myself and overcome that hurdle.
LARP: What kind of atmosphere were you trying to create with the music of Spidersaurs?
Harumi Fujita: Without specifically choosing a genre, I looked at the stages of the game and what kind of mood, atmosphere, background and characters they had. I tend to create exciting music, so I tried to imagine the kind of emotions a person playing Spidersaurs would have and went from there with the music.
LARP: Outside of the game itself, what influences helped you shape the sound of Spidersaurs?
Harumi Fujita: I didn’t really refer to anything outside of the game itself. I was provided with the artwork and the story of the game, which served as direct inspiration when composing the music. That said, I saw a bit of Jurassic World!
A rocking soundtrack to accompany the run-and-gun action!
LARP: I might be hearing things, but I could swear there are very slight nods to your classic soundtracks in a handful of Spidersaurs tracks. Is it something you’ve done here, or something you’ve done with songs in other games?
Harumi Fujita: I was asked to return to my old music when I was composing for Spidersaurs. I listened to my old music and tried to create something close to it. I actually struggle a bit with this approach because I don’t really like referencing my old music. [laughs] I’ll reference my old work if developers ask for it on other projects as well, but I usually don’t like to do that. That said, I’m still doing the music, so I’m sure there’s a similarity between the different tracks.
LARP: Which song are you most proud of in Spidersaurs, and which was the most difficult to create?
Harumi Fujita: I think the boss tracks (especially the first boss) are the ones that represent me the most as a composer. I like the piece I did for the second half of Mission 4, deep in the sewers where there is a gloomy and dangerous atmosphere. I think Mixer Driller from Mission 3 is also the scene with the most suitable track and is in my favorite genre.
The hardest track should be the credits. I was asked to rearrange the scene tracks and combine them together. However, due to the wide variety of tracks, the beats were too different from each other, which made it difficult to match them. For the arrangement of the credits, I chose songs of which I was particularly proud.
LARP: What do you hope people take away from your work on Spidersaurs?
Harumi Fujita: Games like Bionic Commando, Mega Man 3, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Strider or PULSTAR have what I call the Harumi Fujita sound. Please give them a listen and take a walk down memory lane, and try them too!
Once again, I would like to offer a huge thank you to Harumi Fujita for taking the time to answer my questions. Interviewing someone who created some of my favorite childhood songs was an amazing opportunity. I would also like to thank the WayForward team for making this all possible!