The name Keiji Yamagishi doesn't command quite as much nostalgic reverence among game music enthusiasts as, say, Koji Kondo or Nobuo Uematsu. But if you owned an NES, you probably rocked out to Yamagishi's tunes all the same.
Yamagishi worked on some big-name 8-bit hits, including the old Ninja Gaiden games (not the Team Ninja series) and Tecmo Super Bowl. Part of Yamagishi's relative obscurity comes from the fact that, unlike the other composers I mentioned, he dropped out of the business a few years ago. Not just out of making game music, but out of composing altogether, discouraged by the fact that the advent of better audio technology and the rush to a more Hollywood-like sound in games made his skill set — a mastery over primitive wave forms and digitally generated sound — obsolete.
Times have changed, though, and game fans have increasingly grown to appreciate forgotten ways of game design: Classic game genres, old-school graphics, and decidedly video game-ish chiptune music have all made a resurgence over the past few years. This in turn has made Yamagishi's formerly deprecated talents a hot commodity again. In addition to his return to game composition last year, he also has a new solo album called Retro-Active Pt. 1 due out later this week through Brave Wave Records.
Until the album launches, though, Brave Wave has offered USgamer readers a chance to stream Retro-Active Pt. 1 in its entirety. So why not give it a listen? Yamagishi had one of the most distinctive sounds of any NES composer — check out our recent "best of NES" video and compare his music for Tecmo Super Bowl to this work on Ninja Gaiden! — although many of his best works (such as NES action RPG Radia Senki and soccer RPG Captain Tsubasa 2) never made it to the U.S. Retro-Active doesn't sound exactly like the Ninja Gaiden music you may remember from the '80s and '90s, using a much broader range of sources and styles than the four-channel audio of the NES, but his new material sounds great all the same. Listen to it here:
And, of course, consider grabbing the full album once it launches later this week to help ensure Yamagishi's return to the world of game music is a long-term one.
Special thanks to Mohammed Taher and Brave Wave music for providing USgamer with this exclusive first stream of the album.