SEGA Legacy articles is a series at The SEGA Source about the vast and varied history of SEGA. They can range from people to places to times to art to even just a simple song. The staff here has a vast knowledge of the company’s history and would love to share it all with anyone willing to listen. Now sit back, get your favorite beverage ready and “Let’s Go Away”!
Hit the jump to read the first in the SEGA Legacy series.
Easily known to most people as the “Daytona guy”, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi is a Japanese composer who’s music tastes and styles in genres stretch from classical to techno and everything in between. He has spent twenty years – His entire career with SEGA creating countless classic songs and has helped the industry grow outside of basic sounds and into what many people would consider a whole new art form altogether.
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi was born on Christmas day, 1967 in Fukuoka, Japan. The son of a businessman, at age 3 his family had transferred to Chiba Prefecture and would stay there for most of his childhood. He had dreamed all of his life that he would make all different kinds of songs, even his family and friends (who call him Take for short) could see that even at an early age he would grow up to at the very least have a lot of fun making songs, whether it be with a guitar, piano, or just his voice. He decided to use them all and improve over the years, while still keeping an open mind as to what he would do with his life. During his years in Tohoku Gakuin University he majored in economics, but always kept his passion alive for making all different styles of music. While at his university, he gained more and more interest in manipulating new (at the time) technology to make unique sounds, which quickly turned into a passion for videogames and their music. Some of his favorite games at the time included Xevious and Pac-Man. In 1990 while in a band of his own he applied to work for SEGA Japan, hoping that they would add him to their S.S.T. Band.
The S.S.T. Band
segalegacy [Takenobu Mitsuyoshi on keyboard, circa 1992]
In 1988 SEGA had made their own official band called the S.S.T. Band (SEGA Sound Team Band), a six member outting that would play rock versions of SEGA’s arcade game music at festivals. In 1991 Takenobu Mitsuyoshi under the alias R. Saburomaru (sometimes R360) replaced Hiroshi Miyauchi on keyboard and vocals, who had recently left. The S.S.T. Band only lasted until 1993, but their impact was fairly large with rereleases of their albums every few years selling out instantly. Hiroshi, or better now known as just Hiro (and sometimes just H.) would go on to have his own separate career within SEGA and work with Takenobu on many projects in their future, most recently being the action game Bayonetta.
tsvr[Hiro and Takenobu singing the theme of Rent-A-Hero live]
During the development of a spiritual sequel to Virtua Racing (a highly successful 1992 arcade racing title), Namco a rival company released Ridge Racer, which was considered highly innovative and advanced for its time. Executives from SEGA wanted something better, so the task was given to Toshihiro Nagoshi to direct and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi on sound. Working on all sound effects in the game, Takenobu wanted real V8 engine sounds and to finally get lyrics in one of his projects. Even with the advanced technology at the time, full lyrics were an impossibility, so the creation of songs that were shorter and repeat the voice clips in short plays had been designed instead. The game became to be known as Daytona USA and would go on to be the most successful arcade racing game of all time, still making money to this day under the name SEGA Racing Classic as SEGA no longer holds the rights to the name “Daytona”. The soundtrack is considered one of the most memorable and loved in the medium, with new albums and remixes being released every few years, only to sell out within days.
Known for his highly praised work on many AM2 and other SEGA releases by now, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi was asked specifically by Yu Suzuki to create original songs for ‘Virtua Fighter RPG’ in the mid 1990′s. The concepts and the meetings all took up a large portion of his career at the time, but he was ecstatic to see what would finally turn into Shenmue. When given explanations of the scenery, setting and story plans Takenobu wrote dozens of concepts and ideas he had for much of the music. He worked specifically hard on concepts for the main theme, which was selected and is now considered one of the most treasured in the medium. Shenmue reportedly cost $70,000,000, which, even to this day is considered extremely risky for even the biggest companies with the deepest pockets – Which SEGA certain was nowhere close to. The game sold well, but did not even begin to earn most of it’s money back. Everyone at SEGA was devastated that the project that they all of them had worked on for over five years had been one of the largest factors in what almost made the whole company disappear forever.
Shenmue is one of the most cherished videogames of all time with some of the most devoted followers. It remains one of Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s favorite projects, even if many of the songs he made for it are from sections of the game the player never needs to actually visit to complete the entire game.
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi’s music from Shenmue was performed live at the first Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig, Germany in 2003. In 2007, his music from the World Club Champion Football series was presented at the fifth Symphonic Game Music Concert. For Symphonic Shades – Huelsbeck in Concert performed by the WDR Radio Orchestra in Cologne, Germany, Takenobu Mitsuyoshi arranged music from Apidya II, composed by German Chris Huelsbeck, it was the first live radio broadcast of a video game music concert in history.
Original albums and other notable works
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi has released two of his own albums. The first, 2003′s From Loud 2 Low was released exclusively on SEGADirect (SEGA’s own online store), but was such a hit that a special version was released in greatly increased numbers titled From Loud 2 Low Too. Both releases have songs from Virtual-On: Cyber Troopers, Burning Rangers, Daytona USA and Shenmue, the second album also features new versions of Revenge of Shinobi and Space Channel 5 Part 2 songs, among others. It is rumored that he has a third album in the works.
In 2003 Capcom commissioned multiple game companies to get their best musicians to work on the Street Fighter Tribute Album. SEGA handpicked Takenobu Mitsuyoshi to work on Ryu’s stage theme and even make original lyrics in English. However, Takenobu has a very rough understanding of the English language so the song should not make sense to anyone. It remains a fan favorite regardless.
Takenobu Mitsuyoshi is a man who deserves respect, but asks for none. He has been known to go out of his way to take any kind of weird random request his fans have asked just to see them smile. He has helped shape music in the videogame industry into what it is today, and there is no hint of him ever slowing down, even being the family man he is today. He has worked together with SEGA almost all of his adult life and is just as passionate about the medium as he was in high school. Takenobu has been apart of some of SEGA’s most praised titles (like Virtua Fighter 2), and some of their most scorned (like Sonic the Hedgehog 06), the fact remains that all of his work is always of a certain quality and a certain style that could never be confused with anyone else. He is a true genius and innovator of the industry, a true legend.
For a complete look at his entire discography click here!
We hope you have enjoyed reading our first in the SEGA Legacy articles series as much as I enjoyed writing it. We will bring you something new in it every Sunday. Tell us your thoughts, your opinions or anything else you might have to say in the comments section.