27 June 2012

Episode 87: Norio Hanzawa

The work of composer Norio Hanzawa is the focus of Episode 87.  Originally a Konami employ, Norio moved on to work for the company Treasure.  With an extremely progressive and unique approach, Hanzawa took video game music to a whole other level with games like Gunstar Heroes and Alien Soldier.  Check out this incredible music from a very overlooked composer.  NOTE (2018): It was recently discovered within the VGM community (six years after this post) that Norio is his real name and that his alias might have been Ichio instead of Kazuo (this episode was originally titled "Kazuo Hanzawa").  Because of the uncertainty of his alias, this post/track listing has been modified to remove instances of the name Kazuo, yet the podcast recording remains unaltered (with frequent reference to "Kazuo").  Full track listing below.

Game - Composer - Song - Company - Console - Year (North American release unless otherwise indicated)

Quarth - Norio Hanzawa - BGM 1 - Konami - Famicom - 1990

The Simpsons - Norio Hanzawa - Stage 2: Krustyland (Panic!) - Konami - arcade - 1991

Bucky O'Hare - Norio Hanzawa (Star Hanzawa) - Stage 8 - Konami - arcade - 1992

Gunstar Heroes - Norio Hanzawa - Choose a Path - Treasure - Genesis - 1993

Alien Soldier - Norio Hanzawa - Oblivious Past - Treasure - Mega Drive - 1995

Castlevania: The Adventure - Norio Hanzawa, Shigeru Fukutake, Hidehiro Funauchi - Evil Devil (Final Boss Part 2) - Konami - Game Boy - 1989

Rollergames - Norio Hanzawa, Katsuhiko Suzuki, Atsushi Fujio, Shigemasa Matsuo - Final Showdown (Last Boss) - Konami/Ultra Games - NES - 1990

Dynamite Headdy - Norio Hanzawa (NON), Katsuhiko Suzuki, Yasuko, Koji Yamada, Aki Hata - Schumacher Fly - Treasure - Genesis - 1994

Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyou Touitsusen - Norio Hanzawa (NON) - Devilish Forest BGM - Treasure - Mega Drive - 1994

Alien Soldier - Norio Hanzawa - Runner/AD2025 - Treasure - Mega Drive - 1995

Alien Soldier - Norio Hanzawa - Slap-Up - Treasure - Mega Drive - 1995

Gunstar Heroes - Norio Hanzawa - Last Party on the Moon - Treasure - Genesis - 1993

Alien Soldier - Norio Hanzawa - Flashback - Treasure - Mega Drive - 1995

Bucky O'Hare - Norio Hanzawa (Star Hanzawa) - High Score Name Entry - Konami - arcade - 1992


  1. Great show guys!

    I really like the Simpsons arcade game and the soundtrack for it. Switch compared it to streets of rage...I'd actually compare it to TMNT arcade, since TMNT, Simpsons and xmen all use the same game engine. Simpsons was also one of the early adopters of pcm arcade soundtracks over the old FM standard.

    Brent, that oblivious past track.......awesome! I'm totally with you on that one. Parts of the track remind me of vangelis.

    Did you guys get my voicemail?

    -St. John

    1. It still boggles the mind why we never got a home port of the xmen and Simpsons arcade games. 8-bit did a respectable job with TMNT, certainly 16-bit could've handled these simple brawlers. Oh well, they're both on XBL/psn.

  2. I love that you guys devoted an episode to such an offbeat composer. Hanzawa's stuff is tough to digest at times, but that's what makes it so interesting! I'm kind of surprised Mr. Weinbach likes it so much, considering his preference for more melodic game tunes. Hanzawa's music has a lot of qualities... "melodic" certainly isn't one of them! Next time you decide to venture outside of the 8 / 16bit era, you should probably check out virt's stuff. Or Rob Hubbard's C64 stuff (which is infinitely better than his Genesis and SNES work, imo).

    Anyway, it's nice to see tribute paid to Hanzawa because I often feel like people overlook his work or write it of as "aimless techno." I'm glad there's other people out there who've listened to his work and really given it the chance it deserves.

    1. +1. I've been very pleased with his stuff. LMH has unearthed another treasure trove....again. :-)

      The only work of his that I was familiar with in advance was Gunstar Heroes...I love that game, soundtrack and all. It was one of my favorite games back in the day, and is one of my go-to standbys now.

      Although my absolute favorite track from that game (subterranean tunnel aka stage 2) has not been played on the show yet....whaddaya say, Double Dragon twins?

    2. From the desk of Mr. Weinbach:

      "goemonsama, really? Not melodic? Part of what I love about his music is that it IS so catchy and melodic. All of those tracks from Alien Soldier, the melodies get stuck in my head for weeks. Flashback, Oblivious Past (my favorite), Runner/AD2025, those are all so catchy. In fact, I'm singing the melody to Oblivious Past in my head as I write this response (the part right after the opening Vangelis-y part). Also, most of the music from Gunstar Heroes is definitely very melodic. Tracks like Dice-Dance-Days, Good Night, Baby!, and even Choose a Path. Or listen to Sub-Space 2 from Yu Yu Hakusho, it's totally melodic.

      "Anyway, yeah, virt is great. I love Blast Off Forever. That's my favorite song of his."

    3. Now that you say it, Dice-Dance-Days has been stuck in my head all day. I think I misspoke. I confused unconventional with unmelodious. Hanzawa employs lots of different and sometimes abrasive sounds for his leads (though the quality is always fantastic, he really knew how to get the most out of the YM2612). That, and his tracks tend to have a lot going on, so I guess I often perceived the busyness coupled with the unconventional sounds as a lack of melody.

      I'm listening to Gunstar Heroes right now... you're definitely right about it being melodic. I was really just surprised that you like his work AND something like Secret of Mana. I'm sure if most Square-heads listened to Gunstar Heroes or Alien Soldier they'd get a headache! I was just trying complement your taste, and in no way bash Hanzawa-san!

      Thanks for responding!

    4. Yeah, he really does get a.lot out of the YM2612, but I also think he does a really good job with the SN76489 (psg).

      In fact, many of my favorite tracks from the game are tracks where the PSG figures fairly prominently...such as the afore mentioned "subterranean tunnel."

  3. I'm glad you guys finally had a chance to play something from Rollergames, one of my top 5 favorite soundtracks. Which Castlevania 3 track do you guys think that sounds like? I definitely hear similarities, but the specifics are fuzzy.

    I'm with John, Oblivious Past is great, maybe one of the best video games tracks I've ever heard.

    1. It kind of reminded us of Demon Seed for some reason.

    2. Yes, that's the one! I keep getting demon seed and dead beat mixed up.

  4. Love Hanazawa. Be sure to check out his post-16-bit stuff, which keeps up the interesting, complex compositions without ever trying to be like a movie score instead of "just" game music (like many other composers have tried).

    Guardian Heroes is super fun, and you can just throw the game disc in a CD player to hear the songs! Love that!

  5. Not sure if it was a deliberate omission, but it needs to be said that Hanzawa's Mischief Makers soundtrack is just an incredible piece of work. To my ear the more advanced sound palette sounds like the culmination of what preceded it.

    1. Mischief Makers is a Nintendo 64 game, which falls outside of the generations of video games LMH focuses on (the third and fourth).

  6. Fantastic composer and great episode! "Hustle Maruyama" from Dynamite Headdy is one of my favorite tracks of all time -- it's ABSOLUTELY OUT OF CONTROL in a way I've scarcely heard anywhere else. The drum fills during the jazzy breakdown, like, 3 minutes in... ooh, baby.

  7. @ Todd Guardian Heroes is one of my favorite games, I forgot Hanzawa did the ost for it. Unfortunately my Saturn bit the dust... If any of you care to listen to more from him I also suggest checking out Gunstar Super Heroes and Advance Guardian Heroes. Both of them came out for the GBA but I think they still retain some of the character and structure of 8 and 16 bit game music.

  8. My favorite composer. Mischief makers has my favorite soundtrack ever. I work making soundtracks. Somebody help me! Where can I find information about this composer? There's nothing on the internet! I need to know more about him! He is like hiding or something lol