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Noriyuki Iwadare :: Biography

Overview Biography Discography Game Projects Interviews

Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of using it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on June 27, 2009.

Born on April 28, 1964 in Matsumoto, Japan, Noriyuki Iwadare is a prolific musician famous for his works on the Grandia, Lunar, Langrisser, Growlanser, True Love Story, Radiata Stories, and Phoenix Wright series. Having enjoyed the symphonies of romantic composers at junior school, his tastes diversified as a teenager to include a range of '70s and '80s rock and pop artists, a selection of film and anime scores, and the dynamic works of his major 'classical' influences, Mahler, Shostakovich, Ravel, and Stravinsky. Self-taught, Iwadare's first experiences composing were adding music to various kinds of poetry and using the guitar and piano to create original music. He continued to compose at university after people started to enjoy his music and begun to use synthesizers and computers to produce electronic music and multitrack recordings. Continuing his dream to write music, he became a composer and keyboardist for an instrumental band with Hiroshi Fujioka and others after graduating; this led to his unexpected involvement in the gaming industry, initially under the pseudonym NO-BRAND. Iwadare's band was hired to create the music for several game promotion albums and, in 1990, contributed diverse arrangements to three albums — Wolfteam's Zan: Kagerou no Toki, Hot-B's Takeda Shingen 2, and, with live performances, Devil Crash / Alien Crush. The fact these projects were related to video games was initially trivial to Iwadare.

Iwadare considered entering the industry after Hiroshi Fujioka became a game composer. After being scouted by Fujioka, he created one well-received piece for Taito's Space Invaders: Fukkatsu no Hi for the TurboGrafx-16. The enjoyment Iwadare derived from creating music to fit scenes in the game inspired him to enter the industry full-time in 1990. He subsequently joined a video game music production company, the CUBE Corporation, to program and arrange games adapted for Sega consoles. By working so intimately with the compositions of others on After Burner II, Space Invaders '90, Ys III: Wanderers of Ys, Granada, and Zero Wing, he was able to assimilate many of the techniques used to create them into his own stylistic repertoire. He soon received the opportunity to define scores of own with Game Arts' Gambler Jiko Chuushinha, his first solo effort, and Masaya's Gynoug and Head Buster. Given the game industry was a developing field, Iwadare embraced the novelty of writing music for such games and was stimulated by the constant struggle of developers to be innovative and progressive despite hardware limitations. In order to offer individually characterised scores to each of these games, Iwadare relied upon their scenarios to inspire his imagination; after establishing a melody and style to work in, he was able to write individual compositions within three hours, but found the work far more difficult and time-consuming when he lacked visual inspiration.

Iwadare's breakthrough work was 1991's tactical RPG Langrisser (aka Warsong) developed by Masaya development team CareerSoft. He, Isao Mizoguchi, and Hiroshi Fujioka individualised the turns of the player and enemy with different music and motivated listeners with rock flavours and heavy beats. A year later, he worked on Game Arts' Sega CD RPG Lunar: Silver Star, creating a soundtrack that was simultaneously upbeat and action-packed but also sentimental and soothing. The score was awarded eminent prizes and attributed him with much of his current Japanese fanbase. Following his work on Langrisser and Lunar: Silver Star, Iwadare worked on a multitude of lesser-known titles at CUBE for the Mega Drive and Sega CD. These included titles as diverse as Blue Almanac, Steel Engine, Glay Lancer, Rise of the Dragon, SimEarth, and Wing Commander. He also assisted in non-composing roles on Silpheed, Ranger X, and Crusader of Centy. Iwadare left CUBE in 1993 to become contracted by Two Five Records. He created his first dating simulation scores shortly after for the Turbo CD's Sotsugyou: Graduation and Sotsugyou II: Neo Generation, adopting a youthful sentimental sound. In similar vein, he offered a mixture of sensitive piano-led themes, ethereal synth-based compositions, and upbeat jazz pieces for the fairy raising simulation Mercurius Pretty. Other works included two Game Boy movie adaptations and Wrestle Angels.

As a freelancer, Iwadare remained closely involved with the Langrisser and Lunar series. For 1994's Langrisser II, he created a more elaborate but similarly style score to the original and also arranged the music into a rock-based album. The same year, he created what he feels is his strongest work to date, Lunar 2: Eternal Blue; he was especially proud of his sensitive portrayal of Lucia crying and smiling at the same time in a particular scene. In the subsequent year, he crafted a melodic and emotional score for the prequel Lunar: Walking School and was given the opportunity to use the relatively flexible technology of the Saturn for the remake Lunar: Silver Star Story; his arrangements and new compositions demonstrated more elaborate musicianship and greater sensitivity thanks to his work on Eternal Blue. His music was also widely recognised in the West due to Working Designs' adaptation Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and its bonus externally arranged CD. In 1996, Bits Laboratory contracted Iwadare to co-compose the PlayStation's True Love Story after they were impressed by his other dating simulation works. He revisited his youth to depict junior high school days when students discover love. The composer carefully depicted the game's characters with instrumental themes, mostly in a light jazz style, and three theme songs. Also in 1996, he crafted a light rock score for the Super Nintendo RPG Monstania, crafted another sentimental score for Tanjou S: Debut, and created the opening theme of Doukyuusei if.

In 1997, Iwadare worked on three major projects that established him as one of the Saturn's leading composers. On Grandia, he exploited its console's ADX tools to stream 11 emotional orchestral tracks and also created numerous sequenced tracks such as the rock-flavoured battle themes. Guided by empathy for the game's young protagonists, he produced a fitting and endearing score with adventurous, romantic, comical, sinister, and heroic moments. Two double disc soundtracks, the mature small ensemble arranged album Vent, and a 'best of' album featuring Iwadare's 18 favourite tracks were released for the game. His work on the score was also ported to the PlayStation, the Saturn enhancement Grandia: Digital Museum, and the Game Boy Color's Grandia: Parallel Troopers. The same year, Iwadare co-composed Langrisser IV to no soundtrack release and created a new score for Lunar: Walking School's remake Magic School Lunar!. However, he had no direct involvement in Lunar: Eternal Blue's remakes, where Isao Mizoguchi was responsible for the arrangements, and the externally produced Lunar anime project. In 1998, Iwadare excelled single-handedly scoring Langrisser V, producing one of the series' most diverse, atmospheric, and rhythmically compelling scores. CareerSoft also chose Iwadare to score the first instalment of the Langrisser's modern day successor Growlanser; he created another defining work blending warm melodies, a jazz fusion focus, and references to his other styles.

Following these works, Iwadare maintained his niche producing RPG and dating simulation soundtracks. He took a solo role on True Love Story 2, portraying the characters with diverse melodic pieces and offering numerous tracks for the scenarios, and created music to beautifully complement the visuals of the Dreamcast's Mercurius Pretty: End of the Century. His score to the 2000's Grandia II was mostly continuous with its predecessor given its similar characters. However, it featured enhanced sound quality, more rock and pop influences, and Kaori Kawasumi's Portuguese vocal themes "A Deus" and "Canção do Povo" that, by respectively representing God and people, individualised the game's world and its two soundtrack releases. After composing both the background music and vocal themes for True Love Story 3, Iwadare returned to the series two years later for the PlayStation 2's Grandia Xtreme. He composed in a similar format, deciding the game's militaristic focus ought not affect its score's emotional flavour; however, he was more economical with the number of themes he composed after a lot of his work was unused on its predecessor. Also in 2002, Iwadare worked on two PC projects; he produced a few compositions on Wind: A Breath of Heart and composed the score to the cancelled MMORPG Shining Lore Online with Taku Iwasaki. In 2003, Iwadare solely composed True Love Story Story Summer Days and yet..., the final addition to the series, in a summer style to reflect its school holiday setting. The True Love Story Special Song Box was later released, featuring all the series' background music and songs.

Iwadare has also worked on an enormous amount of projects outside the video game field. Since 1994, he has contributed compositions to accompany the HAY Dance Company's regular performances and now serves as musical director on their behalf. He has also created music to accompany many of the popular attractions at Tokyo Disneyland since 1997, resulting in a series of associated album releases. His music has been a source of appeal on children's television shows, radio shows, parades, and countdown events. Also willing to contribute to smaller projects, he has created music for local artistic events such as plays and festivals and specific organizations. Keen to expose children to music, he has also performed as a live musician, created compositions and arrangements, and acted as a judge and instructor for various school events. For a time, he also served as a contributing editor to Dreamcast Magazine in Japan. His most high-profile non-game project was 2003's vocal album Ingmar -for the beginning-, sung and lyricised by Grandia II's vocalist Kaori Kawasumi. Telling the abstract story of the meeting and parting of two lovers in an almost theatrical manner, the album received glowing reviews for its emotional intensity and musical variety. More recently, Iwadare arranged Haruka Shimotsuki's concept vocal album Tindharia no Tane and composed for the collaborative vocal album Message. Though only his vocal works have impacted on a Western audience, Iwadare's non-game contributions are numerous and continual.

In 2004, Iwadare established a long-running relationship with Capcom by scoring Gyakuten Saiban 3 for the Game Boy Advance. Although in-house employees had composed earlier Phoenix Wright instalments, Iwadare was selected for the eagerly anticipated third game given his popular prominence and professional reputation. He built on a successful formula established with previous scores for the series to create tension and drama in the courtroom. However, perhaps his greatest feat was portraying the characters in a representative and memorable way. During this production, he was also asked to create the melodic techno piece "Higher The Air ~ Air Force Stage" for Mega Man X7. Iwadare was also specially selected to score tri-Ace and Square Enix's Radiata Stories the following year. He enhanced the fun and humour of the game with a large diverse score and, to compensate for replacing Motoi Sakuraba's usual role, arranged several of his battle themes on the project. He also elaborated on some of the better pieces in the score with an arranged album featuing mostly jazz and vocal tracks. On 2006's Grandia III, Iwadare returned to produce a score that preserved the Grandia sound and had many highlights. Nonetheless, some fans of Iwadare and his past Grandia scores regarded the final result relatively shallow. On behalf of Team Entertainment, Iwadare has also contributed elaborate works to the three instalments of their Premium Arrange album series to the appeal of his fans.

Following Grandia III, Iwadare had a few relatively low-profile years in the industry. After all, no further instalments for the Lunar, True Love Story, and Langrisser series were in the works and Grandia Online was increasingly delayed. Though he worked meticulously on the Korean MMORPG Project Wiki and the DS action game Kanji no Wataridori, neither came to much popular attention. He subsequently produced epic orchestral opening and ending themes for the tactical RPG Elvandia Story, which was otherwise scored by GEM Impact. He showed his dedication to further bishoujo projects by scoring 2006's KimiKiss, though maintained the characteristic light jazz flavour of the True Love Story series rather than offering novel elements. At Capcom's request, Iwadare was delighted to direct and arrange most of the Gyakuten Meets Orchestra arranged album. It was so well-received that it inspired three best-selling symphonic concerts where Iwadare had planning, arrangement, and special guest roles. At last Iwadare fulfilled his dream to see his music performed by orchestra live. Also for the series, he arranged the series' jazz arranged album, offering fun interpretations of classic melodies and directing competent improvisations from the Metropolis Jazz Band. Iwadare also recently joined an ensemble cast on Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where he arranged three themes in his characteristic orchestral style, and Ketsui's arranged album, where he offered an electronic arrangement of the ending theme.

In the last year, Iwadare has transformed his approach to composing dating simulation games for Enterbrain. On the girl-targeted True Love Story spinoff True Fortune, he elaborated on intriscally simple ideas to produce wholesome two-dimensional compositions. He took things a step further on Amagami, offering both a full sound version featuring heartrending instrumental performances and a retro sound version that emphasised the melodic aspects of the compositions. 2009 looks set to be one of Iwadare's biggest years to date. He has recently completed the score for Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (aka Gyakuten Kenji). He once again demonstrated his capacity for portraying characters, notably offering catchy piano-based jazz compositions and lavish orchestrations to portray the protagonist. He also revisited his classic scores to Growlanser and Lunar: Silver Star for their PSP remakes. For the latter, he was asked to return to produce arrangements of his past works and some new compositions. Perhaps most exciting of all, he has scored the recently revived Grandia Zero (aka Grandia Online). His innate understanding of the of those who play and those who feature in his games will allow him to fit scenarios and evoke many emotions once again. Since 1990, Iwadare has demonstrated a flair for creating music, especially on works for the Langrisser, Lunar, True Love Story, and Grandia series. He has shown a capacity to offer memorable melodies and compelling rhythms in his numerous compositions while demonstrating versatility by working in the fields of orchestral, rock, techno, and vocal music.