You may not have heard of a Japanese band called T-Square, but you have almost certainly indirectly heard their music. Formed in Tokyo in 1976, the band are one of the most popular bands in Japan, renowned for their immaculate production, tight synth grooves and dreamy jazz-infused pop sound. While Western game music of the 90s was inspired by heavy metal – the Doom soundtrack being a prime example – jazz fusion and city pop were the biggest source of inspiration for many Japanese composers.
Artists like Toshiki Kadomatsu, Tatsuro Yamashita, Akira Inoue, and Omega Tribe have had a major influence on the soundscape of Japanese video games. This genre of music is characterized by its upbeat, upbeat sound – which has made it popular among young people in Tokyo – and its use of crisp FM synths and funky slap bass. But none of these acts have had a greater impact on the medium than T-Square, whose music, or at least the DNA of it, can be heard in some of the most popular and popular video games. appreciated ever created.
Take the song Sister Marian, for example, from their 1984 album Adventures. A minute later, it’s obvious Koji Kondo, composer of the classic Mario theme, was a fan. This track was written by T-Square co-founder and guitarist Masahiro Andoh, who would become a video game composer himself, but with a more orchestral sound. He has produced music for the Gran Turismo series (including its theme, Moon Over the Castle, recently covered by Bring Me the Horizon for GT7) and the Arc the Lad series.
Another Adventures track, Travelers, influenced another popular game. It’s clear from the start, and especially around 1:27, that this was the inspiration for Guile’s theme from Street Fighter 2. Composed by Yoko Shimomura, a veteran songwriter and legend in her own right, Guile’s theme has become something of a meme, and it’s fascinating to hear the origins of such an iconic piece of music. That doesn’t take away from Kondo or Shimomura’s work, but T-Square’s influence is undeniable.
Other T-Square influenced soundtracks include Sonic & Knuckles. Lava Reef Zone’s theme owes a lot to Wind Song from the 1990s. Meanwhile, Rodan (yet another Adventures track) could easily be a lost composition from the SNES version of F-Zero. Interestingly, T-Square percussionist Satoshi Bandoh played drums on Mario Kart 8’s score, including an absolutely deadly jazz fusion cover of F-Zero’s Mute City theme. There are undoubtedly hundreds of other soundtracks with audible echoes from T-Square’s extensive discography, but these are some of the most notable examples.
Almost 50 years after their formation, T-Square is still going strong. The line-up has changed drastically over the years, but a few of the original band members, including frontman Masahiro Andoh, are still in the band. They toured Japan just last year, and they still sound amazing. T-Square is a household name in its home country, but not as well-known elsewhere, despite a continuing wave of imagined nostalgia for Japanese urban pop in the West. But such is the extent of their influence on video games, even if you haven’t heard their music, you probably have.
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