(Honorable mentions: Jack Wall, Yoko Shimomura, Tetsuya Shibata, Toshihiko Horiyama, Manami Matsumae, Daisuke Ishiwatari)
I‘d like to preface this with something of a disclaimer, that being that this is a personal list, featuring only my ultra-biased, unfair, opinionated view of things. As such, you shouldn’t get worked up about the inclusion, exclusion, or place of any certain composers.
Hideki Naganuma kicks off the list at number 10. He is most famous for his original compositions for Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio in America) and its sequel, Jet Set Radio Future. He has also composed music for Ollie King, Sonic Rush, and most recently, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz on the Wii.
Now, most of you probably read that and said to yourself; “Jet Set what? I’ve never heard of any of these games!” This is because you are bad. You will become not bad by reading this article, because it will be as much about praising Jet Set Radio as it is about praising Naganuma himself.
The main reason you probably have never heard of Jet Set Radio is because it only came out for the Dreamcast. I don’t know that many people who owned a Dreamcast, which is a shame, because it is easily one of the most underrated home consoles of all time. There are innumerable buried treasures to dig up on the Dreamcast, and Jet Set Radio is one of the best.
Jet Set Radio takes place in a city in Asia that cannot be found on any map, called Tokyo-to (but everyone just calls it Tokyo.) The two hottest things in Tokyo-to are street-punks (called ‘Rudies’) wearing magnetically driven in-line skates, and a pirate radio station run by DJ Professor K by the name of ‘Jet Set Radio’.
The Rudies skate the streets of Tokyo-to and cover it with graffiti to express themselves to the world. But the Metropolitan Government and it’s financial conglomerate, the Rokkaku group, co-founded the 21st Century Project to protect the streets of Tokyo-to.
And that’s the basic gist of it. You skate the streets of Tokyo-to, doing crazy tricks and tagging walls, cars, and even people to fight the oppressive government and rivals gangs, and to gain new members for your gang. And all the while you get a kickin’ soundtrack backing you up.
Naganuma was not entirely alone in composing the soundtrack for Jet Set Radio, some tracks were composed by Yukifumi Makino or Fumitaka Shibata, and there were also a select few licensed tracks (such as Dragula by Rob Zombie if you owned an the American version of the game, Jet Grind Radio.)
The soundtrack is unique and pretty memorable overall, and makes a good backdrop for the cel-shaded skating action of the game. If we were all rebelling against the government, skating around and tagging the city as best we could, this is what would be playing through our headphones on pirate radio. The genres are all over the place, and include J-pop, hip-hop, funk, electronic dance music, rock, acid jazz, and trip hop.
Jet Set Radio’s soundtrack is a lot of fun and just filled with energy. It’s hard to pick a favorite track, but it’d be between Sneakman and Sweet Soul Brother (both of which were remixed for JSRF) for me. Sneakman gives an epic kind of truckin’-along feel to the gameplay, and Sweet Soul Brother is just funky as– Shut-Yo-Mouth.
I’ve gushed about Jet Set Radio more than enough for one article, and I could just reiterate my praise for it in regards to the sequel for the original Xbox, Jet Set Radio Future. It’s got an even more extensive soundtrack than the first, and they licensed even more awesome music, like Cibo Matto (who did the infamous Birthday Cake song), Guitar Vader, and the side projects of two of the Beastie Boys.
JSRF includes my favorite song between the two games, Teknopathetic. To me it epitomizes what the series is all about, it’s just a fast, fun, futuristic, groovy song. Another of my favorites is Right There, Ride On from Sonic Rush for the Nintendo DS. Naganuma brings a certain funky groove that the Sonic games have never experienced before, making it seem like a ‘smoother’ experience while still maintaining the oh-so valued feeling of speed.
The main reason why Naganuma fails to move any higher than number 10, is he simply hasn’t worked on much. Beyond the games I’ve already talked about, he’s only worked on a couple more. I hope to see him in some new games soon. But besides that, he does great work for overall good games. You owe it to yourself to hunt down Jet Set Radio and JSRF.
Anyway, that’s all for this portion of the list. Next time, we’ll be delving into RPG territory. Take easy, gang.