MUSHA Soundtrack, Toshiaki Sakoda, 1990
It’s safe to say that Compile’s well-regarded Aleste series reached its pinnacle with 1990’s MUSHA for the Sega Genesis. It ranks as one of the 16-bit era’s best shooters, with lightning-fast gameplay, an immensely challenging difficulty level and some of the most breathtaking visuals ever seen on the Genesis – all the more impressive considering that MUSHA was a first-generation title. What really helped to set the game apart was its visual style. Feeling that MUSHA had to differ significantly from its franchise predecessors, the developers came up with an unusual mix of sci-fi tropes and traditional Japanese lore. As a result, your flying mecha shoots super-charged electric shurikens while facing off against enemies like robotic ninjas and Japanese castles on tank treads.
Another one of MUSHA’s virtues fondly recalled by many gamers is its superlative soundtrack, delivered by Toshiaki Sakoda. Sakoda had worked on previous Compile titles such as Aleste 2 and the first two instalments of the Crush Pinball series. On this occasion, the music formed a more critical part of the game’s stylistic foundations than usually. In fact, art director Kazuyuki Nakashima used the phrase “Edo Metal” to pitch the game’s concept to Compile’s leadership. According to Nakashima, the developers soon settled on a “speedy heavy metal sound that would match the fast scrolling and would play from the start of the opening demo non-stop without interruption”.