Ihatovo Monogatari Soundtrack, Tsukasa Tawada, 1993
Looking at the gameography of Japanese developer Hect, it’s easy to assume they produced few titles that were in any noteworthy, instead focusing on undistinguished simulation games. But look more closely and you’ll find Moon Crystal, a surprisingly polished NES platformer, released in 1992. And then there’s the following year’s Ihatovo Monogatari, easily Hect’s most ambitious – and unusual – release. An adventure purely built around exploration – no riddles, battles or other interruptions present – Ihatovo Monogatari was based on the writings of Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa. The game’s locations and characters drew upon a variety of Miyazawa’s stories, while “Ihatovo” was a fictional word Miyazawa had created to refer to a rural utopia inspired by his hometown of Iwate. Naturally only released in Japan, Ihatovo Monogatari’s distinctive nature has seen it continuously garnering praise as one of the SNES’ hidden gems.
Few of the online reviews praising Ihatovo Monogatari years after its initial release fail to mention the game’s soundtrack and for good reason, as it truly is one of the 16-bit era’s most intriguing scores. It was the work of Tsukasa Tawada, who by 1993 had already amassed a significant body of work on the NES, Game Boy and TurboGrafx. However, not much of his discography stood out much – his most substantial works so far had been Earth Defense Force, the SNES port of Dungeon Master (written with Hikoshi Hashimoto) and the aforementioned Moon Crystal. However, Ihatovo Monogatari catapulted Tawada into the limelight – his next assignments would include sound designer on the Dragon Quest franchise, before becoming one of Nintendo’s go-to composers for Pokémon games. And clearly the Ihatovo Monogatari soundtrack still holds special meaning for Tawada, made obvious by his 2019 piano arrangements uploaded to his Youtube channel.