Michiko Naruke Profile
|Also Known As:
|Date of Birth:
August 13, 19XX (Chiba)
Wild Arms, Tenshi no Uta, Nora and the Engraving Studio
|Telenet Japan (Riot)||Game Developer||1990 – 1993||Composer|
|Media.Vision||Game Developer||1993 – 2005||Composer|
|GE-ON-DAN||Artist Collective||2009 – 2011||Member|
Michiko Naruke is a video game composer best known for her work on the Wild Arms series. Born on August 13 in Chiba, Naruke first experienced music while learning to play the electone organ at music school. Experiencing some difficult reading sheet music, she made some changes to the notation to remind her how to interpret the notes. Such insightful experiences naturally led her to start her own compositions and she gradually began to express a unique musicality. In high school, she started to play tenor saxophone and percussion in a small brass band, and also gained arranging experience adapting popular songs for individual performers. While growing up, she didn’t really play video games, but nevertheless watched many films; among them were Italian spaghetti westerns like A Fistful of Dollars and Japanese samurai dramas such as Shadow Warriors, whose scores eventually had a major impact on her. Naruke eventually studied music further at university and became interested in becoming a video game composer after hearing the S.S.T. Band.
After graduating from university, Naruke joined the Telenet Japan’s development team Riot as a resident composer and sound designer in 1990. She gained experience creating music and sound effects within technological limitations while working on Turbo CD shooter Legion and the Genesis adaptation of Valis III under late sound director Shinobu Ogawa. However, her main projects for the company were Angel’s Poem (aka Tenshi no Uta) and its sequel. On the first title, she was deeply influenced by the designer Kenichi Nishi, who based the game on a Celtic myth, and therefore used Enya’s music as a reference point; she also developed suitable sound effects to match the ambience of the game. Naruke created a very different score for Psycho Dream, representing the dark psychological story with a range of minimalistic music, and later offered a dense action-packed accompaniment to High Grenadier. Following the completion of Tenshi no Uta II, Riot was disbanded, but Naruke nevertheless continued to work with its designers as they founded the studio Media.Vision with support from Sony Computer Entertainment.
Naruke was appointed as the sole composer of Media.Vision’s RPG Wild Arms, released for the PlayStation in 1996. She complemented the Western American setting conceived by designer Akifumi Kaneko with a score explicitly inspired by the spaghetti western soundtracks she experienced in her youth. The score used distinctive instrumentation and forms throughout to evoke the landscapes and melancholy of the Wild West, for example juxtaposing a memorable whistling melody with acoustic guitar accompaniment on the opening theme “To the End of Wilderness”. While emphasising this overall sound, She carefully studied the game’s visuals and story to ensure each composition was specifically tailored to a character, setting, or event, creating some 80 contrasting tracks in total. Due to the opportunities offered by playback sound, Naruke was able to record orchestral, choral, and pop songs for the title; she put particular effort into writing appropriate and emotional lyrics for the ending theme, “Promise to the Blue Sky”. The final score proved popular among gamers, noted for its fitting nature, unique stylings, and, of course, unforgettable melodies.
Following the success of Wild Arms’ score, Naruke returned to score its two sequels. She composed 1999’s Wild Arms 2 with a similar concept to its predecessor, but nevertheless developed a somewhat moodier tone and created a greater quantity of music. The score placed a greater focus on vocal themes to enhance the meaning of the game, in particular, featuring deep lyrics and beautiful melodies sung by Kaori Asou. Her talents as a vocal composer and lyricist were also sought on the animation adaptation of the series, Wild Arms: Twilight Venom, otherwise scored by Ko Otani. Having proven that the franchise’s music was marketable, Naruke also compiled a range of new and existing vocal themes into the album Alone the World thereafter. The score for 2002’s Wild Arms 3 was more sophisticated and elaborate than its predecessors – Naruke had put more artistic consideration into each individual composition and felt liberated by the improved technology of the PlayStation 2. Many gamers and soundtrack collectors have described the music as the pinnacle of the series.
In 2004, Naruke completely overhauled the score for Wild Arms for its PlayStation 2 remake Wild Arms Alter Code: F. Offering both exuberant arrangements and new compositions, the result was praised as both as an in-game complement and a stand-alone listen on its exuberantly presented four disc soundtrack release. Unfortunately, she was unable to complete the soundtrack for Wild Arms 4, apparently falling ill during its development, and created just over 20 compositions in the final score. Afterwards, Naruke took an extended break from the industry and left behind the Wild Arms series. To the sadness of her fans, she had no compositional role on Wild Arms 5 and Wild Arms XF thereafter, merely reprising her role as a lyricist for the latter’s opening theme. She nevertheless served as executive producer of two arranged albums created to celebrate the series’ tenth anniversary, Feeling Wind for piano solo and Rocking Heart for rock band. She also satisfied her large fanbase by arranging the score of Wild Arms 2 for orchestra for its performance at the concert Press Start 2008: Symphony of Games.
During her career break, Naruke nevertheless made guest contributions to several projects. She revisited her Telenet days with a contribution to FM Sound Module Maniax and made an acclaimed Ocarina of Time medley and “Bramble Blast” arrangement for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Having developed a reputation as a rich vocal composer on the Wild Arms series, she contributed two upbeat pop-influenced songs for Media.Vision’s video game Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. She has also made focal contributions of the arranged albums dedicated to shooters Ketsui, Mushihimesama, and Guwange; in each case, she brought out the colour of the original melodies with fusions of orchestral, contemporary, and world music elements. Following these well-received contributions, she also represented the “breath of a living being” on Dariusburst’s arranged album. Naruke also developed a close relationship with Noriyuki Iwadare: writing sentimental piano arrangements for Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, offering six arrangements for the Hakuoki series’ orgel album, and serving as a guest keyboardist with his band at the game music festival 4 Star Orchestra.
Naruke has now returned to working as a full-time composer in the games industry. In 2011, she wrote the entire score for the DS’ Nora and the Engraving Studio: The Witch of the Misty Forest, her largest score in seven years. The composer complemented the humble RPG with a melodic acoustic soundtrack reminiscent of her past work. She commemorated the game’s release with a handful of music box arrangements and later produced a well-received commercial album release. In guest roles, she also penned theme songs for Unchained Blades EXXiV and Yuusha 30 Second, sung by Kaoru Asou and Haruka Shimotsuki respectively. With the help of Iwadare, The artist has further developed her collaboration with singer-songwriter Shimotsuki on several other productions. She developed the concept of the artist’s original vocal albums Griotte The Sleeping Beauty and Aria of the Spilled Sand with several compositions and arrangements, blending pop flavours with world stylings. In her latest work, Naruke scored a portion of Square Enix’s iOS RPG Star Burial Dragnir, reuniting with Wild Arms’ creator Akifumi Kaneko once more.
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2010). Last updated on April 9, 2013. Do not republish without formal permission.
Posted on April 9, 2013 by Chris Greening. Last modified on March 21, 2014.