Composer Spotlight #4: Atsuhiro Motoyama

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, there was a game company named Toaplan. They made quite a few games in the 80’s and early 90’s, like Snow Bros. - Nick & Tom and Zero Wing (known for the “All your base are belong to us meme). Most of the games they created were, like Zero Wing, shmups.

In 1994, Toaplan declared bankruptcy, but its employees went to form other companies, like CAVE, known for its flamingly difficult bullet hell shmups like those in the DonPachi and Mushihime-sama series. Another company formed from the remnants of Toaplan is 8ing/Raizing, which made shmups early on, but has recently focused on fighting games like the Naruto: Clash of Ninja and Bleach: Heat the Soul series.

Where am I going with this? Well, Atsuhiro Motoyama was one of 8ing/Raizing’s composers, and he’s the subject of this Composer Spotlight. Let’s dance.

Works featured in this post:

  • Digital Champ (TurboGrafx-16)
  • Dimahoo (Arcade)
  • Kururin Paradise (Game Boy Advance)
  • Maruan Series 1: Umihara Kawase Shun ~Second Edition~ (PlayStation)
  • Sorcer Striker (Arcade)

full list of works


Motoyama’s music can be very roughly partitioned into two groups, corresponding to the two different types of games he’s worked on. The first is the “laid-back” style, the tracks of which are generally slower and more melody- or groove-oriented.

Kururin Paradise

“Flower Land 3″
Kururin Paradise (Game Boy Advance)

“BGM 2″
Maruan Series 1: Umihara Kawase Shun ~Second Edition~ (PlayStation)
co-composed with Shinji Tachikawa

The “laid-back” style generally corresponds to the games that are more, well, laid-back. Games like Ganbare! Golf Boys and those in the Kururin and Umihara Kawase series are all generally easy-going, and so have easy-going soundtracks to match. Even though I say that all these soundtracks fall into one style, as shown by the samples above, the actual pieces of music can sound quite different. The songs of Umihara Kawase and Maruan Series 1: Umihara Kawase Shun ~Second Edition~ is all very light like the sample above, while those of Kuru Kuru Kururin and Kururin Paradise are more varied, ranging from bouncy, happy songs to darker ones like the sample.

Then again, games from which you’d expect more upbeat or driving tracks also fall into this style. Motoyama’s tracks in Beastorizer, a fighting game perhaps more familiarly known as Bloody Roar in its PlayStation port and subsequent sequels, are also not high octane pumpfests, but more grooving, albeit with some majestic flares. And Digital Champ, a boxing game, has an exceptionally mellow and groovy soundtrack.

Digital Champ in-game

Track 5
Digital Champ (TurboGrafx-16)

And the other style, in contrast to “laid-back,” is, well, not laid back. The tracks, while not necessarily faster, tend to be more tense, more driving, and so on. The other commonality these soundtracks have is that they all belong to shmups developed by 8ing/Raizing.

Sorcer Striker (Arcade)

Dimahoo (Arcade)
co-composed with Ken-ichi Koyano

Despite shmups only comprising a third of Motoyama’s total game output, of the five soundtracks of his that have had album releases, three belong to shmups. His music on CDs doesn’t adequately show his full range of music, so my secondary motive behind this spotlight was to show off some of his other material.

2 Responses to “Composer Spotlight #4: Atsuhiro Motoyama”

  1. James Collado Says:

    Great post! I learned a lot about Atsuhiro Motoyama.

    I just wish you had linked Snow Bros to my own site at

    instead of the page at arcade-history :-(

    but anyway,
    if you are a Snow Bros fan, just give it
    a go anytime, you are very welcome :-)


  2. CHz Says:

    Nice site! (And I love the game.)

    Usually when I give a game link, I try to point to either the game’s official site, if one exists, or a major information site I know’ll have good info, like Arcade History or MobyGames. No slight to the fan stuff, though. Wish it were all as good as what you’ve put together.

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