While she was still a student, and before she joined the band Tetsu 100%, Yoko Kanno happened to be in charge of several KOEI Japanese history simulation games that became pretty popular.
She was merely 20 or 21 years old back then, and that’s probably the first soundtracks she composed. She worked on 9 games from 4 game series:
- Blue Wolves And White Does: 2nd game
- Nobunaga’s Ambition: 2nd to 6th games (the first game didn’t have any music)
- Romance of the Three Kingdoms: 1st game
- Uncharted Waters: 1st and 2nd games
Nobunaga’s Ambition II – The Rival’s Vigor (sample)
Release date: 25 April 1989
From chipsets to philharmonic orchestra
At first she composed the music for the targeted sound chipset systems that were limited by a very small number of channels. However, a few years later, she wrote orchestral arrangements and songs for all the games she worked on. In total, there were 9 original albums between 1989 and 1994. Her composition, arrangement and orchestration technique improved over the years and while nearly all the albums were recorded in Japan, she went to Poland for the last Nobunaga’s Ambition album and worked with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 1994. 2 years later she would work again with the Warsaw orchestra for one of her most famous work: The Vision of Escaflowne.
Nobunaga’s Ambition II – Search For Time (sample)
Vocals: Akino Arai / Release date: 25 April 1989
The most recurrent singer was Akino Arai who is famous for her performance of Voices on Macross Plus in 1994. Yoko Kanno also had the singer of her band Tetsu 100% perform one song on the third Nobunaga’s Ambition album.
There were also other original orchestra arrangements Yoko Kanno wrote for the Game Music Concert first four albums.
Nobunaga’s Ambition Tenshōki – Yonder Dreams (sample)
Release date: 19 December 1994
From games to animation
Her first CD release seems to be both Genghis Khan and an album compiling Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition II released on April 25, 1989. However, since the games were released way before these arrangement albums (Genghis Khan was released on May 15, 1985), she started working as a composer more than 30 years ago!
All those history games are in fact quite famous in Japan, and Yoko Kanno happened to nearly be the composer of the first games of all those game series! She worked on those KOEI games until 1994, then she moved on to the animation industry with Please Save My earth and Macross Plus.
Game Music Concert 4 – Visiting the Harbors of the World ~ Close to Home (sample)
Release date: 21 November 1994