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Love Letter to Video Game Composer Jun Ishikawa

SteelSeries celebrates audio by highlighting some of greatest video game music composers of our time.


I’m shamelessly admitting that I'm using the SteelSeries blogs to publicly express my love for video game music. No Mozart’s, Vivaldi’s, or Beethoven’s in my playlists. You will find Koji Kondo, Yoko Shimomura, Jun Ishikawa and other brilliant minds who have composed the soundtrack of my life.

Make sure you have the best audio in the market (If you don’t, check out our gaming headsets), because in today’s blog, I’ll be talking about one of the greatest video game music composers of our time: Jun Ishikawa.

If I say Kirby, you will immediately think of Nintendo’s pink, eternally hungry, happy hero. Everyone loves Kirby. EVERYONE. And if you don’t like him, don’t lie. I know you do.

Kirby's dream buffet

Image from Kirby's Dream Buffet

Jun Ishikawa is HAL Laboratories’ Senior Music Composer and has worked at the company since 1990. He imbued the Kirby games with the happy/upbeat electronic-based musical compositions that we all know and come to love.

Jun Ishikawa

Jun Ishikawa (image via wikirby.com)

Let’s start with the OG “Green Greens” from Kirby’s Dream Land.

If you haven’t played any Kirby games, then I suggest you do. Despite their cute and innocent demeanor, Kirby games are fun, quite challenging, and replayable. However, the more you play, the more frightening the game levels and bosses become. There is a funny meme circling around the Kirby community:

Kirby meme

It’s true.

Just listen to the music from the final boss “Marx” from Kirby Super Star. This is boss quality music worthy of an evil outer space being.

And if you want to have nightmares and be traumatized for the rest of your life (I still am), listen to Marx scream when defeated at full volume. Don’t believe me? Feel free to check the YouTube comments. We are ALL traumatized. UYARI: I am not responsible for any audio/ear damage!

Giving a musical identity to an adorable pink character to match the many adventures the hero encounters is a challenge, but Jun Ishikawa manages to capture the very essence of the world Kirby lives in without straying off the many stories being told.

Some of Kirby’s musical identifiers include iconic electronic rhythms, progressive drumbeats to match Kirby’s fast quick footing, a solid bass to guide the rhythm, and multiple unconventional instruments in 1 single track. Let’s look at a few musical examples.

The quick drumbeat (iconic to any Kirby game) and the electric guitar in “Thru the Tunnel” from Kirby and the Forgotten Land creates the perfect storm for an underground adventure. I quite enjoy the instruments working with each other to generate vitality and motion.

“Techno Factory” from Kirby’s Return to Dream Land is a perfect example of a musical piece that strays a bit from the Kirby aesthetic, but its electronic beats add to the game’s ethos and turns the gameplay from cute to epic.

I’ve come to appreciate video game music due to its simplicity and catchy, lasting tunes. You'll inevitably get attached to a variety of music pieces while playing levels for long periods of time. As a composer, you ought to create masterpieces to make sure gamers don’t get tired of the music they have to listen to, and Jun Ishikawa does this with gusto. I welcome any musical adventure he offers.

We had a stream on our SteelSeries Twitch channel where we asked the community to guess whether the music we played came from a Kirby game or another franchise. The community failed in the most epic way possible. And I enjoyed it. Don’t be fooled. Kirby has some amazing tunes.

Ishikawa also finds ways to honor every single musical instrument within his compositions by graciously allowing instruments to shine. Doing so, the musical evolution transforms the environment from joyful melodies into sad narratives which play with the story and the gamer’s emotions.

“Trees in the depths of the earth” from Kirby Super Star presents a very different style of music in which the harmony depicts underground exploration. Here’s a clip of the music track being played in vinyl with my SteelSeries Arena 9 speakers at home.

“Welcome to Wondaria” from Kirby and the Forgotten Land has it all. The musical piece tells the story of Wondaria, a once thriving theme park full of soul, joy, and laughter, now abandoned. The melody shifts from happy to heartbreaking once the trumpets and violins kick in to convey how painful it is for its mechanical habitants to no longer bring joy to human Wondaria visitors. Thinking about the lonely robots makes me sad. “Welcome to Wondaria” is one of my favorite tracks of the game.

Let’s not forget the Meta Knight's Revenge — Fusion Big Band version ft. Button Masher arrangement won a grammy in 2022. Evet. A FREAKING GRAMMY!!

Want to play Kirby, but don't know where to start?

If you are interested in starting your very own Kirby journey, I recommend the following:

Kirby Super Star

This game has 8 games in one. Each game is a perfect example of all the different types of gameplays you will find within the franchise. It is a long game and one of my top 3 games of all time. Killer Soundtrack BTW.

  • Super Nintendo, Wii Store, Nintendo Switch Online, SNES mini
  • 2 player Co-op
  • 20-30 hours

Trailer:

Listen to the full Kirby Super Star soundtrack.

Kirby's Epic Yarn

Okie. All Kirby games are cute, but this game takes the cake. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is one of the most heartwarming gaming adventures for all ages. The visuals are out of this world, the music is what you want to hear in the background while you study and chill, the story is adorable beyond belief, and Prince Fluff is the best.

  • Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS
  • 2 player Co-op
  • 30-40 hours

Trailer:

Listen to the full Kirby's Epic Yarn soundtrack

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

This game replaced Kirby Super Star as my favorite Kirby game of all time. It also won Family game of the year during last year’s game awards. Whether you want to play it in easy mode or pro mode, this game is packed with great level design, easy to follow UI (User Interface), great power-ups, epic bosses, and what else, great music.

  • Nintendo Switch
  • 2 player Co-Op
  • 40-50 hours

Listen to the full Kirby and the Forgotten Land soundtrack.

If you are about the Pink life, check out our Pink Nova Booster packs, and our Pink Prismcaps. Don’t forget you can customize our SteelSeries keyboards and mice thru our GG Software to make them GLOW pink all the time. Kirby would be proud.

Do you have a favorite Kirby track? Let us know thru social media!

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