They say that you create some of your best work when you're put in a difficult situation, and for the many composers who had to make the Game Boy's crude audio hardware sing, that does seem to have been the case. Despite its humble nature, the console is home to some truly memorable soundtracks – and one person who arguably mastered it better than most was Konami's Hidehiro Funauchi (also credited as 'FK‑King').
There's very little information online about Funauchi, and much of what you're about to read here is informed by an excellent piece on the composer by Micro-Chop's Gino Sorcinelli. It seems that he joined Konami in the late '80s, earning his first composter credit came in 1989 on the Family Computer title TwinBee 3: Poko Poko Daimaō alongside Atsushi Fujio ('Sukenomiya') and Katsuhiko Suzuki ('Flamingo'). This would turn out to be his only non-Game Boy composer credit, and for the next few years, he plied his trade fastidiously on Nintendo's monochrome handheld, turning out some of the best soundtracks to ever grace the console.
In the same year he worked on TwinBee 3, he was part of the three-person team (with Shigeru Fukutake and Norio Hanzawa) that created the score for Castlevania: The Adventure. While the game itself isn't a classic, the music is excellent, especially for such an early Game Boy release. Sticking with the Game Boy, Funauchi gained his first solo composer credit for Skate or Die: Bad 'N Rad, followed by Operation C (Contra in Japan, Probotector in Europe. He was once again listed as the sole composer for this game and contributed some amazing tracks, while his rendition of the classic level one 'Jungle Theme' is arguably the best.
Just listen for yourself if you don't believe us:
Funauchi then collaborated with Shigeru Fukutake and Akiko Itoh on the Game Boy version of Parodius before delivering what is regarded by many to be his magnum opus: the score for Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge.
This was the first Castlevania game that your humble scribe ever played, and is one of the main reasons that the series is my personal favourite to this very day. Belmont's Revenge solved almost all of the gameplay problems that Castlevania: The Adventure had, but the accompanying soundtrack really elevated the experience to the next level – so much so that I bought one of those bolt-on Nuby sound amplifiers and used the game's hidden sound test option ('Heart, Heart, Heart, Heart' on the password screen) to annoy my family on a daily basis. This was the first time I'd listened to video game music when I wasn't actually playing the game itself – and it was on hardware which was only a few steps up from a doorbell on the evolutionary ladder. That says a lot about Funauchi's ability to make the Game Boy audio hardware truly shine in a manner that was seemingly beyond most of his contemporaries.
Funauchi's next project was Blades of Steel, a collaboration with Akiko Ito. He then worked on the excellent score for Tiny Toon Adventures: Babs' Big Break in 1992 before moving on to the equally brilliant music for Zen: Intergalactic Ninja, an action platformer based on the cult '80s comic book by Steve Stern and Dan Cote. While these licenced titles could easily have been populated by basic, uninspired soundtracks, Funauchi's talent shone through; he was able to create swirling, atmospheric soundscapes that stuck in your memory long after you'd powered down the console.
What's puzzling is that after Zen: Intergalactic Ninja, Funauchi turned his back on game music and instead moved into video work; MobyGames credits him as working on 'film digitisation' on Hideo Kojima's Policenauts in 1996, and he contributed to the opening sequences for Gradius: Deluxe Pack (1996) and Nagano Winter Olympics '98 (1997) before apparently vanishing from the games industry altogether.
It's not usual for video game professionals to drift away from the industry, especially as technology evolves and the required skillsets change – Hajime Hirasawa, who created the amazing music for the original Star Fox, would leave Nintendo (and video games) shortly afterwards, for example – but it's nonetheless disappointing that Funauchi didn't stick around to give us more masterpieces.
Wherever he is now, we hope that he's aware of the incredible legacy he's left behind in the games industry.
This article was originally published by nintendolife.com on Tue 4th January, 2022.
Makes me think of Ron Hubbard, the god of the SID chip.
Belmont's Revenge is always so overlooked because the other two mainline CV games on the GB are pretty blehhh. (Kid Dracula GB is alright though). It's actually a pretty great game!
There are actually two versions of Belmont's Revenge - one with the Cross weapon, and one with the Axe weapon. Both versions have Holy Water, but for whatever reason, they couldn't put both the Cross and the Axe in at the same time. Who knows.
If you have the Castlevania Anniversary Collection on Switch, you can actually choose between these two versions by using the "Bonus JP Version" option. - Play the US default version for Axe, and the JP version for Cross.
Axe makes for a slightly easier game imo btw.
So this is the person who's responsible for the game boy music I've been regularly listening to for the majority of my life? I hope they're doing well, wherever they are now. The Game Boy is a treasure of a system with a mountain of hidden gems in it's library, and people like Hidehiro Funauchi take credit for that.
Turok 2 has an amazing Soundtrack on the Gameboy.
The sound chip of the Game Boy is very unique, instantly recognizable, and also underappreciated in recent years.
It's misunderstood as being less powerful than the U.S./European NES, despite having one additional sound channel available for music.
The Game Boy sound font stands out as so memorable that it was used by mainstream artists like Beck, Kesha, and Robyn years before the popularization of chiptune musicians. With a lifespan that ran from 1989 - 2002, it's no wonder that the sound font has been treasured by so many for so long, and it's nice to see the name of Mr. Funauchi - a prominent part in making it possible - recognized and honored here today.
Konami were so good at producing incredible soundtracks in the late 80's - whatever the format or the game.
I think the most amazing thing is that their soundtracks are usually instantly recognisable as music from a Konami game. Not a "Video Game" but a Konami game.
@GayusGayer Rob Hubbard, not to be confused with L. Ron Hubbard, the scientology guy. He ended up mostly doing music with Electronic Arts games in the late 80s and early 90s.
@EarthboundBenjy Thanx for this info, and @Damien @Damo for the article.. since emulating gameboys (early 200-s?) I was missing the Castlevania I remembered from early 90's, and now I realise I was emulating the wrong game... just one second of this music and I was back in my old high school..playing Castlevania, borrowed from a friend.. (I still have his burai fighter, come to think of it)
@charliegirl, which time are you referring too, I remember e.g. that the gameboy robocop sound track was quite immediately used in a commercial, and in the amiga times ( 91-94 where the use of samples in computer games really started) Rob Hubbard of c64 chiptune fame was already a god (admittedly ,the chiptune concerts started 5 years later, but still)
That hectic Operation C low end line is wonderful!!
Battle Of Holy is the best thing about Castlevania Adventure.
@brianvgplayer RoB yeah thanks. Something looked off but I didn't catch it. 🤓
I love the Analogue Pocket
@GayusGayer The GB audio chip is actually pretty close to the SID and that's why it's one of the most used hardware in chiptune. So it's really not "one small step up from that of a doorbell" as Damien claims. -_-
I mean it's precisely the theme from the C64 version for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGIKnn-COS4
@RootsGenoa "it's basically like one of dem birthday cards but programmable or something"
Cloud Castle theme is an absolute masterpiece that have been stuck in my mind for 30 years now. Blew my mind as a kid.
On another level, this year I heard a Tinashe song that in the first second reminded me of/I’m pretty sure samples the game boy camera music app (which was awesome by the way)
I held a tape recorder to my game boy back in the day just so I could listen to the music of Belmont's Revenge on the bus. I can probably credit the guy for getting me into both metal and classical music, with New Messiah and Original Sin sounding like chiptune thrash and those impressive chipped renditions of Bach's Chromatic Fantasy & Debussy's Passepied.
The Castlevania II GB OST is to this day one of the best musical compositions in gaming. Modern games can barely touch this stuff. Is this the same guy that did Final Fantasy Adventure, or would that be a different composer? If so, a feature on him would be cool, too!
I always liked the GB's sound more than the NES's and this guy comparing it to a doorbell makes me want to slap him with a copy of Mega Man 3
@TurboTEF I'm pretty sure the comparisons to doorbells were meant as a compliment to the composers who were able to do such incredible work with such comparitively rudimentary technology, not as an insult to the Game Boy's sound chip, its designer and all Game Boy music fans.
Using cheaper, outdated technology was the literal design philosophy behind the Game Boy (and much of Nintendo's other hardware).
I doubt you're that emotionally invested in the technology itself.
If they had splurged and used better tech, so that the GB sounded more like the SNES or GBA or something, then you'd have nostalgia for that, instead.
Nobody here is saying that the Game Boy had bad music, or worse music than the NES.
The article is simply making the point that it is objectively harder to make good sounding music on the Game Boy than it is on more advanced hardware.
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