Game Music of the Day: Ninja Warriors

Flashback time! The year is 1987, and it is not yet time for Klax, so the Japanese arcade scene is booming. You’re Taito, and you’re locked in a fierce struggle with Sega, Namco and other producers for supremacy in the Eastern arcade gaming sphere. How do you make your games seem larger than life to consumers? By actually making your games larger with a panoramic display! The advent of HD is still a long ways off, so you’ve taken the unprecedented step of making a game display out of three combined screens.

One of your hot titles to make use of this tech is Ninja Warriors, a side-scrolling action game with huge, beautifully animated characters and settings. Just look at players marvel at the detail – as the ninjas get damaged, their clothes tear off, revealing that they’re actually robots! That the actual gameplay is fairly pedestrian and will age badly years down the line is of no concern right now – people are wowed, and you are king of the arcade hill.

Above: Plus seeing a monitor that wide made us stop and think… “I wanna put a quarter in that”

But it’s not just the graphics that are flooring folks. You’ve got another killer weapon up your sleeve – your awesome sound team, Zuntata. And for this game, Zuntata leader OGR has composed one of the most unique and memorable arcade anthems ever.

Above: Daddy Mulk from Ninja Warriors

Game: Ninja Warriors

Song: Daddy Mulk

Composer: Hisayoshi Ogura (OGR)

Zuntata is well-known for doing some very experimental, ahead-of-their-time game music, and Daddy Mulk is a prime example of OGR at his creative best. Daddy Mulk is a rockin’ first-stage theme featuring a mix of old-fashioned oriental sounds with more modern (for 1987) computerized choirs and voice samples. The track’s name doubtless comes from the unusual, computer-sounding voice sample played throughout. It’s a lengthy song, going on for a little over three minutes, until suddenly you’re smacked with a totally unexpected sampledshamisensolo. You wouldn’t expect a shamisen solo to be totally rockin’, but it is. And it is awesome.

Daddy Mulk is a beloved tune amongst overseas game music enthusiasts, and Ninja Warriors, alongside other soundtracks like Night Striker and Darius, helped make Zuntata one of Japan’s most beloved game music composition teams. Years later, a Sega CD port of Ninja Warriors would see release in Japan. The game obviously suffered a bit from the loss of 2/3s of its playing field, but to make up for it, the game has a remixed CD audio soundtrack by Zuntata itself, along with another odd little bonus.

This strange photo adaptation of the premise behind Ninja Warriors’ “plot” (voiced entirely in English for some reason) is “acted” by the members of Zuntata themselves, and includes imagery of one of the group’s live performances set to Daddy Mulk.

Almost a quarter-century later, Daddy Mulk still sounds fresh and unique among the crowded game music landscape. The popularity of the tune endures with remixes, remasters and just plain nostalgia keeping it strong. We’ll leave you today with a recent appearance of the song in Namco’s Taiko Drum Master series, along with a guy who clearly can pound on the taiko with ninja reflexes.

Silence by Ishida and Kametani

YOU ARE DEAD by an unknown artist

Creepy-ass Kraid music by Hirokazu Tanaka