VGM Entry 58: Illusion City
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)
Illusion City never saw an English translation. Micro Cabin first released it in December 1991 for the MSX turboR, and this was rapidly followed by versions for the PC-9801/PC-88VA (January 1992), FM Towns (July 1992), Sharp X68000 (July 1992), and a bit later the Sega CD (May 1993).
On a completely irrelevant note, I finally looked up why they called it the Towns, and apparently Fujitsu named their 1989 PC after 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics winner Charles Hard Townes. Aaanyway, Illusion City had a soundtrack to rival the SNES legends, and that’s about all you’ll ever find concerning the game in English. It *gasp* doesn’t even have an English Wikipedia page.
The music collections you’ll find scattered across youtube–and these are relatively abundant–showcase the MSX turboR version, so I will to. Two years behind our current historical progression or three years after the original release of Snatcher, I thought it best to bring the game up now since they’re occasionally compared. The two have next to nothing in common concerning gameplay, but they are both cyberpunk, and I gather they have some common plot features. (Not that I would know, short of digging up a fan translation.)
Illusion City is not a visual novel. It’s an RPG. The best you’ll find concerning what style of RPG are a few stills here and there; I am thoroughly convinced that no Illusion City gameplay video exists on youtube. You’ll find plenty of videos of the introduction, and there’s an ending/credits roll video out there for the Sega CD version. That’s about it. But with these credits, conveniently originally in English, and a last resort Google Translate of the game’s Japanese Wikipedia entry, we can piece together its authorship easily enough.
The music was composed by Tadahiro Nitta (the same Nitta responsible for Micro Cabin’s Final Fantasy MSX port), Yasufumi Fukuda, and Koji Urita (Kouji Urita in the credits). These are the names listed on the wiki, and the Sega CD credits clearly distinguish them (“Music Compose”) from composers contributing new material to the port (“Mega-CD Special Music”). This latter group consists of Hirokazu Ohta, who “arranged and computer programmed” the intro and end-game music, and Yasufumi Fukuda, who added new combat music. Lastly the credits list Hirotoshi Moriya and Masato Takahashi under “sound” for the “Mega-CD Work Staff”.
There we go: clean and concise credits. How often does that happen on a Japanese PC game port?
In so far as this is the first cyberpunk RPG I know of (the Phantasy Star series comes to mind as a similar comparison), Tadahiro Nitta, Yasufumi Fukuda, and Kouji Urita had their work cut out for them. Where Masahiro Ikariko and company were able to score Snatcher more or less like a movie, Illusion City required themes for all of the contrivances of a standard RPG. The sort of poppy vibe with which Tokuhiko Uwabo flavored Phantasy Star II, to use a game I’ve previously showcased, can’t fly in cyberpunk–if that is in fact what kind of game Illusion City is, as many have claimed. It needed something a bit more dark and grimy.
Whether they really pulled it off is debatable, but if “City Noise” (3:37 in the present video) is in fact the main town theme then they definitely had the right idea. Oh, it’s not dark on the scale of Snatcher, but I get the sneaking suspicion anyway–mainly from the Sega CD intro and outros–that this is more of a futuristic adventure game with cyberpunk overtones than Akira-worship. It definitely succeeds in creating a futuristic RPG soundtrack to a far greater extent than what I’ve heard of Phantasy Star, and it’s got a decently dark edge.
oldskoolgamertje on youtube has provided a complete soundtrack of the MSX version for your enjoyment. Cheers.