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Iwata Asks Lots of People About Xenoblade's Music

Find out why Monolith's upcoming Wii epic has six musicians.

 

Check out the latest crowd to assemble before Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata.

That's quite the assemblage of musicians you have there. Ignoring the guy to the left for a sec, you have Yoko Shimomura, known for Kingdom Hearts and Street Fighter II, and Yasunori Mitsuda, known for Chrono Trigger and Xenosaga. To the right of them are Manami Kyota and three members of ACE+, Chico, Tomori and Kenji Hiramatsu.

The guy to the far left is Tatsuya Takahashi, president of Monolith Soft, and director of Xenoblade.

Yes, this is the latest Iwata Asks column. The Nintendo CEO is for some reason focusing on music in what will presumably be the first of multiple Xenoblade columns. This is particularly interesting because Famitsu recently posted a big feature on the game's music, a summary of which you can read here.

Here's a bit of what everyone had to say to The Shacho.

The conversation took place at Monolith's headquarters, outside Nakameguro Station in central Tokyo. Iwata recalled when he lived in this particular area, from his fourth year of college to the first four years of his independent adult life.

Once he was finished reminiscing about his former home, Iwata asked Takahashi to describe his role on Xenoblade. Takahashi is actually "overall director," which in this case means he has a hand in everything from the start of the project to the writing of the scenario, all the way to debugging.

Takahashi proceeded to introduce the musicians who were next to him, noting that Xenoblade's sound component was made with this six person team.

Much of what he said here about Shimomura and Mitsuda was mentioned in the Famitsu interview. Takahashi has a long history with these two. For Mitsuda, the two worked together on Xenosaga. For Shimomura, while they've never done a project together, they were coworkers at Square.

As detailed in the Famitsu interview, Mitsuda's role in Xenoblade was to create the game's ending theme song, something that Takahashi wanted to have simply because of the "Xeno" in the title (the "Xeno" is just an homage to past Xeno games -- Xenoblade has no actual relation to them). Shimomura's role wasn't as clear from the Famitsu article, but here Takahashi said that he asked her to do such things as the game's main theme and opening song. The reason he selected Shimomura was because he wanted Xenoblade to have a different feel from his previous works.

Similar to Shimomura, Xenoblade represented the first time Takahashi has worked with Manami Kyota and the three ACE+ members. Takahashi was introduced to the four through Dog Year Records, a studio from legendary Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. He ended up asking Kyota to do event and field songs. ACE+ was also asked to do field and event songs as well as battle music.

Kyota's dealings with Nintendo go a ways back, though. She did some music for 2009's Pokepark Wii and also sung (yes, sung -- not composed) the theme song for 2008's Glory of Heracles. She was asked by Dog Year Records if he wanted to work on composition for Xenoblade, and she jumped at the chance. She was particularly excited because she recalled having heard Shimomura and Mitsuda's soundtracks in games she played in junior high.

ACE+ is normally just ACE and consists of Chico and Tomori. When they add Hiramatsu, they become Ace+. Chico and Tomori had previous game experience through work on Minna de Tamagotchi for the Nintendo 64. Chico also sung the theme song for Luminous Arc 3 Eyes.

Moving on to a discussion of Xenoblade, Takahashi spoke about his concept for the game's musical component. He wanted to avoid focusing on a particular genre or instrument. Worried about giving the game a monotone image, he wanted to make use of a variety of instruments.

He also wanted to turn things up a bit for the RPG genre. Xenoblade is an RPG, and thus needs RPG-style battle scenes, but he wanted to use instruments that break that feel a bit.

Chico recalled Takahashi telling her from the start that he wanted to not deliver an RPG-like feel. However, he also said that he wanted them to do things normally, which left her a bit confused

Why the need for so many musicians? Takahashi explained that the game has 90 songs. This, Iwata said, seems to be a huge number.

Having music from so many musicians seems to have presented some challenges.

When requesting songs from someone like Mitsuda, because they've worked together so much in the past, Takahashi only had to detail the general atmosphere and he could leave Mitsuda to do his work.

However,, Takahashi had to be careful to keep the game's audio component from sounding scattered due to the individual color given by each musician. He came up with an image for the songs that he felt would fit each scene, and although he felt it might be a bit rude, he gave sample songs to the musicians and asked for something with the same feel.

Takahashi feels that, in the end, the game's aural component shows the personal qualities of the various composers while at the same time making it hard to see who made what.

Mitsuda seems to feel that making everything come together was one of his tasks. As detailed above, his work was just on the epilogue track. However, he felt that he had to make the ending connect with everything by summing up the prior pieces. This caused him great worries as he wrote his part.

Incidentally, the epilogue is a vocal track. The lyrics were written by Takahashi.

The group also discussed the Special Soundtrack CD that will be included with Xenoblade as a bonus item. This CD includes 12 songs. You can hear some samples at these links:

(If the links don't work, access them directly at the interview page)

With this Iwata Asks column and the Famitsu interview, it looks like music is a key component for Xenoblade. But there's obviously a whole lot more to the game, from its unique world to what will hopefully be an enjoyable combat system. The next Iwata Asks column will presumably cover these other areas, although Iwata will probably be speaking to a smaller group.

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