Xenoblade Music Detailed
Yoko Shimomura and Yasunori Mitsuda discuss their involvement in the Wii RPG epic from Nintendo and Monolith.
We've heard plenty about Xenoblade's world and characters. This week's Famitsu explores a different side of the game: its music.
The magazine took up the topic of music with three key players in Xenoblade's development: director Tetsuya Takahashi and composers Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter II, Kingdom Hearts) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger).
Takahashi first began by explaining why he selected Shimomura and Mitsuda for the game. The choice of Shimomura as the main composer was made because he wanted to do something different with the game even on the music side of things.
Mitsuda's involvement came far later in the project. Explained Takahashi, development was reaching a climax, and the staff had to select a final name from a set of candidate names. In the end, they chose to have "Xeno" symbolically appear in the name. Takahashi wanted to have some connections with the Xeno series, and because they had yet to make vocals for the end theme song, he decided to go with Mitsuda, who'd previously worked on Xenosaga's music.
So, although you'll find two of Japan's most cherished game music composers in the credits, Xenoblade's in-game music is headed up by Shimomura, with Mitsuda just heading up the ending theme vocals..
Shimomura didn't compose all the in-game music for herself, though. Monolith had to use a number of composers because the game has so much music. As an example of the abundance of music, the theme will actually change between day and night. Also, during battle, the music will change based off your party's status. In all, you'll find close to 90 tracks.
The magazine asked the two composes for their impression of the game.
Shimomura feels that it's a pure fantasy, with blue skies and vast nature. She recalls having a strange feeling when hearing that the game's world is set on the bodies of two frozen gods.
Mitsuda explained that when he was first given the request to make the end theme, the game was almost complete, so its image had been solidified. Instead of looking at the game, though, he asked that the be able to read the scenario. The volume was so great that he was unsure about reading it, but in the end he read the full thing. He felt that the story was epic, giving him the feeling, "Ah, it's a Takahashi game."
Delving into specifics on the end vocal theme, Mitsuda revealed that the vocals are sung by a lady named Sarah Lim. Mitsuda describes her as being "very outgoing." She was one of many people to audition, but she apparently stood out because she actually asked if she could sing in a studio. She didn't have the "gentle but powerful singing style" that Mitsuda had imaged. It was more classical and slightly flat. Mitsuda explained to Lim that it might be extremely difficult for her to match up with his image, but she was persistent and over a period of one month re-recorded the song over and over again until she was singing in the image Mitsuda wanted.
Shimomura described her work on the game's background music. Because of the game's theme of human versus machine, she made use of sounds she normally wouldn't use, like machine-like sounds and electric guitars. She also had a good amount of live violin play, an instrument that she personally likes.
Regarding the use of multiple composers, Takahashi said that everyone made their music match up, to the point that listeners may not be able to tell who made what.
The magazine asked Shimomura to describe some of the more difficult moments from development. She recalled receiving an order from Takahashi for an "unbelievably long song." Takahashi jumped in here and insisted that it wasn't too long. But for Shimomura, a nine minute song that has to be timed to a movie scene is long. Furthermore, Takahashi eventually asked that she make it so that the song can be split midway through, which made her think she was actually making two songs.
This lengthy song is used at the very beginning of the game, with a tutorial placed in the middle of the scene. The beat changes between the first and second halves of the song resulting in what Shimomura feels is a totally different song, but the musical concept is carried over even with the tutorial in between.
We now know more about Xenoblade's music than we do its gameplay. That will hopefully change over the coming weeks as this Wii RPG epic approaches its June 10 release.