We’re back with another blast from the past, an interview series that revisits classic interviews I conducted while writing for Music4Games. Thus far we’ve featured Tomoko Sasaki and Naofumi Hataya of NiGHTS as well as Mahito Yokota and Koji Kondo of Super Mario Galaxy. This time we’re going to take a look at what Hitoshi Sakimoto had to say about Basiscape’s involvement with Opoona shortly before the game’s North American release date.
Not only do we discuss Sakimoto’s inspiration for the title, but also the contributions of the other members of the Basiscape team. At the time Opoona was released in the United States, Basiscape was a relatively new company, so the details of the studio and its employees also come up. It’s interesting to hear just how emotionally involved Sakimoto and the other Opoona staff members were, and I think it’s about time this amazing soundtrack made its way to the fans.
Hit the jump and take a step back in time!
Jayson: Opoona appears to be one of the most quirky titles that you’ve worked on, and the score seems to be upbeat and playful. Tell us a bit about how the unique visuals and storyline factored into your compositions for the title.
Sakimoto: When I saw the designs for Opoona, I was really impressed by Mr. Majima’s unique approach. The atmosphere of the game is wholly original and the characters are really cute, too. However, since the game is at its heart a traditional drama about Opoona and his siblings, I arranged the music in an orthodox manner, but the sound has a more “futuristic” flavor. I wanted to focus on having the music and sound gently “wrap around” Opoona and his siblings.
Jayson: The score combines orchestral and electronic elements. You are known for both styles, but have been working on many projects featuring orchestral music over the past year. Describe your experience working combing these elements in Opoona. Was it a nice break from the orchestral-fantasy music you’ve been composing lately?
Sakimoto: Mixing orchestral sounds with those of a synthesizer is something I have often done in the past, but those previous works were more aggressive and less emotional. For Opoona, my plan was to compose music from the character’s perspective and somehow have the players feel sympathy for the main characters. Thus, I mainly went with subtle compositions and synthesizer sounds. This is perhaps the main differentiation between my previous works and Opoona. Actually, I really enjoyed composing the music for this project.
Opoona was a great opportunity for me to create songs using a synthesizer. I frequently compose music with a synthesizer, though it really wasn’t for technical reasons or for the impressions created by the artificial sound; I enjoyed creating the music for Opoona because it put me into a relaxed mood. So if I could, I would like to be involved with the next installment of Opoona, if that were to occur.
Jayson: Was anyone else at your company, Basiscape, responsible for composing music for Opoona? In your own words, please tell our readers a about Basiscape, including the company’s goals and employee structure (does everyone work in the studio, which is attached to your home?).
Sakimoto: From Basiscape, Iwata, Namiki, Kanada, Abe, Uekura and I worked on composing music for Opoona.
Basiscape is located next door to my own house and I have nine people commuting there. Aside from those nine, four including myself work out their own homes. So in total 13 employees work for Basiscape. I currently serve as the Managing Director at Basiscape and also work on production. Besides myself, there are three people who manage daily affairs in the office, while several other staffers work with me on production including two in SFX, a mixing engineer, and six composers. I’m actually working as both management and a composer.
In the past, each team member worked on everything including composing, programming and SFX. But now, each member is responsible for their own area of expertise.
The company’s goal is to close the gap between the music and the user. This does sound a bit vague however, it’s more like a philosophy that exemplifies our strong devotion to creating the best music and audio.
Jayson: I believe Opoona is the first project you’ve scored on the Nintendo Wii console. I was hoping you could tell us about working on the Wii. What tools were used, and did you have to approach it any differently from a technical standpoint?
Sakimoto: We used the official tools provided to us by Nintendo. For today’s large-scale games, we do not focus so much on the development tools, but we do have to be aware of the limitations that exist for SFX memory. Fortunately, there are really no limitations that exist for the music since it’s all streamed.
Jayson: Please describe your interactions with developer ArtePiazza. Did they request any specific style of music? Did you provide them with samples and sketches before completing each individual piece? Who was responsible for audio direction?
Sakimoto: Mr. Majima and Ms. Sugimura left everything to us. We had a great deal of creative freedom, but we actually created a presentation about the music and its production process for ArtePiazza.
In our approach, we first created the theme music for the game. This music should reflect the “worldview” of the game. It was here that, for Opoona, we decided to make the music adorable- just like Opoona- and match the atmosphere of the game.
Jayson: Have you had the opportunity to play Opoona since its Japanese release? If so, what did you think, and if not, what are your thoughts on the title from what you’ve seen?
Sakimoto: I have played the beta version of the game, but honestly I have not yet completed it from beginning to end. However, after the launch of the Japanese version, I did watch someone play the game in its entirety.
For me, Opoona is an exceptional title. While watching Opoona and his siblings, I can’t help but feel that they are like my own adorable children. I was so moved and impressed by their actions. Both the characters and the environment created by Mr. Majima are so original. Plus, Ms. Sugimura’s scenarios were wonderful from start to finish. From the bottom of my heart, I was completely struck by their creativity. I would like everyone to get Opoona and play it.
Jayson: The year 2007 was quite a prolific year for you and Basiscape, with titles including Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Grim Grimoire, Odin Sphere, Deltora Quest, ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat, Final Fantasy Tactics A2, and Opoona. How did you manage all these projects simultaneously while adhering to the high-quality of composition that you are known for?
Sakimoto: Last year, we worked on quite a few titles at the same time but this was purely by chance. It’s not rare for us to work on more than ten projects at a time because game development occurs over a long period. But honestly, for me, I try to focus on individual titles.
In the past, I had to handle everything by myself. But now I have a staff that can support me so I can concentrate on managing the company and composing music. Having a great staff is the main contributing factor that allows us to handle multiple projects.
With regards to the production of the music, nowadays the volume of information is too much for one person to handle. So I really appreciate the support and hard work of my secretary and development manager.
Jayson: It comes as somewhat of a surprise that there has not been a soundtrack release announced for Opoona despite the amazing score. How much music was created for the title, and can we hope to see a soundtrack release in the future?
Sakimoto: I believe we have about 60-70 tracks for Opoona. Talking about the soundtrack, we’ve been considering that, but it hasn’t been decided yet. If the sales of Opoona go well in North America and Europe, that would be additional incentive for releasing a soundtrack.
Jayson: Given the nature of the title and its release on the Wii, what does Opoona mean to you? Did you gain any insights into yourself as a composer or the types of projects you would like to work on in the future?
Sakimoto: For me, and I think also for Arte Piazza, this game is the adventure itself. I hope that everyone will play this game and be moved emotionally.
Regarding insights into myself as a composer, well… speaking about entertainment in general, I feel that it’s difficult to differentiate between a “story by children” and “story for children,” or “showing love” and “having children feel love.” Personally, I think that the producer should be as objective as possible. But for Opoona, production with emotional involvement was a rewarding experience.A Blast From The Past, Basiscape, Features, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Interviews, KOEI, Opoona, Wii