Game Music

A Blast From the Past: Rock out with MASA and Dynasty Warriors 6

June 10, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Blast From the Past: Rock out with MASA and Dynasty Warriors 6on Twitter

It’s that time of month again, and we’re here with another Blast from the Past. For those who haven’t been keeping up, this is a series of interviews from my time at Music4Games which are no longer available online. I couldn’t just stand by and let this happen! So here they are once again for your reading pleasure.

This month we’re reliving a chat with rock ‘n’ roll maestro MASA, who you may know from his long-time contributions to KOEI’s Dynasty Warriors series (Shin Sangokumusou
in Japan) as well as an appearance on the Wild ARMs Music the Best -rocking heart- album. At the time this interview was conducted, the release of Dynasty Warriors 6 was on the horizon, and we were wondering how his amazing brand of American-style rock had made its way into the franchise. He provided some excellent responses, and even though not many people know his name, I always thought this was one of the best Japanese composer interviews that Music4Games published. I also want to say thanks to J.P. Arevallo for contributing questions to this interview, as I wasn’t overly familiar with the games.

Hit the jump for this classic interview with MASA.

Jayson: The series tends to retell the same stories loosely based on Chinese history over and over in each incarnation of the game. How do you keep the compositions fresh in this sense?

MASA: Every title in the Dynasty Warriors series pulls from the different stories told in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel. However, with each new installment players get to see new and different elements in stage design, play mechanics, and art direction, etc. Taking these new elements into consideration, I think carefully about where I should take the music.

I’ll compose the music which I really want to hear in the game. But honestly, I try to compose the music with a desire to solve the problems from previous titles. I have always been trying to write music in pursuit of the perfect composition.

Jayson: Given the constant action that takes place in the game, did you attempt to implement any type of interactive audio? Have the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 consoles allowed for any technical feats that were not possible on the last generation of consoles?

MASA: When it comes to the meaning of “interactive,” what comes to mind is the real-time surround sound I hear while playing the game. These days, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, support a surround environment, so if you arrange the audio around the 3D space, the hardware can play it as such- automatically.

However, without managing the sound and hardware properly, it may not work as you intended. For example, it could end up where you hear the player character’s voice behind you, but the voice of your opponent, who is in the distance, may sound as if they were just in front of you. So basically I have to coordinate the audio to allow the user to hear the sounds of the key actions amidst the battlefield noise.

In addition, I have adjusted the BGM settings to suit each battle situation and playing style. I’ve also added a specific setting for moments where particular characters in the game encounter each other.

Jayson: How different is composing music for a stage-based game like Dynasty Warriors rather than for scenes accompanied by scores that follow the flow of the story? Are you asked to compose a certain type of music or do you freely compose and then submit the music to the developers to use in the game?

MASA: For me, I really don’t feel any difference between creating music for scenes in a movie and a game such as Dynasty Warriors, since I always try to have an understanding of what is taking place. I don’t compose the music freely. Rather I always discuss the back-story, and how to clear the stage with the game designer. I’ll share my image with the team as well. Only then will I begin to prepare the music. For example, there is a battle where Liu Bei’s sworn brothers are killed. There, in particular, I wrote the music with a sincere sense of sadness.

Jayson: It’s a common fact that the “Sangoku Musou” series features a guitar-driven hard rock style while Koei’s “Sengoku Musou” series has more of an electronica/techno sound. Was this difference in direction an internal decision made by KOEI, or was it your sole decision as a guitar player to produce this style music for the “Sangoku Musou” series?

MASA: Typically, the musical direction is decided through a series of discussions that takes place with the development team, but for the Dynasty Warriors franchise, I decided to use a strong rock sound. Although the game is based on Ancient China, it is not merely a replay of the historical experience. Rather it’s a game where the player becomes a hero- and against a thousand warriors and tremendous odds – finds glory on the battlefield.

The first piece I prepared was Lu Bu’s theme in the opening sequence. This is all thanks to my boss, who at that time was interested in what I was writing.

With regards to the Samurai Warriors series, which I am not exactly involved in, I can only assume that the composer wanted to inject a sense of excitement with the electronica/techno sound, and change the “Warriors sound” from rock guitar to traditional Japanese instruments to make the music more suitable for the setting of Samurai Warriors.

Jayson: Can you explain your duties as the main producer on the soundtracks spanning the franchise? How closely do you work with the other composers, such as Michihiko Shichi and Yasuhiro Misawa?

MASA: As sound director, I have tons of responsibilities. Among them are production of SFX, sound editing, coordinating with different composers, budgeting, scheduling, discussions with the producer and director, and mentoring the younger colleagues, in addition of making music.

When we work with sound teams from outside of the company, we will deliver a brief including the outline of the game and the direction of the music. Sometimes, I make one sample for them to help them understand the image of the music we have in mind. I try to meet them personally every day to help with the creative process. Sometimes, I’ll suddenly grab my guitar and improvise with the new music.

On DW5 and Dynasty Warriors Online, an MMO action game currently available only in Asia, I worked with composers from outside of KOEI. I wasn’t able to meet with them daily, but I tried to communicate with them as frequently as I do the KOEI staff. For the recording to finish on time, my schedule was packed for days and days.

Jayson: How has working on this popular franchise changed you as a musician? Do you still approach a new entry into the franchise the same way you did the first time you scored a Dynasty Warriors title?

MASA: Until the previous installment, as a musician and a guitarist I felt as if I were an amateur in musical thought and performance. But having the title of sound director, I felt more mature, as if I grew with this title. It gave me more confidence. I intended to concentrate on every step of my performance- from placing each finger on the string of my guitar, to the bounce of that string.

As sound director, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure since the Dynasty Warriors series is KOEI’s top-selling franchise. I could not fail or compromise the music in any way… as always. So I was happy to see Dynasty Warriors 6 achieve so much popularity and success.

With regards to writing, I am not a composer who is widely familiar with various forms of music so in terms of this, I feel I have some limitations to the types of games for which I can write. But I cannot always choose what I want to do. So even if I am assigned to a project I have not asked for, I am going to try my best to deliver a fun and complete audio experience.

Jayson: The track names for your compositions for the series have always been in English. Do you name them, or are the titles translated after the fact by somebody at KOEI?

MASA: Honestly, the process of naming the tracks can be very strenuous work! With the help of an English dictionary, I name them myself! Sometimes I ask someone who understands both English and Japanese to check the names, but some of the track names may end up sounding strange anyway.

Jayson: We have seen a dramatic increase in game-oriented concert performances both inside and outside of Japan over the last couple of years. While they have mainly been a symphonic orchestra affair, do you have any aspirations to perform music from the game in a live setting?

MASA: I have always enjoyed game music very much, even before thinking about how to I could make a living as a musician. I’m so pleased with the fact that game music is now an established genre. On occasion, I do perform live. If I am asked to join in at a concert, I’ll perform on stage. Is there anyone out there who wants to hear Dynasty Warriors music live?

Jayson: Dynasty Warriors has been a long running franchise. Are you satisfied with the current musical style of the series, or do you have any ideas for how you might expand upon and improve upon it in the future?

MASA: When I first started working on the Dynasty Warriors series, I was in my mid-twenties. I was simply happy to work on and devote myself to such an interesting game.

However, when the series was brought to North America, I received a lot of criticism from users who thought that the “American rock didn’t match the Ancient Chinese theme.” Taking these criticisms into consideration, I have attempted to use Chinese instruments, and collaborated with different composers.

For the Dynasty Warriors music, we receive feedback which is both positive and negative, though I often become blue when reading that feedback. I don’t think I have done anything wrong! I have held strong to my belief that an action game should be exciting and fun. I’d like to keep the series’ hard rock sound.

For the next game, I have yet to prepare anything. It’s because I just completed this project. When a new project begins, I may come up with some new ideas when interacting with new team members who have a sense of excitement.

Thank you!

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