Game Music

A Blast From The Past: Tomoko Sasaki and Naofumi Hataya NiGHTS Interview

January 12, 2010 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook A Blast From The Past: Tomoko Sasaki and Naofumi Hataya NiGHTS Interviewon Twitter

Welcome to “A Blast From The Past,” a new OSV feature that will spotlight classic interviews that I conducted when I was writing for Music4Games. Why reprint old interviews, you ask? Well, unfortunately Music4Games has shut its doors, taking all its content with it, and thereby making some of the most exciting interviews I’ve conducted no longer available on the ‘Net. Myself and others thought it’d be a huge disservice to let some of these interviews disappear forever, so here they are, back from the dead! We’ll be running a new interview approximately once a month, so be sure to watch out for some of these high-profile interviews in the future!

We’re starting with a fun interview with Tomoko Sasaki and Naofumi Hataya of the NiGHTS series. This took place right before the release of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams was released on the Wii in December 2007, and fans weren’t quite sure what to expect from the game or its music. Given how the game was received, I don’t suppose there will be a great opportunity to run NiGHTS-themed content as there likely won’t be a sequel in the near future, so I thought we could start with this one.

Join us as we venture into the past and discuss NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams with Tomoko Sasaki and Naofumi Hataya after the jump!

Jayson: Two generations of consoles and more than a decade have elapsed since the original NiGHTS Into Dreams was released on the Sega Saturn. What technological changes have you encountered while transitioning the world of Nightopia to the Nintendo Wii console, and how have they helped or hindered your task of scoring NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams?

Sasaki: While the original NiGHTS used a built-in sound source to play the music of Nightopia, the Wii version directly plays the recorded music. To be honest, I enjoyed the built-in sound source more, because I was controlling all the tones myself. Now the quality of the game has increased significantly on the new version. Additionally, there are several people now that contribute in creating theme music and many times the theme turns out differently than I expected.

A single man production effort has many limitations, however miracles can happen when you gather the abilities of many people!

Hataya: At that time, the system of changing music as you play could only be accomplished by the built-in sound source. A similar system is also featured in the new version, but it uses a recorded stereo waveforms. I was allowed to use many acoustic instruments and since there were no limits in terms of expressions, Sasaki-san and I were able to increase the quality of the music within the game.

Jayson: While listening to the music featured in the new trailer, I noticed an arrangement of the original NiGHTS main theme, giving the orchestral sound a significant upgrade. What tools are being used to compose for the score for NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, and will the score feature any live performances? Will any other familiar musical themes make an appearance?

Sasaki: For the orchestrated theme music, I asked Minobe-san (Delfisound Inc.) for a rearrangement and he recorded the music at FOX Studio in Los Angeles. I asked for a dramatic arrangement, since the characters have more lines compared to the previous version, putting more emphasis on the game’s storyline.

Hataya: The main tools are Digital Performer and Pro Tools, which are the standard tools in music production. Since it was important for us to exchange the data smoothly, I tried to work in the same environment as Sasaki-san as much as I could.

Live performance isn’t planned at the moment, but when it happens, I’d definitely like to listen as an audience member.

The game features many other familiar music themes that are based on the feeling of each level.

Jayson: The score for the NiGHTS Into Dreams featured a fun blend of orchestral, pop, and jazz. Many of the pieces sport a carnival atmosphere, and there are even some pieces that sound inspired by the holiday season (the use of jingle bells and bell tones). How did the team come decide what musical direction the title should take? Have your personal musical backgrounds influenced the music you have created for NiGHTS?

Sasaki: The NiGHTS music has a dream theme. It’s important that the world is packed with a broad range of music, and this is why I think the genre can be anything. But when composing theme music, I made sure that each theme includes the exhilaration of flying in the air. This is because the exhilaration of freely flying in the air is the core gameplay element for this title.

I don’t have a clear musical policy. For example, death metal musicians rarely sing love ballads. I think that’s because they have a policy. I try and keep an open mind, it enables me to work on and create a variety of music. It’s not easy for me to stay in one place, and I have a strong desire of wanting to change myself. I think this is why I became a musician rather than an artist; you have to have that frame of mind when you are producing themes for title such as NiGHTS.

Hataya: As Sasaki-san said, the music of NiGHTS has been produced focusing on the concept of being able to deeply empathize with the exhilaration of flying in the air as well as the wonderful world and characters regardless of the genre.

Under the direction of Iizuka-san, the director, the new version has a greater sense of adventure, allowing the players to enjoy a wider range of emotions. It also has an enormous amount of music variety as well. In addition to composing music, I also specialized in theme arrangement; choosing the right music theme that best suites each game situation. I have arranged Sasaki-san’s music in many different ways.

The two of us produced about 70 percent of the whole music, and the rest is produced by SEGA’s proud Sound Team. Each member is skilled and has worked on the themes of SEGA’s representative titles. I know each member’s talents more than anyone else, so I can ensure that the music of NiGHTS has nothing left to desire. It’s perfect.

My feelings toward the music production itself haven’t changed at all. The teams’ deep understanding of the ins-and-outs of NiGHTS has enabled us to create music themes perfect for NiGHTS.

Jayson: How did you come to be involved with NiGHTS and Sega in general? Can you describe your experience working on the game, and your reaction to the positive response to the score? Sasaki-san, as “DREAMS DREAMS” is one of the most popular pieces from the game, would you care to comment on this piece in particular?

Sasaki: Iizuka-san and I joined the company in the same year. I really admired is attitude, he offered a different and fresh, almost unpredictable, way of thinking; we get along quite well.

I left SEGA and became self-employed, but we exchanged New Year cards every year with a message saying “Let’s make a sequel this year”, so there should be at least 10 cards with this message. It took awhile, but the moment for a NiGHTS sequel finally arrived. When Iizuka-san extended an offer to me to create the music for the sequel, I was really happy at heart.

It’s great to hear the positive reaction toward the music though, since it took more than 10 years for the sequel. There is enormous pressure to meet the expectations piled up in 10 years, in fact I have more pressure now to create great musical themes than the first time I composed the music. There are so many people waiting for this game and I really hope people enjoy the finished result.

DREAM DREAM doesn’t feel like a piece I created. To me, it’s more like a musical classic of unknown composition. This is a wonderful theme that is universal and there are various arrangements as well.

Hataya: As long as Iizuka-san and the main staff of the original NiGHTS remained with SEGA, I believed that there would always be a chance of creating the sequel. And I decided that when the day ever arrived, I wanted to be the organizer of the music.

Being able to receive the user’s comments has allowed us to integrate that feedback early in the process. This feedback has always been the driving force for this production.

Jayson: You have now worked together on the original NiGHTS, Feel the Magic XX/XY, and NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams. Can you describe your working relationship and your interactions while working on music for these titles?

Sasaki: Hataya-san has always been an integral part of my inspiration in creating music. Whenever I’m stuck writing, he comes up and tells me how great my music is. Even if I stopped writing after four bars, he would emphasize how amazing those four bars are and his compliments would inspire me once again, allowing me to continue producing music.

Hataya-san mostly planned the sounds for NiGHTS and all I did was to say “good” or “bad” to his plans. His love for NiGHTS is far superior to mine. All he talks about is NiGHTS, almost bringing me to the brink of insanity — He is a true NiGHTS freak.

Hataya: Sasaki-san is my most trusted composer. Not only is she a melody maker who produces “rough stones” from scratch, she’s also a concept maker. My job is to flesh out what she produced, develop them in a different approach and implement what is missing.

We have a good relationship, and only she can offer me honest and shrewd advice toward what I composed. This is how our music themes are refined.

Jayson: NiGHTS Into Dreams was fortunate enough to receive a full soundtrack release back in 1996, and a follow-up remix album, A NiGHTS REMIX ~ Another Dreams in 1997. Can we hope to see a soundtrack release for NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, and perhaps subsequent arrangement albums now that game music can be more widely distributed over the Internet? You have many fans in the West who are eager to hear your music after waiting more than ten years!

Sasaki: I think delivering the NiGHTS music over the Internet would be great!

Hataya: We have plans for releasing the soundtrack inside Japan. It will go on sale on January 17, 2008 by Wavemaster. However, there are no plans for releasing the soundtrack overseas or downloading via the internet, but there should be a good possibility if there are many requests from the fans.

I hope people all over the world will listen and enjoy the music from NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams on their CD players and iPods.

Jayson: What would you like to say to your fans in the West who loved the original NiGHTS and have been desperately awaiting the release of NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams? If you’re at liberty to tell us, what will the two of you be working on after NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams is complete? Can we expect to see the two of you working together again in the future?

Sasaki: I’m relieved that NiGHTS is finally coming out. NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams reveals the back story which was shrouded in the original NiGHTS and the characters look more alive than before. I personally want you to bring your attention to the Nightopian (A-LIFE character). Their attitudes and expression have evolved immensely since the last NiGHTS.

Smash Brothers X will be released on January in Japan and I composed 2 music themes for this project. Hataya-san is my eternal partner, so I’d love to work with him whenever I have the chance.

Hataya: To the fans of the previous series, thank you for waiting for such a long time.  During the composition, I have been playing the game objectively as “a representative of the NiGHTS-loving fans”. This is a great game I can truly recommend so regardless of whether you’re familiar with the previous version or not.

I don’t know what I will be working on next, however after completing the game, let us know your thoughts and impressions. That will be my motivation for my next activity.

I’ll definitely have a chance to work with Sasaki-san again and I look forward to our next project together.

Thank you.

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