Game Music

Interview with Little King’s Story composer Yutaka Minobe

August 11, 2009 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Interview with Little King’s Story composer Yutaka Minobeon Twitter

Little King’s Story has finally conquered the world, and seen it’s release worldwide. After being released in Europe late April, Japan and the US have been eagerly awaiting this little masterpiece, and with the high praise from European magazines, the wait was almost unbearable for some. One of the definite highlights of the game is the wonderful music, and now that the little king has finally traveled all over the world, we thought it would be a good time to talk to the composer, Yutaka Minobe, about the process of arranging the classic material and how it is to work on the same game as composer Yoko Shimomura

Read the interview after the jump.

OSV: Minobe-san, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions about Little King’s Story. Can you tell us a little bit on how you were approached to work on this project?
Minobe: I had the honor to work with the producer Kimura-san about 6 or 7 years ago for another project. Since then, we both moved from place to place and after all these years we ended up in the same affiliated companies and had the opportunity to work on the music of Little King’s Story. Throughout the years I worked with various types of producers but Kimura-san was very unique and interesting so I was really happy to be able to work with him again.

OSV: Kimura-san told us that he had already made the decision to use all arranged classical music in the game, and that you and Shimomura-san were the only two composers under consideration who were okay with this. Tell us about this recruitment process and how you made the decision to work the game?
Minobe: I can’t comment for how the other composer thought, but I felt the idea of arranging classical music was a very interesting idea. However, I believe arranging classical music takes more time and is more difficult compared to creating a piece on your own. Some composers who prefer creating their own score may not be interested in a project which requires you to arrange other composer’s work rather than original creations. For me, I really was interested to be involved in the game music for Little King’s Story so I would have worked on it either way. There are a lot of games that use classical music, but I couldn’t think of a single game that solely relied on classical music throughout the whole game so I thought this would be very fun to work on.

OSV: How did you feel about having the task to arrange so many pieces of musical history? Was it intimidating being responsible to give a fresh take on such well known classical material?
Minobe: All famous classical scores were done by historical maestros and are beautifully composed to perfection so I did feel a lot of responsibility to dismantle and rearrange this to fit the game. In my opinion the hardest task of arranging classical music is either you try to make it more pop-like by destroying the rigidness to end up with a “funny” arrangement that only works for a particular situation (of course there are times that this is the best thing to do), or the original image of the music is so strong that you can’t get rid of the “stiffness”. For this project I kept reminding myself to think “How would it best fit in Little King’s Story?” If you think about it, it’s the most obvious thing to do but for this project I kept reminding myself the most important thing was to arrange the music so it would fit in the Little King’s Story’s story book type atmosphere.

OSV: Which song was most challenging to arrange?
Minobe: In one of the “Worlds” in Little King’s Story I used George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and used it in different locations. “Rhapsody in Blue” has a lot of memorable melodies within that one song. I used those melodies in different sections and created a score for each of those locations. This involved a lot of effort but I was really happy with the outcome. I think it does a really good job expressing the view of that world.

OSV: Were you inspired by anything specific when creating these arrangements? One that came to my mind was that some songs almost had a classic Disney cartoon movie feel to them.
Minobe: The most impressive thing about the music in Disney animated movies is that they will use an orchestra which is memorable yet never uptight, so it sounds very natural and helps immerse the listener into the fairy tale. For this project I didn’t specifically use Disney cartoons for reference, but I think there could be some things in common in the direction and the way I arranged the music. Also, since this isn’t an actual historical event but more of a story book fairy tale, I think I was influenced a lot by a number of music in Japanese animations. Now that I look back from an objective point of view, I might have been influenced by some of Stanley Kubrick’s films on how to arrange classical music. I am a big fan of his movies.

OSV: What sorts of tools did you use to create the arrangements? Were you relying mostly on software to create these orchestral sounds? Did working on the Wii pose any specific challenges?
Minobe: For software I used LOGIC and Protools on the Mac. For the orchestral sounds I had a real orchestra play the scores I wrote at a recording studio, and depending on the song I used a lot of software sounds from Mac and Windows. This project was for the Wii but since the music is streaming I really didn’t have to do anything specific for the hardware. If I get a chance to create a score using Wii’s internal sounds I would like to create an organic score that changes depending on the situation.

OSV: Little King’s Story soundtrack has been said in many articles to have the best music in a Wii game next to Super Mario Galaxy. How you feel about such positive response and what is your own thoughts on the soundtrack?
Minobe: I am very honored to get such praise. I really would like to thank the entire performing musicians, recording engineers, and everyone else that was involved in creating the music. If this project helps more people listen to all the great scores that these historical maestros have created and help build a some more interest in classical music, I will be very happy.

OSV: Before working on Little King’s Story, you have mostly been working on SEGA titles such as Sonic Heroes, Shinobi and Panzer Dragoon ORTA. How different was the working enviorment and approach between working on established franchises onto doing a completely new IP?
Minobe: To be honest I didn’t feel any big difference between the two. However, since I’m physically located at a different location from the graphic designers and programmers, I really needed to be very careful and accurate on what type of world view the game was going to have.

OSV: Yoko Shimomura did arrangements for this game as well. Did you interact with each other a lot, and how was work divided between you two?
Minobe: I’ve been listening to Shimomura-san’s music for a long time but till this day I have not met her in person. For this project she first arranged the theme song that is the core image of this title and then I arranged all the other songs with her score as a guideline.

OSV: How does it feel working on the same game along with Shimomura, a long time veteran?
Minobe: Shimomura-san arranged “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel and it was a really interesting and fun score using a male and female chorus. It was also very easy to understand what kind of musical direction Little King’s Story was going to take from that one song. I would love to have another opportunity to work with her again in the future.

OSV: While there was no official soundtrack released for the game in Japan, there was a promotional disc included with pre-orders of the game. What is your thought about the music from Little King Story as a standalone product, given that it’s all arranged classical music?
Minobe: I would love for the game to be popular and create an official Little King’s Story soundtrack. In Japan (and perhaps in other countries as well) classical music tends to be recognized as something that only artistic or cultural critics talk about. However, historical masterpieces are not only skilled in the art of music, but as a universal art form that can be appreciated regardless of nationality, age or even the era someone lives in. It’s something that can communicate to people on an emotional level and is easy to relate to.

OSV: If you are approached to work on Little King’s Story 2, would you accept? And would you then want to arrange more classical music or compose a completely new soundtrack?
Minobe: I think that will depend on what type of world view Little King’s Story 2 will have. If it’s going to have the same feel then I think I would like to use classical music again. We used a lot of classical scores in this game, but there are so many more famous historical masterpieces and I feel Little King’s Story and classical music is something that you can’t separate. However, if we don’t have to worry about usage rights, it might be fun to use standard jazz or standard pop music and create them into classical music.

OSV: Do you have a message for fans in the United States who just got their hands on the game a week or so ago?
Minobe: I’m sure all the players have unconsciously heard these historical scores from TV commercials and movies in the past. Little King’s Story has all these scores that you somehow know or remember hidden all over the game. It would be great if you can enjoy Little King’s Story and look up the song you are listening to; who created it and what is it really called. And if that piques the player’s interest, it might be interesting to listen to the same score performed by a great conductor and/or performer and also listen to the original score to compare it to the Little King’s Story version.

OSV: Do you know at this time what you’ll be working on next?
Minobe: I’m currently working on some Wii and PSP titles as well as Japanese animation music.

OSV: Thank you so much for your time, we wish you all the best of luck on all future projects!
Minobe: Thanks you for this great opportunity.

[Special thanks to OnePR and XSEED for making this interview possible.]

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