Game Music

Suikoden Tierkreis Interview: Konami Veteran Norikazu Miura Tells All

February 17, 2009 | | 11 Comments Share thison Facebook Suikoden Tierkreis Interview: Konami Veteran Norikazu Miura Tells Allon Twitter

I’ve made known my adoration for the Suikoden series. The tightly-woven, highly political story often includes returning characters and locales that appeals to that strong sense of nostalgia that many of us have for our favorite game franchises.  While it has been announced that Suikoden Tierkreis for the DS it taking a different direction, and will not be directly related to any other Suikoden title, I can’t help but be excited for the latest installment in my favorite game series.

Suikoden also has a strong tradition of audio excellence, starting with Miki Higashino and others at Konami. In recent years, Konami’s Norikazu Miura has taken the reins of the series, and joins us today to discuss his role as sound director for Suikoden Tierkreis, including his inspirations, the inclusion of freelance composers, and the soundtrack album that was included with the special edition set in Japan. There’s a lot of interesting details here for Suikoden fans, so please join me in thanking Konami and Norikazu Miura for their continued dedication to the Suikoden series and for their time coordinating this interview.

Read our discussion with Norikazu Miura after the jump.

OSV: Hello Miura-san. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us regarding the audio in Suikoden Tierkreis.

I wanted to start by asking about the direction of the title’s music. What style was the team going for with Suikoden Tierkreis? Also, in the past, we’ve seen Konami’s in-house composers working on the series, and while you’re intimatley involved with this title, Basiscape’s Masaharu Iwata along with Aoki Yoshino and Kaori Komuro have been included this time around. What went into the decision to include these composers for Suikoden Tierkreis?
Miura: The latest entry in the Suikoden series has changed platforms to Nintendo DS and with that creates new challenges in the game’s development. Beyond the technical challenges we used both internal and external composers to create the music for the game. For this game each composer is in charge of each area and race. For example, I was in charge of the area from Citro Village to a stronghold. I coordinated each area with the style and personality of the composers. We had this idea of splitting the composition of the music this way nearly 2 years ago so I decided then that “I’ll carry out that plan in the next Suikoden.“

OSV: Would you be able to give us a breakdown for each composer involved?  You mentioned that each composer will handle a specific area.  What did each composer contribute to the soundtrack?
Miura: Ms. Aoki was in charge of three demi-human races: Porpos, The Furious Roar, and the Wanderers. Mr. Iwata was in charge of Blades of Night’s Veil and its hometown, Pharamond. I hardly gave musical directions to composers. Instead, I explained the setting of the world and each area in detail and let them imagine and compose from that information. With this process we successfully shared a common understanding of the game’s world while allowing each composer to express their own personality. Also we often used the method of having each composer arranged melody motifs that I had composed.

OSV: What can we expect from the Suikoden Tierkreis soundtrack? Given the different styles of the various team members, and the fact that the game does not refer to existing Suikoden locations or characters, will the music be at all familiar to fans of the series?
Miura: Please don’t worry. The music of Suikoden Tierkreis is certainly “Suikoden.” This is because I am a big fan of earlier Suikoden’s musical direction. It follows the series’ music style and encompasses the “Suikoden feel.”

OSV: What tools did each composer use for Suikoden Tierkreis? Were there any particular challenges with composing a Suikoden soundtrack on the Nintendo DS? How did you ensure a cohesive sound with such a diverse team involved with the score?
Miura: There are two ways to play music on the Nintendo DS. One of the methods is to use the streaming stereo audio system and the other is a method to use the built-in MIDI player. In Tierkreis we use the both reproduction methods properly. Each composer edited the streaming reproduction music in MIDI with a commercial software sound source and for the instruments that were unique to each race were dubbed by live performances. The acoustic sound of the live performance is a feature of the Tierkreis sound. We recorded many instruments; the percussion instruments such as African percussion, the stringed instruments such as a violin and cello, the wind instruments such as a trumpet, oboe, and flute, and the race musical instruments such as saz. It may have been a bit of overkill for the music on a DS game. Regarding the built-in sound source, each composer used temporary sound sources and I replaced almost all of them with the sound source of the DS. With my final adjusting to the music each composer’s different styles unify successfully to create a cohesive soundtrack.

OSV: The Suikoden series is a long-running franchise, and I’m curious what the members of the team think about the series and its music. What are your thoughts on the original Genso Suikoden and Genoso Suikoden II soundtracks composed by Miki Higashino and others at Konami?
Miura: Of course I listened to all music of former Suikoden series and tried to understand their stlye. I think Ms. Higashino is a wonderful composer. I know the composers who worked on former Suikoden series and sometimes consult about the music of Suikoden.

OSV: We’ve noticed that there will not be a standalone soundtrack release for Suikoden Tierkreis, even in Japan. Instead, fans can purchase a special edition set that includes the soundtrack. What are your thoughts on this development, and do you think this is a better approach for Nintendo DS soundtracks? Will the 2-disc soundtrack feature all the music from the game?
Miura: I personally don’t like bundling a soundtrack CD with a game. If it’s possible, I’d like users to play a game and the people who felt liked the music to buy its soundtrack CD. In Japan, we released a stand-alone soundtrack CD on February 20th. I think it may be a little too early to rule out a standalone soundtrack in other territories so we will have to wait and see how the soundtrack is handled outside of Japan.

OSV: There have been numerous Suikoden arrangement albums released in Japan over the years. Can we hope to see some arrangement albums featuring the music of Suikoden Tierkreis in the future? Is there any chance we’ll see the return of arranger Hiroyuki Namba or performers Kentaro Haneda or Bosque Aroma in the future?
Miura: I’d like to do the production of the arrangement album by all means. I can say nothing about the arranger to participate at present. I think it would be brand-new people and not the people who have participated in a past.

OSV: Miura-san, there isn’t a whole lot of information about you available in English. I was hoping you could tell us a little about your history as a musician, your time at Konami, and your thoughts about the Suikoden series. You have worked across several franchises at Konami, and have ended up working extensively on the Suikoden series. What does the franchise mean to you?
Miura: I entered Konami as a sound creator in’97. My representative works are Gradius Gaiden (PS) (available in Gradius Collection (PSP) in North America), KENSEI (PS), Shadow Of Destiny (PS2) and so on. In FIREFIGHTER F.D.18 (PS2), I adopted Klaus Badelt as an arranger. For the Suikoden series I have previously worked on Suikoden IV (PS2), Suikoden Tactics (PS2), and Suikoden V (PS2). Suikoden Tierkreis (NDS) is now my fourth entry in the Suikoden series. As I said before, I’m a big fan of the Suikoden series, my affection for this series is a special thing.

OSV: The Suikoden series has always been known for its unique cultural perspective, focusing on different regions all across the map. Has this style suited you as a composer? Do you play any instruments, and did you record any of the live performances in Suikoden Tierkreis?
Miura: I think it suits me to express different cultures and customs with music. I liked the process of analyzing the different settings and cultures to see how it effects the sountrack. I don’t play any musical instrument in particular, but I have recorded some songs.

OSV: Higashino-san’s work on the series is highly regarded among fans, so I’m curious what your thoughts are as to her contributing to Suikoden titles in the future. Given the large teams that often work on Suikoden titles, do you see this is a possibility?
Miura: I am a good friend with Ms. Higashino. Actually, I did ask her to participate in Tierkreis, however due to scheduling conflicts it wasn’t possible for her to work on Tierkreis. As for her contributing to future Suikoden, this is definitely something we hope we can achieve.

OSV: We’ve been watching your blog on Konami’s Japanese website. Have you enjoyed being able to communicate with your fans in this format? Do you think it’s important for game developers to have this kind of interaction with fans?
Miura: First, thank you for reading my blog. It is true that game producers traditional have very few points of contact with fans which is why I think blogs are such a useful tool. I truly do enjoy posting on my blog and interacting with fans and I will continue to blog in the future.

OSV: Miura-san, congratulations to you and everyone on the team for completing Suikoden Tierkreis. We’re looking forward to hearing your music in the game.

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