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OSV Exclusive: SOULCALIBUR V Sound Team Profile

OSV Exclusive: SOULCALIBUR V Sound Team Profile

January 24, 2012 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook OSV Exclusive: SOULCALIBUR V Sound Team Profileon Twitter

You may remember all the way back to 2008 when we featured an interview with Eminence founder and talented violin player Hiroaki Yura about his contributions to SOULCALIBUR IV. With the release of SOULCALIBUR V on the horizon, Yura and Eminence have enjoyed an even larger role, both coordinating talent and performing more pieces of music. With Yura’s establishment of the Creative Intelligence Artists (CIA), he’s managed to bring in Hiroki Kikuta, Inon Zur, Cris Velasco, Andrew Aversa (along with Jillian Aversa), and others to create what should be an impressive soundtrack which you can pre-order here.

We’ve taken the time to profile each of the artists involved, including commentary on the work they’ve created for the game. It’s a slightly different approach than our traditional Q&A, so let us know what you think of it.

Hit the jump to read more.

Junichi Nakatsuru (Namco Bandai)

Role: Sound Director, Project SOUL
Selected Past Works: SOULCALIBUR, ACE COMBAT, Tekken, and RIDGE RACER series

Favorite SOULCALIBUR Character:

From a music standpoint as well as character standpoint, it will be Mitsurugi. Mitsurugi’s theme song “Duelists” that I created when I first became in charge of SOULCALIBUR is a song I have strong feelings for. From SOULEDGE, Mitsurugi’s theme in the SOULCALIBUR series uses the phrase “DEFAD~” and for this has been continued in the fifth installment as well so please look forward to listening to it.

On the Large and Varied Team:

At NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc., we work on various other game titles concurrently. Especially during the development of SOULCALIBUR V, other big titles such as TEKKEN and ACE COMBAT were being developed and it was difficult for other members in the sound team that participated in working on the prior installments, so we decided to ask for the cooperation of outside partners. However, we have kept the wholeness as the Soul series by assigning internal staff including myself as the key man in creating the sound. The other reason is that, SOULCALIBUR V has the setting sets the story 17 years after the prior installment with new characters and it took being a “new chapter,” different from the line extending from the prior installments very much into importance. In order to have the customers feel the impression that it has renewed sound overall, not just the music, we have teamed up with a different partner than usual in creating it.

On his Role for SOULCALIBUR V:

In this installment, my contribution as the sound director has widened. Starting from directing the overall sound direction, I have been organizing the development structure (including outside partners), directing the sound for the cutscenes, and being in charge of scenes that set the game’s color such as the character select and mode select music as the only composer from the series. My role was important in making the most use of the characteristics of each staff that is helping out and accurately telling them what it is to be in the “Soul series.” It was a difficult role different from composing on my own, but I believe I was able to add to my experience.

On the Creation of his Favorite Piece for SOULCALIBUR V:

For those that I was in charge of creating, I like the ones in mode select and character select. For mode select, different from the ones in the prior installments, it has a rather dark taste to it. I believe it is interesting to be able to experience a mood different from the prior installments right at the start of the game. The character select music is changed from the prior versions and it’s actually in seven this time. Music in seven is not commonly used but it was fun to be able to make it natural. I was basically able to get them approved at one shot from the project. Well maybe to the members of the project, it feels like the familiar music. This time we asked Mr. John Kurlander to be the mix engineer and the mix down was held in Sydney, Australia. Due to the schedule, I was not able to be present for my songs but I listened to them via the Internet after coming back to Japan. The finished product was fabulous but I did want to be present at that moment and see how my songs were actually being mixed.

Hiroaki Yura (CIA / Eminence)

Role: Music direction, production, and supervision
Selected Past Works: Odin Sphere, Valkyria Chronicles, Diablo III, SOULCALIBUR IV

Favorite SOULCALIBUR Character:

I think I quite like Natsu. Andrew Aversa created her track, and it really captures who she is really about (a teenage ninja!). My favourite character was Taki in SOULCALIBUR IV, who happens to be Natsu’s mentor and, although similar in a way, Natsu’s moves are a little different, so I really have to get used to it once I get the game when it’s out!

On Assembling Talent for SOULCALIBUR V:

Each composer I chose for the project was obviously based on their superb musicianship and the variety and different colors they’d bring to the project. Here are all the composers, how I see them and why I asked them to write what they wrote for SOULCALIBUR V in no particular order.

Junichi Nakatsuru: It’s strange to supervise and direct the person I report to, but here he is, the man behind most of the music in the Soul series and Sound Director of Project Soul. This time, Junichi didn’t have a large part to play as a composer, but he oversaw all sound, not just the music but also sound effects and voiceovers. However, I still wanted Junichi to be involved in the composition process as SOULCALIBUR V would be incomplete without his composition. After much discussion, we decided that he would be writing for several system themes, as these cues would be listened to quite a lot in repetition and people would be able to enjoy his music every time they play the game.

Hiroki Kikuta: A superb Japanese composer, much loved for his work from the Secret of Mana series. His minimalist style is very unique, his love for fighting games and his deep knowledge in Asian history and culture made it easy to assign a lot of characters with Asian backgrounds. He has a great knack for understanding each character and portraying them through music.

Cris Velasco: One of the most talented composers from the United States, his works always explores new boundaries and break through them. His very strong partnership with orchestrator Tim Davies has enabled music such as Raphael’s “Blood Thirst Concerto,” probably the first piano concerto in a fighting game, to succeed. His love for video games and films has made it easy for me to communicate as we shared a lot of common interests. Cris also wrote one of the songs in SOULCALIBUR V with Jillian Aversa.

Tomoki Miyoshi: The youngest out of the five composers, he still attends high school. Tomoki became interested in writing soundtrack music when he attended one of the “A Night in Fantasia” concerts performed by Eminence. He is one of the very few composers in the world that can compose and then fully orchestrate his own scores. His passion for film music and solid knowledge for orchestration lead me to the decision for him write most of the cinematic music for SOULCALIBUR V. Tomoki is the only composer to have all of his work live recorded for the project.

Andrew Aversa: Andrew loves video games and he is one of core members of OC ReMix. He understands the knack of how video game music just works and is one of the most dedicated people I have ever met. Also a long time fan of SOULCALIBUR, he understood the concept right off the bat and worked tirelessly to create just the right sound. He helped the team by writing in many different styles, from Japanese traditional instruments to huge orchestral choir works.

Inon Zur: A versatile composer who can write in many different styles, my first work with Inon was when I supervised his debut in Japan with Ace Combat X²: Joint Assault under the direction of Go Shiina. I had a lot of confidence with Inon that he could handle nearly whatever we throw at him and his wealth of styles and also his patience with retakes has paid off in great music. I assigned Inon to mostly battle music, as he is great at capturing each essence of the character with great emphasis in contrast between different cues.

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This whole task was very challenging as each composer was very different, from their cultural background to their development in their musical career. No matter how great they were, they had things they excelled in and things they weren’t as good with, and I had to really understand their strengths and weakness very early in the project.  Yet we needed integrity within the project and this was really all to do with the direction and the planning of the cues on my side. To find out how we managed to pull through with this project, please do listen to the soundtrack and find out yourself!

Hiroki Kikuta (CIA)

Role: Composer
Selected Past Works: Seiken Densetsu series, Soukaigi, Koudelka, Shining Hearts

On the Fighting Game Genre:

This is something that is not limited to a composer’s situation but as long as you have an attitude of constantly challenging for a new attempt as someone who expresses themselves, the elements such as genre and direction is just a small wall. What’s truly important is to exactly understand what you want to express at this instant and what is necessary to achieve it, and being able to arrange a full preparation for it. Thinking from that point of view, I am a fighting gamer for over 20 years and I especially like 3D VS fighting games from the bottom of my heart so I can say that the preparation to be in charge of the music for SOULCALIBUR V was well done. Of course, I have spent much of the time doing trial and error technologically and looking for the right music that is needed to express, but compared to the fear of losing the core of what you want to express, it is not worthy of calling it a challenge. Thus, in the future, there is a possibility that I will be in charge of a totally different genre’s game music but to me it is something totally natural.

On the Creation of his Favorite Piece for SOULCALIBUR V:

What I can say first is that the music creation for SOULCALIBUR V is something complicated with many people getting involved. Any product that has a long history as a series more or less always have a fixed image, but by putting in a composer like myself to be in charge of the music for a product like SOULCALIBUR V, what kind of change in this traditional image was being asked for, or was not being asked for? It may not be an exaggeration to say that the most difficult challenge was this process of targeting the direction that I was to aim at while fumbling to find it and orchestrating it as a detailed music on the way. Viola’s character song that was born as a result became an appealing piece of music merging the dramatic melody I am known for and the atmosphere that the character of the SOULCALIBUR series has with a good balance that blends into the game’s world each time you listen to it. Technologically, by effectively using Logic 9 and VIENNA SYMPHONIC LIBRARY, an impactful sound appropriate for the heavy action was achieved.

Inon Zur

Role: Composer
Selected Past Works: Prince of Persia series, Lineage series, Crysis, Dragon Age series, Rift

On Working on Japanese-Developed Titles:

I think that the core of the difference between the Western and Eastern approach lays deep within the differences in the cultures, which is very fascinating to me. I could clearly feel that the Eastern approach depends more on the psychological/emotional aspects, and has a huge place for imagination, by the time that the Western approach always tries to follow the reality very closely, and portray the story and the heroes with very realistic and down to earth ways. From a musical point of view, it made a big change in my writing approach. When working for an Eastern and specifically Japanese project I had to always think beyond the actual story and get into the psychic dimension and let my imagination fly. The music came up very colorful and in some cases almost surreal… it was very challenging and eye opening experience for me.

On the Creation of his Favorite Piece for SOULCALIBUR V:

I think one of the most enjoyable experiences I had when composing the score for SOULCALIBUR V was writing the music for the battle of Ivy and the battle of Hilda.

For the Ivy battle theme, the team requested music that will sound traditionally classical, baroque style, but it should also possess the strength and speed of battle. So, I started from a motif that is very traditional melodically, and then composed it in a traditional sequence of harmonies. After the team liked it then I had to go ahead and turn it into battle… the idea was to speed it up tremendously and add very active percussion instruments to accentuate the hits of the music. The team was very keen on making it as aggressive as I could, but still maintaining the fineness of the classical style. This was very challenging, but I enjoyed the process and learned a lot from it.

For the Hilda battle the challenge was a bit different – I had to come up with a slower and heroic feminine melody, that describes beauty and courage and strength, but also make it sound very dynamic and aggressive. So in this case I came out with a melody that is almost European in nature – close to the style of the film composer Ennio Morriconne , but then write the accompaniment in a very active way. The strings are making lots of runs and fast jumps, the percussions are playing very dynamic and aggressive patterns, by the time that the horns are carrying the slow and graceful melody. Again, this was quite a challenge, but I felt very satisfied after completing it to the team’s satisfaction.

Cris Velasco (CIA)

Role: Composer
Selected Past Works: God of War series, Borderlands, Darksiders, StarCraft II, Mass Effect 3

On the Fighting Game Genre / Japanese-Developed Games:

Actually, I’ve had a bit of prior experience with fighting games. I wrote music for the last two Mortal Kombat titles, so this concept was not completely new to me. SOULCALIBUR V, however, was a very different experience. I felt as though I was writing music for a character’s personality and their history, rather than just scoring a “fight scene.” To me, that seemed to be a big difference when working on a Japanese title. I was really asked to study each character and get to know them before I attempted to write any music. As a result, I felt that the score became more personal.

On the Creation of his Favorite Piece for SOULCALIBUR V:

I’d have to say my favorite piece was the theme for Raphael. I wrote this as a mini piano concerto, which is something I’ve never done before. I wanted it to have the manner and bearing of a concerto from the Romantic era while still maintaining touches of modern cinematic writing. I also wanted the piece to feel like a true concerto for the pianist that would be performing it…which meant I wanted it to be challenging! This was definitely new ground for me but I really had a great time writing it. Hopefully, people will enjoy the track and perhaps even attempt to play it themselves!

Andrew Aversa (CIA)

Role: Composer
Selected Past Works: Countless remixes/projects on OCR, Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Fittest, Return All Robots!

On his History with OverClocked ReMix:

I really owe OC ReMix a great deal when it comes to my musical development. Listening to and making video game remixes is what really got me interested in writing and producing music as a career, and OCR’s community was a tremendous help in improving my skills. Just about all of my major projects, including SOULCALIBUR V, somehow grew from the people I’ve met and become friends with on OCR. I never expected this outcome, since when I first joined the community and later became staff I was still a hobbyist and making music purely for the fun of it (of course, I still do!).

My advice to my fellow arrangers at OCR is to never be complacent with your abilities, and always be receptive to criticism. Early in my remixing ‘career,’ I got harsh feedback from more experienced musicians in the community, and my attitude was to just get mad and ignore them. Thankfully, I got over this and directed my energy into improvement. However, if I hadn’t, I might never have really tried to get my music to a true professional level. Related to this, I would advise persistence in all things, especially career-wise. Becoming a full-time professional musician involves making your own path and doing everything possible to create opportunities for yourself. Perhaps the hardest thing about a music career is uncertainty, and the sting when you are passed up for a gig, or are never even offered it to begin with. Don’t dwell on missed opportunities and focus on creating more.

On the Creation of his Favorite Piece for SOULCALIBUR V:

It’s difficult to pick my favorite piece, but I think it might be the final boss battle theme. What you hear on the soundtrack and in the game is actually the fourth piece I wrote for this theme, and the one I’m most proud of. Yura-san was my connection to Bandai Namco and supervised my work; I was given guidelines and a description for the battle music, but it took three completely different earlier versions to finally nail the exact feel. The key was striking a balance between a dramatic, cinematic feel (a la Carmina Burana or Verdi’s Requiem) and a softer feminine element, tinged with sadness.

I was also asked to weave in one of the most classic tracks of SOULCALIBUR. Given the lighter and more heroic mood of that piece, it was a daunting challenge to incorporate it seamlessly into my original composition. After much experimentation I found the perfect way to do it, and hearing it performed live for the first time really gave me chills!

With regards to the tools I used, most of the music was written using FL Studio on a PC. I used REAPER to compose one of the cinematic battle sequences which was synced to video (very proud of that one, too!) Though several of the pieces were performed live, those that were sampled used libraries such as LA Scoring Strings, Quantum Leap RA, 8dio Epic Taikos, Toms, Dhol and Frame Drums, Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra, VSL Woodwinds I, Stormdrum and Quantum Leap Symphonic Choirs.

Tomoki Miyoshi (CIA)

Role: Composer, Arranger
Selected Past Works: Rookie

On Scoring his First Big Game Project:

It’s been a great experience for me to have been part of such an amazing team of musicians and composers for SOULCALIBUR V. Writing the music for this epic game was both very exciting and challenging. To answer the question on pressure, I actually feel more confident in my writing after SOULCALIBUR V, and it’s very reassuring to know that Yura-san trusts my composition style.

I started out writing compositions in a very academic/classical style in Sydney, Australia, but without realizing the contrasting styles, I discovered the music of Joe Hisaishi and quickly fell in love with it. After that, I decided that I wanted to study this style of music formally at an institution, so I returned to Japan and entered the Koyo Conservatory, the school I currently attend as a composition major. At this school, I was taught jazz theory, and now, jazz harmony is the basis of how I primarily write all genres of music, including my music for SOULCALIBUR V. With all that been said, my main passion has been for film music. I’ve had a particular liking to Thomas Newman’s works.

It’s very difficult to explain how I was offered this position as a composer for this project, but the support of Yura-san and my love and passion for music, I believe, are two of the main factors.

On the Creation of his Favorite Piece for SOULCALIBUR V:

My favorite composition from the soundtrack is “Journey of the Siblings,” which is a slowly-paced and melodic piece for solo oboe and a string orchestra.

I wrote the vast majority of my music for SOULCALIBUR V at home, during the summer break of school, but the melody for this particular track was actually written during my visit to Berklee College of Music for a video game music summer course. I don’t usually write anything outside my home, because I don’t have perfect pitch, but surprisingly, it worked out for this track. I remember writing the melody down on a really scrappy piece of paper and carefully bringing that back to Japan.

Anyway, so when I got home, I quickly wrote a piano sketch of the composition and moved on with other compositions. Halfway through writing for this project, I purchased a Mac Pro, and before that I had been working on a 13” Macbook Pro. This piece was written on the Mac Pro, so I had more flexibility with what I wanted to express orchestrally.

The challenging thing about composing for this project, especially this track, was making changes after submitting a “complete” piece of music. When writing music, I listen to each second of my music over and over again. By the time it’s finished, I know the music back to front, so making even mere changes to it is very difficult. I had to rewrite a few times for this track.

All in all, I’m really happy with how this piece turned out compositionally, and I was also really moved by how beautifully the instrumentalists expressed it. I hope you’ll enjoy the music!

Masayuki Endo (Forcewick)

Role: Sound design, sound creation
Selected Past Works: Street Fighter IV, MARVEL vs. CAPCOM series, Monster Hunter series, Final Fantasy XIII-2

On Being Recruited For SOULCALIBUR V:

After about a year after I left Capcom and found Forcewick, Nakatsuru-san contacted me. I was familiar with Nakatsuru-san from when I worked at Capcom and I was in charge of fighting games as well so we have been exchanging ideas on sound performance and the ways to express the sound from then. I was honestly surprised when I heard that the title was SOULCALIBUR. However, it was not from hesitation and I felt the sense of exaltation only. It’s not something that often happens where you could get the chance to be involved in a title that you once would like to create.

On Forcewick’s Approach:

Forcewick was in charge of creating the in-game environmental SE, character SE, cutscene SE and the surround mixing. Since Nakatsuru-san gave us the appropriate sound direction, it was not especially difficult and I feel that Forcewick’s good parts were put in at its maximum. In regards to the environemental SE, we went to the countryside and looked for the location that is closest to the image and recorded the sound by using a surround microphone.

Also, for the Foley recordings, by using the same materials, microphones, microphone preamp, etc. for the in-game portions and cutscene portions, we were able to match the distance and texture. What was particularly notable was the point that we were able to edit the slashing sound* to our preference for a popular contents within the SOULCALIBUR series as character creation. The slashing sound is felt differently by each individual’s senses. Those that have grown up watching many movies, those that grew up watching many Anime, there is more or less a difference in the image of the slashing and hitting sounds in their heads and it differs among countries and regions as well. I have been working with Nakatsuru-san about the way to express this with the wish to make this difference as small as possible and make a sound that is most exhilarating so that it could be enjoyed by others.

*Slashing sounds to refer to the sounds that are made when the characters attack the opponent using their weapons.

On the Value of Great Sound Design:

Please first note that this is not something that is limited to SOULCALIBUR.

I believe that a game is an artwork with gameplay, video and sound altogether, and a game does not become a masterpiece in a true meaning if only a part is tremendously well, or any part is lacking. Therefore, I understand that if the game is rated well, the overall quality of it is high. As for the music and sound design, it is a fact that the focus goes on the music side. However, that is natural and I believe that it should be that way. This is only my personal theory, but the music is the blossoming flower, but unless there is a good foothold, the flower will not blossom. That foothold is the sound design; sound design is not only creating the sound effects but designing the overall sounds in the game. Thus, not to mention that hearing that the sound effects feels good does make me feel happy as well, but to me, having the music rated well makes me happy the most.

On Forcewick’s Accomplishments on SOULCALBUR V:

I feel that having Nakatsuru-san as the axis, and Yura-san and myself being able to function well was an accomplishment that could be clearly seen. In regards to the accomplishment for Forcewick, the best thing is that we were able to develop in a newly motivated environment along with the fabulous Project Soul members. It is difficult to explain what is felt by one’s senses, but it is a fact that it gave a great impact on the sound that I will create in the future. As for the real accomplishment, it’s something that cannot be seen at the moment until after release and we can see the responses and expressions of the users.

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SOULCALIBUR®V & © 2012 NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc.
© 2012 Ubisoft Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft and the Ubisoft logo are trademarks of Ubisoft Entertainment in the U.S. and/or other countries.

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