The four guest composers at the VGO show in Boston on October 7, 2012, each managed to squeeze into their busy schedules some time with myself and some of my old friends from RPGFan. Above you’ll find a photo we took with Noriyuki Iwadare and his own guest, Ms. Hiroko Miyaji (wife of the late Takeshi Miyaji, creator of Grandia).
Before you read the interview, try taking this pop quiz. For one of these composers, we ask about all the action one of their earliest work has seen in the “SQ” arrangement series. For another, they are surprised to learn we know what the game Esper Dream is. For yet another, we find out a peer composer they really admire and respect of late is Michiko Naruke. And finally, one of these composers talks about his partnership with a particular game designer who used to work for Square Enix and is now with Level-5. Can you match up these four composers properly *before* reading the interview?
After the jump, check out our short but informative interviews with each of the four guest composers. And be sure to check out RPGFan  for their questions and respective answers from each of these VGM luminaries!
OSV: A recent version of Lunar was made for PSP entitled Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. If such an upgraded remake were to happen for Lunar: Eternal Blue, would you want to do the new music yourself or would you be satisfied with another musician handling it?
Iwadare: If it’s my piece, I want to remake it. For the “Harmony” remake, I would’ve liked to have more musicians for additional arrangements and new performances recorded, but there wasn’t enough in the budget to do this.
OSV: You’ve done a lot of collaborative work in the past few years: from the Phoenix Wright series to the new 3DS game Kid Icarus: Uprising. With all of the people you’ve worked with, whether they are new to game music or a veteran like himself, who is a musician you really respect that you would recommend to your fans as someone else whose work they should follow?
Iwadare: Recently, I’ve felt that Michiko Naruke is a really great composer.
OSV: She did those piano arrangements for Silver Star Harmony, right?
Iwadare: Yes, and she also composed for Nora and the Time Studio.
OSV: Recently, Yasumi Matsuno released Crimson Shroud, which you composed the music for. What is it like to work with your old friend, Matsuno, whom you worked with on the Ogre Battle series and the Ivalice games? What is different about it now that you and he are freelance?
Sakimoto: Well, Matsuno is actually not freelance anymore, he works for Level-5. But in terms of working with Matsuno … I’ve known him such a long time, so it’s very easy to know what he wants. Usually, when you work with someone, there is an effort that goes into knowing and understanding what the other person wants. But my partnership with Matsuno-san is natural, and as a result, I feel that every time I work on a project with him, I am growing or “leveling up” as a composer.
OSV: Also recently, both Manabu Namiki and Noriyuki Kamikura have left Basiscape. Are you hoping to add new members to Basiscape to replace them, or do you want to focus on Basiscape at its current, smaller size?
Sakimoto: There are two ways to think about this; it’s different from the business perspective and the music composing perspective. When you first come in, you’re sort of told what you can do and where you’ll work. But eventually composers establish a one-on-one relationship.
OSV: So in terms of Kamikura and Namiki leaving, do you see that as a sign of their growth? What are your thoughts about their departure?
Sakimoto: On a personal level, it is sad to see them go, but we all still work with each other and associate with each other. I tell everyone who joins that when they feel it’s time to leave, they are free to do so, and it was their time.
OSV: Both of Matsuno-san’s universes (the Ivalice universe and the Ogre Battle universe) … I’m assuming Matsuno-san doesn’t hold the rights to them. But I’m wondering, for you, do you ever dream of seeing more games from those franchises that you’d like to make more music for? Or, are you happy with where these sagas stand now and feel that you’ve “completed” your work there?
Sakimoto: Personally, I have a very fond attachment to those worlds. I cannot speculate as to whether more games in those worlds would be made, but if they were, I’d very much want to be part of these games.
OSV: We are aware that the late Ryu Umemoto had contacted you to do an arrangement on a CAVE album (dodonpachi DAI-OU-JOU arrange album ). Because Umemoto-san has passed away, would it be hard for you to continue to do work with CAVE? Would you like to do more arrangements with their music?
Yamashita: Well, I only did the one track. I have not heard from CAVE since then, but I would like to work with them again, even though Umemoto-san is no longer with us.
OSV: Now that you live in America, have you been contacted by any American studios, especially smaller, independent game studios, to compose music for them? Would you like the opportunity to do so?
Yamashita: I’ve not received any offers. However, if any small studios want their game to be scored by myself, I’d be happy to do it!
OSV: Disregarding Castlevania, as your best-known and most popular soundtrack, which soundtrack among all the rest of your work are you most proud of?
Yamashita: It’s very difficult to choose. I would honestly say I am very proud of all my work, even those that no one in America knows about…
OSV: You mean like Esper Dream?
Yamashita: Oh, you know about it?! That’s great! It’s a very, very cute game.
OSV: Square Enix has recently released many new arrange albums in their “SQ” series, and almost every one of those albums features one or more arrangements from your first work with Square, Live A Live. Have you listened to these arrangements, and if so, what do you think of them?
Shimomura: These are difficult questions! I have listened to the Live A Live “SQ” arrangements. On the one hand, I am very happy that this soundtrack is gaining attention and I am flattered that so many musicians are arranging this music. On the other hand, the arrangements are often so very different from how I think of the songs, how I hear them … I’m not quite sure what else to say!
OSV: Regarding your status as a freelance composer: it seems that since you’ve become a freelance composer, outside of Square Enix, year after year you are taking on more and more projects. In the last few years alone you did Radiant Historia, Xenoblade, Last Ranker, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance and more. Do you think that perhaps you are too busy now that you are able to receive offers from any game studio instead of just Square Enix?
Shimomura: As a freelancer, I get to have so many people make requests for my work. From a self-centered perspective, I would say that I am very happy as a freelance composer and will continue to make as much music as I can!
Thanks to Maho Azuma for translating and Shota Nakama for interview coordination and translation help! Again, check out the second portion of the interview at RPGFan !