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Square Enix Music 2012 Interview: Teasers and More from Akio Shiraishi

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Okay, so it’s been tradition since 2008 that we’d sit down with Square Enix Music’s Promotion’s Manager, Akio Shiraishi, and head of the licensing department, Izumi Tsukushi, at San Diego Comic Con to talk about all the latest happenings within their division. Unfortunately since Square Enix’s merchandising team has expanded their action figure line so dramatically, they were unable to bring music to this year’s event. That meant no Akio Shiraishi and no sit-down with the duo.

We’ve got a fix, however, and have been able to speak with Akio Shiraishi after the fact. As usual, we follow-up on a lot of items brought up in previous years (read 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011‘s interviews). It sounds like they have a lot in store for the Final Fantasy franchise in particular before 2012 (the franchises’s 25th anniversary) is through, so read on.

OSV: Hello Shiraishi-san! It’s a shame you weren’t able to attend Comic Con this year, but let’s catch up on the latest at Square Enix Music. Would you like to give us an update on the department for this year? Anything particularly exciting going on?

Akio Shiraishi: Since this year marks the 25th anniversary of FINAL FANTASY, we plan to release many CDs related to FINAL FANTASY. There is a new commercial building called “Hikarie” that just opened in Shibuya, and we are planning to hold a “FINAL FANTASY Exhibit” there, so we may be able to announce something new about a FINAL FANTASY-related CD. We haven’t had a FINAL FANTASY XII Piano Collections CD until now, so we will be creating one to commemorate the 25th anniversary.

Also, KINGDOM HEARTS is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and we’re in the process of creating a best-of album under the concept of “chosen by KINGDOM HEARTS fans.” This album will be available in Japan on September 19.

OSV: Last year saw the release of the Seiken Densetsu Complete Soundtrack Book. Was this a successful release? The format was amazing, so I’m curious how you came up with it, and wanted to ask if we’ll see more like it. It’s a shame the commemorative arrangement wasn’t released in audio format though (only video).

Shiraishi: We created this box set because this was the 20th anniversary since the birth of the Seiken Densetsu series (The Mana series), and looking at the response we have received from the fans, I feel that it was a success. In many cases we create box sets to commemorate the different anniversaries. The SAGA series box set was created under the same basic concept as well. I believe we will create more of these to commemorate different occasions in the future. Please look forward to them.

I’m sure there were many people who wanted to hear the commemorative arrangement in the form of an audio CD, and so we’ll keep that in mind.

OSV: The Final Fantasy XI Vana-Con 11.11.11 DVD was also only released in video format. Is there a reason that this wasn’t also released on CD or included on CD with the collection? Will we see more DVD releases like this in the future?

Shiraishi: This Vana-Con was set up much like the Distant Worlds concert in which there is a screen behind the orchestra and footage from the game were shown. Video game music is something that cannot be completely severed from the actual scene from the game, so by watching the screen and hearing the music, the memories in the fans’ minds are brought up in a larger scale, and they can savor the excitement. We wanted the fans who couldn’t make it to the event savor the same excitement as well, and so we decided on a DVD format instead of a CD. We are thinking of producing more of these video works in the future.

OSV: Last year Square Enix produced “preview mini albums” for several releases to give fans a sneak peak at some upcoming soundtracks. We haven’t seen any of those lately. Will you be continuing this format?

Shiraishi: If by “preview mini albums” you meant pre-sale CDs, then we do not have any plans to create any at the moment. If we were to sell them, they would usually be mainly sold at events, so you should be able to find the latest information if you look up each of the event.

OSV: On a similar note, we’ve been seeing customer bonus discs for VILLAGE/VANGUARD and Tower Records shops. How did these relationships with these stores come about, and what would you like to say to fans who are having a hard time getting ahold of these CDs? There is some great music on these that fans would really appreciate hearing.

Shiraishi: Currently in Japan, online shops (such as Amazon) take up a large share in terms of our CDs being sold. Amidst that, we thought about if there is a way to get brick-and-mortar shops (such as HMV and Tower Records) to know about works from Square Enix Music by expanding their market share, and that’s how we came to partner with these retailers by way of providing purchase incentives.

I’m very sorry that we are not able to bring these CDs to everyone, but due to the nature of retailer exclusive incentives, we do have to maintain a sense of rarity, and so I ask for your understanding on this.

OSV: The Square Enix Music Sampler CD from last year featured a track from THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY. Will we see a soundtrack release for that game?

Shiraishi: We currently do not have plans to create a THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY soundtrack. As you may already know THEATRYTHM FINAL FANTASY is a rhythm game that uses music from previous FINAL FANTASY titles. The majority of songs that shape this game are favorites that have been previously recorded into other soundtracks. In other words, we believe it would be a more logical concept and raises the value as a fan item to put out a “Best of FINAL FANTASY” album. So we don’t have a THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY soundtrack included in our schedule. However, we may sell songs exclusively from THEATRHYTHM FINAL FANTASY in the form of digital downloads.

OSV: What can we hope to see on this year’s music sampler?

Shiraishi: As for specific game titles, we are planning to include songs from FINAL FANTASY LEGENDS and FINAL FANTASY XIV. We are also making arrangement tracks from THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU and other FINAL FANTASY songs. We believe it turned out well and will fulfill the fan’s expectations, so I hope you look forward to it.

OSV: We were very excited to see Piano Opera I / II / III released. We wondered why IV / V / VI was made, however, given that those games already had received Piano Collections albums. Will this series be continued to include VII / VIII / IX, for example? Any thoughts on a Final Fantasy XII piano CD to complete the series?

Shiraishi: It’s true that we already have a Piano Collections album for IV/V/VI. However, while in Piano Collections, the arrangement is made partly in consideration of the person who would play the song, in this version, we had added the arrangement based on the idea of enjoying these pieces as “works of music that you listen to.” So in that sense, we have created something entirely different.

A Piano Collections for XII, you say? You have the right idea. (laughs) We are actually creating one right now. We have asked composer Hitoshi Sakimoto to produce the album, and we are now in the middle of recording. The release of the album isn’t until after autumn, but we hope you look forward to it.

OSV: We really enjoyed the NieR Tribute Album –Echo- and Piano Collections NieR. What do you think is next for the franchise, or do you think you’re done?

Shiraishi: In terms of the music of NieR, we are considering this as a stopping point after Piano Collections. It’s been about two years since the release of the game, but we are very fortunate to have so many fans that love and support the music of NieR. Because of that, we were able to create three different arrangement CDs. However, since there are no longer any new updates in the game, we have come to the decision to stop working on the same title in order to prevent oversaturation of one title. If there are any new movements to the game itself, there may be a possibility of another project…

OSV: Tell us about the music for Bravely Default. Why was REVO selected as the composer as opposed to internal music staff or composers that used to be employed at Square Enix? Will the soundtrack be sold separately from the collector’s edition of the game?

Shiraishi: The game producer, Asano, had been a fan of Sound Horizon since REVO’s CD Chronicle 2nd was released. He was thinking “I would love Revo to join us in the making of the game,” and “I think people would get very excited to hear Revo’s songs,” and that’s how he ended up asking Revo to come on board. I think in the end, the score matched the game’s atmosphere very well.

We will definitely sell the soundtrack by itself. It will be available on October 10th, 2012 in Japan.

OSV: Sengoku IXA Senjin Souran -Shutsujin- was an interesting compilation release featuring Square Enix music composers. We have to ask why it was so expensive. Did it have to do with licensing Japonica Groove’s work?

Shiraishi: For background music used within a regular game, the cost of making the songs are included in the budget for creating the game, which means secondary published items such as soundtrack albums do not incur very much cost. However, you may already know that in Sengoku IXA, there is no background music. Other than the one song from PAX JAPONICA GROOVE and one song from Hidenori Iwasaki, the tracks were created just for this CD. Amongst them, there were songs that were newly recorded with live performances of traditional Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi and shinobue flutes, which added to the production cost that lead to the rise in the album price.

Another reason why the pricing was higher than a regular soundtrack album is that there was a code for an in-game item included in the package.

OSV: We saw the re-release of LIVE A LIVE this year. We’re very happy to see this re-released on Square Enix’s label, but are curious as to why it was selected for this treatment. Is the game on Square Enix’s radar again, as we usual see these re-releases to coincide with something else in a franchise.

Shiraishi: We had held a campaign to revive out-of-print soundtrack albums, and Live a Live happened to be one of the titles that were chosen. (There were other titles, such as Parasite Eve, Unlimited Saga, and Drag on Dragoon, that were revived as well.)

The fans had to pay somewhere upwards of over 80,00 yen ($100 USD) to purchase these out-of-print soundtracks. The title is very popular, and people would like to listen to it, but the only hesitation is the price. We wanted to resolve that situation, and let many more fans hear these wonderful scores. That’s the thought behind the execution of this campaign.

Even after 18 years, Live a Live is still very popular among fans, and we had wanted to do a revival for the longest time, but there were circumstances that made the revival this year. I’m afraid the re-release is not associated with any movements with the actual game. It was merely a part of a campaign to revive out-of-print soundtrack albums.

In the future, we would like to actively revive soundtrack titles that have since gone out-of-print, if there is a great demand from fans.

OSV: Last year we saw UTV Ignition’s El Shaddai soundtrack released on the Square Enix label. This year we saw Dragon’s Dogma. How you were approached about this partnership, and are there plans to release even more music from outside developers?

Shiraishi: Fortunately, because our label continues to release soundtrack albums, we have gotten to the point where people tend to think “if it’s an RPG, then it’s Square Enix.” From that, the different developers had expressed a strong desire that “if we are to handle scores from this title, we would like to ask Square Enix to help us with the project.” And the rest is history. I don’t think we’ll publish every single title out there, but I’m sure there is a possibility of us releasing soundtrack albums of other third-party titles in the future. If that is going to prove beneficial to both the other company and Square Enix, that is.

OSV: Any chance we’ll see Square Enix music publishing soundtracks for US-developed titles like Tomb Raider, etc.?

Shiraishi: Unfortunately, we do not have plans at the moment.

OSV: Battle SQ, Beer SQ, and SQ Chips2 were all just released. What ideas do you have for the next entries in the series?

Shiraishi: I think a jazz arrangement with a piano (something that you would hear at a piano bar) would be interesting.

OSV: We’ve been enjoying the Seiken Densetsu arrange series. Will Kikuta-san get to create an album dedicated to Seiken Densetsu 3, and will Shimomura-san be doing an album this year?

Shiraishi: Seiken Densetsu 3 is just as popular as Seiken Densesu 2, so I’m sure there is a possibility of a project starting up if there is a great demand for it. As for Yoko Shimomura’s arrangement album, I think it’s highly unlikely that there will be one this year…

OSV: Many Final Fantasy XI fans are excited about XI Chips, but it’s only being sold on Square Enix’s e-store. Are there any plans to give this album a wider release so fans abroad can import it?

Shiraishi: We are making preparations so that these would be available through the North American and European Square Enix sites. We ask for your patience on this.

OSV: What other releases are we going to see to celebrate Final Fantasy’s 25th anniversary?

Shiraishi: Towards the end of this year, there is something we are planning to sell as a 25th anniversary commemorative item. But there are other FINAL FANTASY-related music works in consideration that aren’t restricted to the 25th anniversary.

OSV: There were many vinyl releases from Square Enix last year, but none this year. Are there any plans to produce any products on vinyl in the near future?

Shiraishi: This year does mark the 25th anniversary… I hope you look forward to it.

OSV: We were told last year that you were waiting for big event in the FFXIV world to release the game’s soundtrack composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Is the announcement of A Realm Reborn mean that we’ll soon see a soundtrack release, and will the game feature the same music written by Uematsu that was written for the original FFXIV release or will he be writing more?

Shiraishi: We appreciate your anticipation, but we’d ask that you wait until the there are more announcements about the game. Thank you!

__

Are you looking forward to big news regarding music from Final Fantasy later this year?  Sounds like we may be getting vinyl and some kind of special “Best of” collection. Also, bummed that there’s no more NieR releases planned or that the customer bonus discs won’t become more available.

What above do you find most interesting?

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