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Valkyria Chronicles 3 Exclusive Liner Notes From Hitoshi Sakimoto

Valkyria Chronicles 3 Exclusive Liner Notes From Hitoshi Sakimoto

May 3, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Valkyria Chronicles 3 Exclusive Liner Notes From Hitoshi Sakimotoon Twitter

It’s that time again. We came up with the fun idea when the first Valkyria Chronicles was released to hybridize our review and interview into an exclusive English liner notes article. We did this again when Valkyria Chronicles 2 was released, and given how much I loved that score, I was excited by the prospects of doing this once again for Valkyria Chronicles 3.

Basiscape Records once again comes to the rescue, publishing the 2-disc soundtrack for the game. We have our impressions along with Hitoshi Sakmoto’s commentary on some of our favorite tracks and the album overall, so don’t miss out!

Hit the jump for our exclusive liner notes article.

First of all, the Valkyria Chronicles 3 soundtrack has some big shoes to fill. If you read our review of Valkyria Chronicles 2, it was personally one of my favorite soundtracks of the year, if not my favorite work that Hitoshi Sakimoto has ever written. How does Valkyria Chronicles 3 match up? Well, it’s different, for sure. Whereas VC2 sported a rather playful sound given the characters’ backgrounds in the military academy, VC3 is darker and more brooding, more along the lines of the first game.

We do, of course, get the expected memorable main theme. “Valkyria Chronicles 3 Main Theme” stands out mostly for its lovely flamenco guitar work found throughout the piece. It’s a dark and militaristic theme with the brass section producing an oppressive melody while a snare drum quietly rolls in the background. Just as with previous games’ themes, hope is around the corner with a defiant brass melody. It actually took a few listens for this theme to grow on me, but it really stands up next to the amazing work from the first two games. The Sydney Scoring Orchestra adds that warm live quality, making this one of the highlights of the album.

Sakimoto on “Valkyria Chronicles 3 Main Theme”
Well, this time the story is very different from the last one. It focuses on a very hard fight. The season overlaps with the original Valkyria Chronicles. Welkin (from VC1) achieves a brilliant result, but there’s another mission that’s accomplished quietly and on a dirty side of the war without leaving its name in history. However, most members of the military unit are not bad people, and they are entrapped by somebody and then sent to this military unit. They are in the middle. It’s a story of the people who believe in justice and fight without losing hope.

Actually, I thought it would have a bit brighter atmosphere, when I heard about this project. While following the plot and getting to know the story, I found this story of strong people who live positively even in difficult situations. As a result of the circumstance, I remade the theme music about 7 times, but I think in the end it turned out perfectly.

Since we recorded the theme song with an orchestra at an early stage, I took the guitar, the bass and others out of the orchestra instruments and guided it with a synthesizer at that stage. We recorded the individual musical instruments such as guitar after all the music was gathered.

As you’ve come to expect, Sakimoto weaves this theme into various pieces throughout the score. It’s truly amazing how he can manipulate his themes to suit any emotion. “A Momentary Rest,” for example, takes the brooding theme and turns it into a sweet lullaby, although the iteration of the main them adds a sense of danger ahead. “That is ‘The Nameless,’ on the other hand, is a completely heart wrenching take with deep strings, while “As a Squad” is a riveting, triumphant version that is slower and more contemplative, brimming with hope. “Unnamed Heroes” is a heroic “World War II”-esque arrangement that is reflective and strong.

Sakimoto on Main Theme Variations
There was no one arrangement that was particularly difficult. My favorite is “With You….” The arrangement of this theme was written in the same way as previous ones, so I don’t think it was particularly difficult even though elements were derived from the VC3 main theme.

Interestingly, Sakimoto couldn’t let things be with just one memorable theme. He actually goes on to create a secondary theme of sorts that’s featured prominently throughout the score, and is featured for the first time in “In Search of the Next Battlefield.” The motif is instantly memorable, and the heavy brass used as bass in this version contrasts with the airy string section, creating an ominous atmosphere. It actually reminds me of Sakimoto’s work on Breath of Fire V. Of course you get a triumphant arrangement with “Must-Win Battle” and even a beautiful romantic version with strings and piano titled “With You….” It’s surprising to find that it’s this theme, and not the game’s main theme that makes its way into “Final Decisive Battle,” which is actually a measured arrangement, and not as explosive as you’d expect the final battle to be. Finally, “To the Fortune of Mutual Trust” is an arrangement featuring a church organ and some comedic elements while “Together With a Little Fortune” is a lovely solo guitar version.

Sakimoto on the Secondary “Main Theme”
Sorry, actually it’s confusing, isn’t it?

Regarding the details, before the theme was decided, I wrote “Nameless Hero” (track 12 from disc 2). The melody was really nice, but the bright impression didn’t come off, so it was turned down. At this stage, they decided to use “Nameless Hero” as a staff roll. I really wanted to relate to “Nameless Hero.” I duplicated the internal sound from the final decided melody of the “Valkyria Chronicles 3 Main Theme” and “Nameless Hero.”

Talking about how things got this way, I understood that the story had a very heavy atmosphere. For that reason, I insisted that I wanted to make the main theme with a feeling of hope which symbolizes this story. As you can see at the end of this game. That is the reason why “Nameless Hero” is used for the ending. But the director had a different idea. He wanted the player to know from the beginning that it’s a different atmosphere from the previous series and requested that I express ‘Strength to advance in a very hard situation.’ That’s why the theme is like this. Of course I think the director’s judgment was right after all.

“Nameless Hero” has a warm feeling. So the arrangement using this theme has a similar sound. Also the arrangement using the main theme gives a gloomy impression.

While the two themes are the highlight of the album, Sakimoto has also written some heavy battle themes. “Fierce Battlefield” allows the old Sakimoto to drip through, as you’ll be reminded of his work on Final Fantasy Tactics. “Seesawing” and “Crow of Disaster” are just as intense, once again highlighting the harsh realities of war. “Risking Everything on This Stroke” borders on Hollywood action film territory with his combination of powerful orchestral hits with synthesized electronic bass and a driving drum beat. Finally, “The Looming Sound of Ammunition Boots” is downright dirty with its mean slap bass and chaotic triangle hits in the background that will be one of your lasting memories from the album.

Sakimoto on his Battle Themes
Actually, writing similar music could happen if you write lots of battle music. But is there a similar piece in Final Fantasy Tactics? For me I imaged a modern battle and wrote for that, so it’s supposed to have different motivation. Generally, since the melody has a lot of unstable chords brought close to atonality, I don’t think it’s suitable for fantasy.

If something sounds like Hollywood, it must simply be the scales. There are some scales I prevented using in the old days, and this is one. Recently there has been demand from clients, so I may use them sometimes.

Because it’s a modern war, I took a different approach from a previous work in the formation of the musical instrument and use the modern musical instruments. A chopper bass and the percussion of the drum kit are passionate, aren’t they? I love it, too.

There are a few other tracks to highlight, including “Swirling Conspiracy” with its foreboding use of deep brass sounds and this creepy descending synth accent to lend a sense of mystery. “Fear and Guts” features a sense of distorted hope as the ascending melodies are seemingly upbeat, although the instrumentation and tempo keep the piece mired in gloom. “OPEN FIRE!” is an interesting Western-style guitar track, sounding almost like rock music, while Sakimoto lets up on the mood with “We Are ‘The Nameless’,” a mischievous piece with pizzicato strings and a whimsical string melody and “Damn it!,” a playful guitar-based tune with a nice swing to it. I also enjoyed “Reila Marceris” with its sweet solo piano featuring some familiar melodies, although I can’t trace them back to the main theme. It’s a nice break from the chaos found elsewhere on the album.

Sakimoto on Miscellaneous Tracks
Basically I’m a techno person, so I really like a synthesized sound. But that sound in an orchestra wouldn’t stand out and it’s considerably limited. I think its good mix in “Swilling Conspiracy.”

“OPEN FIRE” exists because of the live guitar. It’s thanks to the player, Mr. Ota. That atmosphere can’t be achieved with a synthesizer. When we expressed the Darcsen in this series, we used a classic scale and some unrefined atmospheric instruments. But because it is battle music, we made it a guitar work, like a rock style for the first half and a Spanish style for the other half. I think it went well.

The melody of “Reila Marceris” is completely independent music. It’s not derived from anything else. We were talking about writing another arrangement to use for another scene for Riela, but it seems like it’s okay with only this piece. Actually, I like writing easy listening music like this. And I often express nature. In this piece, our client requested this feeling that ‘it’s very ephemeral. You feel like you have to protect.’ So I wrote this piece imagining only one small flower on the grassy plain of a highland.

Tucked away at the end of the album are guitar arrangements of past themes, including three tracks from the original Valkyria Chronicles: “Theme of Valkyria,” “Gallant Battle” and “Series’ Main Theme,” all performed by Mitsuhiro Ohta. “Theme of Valkyria” balances beauty with intensity, while “Gallant Battle” is a playful, upbeat take on the originally militaristic track. The series main theme gets a more somber arrangement, slowing down and expressing a feeling of loss. My favorite of the bunch, however, is “Final Battle” from Valkyria Chronicles 2, which is upbeat, and of course features the “Valkyria Chronicles 2 Main Theme” which I am entirely in love with. The piece hops along playfully, which is funny given that this is the final battle theme, but fitting given the nature of the game’s main theme.

Sakimoto on Guitar Arrangements
Valkyria Chronicles 3 is our first project where we worked with Mr. Ota. When I worked for a play before, I saw Mr. Ota play guitar and I was really impressed by his performance. So I was waiting for a chance to work with him. He played the entire guitar in this story as well as this arrangement.

Regarding the last four songs of this OST, you would need to talk to the arranger. I think it’s smart and worth a listen.

In fact, it’s not guitar, but we are making a piano album of Valkyria Chronicles 3. It’s really wonderful. So look out for the official announcement.

As mentioned, the album comes courtesy of Basiscape Records, featuring a booklet with extensive credits and an interview in Japanese along with beautiful artwork from the game from front to back. I dig the sketches found on the discs themselves. The music speaks for itself. It’s all fantastically composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, and if you liked his past work on the series, you’ll probably like this. There are many memories I’ll keep from the album, including his dark, brooding, brassy main theme and the snazzy guitar arrangements found at the end. You can pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Sakimoto’s Final Comments on Valkyria Chronicles 3
Well, this game series is already up to the third one, and the animation is up to the second one. Honestly, I didn’t’ think it would be that long of a series when I worked for the first project. I don’t have any work were I have been involved for this long. I’m pleased that this series is loved by so many people.

Welkin from VC1 and Avan from VC2 appear in this story. I would be pleased if you can feel the difference of their relationship and the atmosphere. It’s a prequel to VC1, so it really polishes the story. I’d like you to enjoy the story of the people who took really worthwhile action while enduring an incredibly hopeless situation, behind the people who gave glory to the bright war.

What do you think of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work on the Valkyria Chronicles series? Are you looking forward to a US release of Valkyria Chronicles 3 in the future?

[Special thanks to the team at Basiscape for translating Sakimoto-san’s response]

First of all, the Valkyria Chronicles 3 soundtrack has some big shoes to fill. If you read our review of Valkyria Chronicles 2, it was personally one of my favorite soundtracks of the year, if not my favorite work that Hitoshi Sakimoto has ever written. How does Valkyria Chronicles 3 match up? Well, it’s different, for sure. Whereas VC2 sported a rather playful sound given the characters’ backgrounds in the military academy, VC3 is darker and more brooding, more along the lines of the first game.

We do, of course, get the expected memorable main theme. “Valkyria Chronicles 3 Main Theme” stands out mostly for its lovely flamenco guitar work found throughout the piece. It’s a dark and militaristic theme with the brass section producing an oppressive melody while a snare drum quietly rolls in the background. Just as with previous games’ themes, hope is around the corner with a defiant brass melody. It actually took a few listens for this theme to grow on me, but it really stands up next to the amazing work from the first two games. The Sydney Scoring Orchestra adds that warm live quality, making this one of the highlights of the album.

Sakimoto on “Valkyria Chronicles 3 Main Theme”
そうですね、今回のストーリーは前回とうって変わって非常に辛い闘いを強いられる部隊のストーリーです。時期的には丁度Val1と重なっていて、Val1のウェルキン達が華々しい成果を上げている裏で、歴史に名を残すことなく、戦争の汚い部分の仕事を中心にミッションを遂行します。とは言え、部隊のメンバは悪人ではなく、何か仕方のない理由でその部隊へ送られた人や、誰かに陥れられた人達が中心で、そんな中でも希望を失わず、正義を信じて闘う人々の物語です。

実は私も最初にこのプロジェクトの話を聞いたとき、もう少し明るい雰囲気なのかと思いましたが、プロットを追い、物語を理解するうちに、非常に困難な状況でも、信じられないほど前向きに力強く生きる人々の話だと言うことがわかりました。そんな雰囲気に曲もしたいなと思いました。そんないきさつで、テーマ曲は7回ほど作り直しましたが、最終的にはイメージにピッタリの曲になったと思います。

テーマ曲のオーケストラのレコーディングはかなり早い段階で行いましたので、その段階ではギターやベースなどオーケストラ外の楽器はシンセでガイド的に入れてありました。ギター等の個別の楽器のレコーディングは、全ての曲が揃った後に行いました。

As you’ve come to expect, Sakimoto weaves this theme into various pieces throughout the score. It’s truly amazing how he can manipulate his themes to suit any emotion. “A Momentary Rest,” for example, takes the brooding theme and turns it into a sweet lullaby, although the iteration of the main them adds a sense of danger ahead. “That is ‘The Nameless,’ on the other hand, is a completely heart wrenching take with deep strings, while “As a Squad” is a riveting, triumphant version that is slower and more contemplative, brimming with hope. “Unnamed Heroes” is a heroic “World War II”-esque arrangement that is reflective and strong.

Sakimoto on Main Theme Variations
特にアレンジの難しかった曲はありませんが、自分で好きなのはCD2-Track09です。

今回のテーマのアレンジでも、前作までと同じようにやっていますので、VC3のテーマとその派生系があった事による難しさは特になかったと思います。

Interestingly, Sakimoto couldn’t let things be with just one memorable theme. He actually goes on to create a secondary theme of sorts that’s featured prominently throughout the score, and is featured for the first time in “In Search of the Next Battlefield.” The motif is instantly memorable, and the heavy brass used as bass in this version contrasts with the airy string section, creating an ominous atmosphere. It actually reminds me of Sakimoto’s work on Breath of Fire V. Of course you get a triumphant arrangement with “Must-Win Battle” and even a beautiful romantic version with strings and piano titled “With You….” It’s surprising to find that it’s this theme, and not the game’s main theme that makes its way into “Final Decisive Battle,” which is actually a measured arrangement, and not as explosive as you’d expect the final battle to be. Finally, “To the Fortune of Mutual Trust” is an arrangement featuring a church organ and some comedic elements while “Together With a Little Fortune” is a lovely solo guitar version.

Sakimoto on the Secondary “Main Theme”
確かに混乱させますよね。すみません。(笑)

経緯をお話ししますと、テーマが決定する前、私はまず一番最初に(名も無き英雄達 Disc2 Track12)を書きましたが、そのメロディは非常に良かったものの、どうアレンジをしても明るい印象がどうしても抜けなかったためボツになったという経緯がありました。この段階で「名も無き英雄達」はスタッフロールで使うことが決定しましたが、どうしても「名も無き英雄達」との関連を作りたかったため、最終的に決定稿となったメロディ(戦場のヴァルキュリア3メインテーマ)と先に書いた「名も無き英雄達」はメロディの中間部の音形を重複させました。

なぜこういった経緯になったかとお話しますと、私は今回のストーリーが非常に重苦しい雰囲気であることは理解していましたが、そうであるが故、今回のストーリーを象徴するメインテーマでは希望を持てるモノにしたいと主張しました。これはゲームのエンディングを見ていただければ判りますが、エンディングで「名も無き英雄達」が使われている理由そのものでもあります。でもディレクターからはそうではなく、今回のシリーズは前作までと雰囲気が違うことを最初からプレイヤー達へ理解させたいという要望があり、もっと「非常に辛い状況でも前に進む力強さ」を表現して欲しいと言われました。結果、テーマは今回のような形になり、もちろん最終的にはディレクタの判断が正しかったと私も思っています。

「名も無き英雄達」は暖かい印象があり、このテーマを使ったアレンジはそういう曲が多く、

メインテーマを使ったアレンジは沈んだ印象になっています。

While the two themes are the highlight of the album, Sakimoto has also written some heavy battle themes. “Fierce Battlefield” allows the old Sakimoto to drip through, as you’ll be reminded of his work on Final Fantasy Tactics. “Seesawing” and “Crow of Disaster” are just as intense, once again highlighting the harsh realities of war. “Risking Everything on This Stroke” borders on Hollywood action film territory with his combination of powerful orchestral hits with synthesized electronic bass and a driving drum beat. Finally, “The Looming Sound of Ammunition Boots” is downright dirty with its mean slap bass and chaotic triangle hits in the background that will be one of your lasting memories from the album.

Sakimoto on his Battle Themes
確かにバトル曲を沢山書いていると、似たような感じの曲を書いてしまうことも有り得るかとは思いますが、FFTにこんな感じの曲はありましたか? 私としては、現代戦をイメージして書きましたので、まず動機が違うつもりです。全体的に不安定な和音が多く、無調に近づけた旋律もありますので、ファンタジーには不向きかと思います。

ハリウッドっぽく聞こえるのは単純にスケールの問題ですね。私は昔、絶対に使わないようにしていたスケールあり、これがその一つです。近年はクライアントからの要望もあり、使うこともありますが。

今回は現代戦と言うことで前作までと楽器の編成は違い、積極的に現代の楽器を使っています。チョッパーベースやドラムキットのパーカッションは燃えますよね。私も大好きです。

There are a few other tracks to highlight, including “Swirling Conspiracy” with its foreboding use of deep brass sounds and this creepy descending synth accent to lend a sense of mystery. “Fear and Guts” features a sense of distorted hope as the ascending melodies are seemingly upbeat, although the instrumentation and tempo keep the piece mired in gloom. “OPEN FIRE!” is an interesting Western-style guitar track, sounding almost like rock music, while Sakimoto lets up on the mood with “We Are ‘The Nameless’,” a mischievous piece with pizzicato strings and a whimsical string melody and “Damn it!,” a playful guitar-based tune with a nice swing to it. I also enjoyed “Reila Marceris” with its sweet solo piano featuring some familiar melodies, although I can’t trace them back to the main theme. It’s a nice break from the chaos found elsewhere on the album.

Sakimoto on Miscellaneous Tracks
私は基本的にテクノ系の人間ですのでシンセの音が大好きですが、オーケストラの中で映えるシンセ系の音はかなり限定されてしまいます。SwilingConspiracyではうまく混ざっていると思います。

OPEN FIREは生ギターありきの曲ですよね。演奏者の太田さんに感謝です。シンセではどうやってもあの雰囲気は出ません。このシリーズではダルクス人を表現するときに、古典スケールや、何か泥臭い雰囲気があるような楽器を使っていましたが、この曲では戦闘曲ということもあり前半のロックぽいギターワークと後半のスパニッシュにしてみました。うまく行ったのではないでしょうか。

Reila Marcerisの旋律は完全に独立したモノで、派生系はありません。リエラにまつわる場面で使うため、他のアレンジを書こうというお話もありましたが、この曲だけで大丈夫だったようです。私、こういうイージーリスニング系の曲を書くのは実はかなり好きで、通常は自然を表現することが多いのですが、この曲では「とても儚く、守ってあげないといけないと思うようにして欲しい」という指定でしたので、高地の草原に1輪だけ咲く小さな花をイメージして書きました。

Tucked away at the end of the album are guitar arrangements of past themes, including three tracks from the original Valkyria Chronicles: “Theme of Valkyria,” “Gallant Battle” and “Series’ Main Theme,” all performed by Mitsuhiro Ohta. “Theme of Valkyria” balances beauty with intensity, while “Gallant Battle” is a playful, upbeat take on the originally militaristic track. The series main theme gets a more somber arrangement, slowing down and expressing a feeling of loss. My favorite of the bunch, however, is “Final Battle” from Valkyria Chronicles 2, which is upbeat, and of course features the “Valkyria Chronicles 2 Main Theme” which I am entirely in love with. The piece hops along playfully, which is funny given that this is the final battle theme, but fitting given the nature of the game’s main theme.

Sakimoto on Guitar Arrangements
太田さんは実は私達のプロジェクトで組むのはヴァルキュリア3が初めてです。以前、私が演劇のお仕事をした際、太田さんがギターを弾いているのをお見かけしまして、その演奏があまりにも素晴らしかったので、ご一緒できる機会を探していました。太田さんの演奏はアレンジのみではなく、本編の全てのギターを弾いてくださっています。

サントラ後半4曲のアレンジに関しては、アレンジャー自身に語ってもらった方が良いと思います。私自身は、お洒落で聴き応えのある内容になったのではないかと思っています。

ギターではありませんが、実はヴァルキュリアのピアノアルバムを現在製作中でして、とても素晴らしい出来になっていますので、公式な発表を待っていただけると嬉しいです。

As mentioned, the album comes courtesy of Basiscape Records, featuring a booklet with extensive credits and an interview in Japanese along with beautiful artwork from the game from front to back. I dig the sketches found on the discs themselves. The music speaks for itself. It’s all fantastically composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, and if you liked his past work on the series, you’ll probably like this. There are many memories I’ll keep from the album, including his dark, brooding, brassy main theme and the snazzy guitar arrangements found at the end. You can pick the album up at CD Japan if you’re interested.

Sakimoto’s Final Comments on Valkyria Chronicles 3
そうですね、このシリーズも既にゲームは3作目となり、アニメーションも2作目になりました。1作目を担当したときには正直、ここまで息の長い作品になるとは思っていませんでしたし、私が今まで担当した作品でここまで長く関わっているものは他にありません。皆さまに愛されるシリーズとなったことは本当に嬉しいです。

今作では1作目のウェルキン達や2作目のアバン達も出てきますので、彼等との関わりやその雰囲気の違いなどを感じていただければ嬉しいなと思います。あと今作は1作目のバックストーリーですので、その点も非常に良く寝られていますので、表の輝かしい戦績を飾った人々の裏で、信じられないくらい絶望的な状況でありながら、本当に価値のある行動をとった人々の話を楽しんで欲しいと思います。

What do you think of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s work on the Valkyria Chronicles series? Are you looking forward to a US release of Valkyria Chronicles 3 in the future?

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