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Square Enix Composer Series: Naoshi Mizuta Talks FFXI and Parasite Eve

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Next up in our series of interviews with Square Enix composers is Naoshi Mizuta, who is mainly known for his work on Final Fantasy XI. While XI dominates our discussion, we also touch on his work on the Four Warriors of Light, one of my favorite works of his, and the recently re-released Parasite Eve 2 soundtrack, which Mizuta has interesting things to say about.

Looking forward to more Final Fantasy XI CD releases?  How about an arrange album? Find out what Naoshi Mizuta and Square Enix have in store for fans in our interview after the jump.

OSV: New music was written for the story-based add-ons (Crystalline Prophecy, etc.) as well as the Abyssea expansions. When will we see soundtracks released with this additional material and other “unreleased” songs?

Mizuta: We’re currently working out the details for that. Excluding the anniversary album, it has been 3 years since the last Final Fantasy XI soundtrack album. We’ve been accumulating a lot of music since then, about 20 or so tracks. These would likely be on any future albums.

OSV: Will that be out this year?

Mizuta: I can’t say at this time.

OSV: Are you actively writing new music for Final Fantasy XI?

Mizuta: I’m not composing anything at the moment, but there might be something coming up.

OSV: What character race and job class do you play as in Final Fantasy XI?

Mizuta: I’m not actually playing the game right now, but if I were, I would be playing as a healer or support character.

OSV: Would you say the music you’ve written for Final Fantasy XI over the years matches the vision of the game as it was originally designed nearly a decade ago, or is this now something new and different?

Mizuta: Since I didn’t compose the music with rhythms and sounds that were in vogue at the time, even now ten years later, I think the music matches without sounding dated. Originally, almost everything was acoustic, but lately I’ve been able to introduce sounds I would have never imagined including, such as electric guitar.

OSV: You’ve created a few arrange albums for Final Fantasy XI over the years, including the Star Onions albums. Are there any plans for more arrange albums for the series, and what style would you like to see done next?

Mizuta: I’d love to do an arrange album. I find these projects very fun and enjoyable. It’s just that I haven’t had the time or opportunity. Especially for Final Fantasy XI, there are many compositions that I’d like to arrange. I don’t mind if we never get the chance, but I’d like to try it.

Regarding a style, I don’t want to focus on just one sound. I’d want it to cover different styles.

OSV: You’ve been working on Final Fantasy XI for so long, it must be very special to you. What has the series meant to your career?

Mizuta: I have been involved with this project for over a decade. It’s a life work. I never forget this project, even when I work on others. When I score another project, I base my experience and progress against what I’ve accomplished with Final Fantasy XI. I feel like I’m growing as Final Fantasy XI grows. We’re growing together, as partners.

OSV: Are we getting to a point where you can create a final “Premium Box” for the series, with no new music after that?

Mizuta: [Laughs]

OSV: Well, fans who bought that Premium Box, for example, there’s so much new music after that. It would be nice to “wrap things up” if the series is coming to that point from a composition standpoint.

Mizuta: Since Final Fantasy XI is an online game, it continues. For us, it’s endless at this moment. We’re not particularly thinking we’ll create a box to close everything, but we understand that fans would like that kind of collection. We’ll consider it when that time comes.

OSV: I do have a question about Four Heroes of Light, as it’s one of my favorite works of yours. Was it a challenge to go from the high-quality music you were creating in Final Fantasy XI to the retro style in Four Heroes of Light?

Mizuta: The basic music writing process was the same. So it was not super challenging to move from FFXI to Four Heroes of Light. Suzuki-san actually arranged the tracks I created into their retro-sounding versions.

OSV: I did recently get the chance to experience Parasite Eve 2, which I never listened to when it was initially released. I was really surprised and impressed with how well it’s held up. The quality is still very good, and it’s a very different sound compared to what we’ve experienced from Final Fantasy XI or Four Heroes of Light. Would you like to reflect on that soundtrack and that sound?

Mizuta: [Laughs] Yeah, it is a very different style… a lot of the tracks are very dark. I’m not sure if fans can really enjoy it outside…

OSV: Well, that plays into a debate we have on OSV about “context.” Maybe this one isn’t so much for outside listening as it is for inside?

Mizuta: This album wasn’t on the market currently, but we wanted to give fans the opportunity to seek out their favorite cues from the game. My philosophy, however, is that fans can enjoy the music better within the game rather than outside.

When I composed for Final Fantasy XI, for example, I create music that will first fit within the game. A catchy melody is secondary, but is good for fans to enjoy.

OSV: What are you currently working on not related to Final Fantasy XI?

Mizuta: I’m not really allowed to say what it is right now, but I can assure you that it’s a title everyone is looking forward to.

[Special thanks to Emi Uesako at Square Enix for translating]

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