What was your first impression, Ishikawa-san?
I was really uneasy at first.
Just minutes before I saw the game visuals, they had told me they wanted the music by the next month, and I couldn’t believe it.
Oh, you didn’t have any time to be surprised. (laughs)
Right. (laughs) All I could think about was what we could do to complete the work we’d been assigned within that timeframe. One of the main sound designers for Kirby’s Epic Yarn, although he isn’t here today, was Tomoya Tomita at Good-Feel. At that time, he had already created a perfect soundscape for the game. But the quality was extremely high, using sound to express a softness as would befit a world of yarn. The three of us here today discussed how we could create that soft sound, but no one had any idea how to.
He had the know-how that you didn’t.
Right. We wondered how we could possibly create anything to match the musical world he had created. If we created sounds that were completely different, the game wouldn’t feel unified, and if we were going to participate in creating the sound, we wanted to do something surprising.
And what’s more, you needed the sound to make people who have played the previous Kirby games think, “Ah, now that’s Kirby!”
Right. In the space of a very short time, we needed to complete the mission of making music that wouldn’t make people say, “Oh, that’s the same as always!” or “That’s not right!” but would make them say, “Hey, I like that!”
Ikegami-san, you were in charge of the sound schedule. Why was it so tight? Was Nintendo pushing you too hard?
No, no, they weren’t. (laughs) HAL Laboratory didn’t become involved with the sound until some time had passed. At first, I was just going to supervise on my own, but Good-Feel was making a game with such an awesome theme, and I loved the music Tomita-san had made, so I thought, “Let us do it, too!”
So partway through you said “We want to do it!” and twisted their arm.
No, no, it wasn’t like that! (laughs) When we decided to put in the Kirby music from earlier games, I thought about giving the score to Tomita-san and having him arrange it for the world of yarn theme. But he was in trouble schedule-wise, so I thought, “This is our chance!” (laughs)
You said, “If you’re a little too busy, we’d be glad to help you out,” but inside you were thinking, “Yes! It’s ours!” (laughs)
Yeah. (laughs) And while Ishikawa-san and Ando-san’s schedules were also tight, they said it would be a pleasure.
Ando-san, what did you think when faced with making the sound in such a short period of time?
Ishikawa-san and I split up making the songs that HAL Laboratory was in charge of. Piano was a central feature of the sound Tomita-san had made. The sounds had been carefully selected to give a feeling of warmth. We thought we would aim for sounds like that, sound that wasn’t mechanical-sounding. As mentioned earlier, game music until now has increasingly sought richness.
So you decided to go for sound with surprise, rather than richness.
Right. We wanted to use only a few sounds so the characteristics of each song would stand out all the more. I decided to use my own hands to create the songs - playing bass or ukulele in some places - rather than programming them on a computer.
So all these instruments on the table must be for explaining that. (laughs)
Yeah. (laughs) This is a kind of melodica. It just happens to be easy to carry, so I brought it with me today.
Each key has its own air passage… So it sounds like this… (♪ Kirby’s Dream Land theme) You can really generate a unique sound with this.
Just hearing that conjures up the Kirby games for me.
And since I play it myself, it sounds just right.
You play all the parts yourself, so of course you think it sounds just right! (laughs)
Yeah. (laughs) Playing yourself makes it possible to write songs much faster than when programming them on a computer. And with someone actually playing it, the music feels really warm, which I thought was a perfect fit for the atmosphere of the game. Of course, I did edit it on a computer afterward.
Ishikawa-san, what was your impression of Tomita-san’s song when you heard it?
I felt like the whole room grew warm. It’s just like a wood-interior room is singing. The songs have a strong echoey texture. I met with Tomita-san and asked how he was able to achieve that texture, and he said he hadn’t done anything special. So I plopped down at the computer and stared at it, pondering how I could approach that song Tomita-san had made.
So while Ando-san was trying out all kinds of instruments, you were racking your brains at the computer trying to figure out how to achieve that warm texture of sound.
That’s right. I did the mixing and mastering, putting on the final touches. Then one day Ando-san came to me with a song he had written on the ukulele.
Oh, that…? (laughs)
Ando-san is good at making complex chords, but once when I was using the computer working on the sound texture, I thought one of the chords was a little weird, despite my faith in his abilities. When I told him that, he said, “I’ll fix it right away.” Then, in a voice so faint you could barely hear it, he said, “I had the fingering wrong.” (laughs)
Even though earlier he said the music sounded “just right” because he played it himself?! (laughs)
I guess it wasn’t just right after all! (laughs)
So in the end, how did you integrate the songs made by HAL Laboratory and the songs made by Tomita-san?
The structure of the story was important, so Tomita-san’s music plays during the first half and towards the middle.
In other words, we used the new sound in the first half and middle to highlight the difference between this new world of yarn and the usual Kirby world.
And HAL Laboratory was in charge of the songs that play in the latter stages. As you proceed through the game, an arrangement of the Kirby theme that everyone is familiar with plays, so you feel like, “Ah, I’ve come home.” I think it’s a very effective structure for the game.
The structure of the levels and the music that plays during them are directly connected.
Right. After the new world of yarn music plays, the songs by HAL Laboratory play in the later stages, emphasising that special Kirby feeling even more.
There’s a strong contrast between the two. As you make the music, what do you have in mind as music with that special Kirby feeling?
I’m not sure I think about it…
You don’t think about it?! (laughs)
I don’t think these two are particularly thinking about it. Kirby songs are made on personal instinct.
Oh, I see. Whatever the two of you make is what becomes the songs for the Kirby games.
I myself really wonder what “music with that special Kirby feeling” is, but that special Kirby feeling is the feeling that anything goes. It’s a certain freedom, a sense that everything is permissible.
It’s omnivorous? The way Kirby will inhale anything?
That’s what I think.
This may just be my own personal sense of it, but I worked on the songs for the first Kirby game, and Ando-san did the music for the next one, Kirby’s Adventure, and those two sounds established the basis for that special Kirby feeling. After that, the Kirby games continued with that “anything goes” feeling that Ikegami-san spoke of, and humour is also a part of that special Kirby feeling.
So you think that in addition to the Kirby themes of surprise, fun and warmth, humour is another important element.
Yes. Even though it’s a Kirby game, the music may be flashy rock-and-roll, or a majestic orchestral arrangement, or a recorded performance. We’ll do anything to surprise the players, and have made songs that will make players sense a bit of humour and smile.
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