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GDC08: Takada: 'Writing game music is my mission'


Grasshopper Manufacture's Masafumi Takada presented a discussion of his music (and fire prevention, he joked) to a welcoming crowd after an introduction by Tommy Tallarico. For thirty minutes, he discussed his process in Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, God Hand, Killer7, and then No More Heroes. The theme for his music design was "translation:" taking some aspect of the game, or some feeling, and putting it into the music. In addition, he relies on unique, catchy phrases that are repeated throughout each game's soundtrack, to "imprint the world" of the game on the player.

For Umbrella Chronicles, Takada attempted to convey the increased tempo of the game versus other REs in the music, without simply speeding up the music. He did so by using more rhythm instruments and exciting melodic instruments like electric guitar. The video of the menu followed by short gameplay illustrated this.

God Hand, also for Capcom, was an attempt to put a bit of relaxation into the music to augment the hectic game, and also to translate the feeling of working with Shinji Mikami (really!) Apparently, Takada sees Mikami as a witty, fun-loving person. He wasn't quite able to be inspired to create the music until he went to Osaka to work with Mikami's team and "breathe the same air that they were." In addition, with God Hand, Takada wanted to use the same motifs to link bosses with their demon forms -- and the Elvis boss was the example here.

Killer7's soundtrack, Takada said, was chaotic, and represented the chaotic feeling of the game. He "made the music from instinct" while watching and playing the game. In this game, heavy emphasis was put on the sound effects (including menu open, and finding a weak point), making them fit well into the musical landscape. The Killer7 video elicited a swell of applause.

No More Heroes' distinctive hook was created for the E3 trailer, and not originally intended for the full game. Takada thought it worked so well that he made it the theme of the whole game. A video of No More Heroes illustrated some variations with the same progression, including a thumping techno version during one of the Dark Side modes.

Tallarico's questions focused on the role of the game musician in Japan. Are they more respected? More a part of the team? How is the pay structure? Takada has only experienced the company life as part of the unconventional Grasshopper, so he believed he had a bigger, more respected role than most composers in Japan. He said he enjoyed orchestral game music but can't remember any Western composers he liked.
The audience questions were musical and technical, asking what kind of equipment he used and what emphasis he put on sound effects. One notable audience member -- Super Smash Bros. and Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai, for whose latest game Takada remixed the Yoshi's Story ending theme -- asked why Takada had such eclectic taste in musical genre, to which Takada replied that he "easily gets tired" of the same thing over and over again.

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