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Masashi Hamauzu talks Final Fantasy XIII and working with Motomu Toriyama

Masashi Hamauzu talks Final Fantasy XIII and working with Motomu Toriyama

Written by Brayden — 22 May 2018

Earlier this year, Final Fantasy XIII's composer Masashi Hamauzu had an indepth interview with Japanese website 2083.

In this interview he discussed various things but in particular spoke about his work on the Final Fantasy XIII series and with its director Motomu Toriyama. He also talked about how video games do not normally have a music director.

You can read that part of the interview below thanks to 黒凧 BlackKite who translated it all.

─ Are there any other titles with satisfactory quality?

Hamauzu: Since I finally got to talk about games, the one that’s done well in many aspects would be Final Fantasy XIII to me indeed. Of course the recent ones like World of Final Fantasy also have their own smooth, good points, in FFXIII we had time to think about various concepts, and there were also parts we could finally make. I set up a strategy to make a lot of genres, so that I wouldn’t have any regrets like “I wish I had made this kind of song”. Being able to accomplish that could also mean the best thing in FFXIII.

─ So you assembled it elaborately.

Hamauzu: That’s right. After all this game is a major title with a very long play time, so we need to not only have it liven things up to accompany the drama, but also to take people aback in the middle. I was greatly rescued by director Toriyama-san (Motomu Toriyama)’s allocation of songs, but in the middle we did things like giving a cool sensation by playing songs that felt like a bit off from the game’s main story. That way, we could lightly change the direction even on the sound department. By including such various tricks, I think we could think about things like “How to make it more interesting and can be played until the end”.

─ I see… By the way Hamauzu-san, you wrote the liner notes for FFXIII’s OST, but you might be thinking a lot when creating the normal battle music “Flash (Blinded by Light)” to the point that it’s the RPG battle theme you want to hear by yourself.

Hamauzu: That’s right. For example the likes of normal battle music ought to be fine to listen for like 1000 times in a single RPG, isn’t it? Even when you thought like “Oh, cool” when you instantly heard it for the first time, if the song made you bored after listening to it about 100 times it would become bothersome. I wonder what music wouldn’t let that happen. I did think quite a lot about what kind of music would be like that… for example after you listened to it about 500 times, you would instead get more addicted to it.

─ Hamauzu-san, do you have anything important in your mind when composing music?

Hamauzu: I can never really describe things like this in words, although recently I’m finally allowed to talk about it… Although it’s a common one, it is indeed on how you understand things like the world setting, characters, and scenarios.

In anime shows and movies, there is an audio director who would suggest which music is required to fit the scene. But when the three of us –including the director– talked together, it becomes much quicker to understand the world setting. I could even get a list of orders for songs that can directly convey things like “This character is like this” or “This scenario actually wants to convey this thing”. Some of the writings are like “This character has this kind of personality, but actually they have this in the shadows, so we want to express that out a bit. If possible it’d be good if you only use a piano”. I would liven up meetings by giving responses like “No, in that case wouldn’t this kind of song make it more interesting?” As they gradually deepen their understanding like “Oh I see, so you really want to make it like this”, it’s really easy for me to actually imagine the musical theme. Since games normally don’t have such an audio director, the director and composer would have to take the role. But I think the likes of FFXIII’s Toriyama-san are able to do that thing in a high level.

─ So if you understand the director’s intentions, you’ll be able to create them smoothly.

Hamauzu: That’s right. Once you understood that, like “Ah, this scene looks like this”, you can create them intensively. When supervisors and directors don’t make it clear on what they want to express, even after you’ve created one you’d still don’t understand it quite well and wondering “Is this really alright?” Indeed, it’s on how you understand the world setting. Recently I feel like thinking about that thing may be a very high priority to me. How that title advances and gets better will depend on that.

─ So that means the music will act as a driving force for the title.

Hamauzu: That’s right. For example even if the scene matches perfectly, if you keep hearing such [same] song while you’re playing, there may be cases where you end up having your stomach full. So there are times I dared to put in somewhat unrelated songs, just like the times when I did it with Toriyama-san.

Hamauzu: But when I tried looking back, for a number of songs in most titles, I thought of things like scenes and characters, and then created [songs] in high spirits often. It’s like I’ve been creating them like I’m dancing alone (laughs). For example, I created the likes of Lightning Returns FFXIII’s ending while crying a lot. Like, when look back at what I said in the past, I felt like I had been thinking about very artistic things (laughs). But when I’m creating them, I really have so much affection towards the characters, like I’m a big fan of them. Like “Vanille is talking about this thing right now. But if I put this kind of song, I should be able to express more of this girl’s feelings”. Although it’s an embarrassing talk, in titles where the protagonist is a woman or the heroine goes forward, I’d been trying a lot in the past to understand the characters so much, like I’m falling in love with them. By doing so, they have become an important being to myself, and I feel like I have to convey it correctly to viewers and players without causing misunderstandings. While there are also characters that are not my type at all among them (laughs), when I had to even force myself to grow affection toward them to make [songs], I even actually had a heartthrob towards a girl whose type I wouldn’t even like, and I ended up liking her too (laughs).