Interview with Hideaki Kobayashi
When Sega shipped Phantasy Star Online almost a year ago, they not only released one of the most groundbreaking titles in recent memory, but they also revitalized one of their seminal franchises. For such a title, Sega commissioned the soundtrack composition to two of their latest rising stars, Hideaki Kobayashi and Fumie Kumatani -- whose works include both Sonic Adventure games and NiGHTS. Unfortunately, some critics have dubbed the album as ambient, but don't be fooled by such lazy pigeonholing; the incredibly unique soundtrack runs the gamut from industrial synth to impressive fifty-piece orchestra themes, as well as vocals from Neon Genesis Evangelion vocalist, Loren. With the release of Phantasy Star Online ver. 2 approaching, we spoke to Hideaki Kobayashi, the game's lead music composer, about the PSO and PSO ver. 2 soundtrack.
GIA: How and when did you become involved in music?
HK: An Electone was learned in my childhood. It was the beginning.
GIA: How did you get to work at Sega and later on to score the Phantasy Star Online and ver. 2 soundtrack?
HK: I wanted to make music for video games. Hardware had interest in SEGA
being made at that time, too. The CD I made by myself was taken for the
interview at the company.
GIA: What was it like to work with Yuji Naka?
HK: The thought is being introduced to him well with the person who has passion.
GIA: What hardware and software do you use for composing music?
HK: Macintosh, Logic Audio, JV2080, TR-Rack, etc.
GIA: Can you explain the creative process behind your music? Where did you draw your inspiration from?
HK: I sometimes think towards the piano. A melody sometimes floats again
suddenly. Such as when walking in the town, inspiration often comes
from the image of the game screen.
GIA: PSO's style is a fusion of ambient, industrial, techno and orchestral, did Yuji Naka ask for these particular styles?
Phantasy Star Online
HK: The figure of PSO was proposed from itself. Because the game screen was
original, there was feeling that we wanted to make it an unprecedented thing
with unprecedented music as well.
GIA: You obviously listened to earlier Phantasy Star songs; the PSO opening theme 'The Whole New World' incorporates Phantasy Star II's opening theme, and PSO ver. 2's Duel Battle I includes medleys from Phantasy Star I and II. Were these included to please previous Phantasy Star fans?
HK: Yes. When the opening theme was made, I thought that the melody of the
former work was intended to be put somewhere. The Duel Battle of Ver.2 was intended to be made the arrangement tune; which the melody of the former work was used for again.
GIA: How did you select which previous Phantasy Star songs to include in PSO?
HK: I thought that the melody of PS1 and PS2 should be used this time
from the beginning.
GIA: Speaking of the Opening Theme, was a real orchestra used or did you use synths and samplers? It sounds very realistic.
HK: Yes. The orchestra of whole groups of 50 people was used. But,
synths are being used for the rhythm too.
GIA: The opening and ending vocals were done by the famed Neon Genesis Evangelion vocalist, Loren. How was she chosen? Did she contribute to the lyrics?
HK: Ms. Kumatani, sound creator, recommended Loren.
Loren didn't cooperate with the lyrics.
GIA: What was it like to work with Ms. Kumatani? How was it decided which songs you would do and which ones Ms. Kumatani would do?
HK: It was very stimulative because a wonderful tune was made. As for the
assignment, there is no assignment specially. Only, one made a tune first, and
had it listen with the image to the other.
GIA: What are your favorite songs on the PSO album?
HK: "Cry, for "IDORA" the holy" and "Can still see the light."
GIA: Your songs display many different styles, who are your music influences? Who are your favorite videogame music composers?
HK: I played Big Band Jazz as a student. Composing general
ideas got to me at that time. Then, I came to listen to the various music. The
video game music composer whom I like is Tamayo Kawamoto (ZUNTATA).
GIA: Do you play videogames? If so, which are your favorites? Have you played Phantasy Star Online or the older Phantasy Star titles?
HK: It was the age of PSO though it was taken this year to itself. I like
RAcast! And, I played Phantasy Star 1 in my childhood, too.
GIA: What upcoming projects are you working on? Perhaps new music for the GameCube version of PSO ver. 2?
HK: Please ask Mr. Naka.
GIA: Thank you for your time.
Interested parties can find the Phantasy Star Online soundtrack at import or game music retailers such as GameMusic.com, AnimeNation, and GExpress.com.
Interview by Jeff Davis, GIA.