How large is the audio team size?
MT: Right now there are four people.
And do you have a sound studio here? Like a foley room and stuff?
MT: No. I do everything at my desk. Even if you don't go all the way to a studio, if you have a microphone and a tape recorder you can recreate sound effects anywhere, like this [Takada demonstrates at his desk].
So here, in this office?
MT: Here, after everyone leaves and goes home.
Do you do your own audio testing, here? Or do you have testers actually check the audio?
MT: Of course I consult others too; me and other audio staff members. Also when the rest of our staff on the floor plays the game, I quietly observe their reactions. If they jump and are surprised by certain parts, then I know it's a success.
The reason I ask is because some audio designers that I know feel that the only thing that normal testers can tell you is whether the sound is present. They can't tell you if it's the feeling that you were trying to get across, or even if it's the correct sound. That's why you'd create a map of what it's supposed to be like, and then they can look at this thing and understand how it's supposed to be.
MT: Hmm, first off, I just have to reach the point where I myself think, "Good. This is okay." If you feel something different about the audio in the Grasshopper games, it's probably because the audio department is on the floor where everyone else is -- together with the graphic, project management, planning and programming departments, so the audio staff is producing work in an environment where they can easily communicate with the rest of the production team. That can take the project in a good direction.
I thought there was very good music implementation in Grasshopper's Samurai Champloo game, because the beats of the attack combos were actually based on the music. With that music, how was it to write music for a series that already had very established, very interesting music style?
MT: The soundtrack for [the anime] Samurai Champloo was very good. I really like it myself. I don't mean to say I felt in competition with the original soundtrack, but to tell you the truth I didn't want to lose against it.
Namco Bandai/Grasshopper Manufacture's Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked
Did you get to speak to [anime series composer] Tsutchie at all?
MT: No, I didn't talk to him... I just listened to it.
I see. How faithful did you feel you had to be to the original sound style?
MT: Actually I wanted to use the anime BGM for the game, too. I thought the fans might prefer that. But it seemed the licensing would be far too difficult. So yes, I had to create an original soundtrack. It was really hard, actually, because it was the first time I ever attempted any sort of hip-hop.
Well, in some ways it seems like it was a natural fit for you, because it's kind of hip-hop and also kind of lounge-style, and you have a whole lot of lounge style in existing games that you've done.
MT: As far as my own style is concerned, I can't say I understand what it is, myself. I mean, I really want to try lots of different genres.
How much do you think music actually affects gameplay and the user experience?
MT: When you play video games, the game space is just what's on the front of the TV. But the rest of the space in your environment, the whole area around you, is completed by the sound. When games are built from the beginning, they're made without sound. And when you add the music and the sound, you're giving life to the game.
So in a way you're creating the bridge between the user and the television, by filling the world around them? How then do you work to connect the player on the outside to the game that's just on the TV surface?
MT: I think about this a lot. Music is really tied to your experiences and memories, similar to how your sense of smell is. If you hear music that you've heard before, it should bring memories from that previous time rushing back. So the game is of course a virtual world, where there are naturally things that don't have any relation to reality.
But perhaps these experiences could happen to you in the future. The music will be tied to these potential future experiences. So I want to create music that will tie you to, and remind you of, the virtual world, but also come back to you in the real world, and create future memories. The soundtrack should recall your old memories, but also help forge new ones.
After you've played the game, when you listen to just the music, I want players to be able to remember the feelings they had at that time, and their feelings of that era.