[Jeriaska catches up with the duo behind Capcom's just-debuted Super Street Fighter IV, discussing the creation of the stylish updated fighting game's soundtrack.]
Sound director and designer Masayuki Endou and in-house Capcom composer Hideyuki Fukasawa joined us in 2009 for a discussion of their ongoing collaborations on video game audio, titled "The One-Two Punch of Street Fighter IV's Audio
The conversation centered on approaches to pairing sound effects with compositions, writing original tracks that complement the imaginative international locales of the popular fighting game, and arranging classic themes written by Yoko Shimomura
and other artists.
In this follow-up interview, the two audio designers offer insights into the making of Capcom's Super Street Fighter IV
. From generating the noises of Hakan's slippery special moves, to the identity of the uncredited guest vocalist on the Tokyo Overpass stage, the sound team reveals that numerous secrets underlie the Street Fighter
Since its release last year Street Fighter IV has exceeded expectations as a commercial success. What was your reaction upon discovering that Super Street Fighter IV would come next?
Hideyuki Fukasawa, game composer: When I first got word that there would be a Super Street Fighter IV
, I was speechless. We were still hard at work on Street Fighter IV
! Of course I had been holding out hope for the success of the game because it marked my first foray into writing for the series and I didn't want to tarnish its reputation. I knew it would be a challenge to deliver on expectations, having inheriting the duty of arranging so many classic melodies.
Masayuki Endou, sound director and designer: Street Fighter IV
was intended to be a summation of the series' history, incorporating all the ideas and techniques that had emerged over the years. The positive reception seemed to be direct consequence of these efforts. It gave me confidence that our audience recognized the care we had invested into the development process.
At the same time, I felt there was room for further exploration. There were still opportunities to expand on the ideas that had been met with enthusiasm from game players. With those aspirations waiting to be fulfilled, I could not have been more pleased upon receiving news of the plans for Super Street Fighter IV
You've both worked closely together in determining the sound of Street Fighter IV. How has your working relationship evolved over the course of these two latest fighting games?
HF: Our trust has certainly grown over time. Endou-san has a big heart, and I get the feeling he's fighting battles to defend the needs of our sound team without my even knowing it. I can devote my full attention to the demands of composing and be at ease knowing that we're covered.
ME: I'm finding over time that in offering direction, I have less and less need to explain myself. (laughs) There isn't the need to request specifics, like particular chords progressions. Rather it's enough to give my impressions regarding what might be appropriate. It's rare that giving just an intimation of your ideas is enough to spark a shared understanding with another individual. It leads me to believe that in working together our trust has grown and we're increasingly on the same wavelength.
How much new music were you asked to write for Super Street Fighter IV, and how much additional work was required for the sound design?
HF: We had already established the scope of the Street Fighter IV
soundtrack, so all that was needed was to barrel ahead. We had received requests for further variations on previously existing character themes, and Endou-san suggested experimenting with a wider number of musical genres. Having recently listened to the audio on a 5.1 home surround system, I came away with an inkling of the high standards Endou-san had set for himself.
ME: I was surprised when I heard there would be ten new characters added to the mix. That volume exceeded my expectations. What was even more of a shock was the decision that every character would be receiving new ultra combos. All told, that amounted to 45 ultra combos, a new prologue and ending, additional stages and costumes, rival battles and gameplay balancing. The total number of music tracks, including those without fixed labels, exceeded 100 in number. It was clear that the development team's ambitions went well beyond merely providing an upgrade to the Street Fighter IV
Was there anything that you had wanted to do on the previous title but never got the chance that later figured into the making of the Super Street Fighter IV score?
A lot of fans requested character themes be provided for all the fighters. Now you have the choice of either a stage theme or character theme to listen to in every situation. That meant I could really let my imagination run wild. For instance in arranging Adon's theme, I set my troubles aside and its overall shape just seemed to flow effortlessly from my mind. Fei Long's theme involved a hybrid of rock and dance music with an Asian flair, which wound up being among my personal favorites.
In preparing for Super Street Fighter IV, did you ever head to the arcades to play the previous release among strangers and get a sense of their response to the sound design?
ME: I have checked out the reactions of game players at the arcades. You can expect to hear people shouting out loud in response to a successfully executed ultra combo, but you can also learn a lot from paying attention during the quieter moments. It can help in ascertaining when to adjust the sound to more perfectly complement the gameplay experience.
HF: I'm always checking the comments sections on video sites. I also get messages from people from all over the world saying, "Hey, I arranged your song!" That informs my work as well.
Hakan's moves center on his oiling himself up during fights in order to perform special grappling attacks. Did these maneuvers demand capturing a selection of squishing sounds?
ME: Hakan's music theme is already a reflection of his personality, so the trait of oiling himself up we decided would best be represented in the sound effects, rather than interwoven into the background music. Noises of oil sloshing around did not in themselves give us much to work with, so I started playing with a combination of things to give you the sense that Hakan's been greased up. It involved pouring oil and water on a mirror and scrubbing the surface in front of a live microphone for about an hour. (laughs)
Guy and Cody both appear in Capcom's Final Fight game series, which has recently reappeared with remixed graphics and sound on the Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. Because Final Fight is not a versus fighting game, was it necessary to reinterpret stage themes as belonging to these specific characters?
ME: Guy's theme is an arrangement of the Stage 1 background music, and has previously been arranged for the Street Fighter
series. For Cody, we chose the intro theme from Final Fight.
The choice of characters was of course left to the producers, but we were given plenty of freedom in deciding on a sound for the arrangements.
You've spoken about how an electronic music approach to region-specific instruments was an important part of giving context to the diverse locales of Street Fighter IV. What regional influences have you found had an impact on the audio of Super Street Fighter IV?
HF: While all manner of geographical territories are represented musically in some form, I wound up relying on the use of a lot of Chinese instruments and came away with strong positive feelings for Africa's stage theme. Something I learned from listening to the finished product is that traditional Japanese music has had an unconscious influence on my compositions.
Of course, growing up in Japan doesn't necessarily mean you know much about instruments like the shakuhachi and shamisen. In fact, the number of Japanese musicians that have an informed knowledge of these instruments is very small. Honestly, my familiarity with the bagpipes is on par with that of the shakuhachi. In effect I think this provided an even playing field for the use of regional instruments across the board on this soundtrack.
There's a rumor that the vocoder-sounding female vocalist on the Tokyo Overpass stage is really your voice digitally manipulated. Is this really the case?
HF: That's the long and short of it. The female vocalist is not Hatsune Miku
. We were nearing the end of production on that track and it came down to there being no other option if I wanted vocals included than to sing the lyrics myself. So that's what I did. It was then that I summoned all the powers of technology at my disposal to cover my tracks and eradicate all evidence that it was my voice on there. I think there's another song like that in Super Street Fighter IV
... ah, actually, I'd better leave it at that.
You've devised a new ending medley for Super Street Fighter IV. What were you interested in accomplishing for the finale this time around?
ME: What I enjoyed the most about the ending to Street Fighter IV
was that it brought a positive resolution to the story. For Super
, I felt we needed to take that happy ending into the realm of the sublime. The sheer volume of characters, the balance and upgrades brought to the battle system, all speak to the epic nature of the game's scope. There needed to be some way to end the game on a fittingly spectacular note. To construct a fluid composition out of elements of various disparate character themes is, to put it mildly, easier said than done. I have great admiration for Fukasawa-san's repeated success in doing just that.
HF: I just wanted to try something different this time out!
Is there a personal message you would like to leave with those who have enjoyed the sound design of Super Street Fighter IV?
HF: It's a source of happiness to be chosen for the role of delivering music to the many fans of Street Fighter
around the world. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has gone out of their way to send me their personal messages. Thank you for supporting the Street Fighter
ME: Now that "Super" has been added to the title of Street Fighter IV
, my heart's desire is to live up to your super expectations. I hope that people will continue to find enjoyment in the Street Fighter
series long into the future.
[This article is available in Japanese on Game Design Current and in Italian on Gamesource.it. Translation is by Yoko Wyatt.]