I have been combing through interviews to find some good examples of video game composers talking about the issues they faced when either rearranging their music or porting their music to another console. I found a great interview with Noriyuki Iwadare, the composer for the Lunar and Grandia series, speaking specifically on the matter.
Iwadare has been in the unique position over the years of being able to rearrange most of his music, as Lunar: The Silver Star has been recreated numerous times on various consoles. The original was on Sega CD, then it was re-released as Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete for Sega Saturn/Sony Playstion/Windows PC, then re-re-released as Lunar Legend for Game Boy Advance, and finally, re-re-re-released just last year on Sony Playstation Portable as Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star. Iwadare had this to say: [excerpt taken from Interview with Noriyuki Iwadare (Square Enix Music Online – January 2010) – By Chris, webmaster of Square Enix Music Online, tranlasted by Shota Nakama.]
Chris: For the PSP’s Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star, you re-arranged and re-recorded all the music from Lunar: The Silver Star. How did you remake this classic score for the new generation and how does the music compare with previous adaptations? What highlights should listeners expect from the vocal and instrumental themes?
Noriyuki Iwadare: First of all, Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star features the music from Lunar: Silver Star Story, not Lunar: The Silver Star. Even though they are kind of similar, they have different game scenarios and music.
Well, it is true that we re-arranged and re-recorded the music from such an old game from over 10 years ago. First I started considering how I was going to arrange the music. The original music was made for built-in sounds, so the task was to not change the impressions the pieces create, but to enrich their quality.
Then for the recording, I tried to record as many instruments on my own due to the lower budget limit. I bought and practiced the ocarina, recorded the guitar and trombone, and whatnot. I did my best to do whatever I could do to improve the quality of the music. For the North American version, we also re-arranged and re-recorded the music for the cutscenes, so please check that out.
(for full interview, check out : http://iwadare.cocoebiz.com/interviews/14.html )
Iwadare, as I read in other interviews, essentially recreated all the music from Lunar: The Silver Star for Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete due to the fact that the game scenarios (as he says above), plot, and “general feelings” of the games were different. I’ve also read there MAY have been copyright issues but I cannot find any confirmation on that. He wrote nearly 100 tracks of new music for Lunar: SSSC, some of which were not included in the game and were pushed on to a bonus disc. Let’s take a look at Iwadare working with Sega Saturn/Sony Playstation sounds (Fighting Spirits):
So, Iwadare wrote this battle theme specifically for the remake over 10 years ago. Interestingly, he released an “arrange album” right around the time of the Sega Saturn release (1996). Here’s an actual rock band arrangement of the same piece, done by Iwadare himself:
Wow. So is this how he would have liked the theme to actually sound? From what I’ve read, Iwadare was ALWAYS frustrated with limitations of gaming consoles so I would have to say yes. Notice also, that since he wasn’t using a “loop” (commonly used in game music scores to make sure the theme can play indefinitely), he actually tacks on an interesting ending. Definitely an upgrade.
Then… uh…. the game was remade for Game Boy Advance as Lunar Legend. I think this speaks for itself (this was REALLY hard to find):
I don’t know if we should even talk about that. Obviously he tried his best but when you’re dealing with hardware that is inferior to your original design, things get a little muddy. Or a lot muddy. I couldn’t find a version of this that loops but the 8 bar intro to the song is not included in the loop (you can BARELY hear that as it tries to loop). I think that’s weird, considering it’s only literally 8 seconds of music and it’s already in the song once so it’s not like it’s new data or anything… weird.
Finally, let’s look at his most current version of the work in Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star:
Wow, so clearly Iwadare’s opinion has changed on the piece over the last 13 years. It’s refreshingly orchestral (I think a lot of game music is headed in that direction). I also think it’s funny to imagine Iwadare on trombone playing backgrounds. The guitar is up an octave vs. the arranged album. There’s a lot more reverb. There’s also more intense and almost distractingly busy background figures. I feel like Iwadare threw everything he had into it (with varying success). Strangely, he did not choose to include parts of the arranged version (there’s a 30-40 second bridge). I guess he really was just re-arranging the original SSSC version of it. I wonder why he would do that, considering how much more the bridge adds to the whole piece. It’s also especially strange he would leave it out considering how Iwadare frequently expresses his frustration with the limitations of the older consoles- both in sound quality and length of tracks. It’s fascinating that in a scenario where he is given much more freedom, he doesn’t necessarily take those risks. I’d love to ask him about that some day.
At any rate, I appreciate any of your comments.