Interviews: Miki Higashino

My fellow blogger over at [Score.] brought to my attention an awesome interview by Square Enix Music Online with Miki Higashino, composer of the Suikoden series.  Check out the full interview here.  If you’re AT ALL a fan of Suikoden, you will definitely need to read this.  Chris Greening does an EXCELLENT job.

Some highlights:

When asked about the limitations of working with older sound systems, Higashino responds:

Everyone on Konami’s sound staff, not just I, spent countless hours working on music and sound effects, trying to overcome the limitations of the sound systems we worked with. You had to be persistent, and keep going through the process of trial and error — just the image that one holds of a Japanese salaryman. Watching them, my perceptions of music and work changed dramatically.

Higashino on Suikoden:

At the beginning of the project I spent two days reading through the scenario, and even then I had come up with ideas for the music in my mind.

Suikoden is based on one of the most important historical novels of Chinese literature. but the game’s towns, cities, and characters span an entire world, with elements of all kinds of cultures, East and West. I realized that it couldn’t all be depicted using a single genre of music. On top of that, the game was on a massive scale, and there was no doubt that this world was unlike anything seen before in an RPG. So I decided to compose something completely different from the music in a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest

The development team wanted theme music for every character, but with 108 characters joining the player’s party, it just wasn’t feasible. Personally, the only characters that stood out to me were Neclord and Millich Oppenheimer (laughs).

Higashino on Suikoden II:

Suikoden II was on an even larger scale than its predecessor, as I knew the moment I laid eyes on its thick scenario. As there was a clear increase in the number of cities and towns, I felt there was a need for a more methodical compositional process.

I would begin by looking at all of the maps I’d received, and think about what kind of people would live in each area and what kind of culture they would have. What kind of climate, races, and industry would there be? Then I would decide on Celtic and early music here, with Spanish music and fado in the city to the south, Middle Eastern music over there, for the ninja village, Japanese music, of course, and so on for each area.

You enter a city, and it’s as if you can hear the music that would actually be performed there, somewhere; isn’t it a bit like taking the player on a journey around the world? So I spent that time searching for and listening to all kinds of folk music and ethnic pop.

Some thoughts:

  • It is EXCELLENT to see that Higashino was so involved with the story and plot of the Suikoden games.  I’ve always noticed that her tracks definitely fit the environments and her town themes are absolutely awesome.
  • It is VERY apparent she spent a lot of time sketching out the music for Neclord, as she says.  I’ve often wondered why Neclord’s music was so involved.  I mean, she wrote this very involved passacaglia just for Neclord’s castle… which constitutes maybe 15 minutes of total game play.
  • The rest of the interview focuses on the other musicians she worked with and inspired.  It’s interesting to see her paired up with Yasunori Mitsuda.
  • I also find it fascinating that she lists her best work as an arcade soccer game.  Here’s some gameplay.
  • And 108 themes?  That would have been amazing.  I’m still really satisfied with her output in the games, regardless.

Feel free to post any comments and/or corrections!  Got a favorite track by Higashino you want to share?  Do it!  And of course, read the interview because it’s awesome.

About Classical Gaming

Steve Lakawicz holds an MM in Music Performance from Temple University as well as a BM in Tuba Performance from Rutgers University . His teachers include Paul Scott, Scott Mendoker, and Jay Krush. His love of video game music has lead him to form a blog, Classical Gaming, to promote discussion both casual and academic about the music of video games. He is the co-founder of the video game/nerd music chamber ensemble, Beta Test Music and regularly composes/performs chiptune music as Ap0c. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he teaches college statistics at Temple University. View all posts by Classical Gaming

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