Interview:Metro October 20th 2011

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Metro October 20th 2011


October 20, 2011





After Aonuma highlights the dynamic aspects of the Zelda series and Skyward Sword, Kondo discusses some interesting elements of composing for video games.



Step forward Eiji Aonuma, who is producing the latest Zelda title for Nintendo Wii, Skyward Sword, due out on November 18.

'Users recognised the birth of something exciting that was the result of everything being a leap into the unknown when we were creating the structure for Ocarina Of Time in a 3D environment,' he says. 'I don't think the franchise would have enjoyed long-term success if there hadn't been an element of this in previous games. We can continually create new and more interesting titles.'

Responding to claims the series has shown signs of becoming stale in recent years, Aonuma says: 'There have been very few 'internal' changes to the Zelda formula in recent games. This time, we started development with the view that we needed to rectify this situation on Skyward Sword. We introduced some puzzles to new environments and removed the dungeon and field format as a means of breaking away from stereotyped formulae.'

'We have also made theme changes possible and have allowed different games to unfold sequentially in the same location based on the same system. In so doing, we have managed to create a much more profound game than in the past, with a more compact world in which the player's memory becomes the key to unlocking the game's secrets.

'In addition, I believe that the feeling that one's own movements are transposed directly into the game world itself thanks to Wii Motion Plus creates an even stronger sense of being immersed in Zelda's world.'

The MotionPlus is a bundled add-on which aims to make the Wii remote more accurate. Instead of pre-programmed sword swipes, your moves are translated exactly. The tech also makes archery, dowsing and flying more intuitive.

Visually, the game has always been experimental and the French Impressionist movement provided the inspiration for Skyward Sword. Its music and sound design have been equally as iconic and Tuesday's concert will feature songs hand-picked by celebrated Nintendo composer Koji Kondo.

'Film music is aimed at expressing the emotions of the characters,' explains Kondo. 'The most important element of game music is to make the player feel they are immersed and interacting with the changes that are occurring in real time.'

'On the first Super Mario, we focussed primarily on rhythms which would express the pleasure the player feels when making Mario jump. For The Legend of Zelda, we focussed instead on the feelings the player experiences while he or she swings the sword and fells enemies, as well as the feelings of bravery and courage when moving on to new places and new adventures,' he adds.

'We are still using the same concepts now when creating the music, so for Mario the focus is on the feelings the user experiences while manipulating Mario onscreen and for Zelda on allowing the user to feel that he or she has entered into the screen and is experiencing the action.'

When discussing the iconic sound effects of Zelda though Kondo sees no distinction between them and more traditional game music: 'Both use sound to express what needs to be expressed.'

As far as Kondo is concerned though creating a memorable sound effect is even more difficult than music. 'It can be said that sound effects pose more difficulties because each is much shorter and more compact than a piece of music and so it often happens that it takes quite a bit longer to express something well using them,' he says.

In his position Kondo has all the time in the world to work on a game's sound design, but he does admit that even as the quality of video game music has improved the number of truly memorable tunes seems to be decreasing.

'I think one can say that with fewer and fewer limitations on tone and improvements in sound quality, it has become possible recently to infuse one single piece of game music with greater depth and variety than was previously possible,' he says.

'However, I believe that if the changes are not pertinent to the person playing the game but are merely changes based on the piece itself, then the result is something which is inappropriate for use as a piece of game music. What I am trying to say is that the changes themselves impose a musical development (feelings of rhythm, excitement, etc.) onto the overall composition which is inappropriate.

'When seen from this perspective, we could very probably say that simple pieces with limitations on the number of sounds and the length of the music are most suitable for use as game music.'