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With 2020 being the 20th anniversary of Sega’s Dreamcast role-playing sport Phantasy Star On-line, we’re trying again with a sequence of interviews that includes key staff members who labored on the sport. Over the previous two weeks, we’ve posted chats with producer Yuji Naka and director Takao Miyoshi, and now we transfer over to composer and sound designer Hideaki Kobayashi.

Kobayashi’s trippy digital music is without doubt one of the most notable parts of Phantasy Star On-line, and from the unique PSO onward, Kobayashi has been accountable for almost all of the sequence’ sound design and soundtrack work. Under, Kobayashi shares his ideas in regards to the substantial physique of music he’s created, the collaborations which have occurred on the sequence, PSO in live performance, secret fan service, and the music he composes in his free time.

Are you able to please clarify your position on the PSO staff? I do know you have been accountable for the theme songs, however have been you accountable for all of the sound within the sport?

There was a sound director who determined the general temper of the sport. Initially, I labored underneath him to create varied sounds and items of music. There was one other creator on the staff who I labored with to create the background music and sound results. I got here up with the sounds that I felt match nicely within the sci-fi atmosphere that PSO was going to be set in.

Had been you a member of the Wave Grasp staff [an audio group at Sega] on the time?

It’s just a little difficult. At first I used to be at Sega Enterprises. Within the early 2000s, I converted to Wave Grasp, and that’s the place all of the sound creators have been. Wave Grasp nonetheless exists immediately, however at one level all of the creators moved again to Sega, and now all of us work at Sega Video games.

How lengthy would you say you have been at Wave Grasp?

I’d must look it up. I used to be there for just a few years.

You have been part of Wave Grasp in the course of the growth of PSO?

For the primary PSO title, I used to be working underneath Sega Enterprises.

Was Wave Grasp all the time a publishing label, too?

Initially, they have been a label and in addition did sound manufacturing. I labored for Wave Grasp in the course of the growth of Phantasy Star On-line Episode 3: CARD Revolution.

Wave Grasp revealed their very own sport at one level, proper?

Sure, they did. It was known as Roommania #203.

Hideaki Kobayashi stands in front of the Sega logo on a wall

Hideaki Kobayashi
Picture: James Mielke for Polygon

How did you get assigned to the PSO venture and develop into the soundtrack composer?

The rationale why I used to be chosen most likely needed to do with the timing of the venture, and the sound director on the time will need to have thought I’d be a very good match. Along with that, although, there was additionally the truth that I personally actually appreciated the unique Phantasy Star. I realized how one can play the [Yamaha] Electone, an electrical organ, in center faculty and created my very own preparations of the music of Phantasy Star. That’s how a lot I like the sport, and it’s one cause why I acquired into Sega within the first place.

Sooner or later, my boss got here round to my desk asking if I knew about Phantasy Star. I’m like, “In fact!” To which my boss responded, “We’re making a sport within the Phantasy Star universe. Would you be fascinated by giving it a shot?” And I advised him “sure” on the spot. So, that was how I acquired the place. I used to be nonetheless a rookie, solely about two years since becoming a member of Sega, so the staff most likely didn’t know something about me. I can solely guess that their response to having me was most likely like, “Nicely, let’s give this man a shot.” That was the primary time I made a demo tape for a theme track and the music for the primary few levels. Happily, these items I wrote matched nicely with what the event staff had created, and so they permitted my work. That’s, I believe, when the event staff accepted me and I used to be capable of be concerned with the complete venture.

Phantasy Star On-line is developing on its 20th anniversary. This was certainly one of your early tasks, trying again, however how do you mirror on the event of the sport at this level?

I joined the Phantasy Star On-line franchise within the yr 2000 with PSO and have been concerned with virtually each model of the sport since, for 20 years. It’s develop into my life’s work, actually. On the identical time, 20 years has passed by in a blink of an eye fixed, from my standpoint. Proper now [at the time of this interview in 2019], we’re engaged on Phantasy Star On-line 2. We’ve been engaged on this title for over 5 years. It actually feels just like the years flew previous.

Had been you concerned with Phantasy Star Nova on PlayStation Vita?

I wasn’t concerned with Nova straight, no.

As a result of it was developed by TriAce?


What are your favourite musicians or influences?

That’s troublesome. With reference to BGM, after I was in school I used to be in a jazz band. It was huge band jazz. I used to be closely influenced by that fashion. After that, I went to a music faculty for 2 years. It was the late 1990s and I used to be uncovered to fusion music … Brecker Brothers. However Chick Corea, additionally. Additionally, French composer Michel Legrand, who handed away lately.

That’s fascinating, as a result of PSO has a really synthesized really feel, and that felt like a deliberate alternative for the sci-fi aspect. A number of the music is type of trippy, like an acid journey, as a result of the sounds have been modulated lots. What have been your targets whereas making the music?

[laughs] Yeah, I began with, “What sort of music would match the PSO world?” I assumed that ambient music would work. I actually wished to make use of ambient music, particularly within the scenes that weren’t battle scenes. For the battle scenes, I added extra rhythm and beats with extra melodic songs. The way in which the music modifications is just a little distinctive in PSO. The music is seamless between the battles and non-battle scenes. Perhaps that transition comes off as sounding just a little trippy.

In the event you have been to mirror in your physique of labor from PSO to Blue Burst and Phantasy Star Universe and PSO2, what would you say are the frequent parts throughout your work?

I believe the aspect that unites the PSO video games is that they’re sci-fi. I wished to essentially embrace that and mirror the sci-fi aspect within the music. Aside from that, there actually isn’t a theme that [unites the music in the game]. I wished to take care of the construction of music that I initially composed for PSO, which I believe has develop into the “colour” or essence of PSO music. Aside from that, it’s music that I like and suits my fashion.

Are you able to discuss what your favourite gear is?

I wish to play trombone, and that’s what I used within the huge band group again within the day. My favourite {hardware} synthesizer is the Roland JV-2080. It was a well-known synthesiser on the time, and all of the Phantasy Star On-line songs have been created on the Roland JV-2080. These days, all of the synthesizers are on the pc within the type of software program, so we stopped utilizing {hardware} for music composition, however the PSO sound was attainable due to that Roland {hardware}.

So not one of the PSO music was composed on the trombone?


You additionally used an orchestra. Within the credit, there’s the orchestra producer and arranger, who rearranged your unique music. Are you able to describe how they have been concerned?

I requested another person to work on the orchestra items. Initially, I composed the theme track and orchestra songs, after which had another person organize them for the orchestra. However the songs I composed have been additionally used within the first stage, so there’s just a little little bit of each, my compositions and orchestral preparations.

Are you able to inform us why you determined to have orchestral preparations within the sport?

Actually, I can’t bear in mind. I believe it was the sound director who wished the opening music to be an orchestral piece.

Have you ever collaborated with lyricists and vocal artists continuously?

I haven’t written too many songs with lyrics. Historically talking, the opening theme songs have had lyrics, however not a lot inside the sport. That has modified for PSO2, which has just a few songs inside the sport which have lyrics.

How do you collaborate with the lyricists and vocalist while you work with them?

I often meet with the lyricist, and supply route and details about what I keep in mind. I solely meet with the vocalist on the recording periods. I’ve often supplied them with the demo tapes upfront, after which give them route as we file.

Is the vocalist additionally the lyricist?

No, they’re completely different individuals.

We’ve spoken with different members of the staff in regards to the technical challenges of PSO. Are you able to discuss a few of the challenges of writing music for the Dreamcast, if any, for this sport?

The place ought to I begin … I discussed earlier that the PSO sounds have been just a little completely different. To elaborate on that, the music information exists as one stream with a bunch of quick items which can be related collectively. Every melody is constructed in 4 measures. These four-measure items are related collectively in-game, in keeping with the gameplay. So, if an enemy seems on display, the music shifts to play the items related to that enemy, or while you’re in fight.

We have been capable of implement all that utilizing the CRI [CSK Research Institute] sound libraries — you might need seen the ADX brand within the sport. That’s all associated to the sound. What the programmer needed to do was insert the particular numbers, like 3.76 seconds, for instance. And, each 3.76 seconds, a brand new melody would play. All of that programming to match the gameplay needed to be completed from scratch, and that was a really troublesome course of. What ended up being a failure for the venture was that there wasn’t sufficient reminiscence obtainable on Dreamcast for the variety of sound results being performed on the identical time.

We selected direct streaming to play again the sound of the sport, however we didn’t understand simply how a lot information there was going to be on the finish. We determined that the sport was going to have a steady stream of music, however what ended up taking place was that it used a lot of the Dreamcast’s {hardware} assets that we encountered loads of crashes associated to that. The phenomenon even gained a popularity as “The Crasher” due to how typically this may crash the sport. That was positively a failure in our method to that. For the GameCube model that got here alongside later, we modified the system in order that the sport would run inside the reminiscence allocation of that {hardware}, and the music can be learn from the {hardware}.

Does that imply the system was always studying off of the Dreamcast GD-ROM?

Sure, so when streaming the music from the disc, there have been some sound results that didn’t match within the reminiscence, so we needed to additionally stream these results from the disc. There have been elements of the sport that used an inflow of these specific sound results and triggered the sport to crash.

The GameCube had extra onboard RAM, so have been you capable of load many of the sound results straight into the reminiscence?

Sure, the GameCube sound reminiscence was greater. I believe we have been capable of load all of the sounds into the GameCube reminiscence.

So when making the model for Xbox — which got here with a tough drive — was that an enormous useful resource for storing the sound results and the soundtrack?

I believe all of the sounds match into the reminiscence for the Xbox, as nicely, however I don’t assume the sounds have been put in onto the laborious drive.

No person used that onerous drive. Are you able to bear in mind the primary observe you composed as a check for PSO?

[It was] the boss observe that performs within the first stage with the dragon, and the title display background music.

Which one is the track that acquired the orchestral remedy?

The theme track, and there have been just a few tracks the place some sections of the track used non-synthesizer devices, significantly the strings sections. The Vol Choose boss struggle was partly orchestrated. There have been varied different songs that additionally had strings layered all through the tracks. And the final boss, Darkish Falz, was one other observe that had strings layered into the observe.

So, these are actual string devices.

Sure, that’s right.

If you have been composing the soundtrack for PSO, have been you conscious of or attempting to keep away from being influenced by another RPGs or motion RPGs?

I believe so. Sure.

In hindsight, are there any sport music composers that you just admire?

Taito’s sound staff. I like Zuntata. I truly wished to work there and utilized for a job place at Taito, however didn’t get the job. However I acquired accepted to Sega so, , no regrets. I wished to work for Sega, as nicely.

12 Phantasy Star Online characters stand side-by-side

Phantasy Star On-line art work
Picture: Sega

Nobuo Uematsu does stay performances of his compositions. Have you ever completed stay live shows with the PSO soundtrack?

We’ve had three PSO live shows. However they have been all live shows after the discharge of PSO2, so it was largely music from PSO2. I believe the primary or second efficiency had a medley of the PSO songs. I didn’t carry out [at the concerts] myself, although.

Are these live shows that have been organized by Sega?

Sure. There have additionally been small gaming occasions the place I used to be requested to carry out the theme track to PSO. For these occasions, I employed a vocalist to do the vocals and I carried out on the keyboard.

That’s actually enjoyable to listen to. Had been these official occasions?

These have been occasions organized by Sega. Each infrequently, Sega organized small occasions for shoppers the place they might come and compete onstage. The winner received prizes, and many others. We determined to do a mini-live live performance at certainly one of these occasions.

With the 20th anniversary developing, perhaps it’s time for an enormous celebration? How about on the Budokan? Perhaps Tokyo Dome?

[laughs] That will be superior.

Of all of the soundtracks, which one is your favourite?

It’s a tough query. I like all of them. I particularly like the primary two. The primary album was recorded on a “CD further”; it was a CD that would retailer information. However when you saved information on it, the remaining storage capability couldn’t maintain the remainder of the tracks. CDs match about 74 minutes of music. But it surely might solely retailer about 45 minutes of music, not sufficient to suit all of PSO’s tracks. That’s why I wished to launch [the second] CD. However, if I recall appropriately, it took awhile earlier than we have been capable of launch the second CD. I used to be happy once we have been lastly capable of launch it with the remaining tracks.

What was on the CD-Further?

It had extra content material, like screenshots, that took up area on the CD and prevented us from together with all of the music from the sport. For the second launch, I wished to verify all of the music was included, so we launched it as a two-disc album.

Working at Sega has allowed you to see a number of albums’ price of music launched on CD. How do you’re feeling about that?

I’m fairly blissful that my music has been launched on CD. Sega most likely wasn’t positive what number of would promote, so we tried together with screenshots and “further” materials to make the product extra interesting. They’ve launched a soundtrack CD for each sport launched, and I’ve strived to write down music that might make individuals wish to purchase the soundtrack, so I’m blissful that I’ve been capable of accomplish that.

In the event you have been recording your individual music, a solo album, outdoors of gaming, what sort of music would you launch?

I’ve launched my very own unique music previously. Not by a writer, however as an beginner artist. I used to burn my very own CDs and promote them at small occasions. These days, I don’t have the time to write down my very own music.

Hideaki Kobayashi carries a large pile of CD cases

Hideaki Kobayashi with lots of his Phantasy Star soundtracks
Picture: James Mielke for Polygon

What sort of music was it?

A number of the songs have been much like the music of PSO, utilizing the synthesizer. I additionally wrote some string quartet items, too. They have been made on a synthesizer, nevertheless it was recorded with a string quartet.

Did you additionally do the composition for Phantasy Star On-line Episode 3: CARD Revolution?

I did some, however not lots. Particularly, the title display and the final boss.

Do you bear in mind attempting to take care of a sure fashion?

On the time, I used to be already engaged on Phantasy Star Universe, and I wasn’t accountable for the music for PSO3. However, partway by the venture, they requested me to come back onboard and write some music for PSO3, so I took the music I used to be writing for Phantasy Star Universe and used it for PSO3. So the music for the title display was initially one thing that I used to be writing for PSU.

Why didn’t you employ it in PSU?

When it got here time to return to work on PSU, the universe was very completely different from the opposite Phantasy Star video games, as , so my unique concepts for PSU didn’t actually work for that sport. So, I made a decision that I wanted to give you a brand new fashion for PSU.

The Phantasy Star Moveable video games have been mainly ports of PSU. However the last sport, Phantasy Star Moveable 2 Infinity, had loads of new, unique content material. Had been you concerned with writing the music for that, as nicely?

Sure. For Infinity, I mainly wrote all the brand new songs that have been wanted for the sport. I believe it was one stage, one boss stage, and one vocal track, as nicely.

Any fascinating tales for the readers?

I don’t know if that is fascinating for the readers, however I joined the venture mid-development and was a hardcore fan. I’d play at my desk and had two Dreamcasts simply so I might play PSO.

Have there been any fan service kinds of issues that you just included into your music?

In PSO2, the music is randomly generated, and I included jingles from the unique Phantasy Star. So gamers would randomly hear jingles from the unique sport whereas taking part in. In Blue Burst, there have been new Rappy characters and I used to be requested to present them new voices, so I recorded voices of individuals within the workplace — and one of many girls whose voices that I recorded is definitely now my spouse.

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