A while back, Kingdom Heart 3D [Dream Drop Distance] appeared in the April 26, 2012 issue of Famitsu Weekly magazine. This article contained an interview with Tai Yasue, the co-director of the game, as well as Yoko Shimomura, Takeharu Ishimoto and Tsuyoshi Sekito, the composers for the game. Check below for our scans of the whole interview-- all parts!
Update 3 (August 21, 2012): Our translator goldpanner has translated the interview with Yoko Shimomura, Takeharu Ishimoto and Tsuyoshi Sekito, the composers for Kingdom Hearts 3D. Thanks to her, this can be read below.
--What was the concept for the music for this title?
Shimomura: For this title, it was 'dreams' and 'night'. Working with an image of a glittering night time theme park in my mind, I wanted to create tracks that were adorable and yet seeming to hold secrets.
--Were there any particular orders from director Nomura in relation to the music?
Shimomura: He gave me they keyword I mentioned just before, 'dreams'. He also told me he wanted me to make the music generally up-tempo, with a busy feel.
--There are many new worlds this time, aren't there?
Shimomura: The new world Country of the Musketeers, from The Three Musketeers, was impressive. We hadn't had a world with that atmosphere until now, so it was a lot of fun to make. However, the Country of the Musketeers and another world, La Cité des Cloches from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, were both set in Paris so in order to stop their music sounding similar I divided them into a dark, oppressive atmosphere and an energetic feel.
--It was impressive how you had matching tracks called 'One for All' and 'All for One' in Country of the Musketeers.
Shimomura: I used that in the titles on purpose, because it's a world-famous phrase. The pair feels sort of like a two-in-one track, doesn't it?
Three kinds of music, three kinds of charm
--Mr Ishimoto and Mr Sekito, this is the second time you've worked on the KH series after your involvement in KHBBS. Mr Ishimoto, what is the story behind your involvement?
Ishimoto: This title was going to use music from The World Ends With You which I had been in charge of, and I decided I wanted to put my hand up for that and also the music for The Grid from Tron: Legacy. Saying I'd do it was easy, but then the music from the Tron: Legacy movie was far too good, I was like, oh no this'll be hard... (dry laughter).
Shimomura: Thanks for doing it for me (laughs).
--The music for Traverse Town and the music from The World Ends With You are completely different despite being for the same world, aren't they?
Shimomura: In the beginning I was like, how on earth is this going to work?? But the way it turned out sounds unexpectedly fitting, doesn't it?
Ishimoto: Do you think so? (laughs)
Shimomura: What! It does, right!? I thought it was really nice, having the modern and cool music from The World Ends With You and the same old Kingdom Heartsy Traverse Town theme play in the same world.
--The tracks from The World Ends With You have been remixed quite a bit compared to the original songs, haven't they?
Ishimoto: We already released a remix album for TWEWY so I thought I was all remixed out, but this time we changed the vocals and even just that gives it quite a different atmosphere, I think.
--What's something we should listen out for in the remixes?
Ishimoto: The moment in 'TWISTER -KINGDOM MIX-' where there's only acoustic guitar and vocals. I think you'll be surprised the first time you hear it.
--Many of the tracks that Mr Sekito was in charge of, for example 'Storm Drive' for Dive Mode, are cheerful songs, aren't they?
Sekito: Actually, in the beginning I'd done about two tracks before Nomura came to me and said, 'they're good songs but they aren't very KH-like'. So, I did them all over again twice. I was very careful not to make them gloomy, but I was still shaking like a leaf when I presented them for the third time (laughs).
--(Laughs) Ms Shimomura, did you listen to their tracks during production of your own?
Shimomura: No, I only listened a little in the final stage of development. I submitted so much more music data than I received, so I had to give priority to checking my own parts, even when I was checking the music by playing the game. But, I think it's great that theirs has a different atmosphere to mine. I thought, wow, I love Mr Sekito's cheerful boss themes. I wonder why mine are so gloomy (laughs).
--However, Ms Shimomura's 'Dream Eaters' with 'la la la♪' playing in the background is a very cheerful song, isn't it? I was surprised the first time I heard it (laughs).
Shimomura: That's the double-edged sword of a reputation, isn't it? In the beginning I wanted to have a deep manly voice singing that song, sort of like a track that's both cute and off-putting at the same time? But Tetsu (Mr Tetsuya Nomura) said no (laughs). So, we went with the cute voice in it now, and even though I felt it was an easy way out, the gamers seem more surprised than I expected. I think it made a good impact, in a way.
Arrangements breathing new life in
--How did the title screen's 'Dearly Beloved' come to be a cheerful waltz-like arrangement?
Shimomura: We decided from the start that this title would have a positive and cheerful feel. Also, since the title was '3D' I went with triple metre (laughs).
--So that's the reason (laughs). What's the secret to arranging a theme you've done so many times before?
Shimomura: There's no real secret, I don't think... If there are some I've popped out right away, there are some that I thought would be impossible to make sound different from the one before. In this title Mr Sekito arranged 'Destati' from KH1 in the two tracks 'My Heart's Descent' and 'The Eye of Darkness'. Those arrangements wouldn't have come to mind for me, I thought they were great. It's very welcome to see arrangements that start from such a different angle.
--Mr Sekito, what's the story behind the two different arrangements of 'Destati' that you worked on?
Sekito: I originally arranged them for use in Dive Mode. In the place where the music was to be used, scenes from the past were going to come up like floating lanterns, so unlike other Dive Modes I prepared two of them, one that tapped out the rhythm and one that didn't. And then, for whatever reason, both tracks ended up being used. Furthermore, one track was used as a boss theme. I thought it would be better to add a chorus if it was to be used for such an important part, so Kawamori (Mr Keiji Kawamori, synthesiser operator for this title) put one in for me. He did a beautiful job with that chorus.
--So, Ms Shimomura, do you think the two tracks were impressive, too?
Shimomura: Yes, I do. The tracks from 'The World Ends With You' give quite the impact near the opening, then Mr Sekito's arrangement wraps up the boss at the end, so, it felt sort of like they were taking all the tasty parts (laughs).
Sekito: No no, we were simply dancing the Fool's Dance in the palm of your hand, Ms Shimomura (laughs).
Shimomura: Why the Fool's Dance?? (laughs)
Sekito: Whoops, I meant the Bon Dance! Or even the hula dance (laughs).*
[*Translator Note: I think the joke is that he meant to equate Shimomura as his selfless and generous ancestor from the origin story of the traditional Japanese Bon Dance. However, he accidentally used the name of a different dance performed for the same festival in a particular region, known as the Fool's Dance, which has a different origin story, involving drunken people dancing quite entertainingly!]
Composing in a three-person team
--Do you think that the music of KH will be composed in a three-person team from now on?
Shimomura: I hope so...
--What was it like, working with three other people?
Shimomura: It gave me such peace of mind. It felt good knowing that things would still get done somehow if, and this is a weird example, but if my health were to deteriorate and I collapsed. It's not about escaping work, but just the sense of security that if something were to happen to me, these people would complete the music of KH for me. Also, I think it's more stimulating composing in a group of three. When you work with someone else, it creates a sort of sense of nervousness that they might end up taking over the tracks you want to be in charge of.
Ishimoto: I don't know if the next title will have a three-person team. I am not aware that I'll be working on KH regularly in the future. I feel like it will work out that I can be there to help out any time if things are too much for Ms Shimomura.
Sekito: I think I'll end up participating as some sort of support too, but I'd love to be put on the KH staff roll, so I'll take the chance if it comes again! (laughs)
Shimomura: I definitely want to compose for the next titles, but Tetsu is so hard on me... Actually, I don't get many opportunities to see him, basically only when he comes to evaluate the tracks I've made. So I have to do my absolute best... so I do really want to ask you two for help again (laughs).
--In our KH 10th Anniversary Special Feature (Weekly Famitsu edition published 19/4), Mr Nomura answered that he defined the music of KH as 'Shimomura Style'.
Shimomura: What an honour. However, he doesn't make a habit of telling me that (laughs).
--So there are many do-overs, then?
Shimomura: We've had less do-overs as the series has gone on, but to an extent that's because I now take longer to submit a piece... See, as I've gotten older I've raised the bar for myself, and when I make a track I am much more likely to judge that it is no good. I can pinpoint the one section in a track that I'm not happy with. So, these days I'm not asked as often to redo parts I was personally happy enough to submit, I think I get more requests for additions or amendments like 'up the tempo'.
--I see. How do you feel about KH reaching a 10th Anniversary?
Shimomura: I feel old (laughs). Ishimoto, you did the manipulation on KH Chain of Memories and KH2 for me, didn't you. Thank you so much for your troubles back then!
Ishimoto: Don't even worry about it. Ten years... I definitely didn't think the three of us would be working on one package. That said, Ms Shimomura, you were the one who interviewed me when I joined Square (as it was known), weren't you (laughs)
Shimomura: Oh wow, yeah! Back in those days, seeing as we often continued our work at bars it was important to know if people could handle their alcohol, so as part of the interview I'd ask them if they drank. When I asked, both heavy drinkers and lightweights would usually answer with a vague 'a little bit'. But Ishimoto answered with a plain 'I don't drink'. So, I thought, wow, this person has a strong will. I can definitely rely on him. At that time I was in charge of Legend of Mana, and the manipulators were short on hands. The interview was to hire someone we could rely on to do the job straight away, and it was that last word that made me trust I could go with him. ...But, you actually do drink, don't you? (laughs)
Ishimoto: Just a very little.
Shimomura: Mr Sekito, how about you?
Sekito: I don't drink (laughs).
Shimomura: Oh, so none of us drink? ...What a team of lightweights we must be (laughs).
Sekito: Ms Shimomura, you drink like a fish! (laughs)
--(Laughs). How about a last message to the fans.
Ishimoto: I didn't originally join this company as a composer, so I am happy to be able to compose as much as I am allowed. And so, if you buy the game or the soundtrack and my tracks are part of your enjoyment, it would be my greatest pleasure. By all means purchase the soundtrack, I would love you to tell me your impressions on Twitter.
Sekito: We thought of many ideas to make the game more fun while we were composing, so I would love for you to first and foremost enjoy the game. And then if you buy the soundtrack, I'll be able to eat next month (laughs). I'm joking. I really hope you enjoy the game as well as the sound track.
Shimomura: I would love for the soundtrack and the game to work together to stretch out your enjoyment, like you play the game and think ooh I love this song and buy the soundtrack, then after a while listen to the soundtrack and have it make you want to play the game again.
Update 2: Famitsu.com have updated with the second part of the interview, which focuses on Yoko Shimomura, Takeharu Ishimoto and Tsuyoshi Sekito, the composers for the game. This is in Japanese at the moment, but will eventually be translated for you!
Update 1: goldpanner has translated the entirety of the Tai Yasue portion of the interview! Thanks to her, you can read this translation below.
The latest title in the Kingdom Hearts series, 3D[Dream Drop Distance] (here on ‘KH3D’) has been out on sale for about a month. We’re sure even those who have cleared the game are still enjoying things like collecting breeding items, capturing special portals and Flick Rush. Today we’ll hear from Mr. Tai Yasue, who also co-directed KH Birth by Sleep (here on ‘KHBBS’), and the group of composers who worked on the score. Let’s enjoy the game even more with these new discoveries!
Developer Interview 1: Co-director Mr. Tai Yasue
We asked the co-director for this title, Tai Yasue, for some behind-the-scene stories. Here we present must-see info on how the bold action was brought to life and the secret story of Meow Wow!
*Mr. Yasue is a member of the Square Enix Osaka Team. This interview was conducted via a video call between Tokyo and Osaka.
The Sense of Achievement That Comes After Frustration
--Please tell us about an episode that left you with a deep impression of the development of KH3D.
Yasue: When I think of the final stages of development, I am left with a strong impression of unique enthusiasm. We had some exhausting times when we couldn’t even go home, unexpected bugs popping up. Like for example when the Dream Eaters movements while making friends were looking weird no matter what we did and everyone put everything we had into adjusting it. We couldn’t have guessed it would get that chaotic after the refreshing feeling in early stages of development (laughs).
--Where did you have the most hardship?
Yasue: It could be that I’m forgetting, but I don’t think there were really hardships as such. We were busy, but development was speedy and it went well, so… aah, the Drop was a hardship.
--We heard that the Drop System by which you control both Sora and Riku was suggested by (Director) Mr. (Tetsuya) Nomura.
Yasue: When Nomura told us, ‘I want you to do a system that forcibly switches which character is being controlled,’ I felt dread (laughs). It was going to be a change in tempo for KH so far, see. The talks about this amongst the planners really stacked up. It would come off as demanding if it was simply a restriction, so in order to make it feel like a positive thing we made it so Sora and Riku could co-operate through Drop Points. I think bringing that into reality was a huge point.
--It’s pretty frustrating dropping in a boss battle and having to start all over again when you come back (laughs).
Yasue: (Laughs). The thing about games is, if there isn’t an aspect of frustration, then there won’t be any sense of satisfaction, will there? That’s exactly why I wanted to put that in!
--That’s certainly true, there’s a particular sense of satisfaction that comes from beating a boss just in time. Incidentally, the game counts how many times you Drop. Is there a meaning to that?
Yasue: The Drop count is shown, like play time, as something to perhaps set goals for. It doesn’t affect anything. It’s more important that Dropping changes the state of affairs in the worlds, I would say.
--The ‘event forecast’ that lets you forecast change in the worlds is an interesting test.
Yasue: That was suggested as a ‘weather forecast system’. You get worked up when you know what day a typhoon is coming, don’t you (laughs). I wanted to organise things by making players able to see future changes in affairs.
From Action to Action
--With action, the implementation of Flowmotion is a big topic. How did that come about?
Yasue: During talks with Nomura, we came to see that we were going in the direction of running around the map freely, and action using walls and poles was suggested to fit with that. In the beginning, we began making it using data from KHBBS. The plans solidified over two or three days, and had taken shape at the end of one or two weeks. We never wavered from the direction we’d decided upon after that. We did add Blowoff and make some fine adjustment during, though. I get the impression that this is the shape of the natural evolution for KH.
--Was being able to use it not just for moving but also for attacks something you incorporated from the start?
Yasue: Yes, it was actually. The battles in this title feel good, so I was thinking of the action as something I wanted to have used in battle, something that could be used not just for moving but also for attacking. Also with Flowmotion you can get basically anywhere, so the amount of moving gets bigger, you see. Accordingly, we had to make the maps bigger three-dimensionally. And then we had to work out the positioning of treasure chests a bit and make places that were hard to get to and the like.
--It certainly is rather difficult to collect all the treasure chests in this title.
Yasue: It’s pretty terrible isn’t it (laughs). Well, we made the movement gimmicks important to the maps. In KH it's important for the player to come into contact with a gimmick and trigger some kind of action, so we added mechanisms like stretching ropes in Traverse Town and climbing pipes in The World That Never Was. It’s not just one action. Jump off a pole to kick off a wall into Blowoff… I think it’s important to use the gimmicks in a flow like that and connect one action to another.
--And, how did you come about adopting Reality Shift?
Yasue: Nomura said he wanted tight playability on the bottom screen, so, keeping in mind gameplay that fitted with the style of each world and ‘dreamlike-ness’, we thought up Reality Shift. There was also the fact that so far I hadn’t made a game that used touch and slide controls and as a planner I wanted to try it.
Recoiling from Meow Wow
--The Dream Eaters have a different look to the enemies in the series up until now. What sort of concept was there?
Yasue: Nomura was particular about that. We had to make sure they looked awkward but cute, an un-fawning type of cuteness. Their behaviour is the same, they don’t perfectly support the player, they goof off and the like. We took particular care to give them a sense of personality. They are a bit no-good in some ways. By the way, when Nomura first showed me a picture of Meow Wow, I recoiled. Did Nomura seriously draw this, sort of thing (laughs). At that point in time he already had movements specified, like, it has legs but it bounces on its stomach. After that for some reason there was also a period where we gave it gross bug-like movements with wiggling legs (dry laughter), but when I saw the finished product it was charmingly cute. I thought, ‘good old Nomura!’ (laughs)
--(Laughs). This title is bursting with things to enjoy. Even the growth system varies by personality.
Yasue: You can prod and stroke Spirits on the training screen, but I like to be horribly unkind, so right from the start I pushed the prodding portion. I'm sure a kind person would stroke them, but when I look at Meow Wow, no matter what I end up wanting to prod it (laughs). And so, we went with a system where you don't fail because of the way you make contact, but instead can enjoy things such as growth and personality variance at ease.
--Please tell us about the Flick Rush minigame.
Yasue: In the beginning we planned wi-fi battles that took and used a photo of your opponent, but Nomura said that was no good, and so we shifted in the direction of something like the card game 'Speed'. At the time I received from Nomura a storyboard he had scribbled in pencil. From there we adjusted it many times until it took the shape it has today. I personally like making minigames, and I felt such a sense of challenge and worth, enough that I felt like I always wanted to make minigames. Flick Rush was fun for me as a creator because I was able to hear all sorts of opinions and improve during the various on-the-spot testings.
--Could you please tell us your recommended Dream Eater for Flick Rush?
Yasue: Naru Bird, maybe... cause it comes dropping out of the sky like a bomb. After that I like Meow Wow... gobbled up by Boukon Rex. Meow Wow is just perfect for getting stuck between the teeth (laughs).
--You're determined to torment Meow Wow, aren't you (laughs). By the way, Mr. Yasue, where do you focus your determination when it comes to action?
Yasue: That's difficult... In KHBBS, I was very conscious of how good it felt to have style variation in battle, but in this title, perhaps a 'feeling of piercing speed'. Included with that is 'how good it feels to connect from action to action'. Rather than aiming for the same thing every time, I want to look for a different route. I know I want to change the concept of action each time I make a KH title in the future, too.
--A while ago we heard from Mr. Nomura that FF Verses XIII, FF Type-0, and the KH series each have a different direction when it comes to action, and that KH3D shows a new direction for the KH series in the future. What are your thoughts on that, Mr. Yasue?
Yasue: I think that the main characteristic of the KH series is being able to play dynamically inside carefully and respectfully crafted miniature-garden-like worlds. However, within that I want to clear away all the limits on the places you can go and the things you can do, and shape something you can bust out freer and freer playing. With KH3D's Flowmotion we hit gameplay and technical problems while making you able to run along roofs freely, but we jumped those hurdles, and we will in the future too. I want to overturn the common knowledge of gaming.
--And finally, a message to the readers.
Yasue: Packed with many types of gameplay, we have completed a game that could be called a masterpiece above KHBBS. There is a lot of room to move here, and even on our development team we have many kinds of players, such as people who play nothing but Flick Rush, people who won't use anything but Flowmotion, people who only stroke their Spirit. I truly wish for all the gamers to also discover their own special way to play and a play style they like, and play to the end.