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“No Such Thing as Bad Music in a Great Game” Sakurai’s Famitsu Column Vol. 562

Note: Do not repost the full translation. Please use the first two paragraphs, link to this translation, and credit Source Gaming. The following is a selection from Famitsu. This translation is for fan use only, and may not accurately reflect the opinions of Masahiro Sakurai. If you enjoyed this article, I would strongly encourage you to support Sakurai by buying his books

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features over 800 songs throughout its stages and over 900 songs in total. We’re still making a few adjustments, so the final count may change, but it’s still an incredible amount of music!

We’ve brought back the My Music feature that allows you to select from a wide range of songs from each stage’s related series. The total number of tracks differs for each series, but there are various reasons for that.

Some series require us to pay a lot of money to use their music since they’ve given the rights to other companies. Some series don’t allow us much choice since securing the rights to use music on a worldwide release is pretty difficult. That means we can only include a few songs. Despite all those limitations, I feel like we’re working really hard with Smash. The amount of energy we’ve spent dealing with rights issues is about a hundred times as much as you would on a normal title.

This time, we’ve invited a lot of different composers to participate, so I’d like to share a little bit about that side of the creative process.

First, I emailed a bunch of famous composers. I guess it was about one-and-a-half years ago. It was difficult to say I was working on Smash at the time, but I trusted them, so I just told it to them straight. Most of the emails I sent myself, but I asked my sound team to email some of the new composers I hadn’t worked with before.

Then, I gathered the composers who gave me the OK in groups of four to six, and showed them the project plan. I went to visit folks at Nintendo’s dev HQ and other companies like Sega, and explained my aim for the project and what I wanted them to look out for. This time, I wanted them to especially focus on making music that really gets your heart pumping during battle.

In the final round of a tournament for Smash for Wii U, the point where everyone should be as riled up as can be, The Roost theme started playing. Even if you set a song to a low frequency, it will still come up every once in a while. I included it because I thought it was a good song, but that incident made me think I should be careful not to include too many songs that didn’t fit the occasion from now on.

After signing NDAs and explaining the project, I immediately had the composers pick what music they would arrange. I prepared a database of thousands of songs, so when one of them asked: “Can I hear that one?” I would simply play it for them right there and then have them decide who would arrange what song. Some people decided immediately. Some people couldn’t decide and took it home with them. Others mentioned their favorite series. Each composer was unique.

Since I prioritized the composers’ requests, there was a little bit of imbalance and overlapping, but I thought it was best to have them arrange music that they liked. This time, the Castlevania and Mega Man series were both very popular, so there are a lot of new arrangements. Fire Emblem also received a surprisingly large number of tracks thanks to one person in particular.

Once the composers picked their songs, I just sat back and waited for them to deliver the finished products. The music supervisor handled all the direct communications, but I made sure to always check the arrangements and ask them to make adjustments as necessary. They had to stay true to the original music while also making it fit the game, so sometimes I had to make very specific requests.

Among the songs that didn’t get picked, some of them have been implemented as-is. Some of them work just fine, but others don’t fit quite as well as I thought…

That’s how we decided which songs would make it into Smash. Now that I’m adjusting all these different songs with such rich histories, I see how impressive it is. It really makes me think there’s no such thing as bad music in a great game. Even if a game’s interesting points come down to taste, I think the music possesses an absolute, objective strength.

one comment
  1. This is definitely interesting. It explains why remixes get spread out as unevenly as they do, but having composers work on the music they’re passionate on explains why the ones that do get rearranged feel so great.

    link3710 on September 5 | Reply

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