Masaharu Iwata is a founding member of the videogame music studio Basiscape, created in 2002, and a composer, arranger, and sound programmer. Entering the field in the early 1990's, he was credited with the nickname REZON on his earliest game titles, such as the 16-bit shooter Magical Chase. A musician that frequently works with an ensemble, he has recently contributed to the scores of such well recognized game titles as Odin Sphere and Soul Caliber IV. Here, the composer joins RPGFan to discuss his appearance at the 2007 Hyper Game Music live concert and his music for the Nintendo DS strategy title Archaic Sealed Heat.
RPGFan: Iwata-san, thank you for joining us for a conversation on the subject of your music. Your arrangement of Turnover Horizon appeared on the Extra Official Compilation soundtrack as part of the Hyper Game Music project. Can you tell us about your decision to arrange this particular song for the 2007 Hyper Game Music concert?
Masaharu Iwata: I thought I would choose a catchy shooter tune that would have everyone jumping up and down on the dance floor. This was the song I chose to arrange, which was originally for the 8-bit Famicom System.
RPGFan: You composed a number of soundtracks to shooters early in your career. Did this nostalgic music arrangement remind you of those days?
Masaharu Iwata: It brings back all kinds of memories. Back then, when the game industry was in the process of rapidly evolving, it was gratifying for all of us to feel that we were contributing to its expansion. As I was a player myself, I enjoyed listening to the music.
RPGFan: Do you have any opinions on the strengths of the shooter genre as far as music is concerned?
Masaharu Iwata: As a matter of fact, I began my career composing for shooting games. At the time, I played a lot of shoot-em-ups and action platformers, and there was an abundance of games in those categories to draw ideas from for new titles. In that sense, they were easy to work on. The music could elevate the feeling of being immersed in the game world.
RPGFan: How deeply were you involved in organizing the Hyper Game Music event?
Masaharu Iwata: I was not involved in planning the concert. Performing in front of a live audience is not something I excel at, so I participated as a DJ.
RPGFan: What can you tell us about the experience of getting up on stage at the Hyper Game Concert itself?
Masaharu Iwata: It was a truly amazing event. During the other performances, I sneaked into the audience and enjoyed the show myself. In preparing my own song, I had the music and all the accompanying sound effects ready on my laptop, which I took with me to the venue and performed DJ style. The song that was originally created for the concert album I reworked by extending the length to suit a live musical performance.
RPGFan: Your music for strategy RPG titles is among the most well-recognized in the genre, including such games as Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Stella Deus. What new direction did you decide to take in your compositions for this title Archaic Sealed Heat?
Masaharu Iwata: I'm not certain whether this is an entirely new approach, but I wanted to create an organic feel to the sound.
RPGFan: The character design of Archaic Sealed Heat is by Hideo Minaba, and Hironobu Sakaguchi served as producer. What were your initial impressions of the project when you were first brought on board and saw what direction the Mistwalker staff had set out to explore?
Masaharu Iwata: The project was challenging -- my impression was that we were all being taken in a new direction.
RPGFan: Having worked on various projects for home consoles that use CD-quality audio, is the experience of composing for the Nintendo DS more comparable to working with today's high end systems or the sound cards of the Super Famicom era?
Masaharu Iwata: Because there are restrictions on the variety of sounds that can be generated, it was a bit like back in the old days.
RPGFan: Did the setting and scenario of the game inspire choices for the music? One comes away with a strong sense of the in-game locales from tracks such as "Green Woods," "Machinist Army," and "Mercenary of the Wind."
Masaharu Iwata: To a certain extent, I would say that they inspired the selection. There were a variety of technical approaches that I developed, but my primary concern was for the music to match the setting and create an involving experience for the listener.
RPGFan: You are a founding member of the game music studio Basiscape, a prolific developer of videogame music soundtracks. You work with a large team of esteemed composers, including Hitoshi Sakimoto, Manabu Namiki, Mituhiro Kaneda, Noriyuki Kamikura, and Kimihiro Abe. What were the goals of the company upon its creation and how has it moved forward since its inception in 2002?
Masaharu Iwata: Maintaining a sense of teamwork and unity of purpose has been a challenge since the beginning. Each composer must make the most of his individuality, and one hopes that within a single title each of our most personal songs will be a natural fit. In that respect, teamwork is essential. It allows us to complement each other by bringing out each of our strengths.
RPGFan: Are there any special thoughts you would like to share with players that live abroad and listen to your music?
Masaharu Iwata: I would like to say that it is a tremendous honor to have my music enjoyed by listeners. My wish is to persist in contributing to the industry and everyone's enjoyment of its music.
The website is grateful to sound manager Miki Ito for having made this interview possible. Photographs of the Hyper Game Music concert are printed with the permission of 5pb Records.
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