To date, there have been only two occasions on which famed composer, Nobuo Uematsu, has had a difference of opinion with longtime colleague of 25 years, Hironobu Sakaguchi, the director of The Last Story. The first was when Uematsu submitted music for the original Final Fantasy on the NES. The second occasion was during the development of The Last Story.
In an Iwata Asks interview, Sakaguchi and Uematsu discuss the music for The Last Story with Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata. Uematsu says that, after having his first submission of songs rejected, he had to discard all ideas he had about The Last Story and start over from scratch. What he realized was that Sakaguchi wanted to create a game that broke the mould of regular RPGs.
“With titles that I’d worked on up to then, such as FF, Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon, I was conscious that they were very much in the classic RPG mould,” Uematsu (right) says. “But I knew that this wouldn’t do this time round. It wasn’t just a matter of creating a different style of music. I knew that I would need to go about fundamentally changing the way I approached the task.”
While music in most RPGs is meant to act as “jogging music” for the player, Uematsu ultimately decided to take another approach for The Last Story, to reflect the fact that it was different from other RPGs. Instead of focusing on melodies, which is how most RPG music was made impactful in the days of old, Uematsu tried to strike a balance between a game and movie style of composition for The Last Story, which would emphasize emotion and ambient sound.
“This is why we actually tried to steer clear of using little fanfares, flourishes or jingles in the music in this game,” Sakaguchi reveals.
Battle music for The Last Story was particularly hard to create, Uematsu and Sakaguchi share. For his part, Sakaguchi focused on creating a real-time battle system for the game, and wanted the music to have the same kind of immediacy. That having been said, he didn’t quite know how one would accomplish this, so the result had to be achieved using trial-and-error.
Uematsu composed a 5-minute-long battle theme for The Last Story, written as a single piece, but broken up into several segments that change depending on the nature of the battle. In addition to the battle theme, both Uematsu and Sakaguchi are particularly proud of the final song that plays after you’ve completed the game.
Sakaguchi also shares an amusing incident that occurred during development. During his second music submission, which happened a month after his first was rejected, Uematsu suggested in an e-mail to Sakaguchi that he might bow out of the project if Sakaguchi still felt the compositions weren’t in tune with his vision of the game. While replying to this mail, Sakaguchi accidentally forwarded it to the entire development team, which caused an uproar in the office.
“Everyone was up in arms,” Sakaguchi recalls. “They were asking me: ‘Sakaguchi-san, what’s going on? Is Uematsu-san really going to quit?’ It caused quite a commotion, let me tell you! (laughs) So the whole staff basically knew what was going on. (laughs)”
Luckily, that never happened. Uematsu and Sakaguchi, having been friends for 25 years, managed to work toward a common goal. The Last Story will be released on February 24th in Europe for the Wii. You can listen to some of the music tracks from the game here.