Comparisons between the game and film industries have been going strong ever since the former got really big in the 90s. Capcom is no stranger to this, and has made the comparison themselves with Resident Evil 5. This is to say, they're aiming high with this one, attempting to match the caliber and sound quality associated with Hollywood films (some of them, anyway). Interesting then, the two places the game probably draws on most for its setting, are Africa and Hollywood. Making things even more bizarre, one of the sound team's members is an L.A.-based composer who studied in California and worked on AFRIKA.
The game’s soundtrack boasts an original song, "ethinic and hybrid music styles", as well as live orchestral music composition, something never before done in a Resident Evil game.
Music4Games had the privelege of sitting down with a few sound masters in the industry, all behind this game, to discuss what went into it. So, to introduce, we have Kota Suzuki – Composer, Sound Design Section, Capcom, Tetsuya Shibata – Senior Manager Sound Management Section, Capcom and Wataru Hokoyama – Additional Orchestral Music writer, Orchestrator and Conductor. Below is an excerpt which details the game's relationship with Hollywood:
M4G: You recently recorded parts of the game score on the Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox with a 100+ Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. Since this was the first time Capcom has recorded with a live orchestra for Resident Evil, how important was it to have an experienced music team involved?
Tetsuya Shibata: In Hollywood, unlike anywhere in Japan, perfectly specialized conditions and culture exists to accomplish the recording of a 100+ piece orchestra. This is the first time for our team to record on a scale as large as this, so it was precisely for this reason that we needed the expertise of the team in Hollywood. It could be said that this was an extremely important element in the success of this recording.
Suzuki-san elaborates this level of production is necessary due to advancements in graphics, as well as the "spread of the PS3 and Xbox 360."
Now, Nintendo has said in the past Western developers are ahead of the Japanese now overall. The team here put their weight behind this argument, on the sound front:
Kota Suzuki: I get the impression that production at western, particularly American developers are ahead of those in Japan. But, I think that more and more in Japan, the process of making video game music is becoming specialized. More and more Japanese production companies are working together with foreign companies, and sound production quality in Japan is approaching that of the west.
Hokoyama-san says the two work in tandem, and help each other grow. This very relationship is what established "game music" as something substantial in its own right, he feels.
As for how much music will be packed into this sucker, Suzuki can't say as of now. But he does state there are 100 tracks, give or take, each track signifying a different instrument. Sounds like a real monster. Hokoyama-san described one of the most unique set-ups they have:
"[This] includes 2 large Japanese Taiko drums on top of the 103-piece orchestra. In the orchestra, the entire brass section would blast to build huge walls of chords, the woodwinds would run in extremely high range to scream, and the gigantic strings section pours on the melodies and rhythms. And by all of those elements together, we kept the intensity and the weight of the orchestral sound to its peak in many action sequences.
Suzuki explains the soundtrack is an interesting blend of this, and electronic music:
"In some cases we’ve added instruments which give a very African feel. By fusing the ambient synth sound with live instruments the tracks provide an atmosphere that is a cross between music and ambient sounds.
Not all tracks necessarily contain "African-flavored" sounds. We used them to the extent we felt necessary. More than just be “African”, the game’s director wanted the music in this project to focus on conveying a feeling of tension and urgency to the player.
Also, the game’s precise programming plays the appropriate track as determined by the situation in which the player finds himself to provide a close interactive feeling."
Finally, he discussed the challenges of making music for the game, which seems to be one of the most interesting parts of the interview:
"The main challenges were ONE: composing the theme melody and TWO: figuring out how to express terror in broad daylight with music. With regards to ONE, until now theme melodies for games in the Resident Evil series have been avoided because they were horror games. But after the decision to record an orchestra was made, and as a result of meetings with many staff members, the consensus was that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make the melody a little more prominent for this game - because it would enhance the appeal of having a live orchestra. When we were composing the main melody, we tried to isolate it so it did not cross over into other games in the Resident Evil series. The vocal song was especially challenging. The reason we decided to go with a vocal track and not an instrumental track was that we thought words would have a greater impact on the listener/player. We thought that if we are successful, the music of Resident Evil 5 will leave a strong impression on its listeners. So for this reason, we definitely wanted to give it a try.
With regards to TWO, the notion of fighting enemies in the streets during broad daylight is unprecedented in this series. That being the case, the standard music scheme used before in the series wouldn’t work well for this game. It was trial and error day in and day out with different composers trying to come up with the right musical formula."
If only part of the goal with putting all this extra effort into the aural aspect of the game was to get gamers more likely to play it, it's certainly worked on me.
Resident Evil 5 is due out March 13, 2009.