Lufia – 2016 Composer and Developer Interviews

Lufia – 2016 Composer and Developer Interviews

These Lufia developer and composer interviews come from three sources: a 2016 interview with composer Yasunori Shiono celebrating a live orchestral performance of the Lufia II soundtrack; liner notes from a 2006 Lufia cd compilation; and finally, a series of questions asked to director Masahide Miyata at two fan events in 2012/2013. It's a precious trove of info given the scarcity of information on Lufia.

—The orchestral group Music ENGINE will soon be performing a Lufia II exclusive concert event. Please share your feelings in this moment as the composer.

Shiono: I just feel very grateful. The first Lufia came at 23 years now, after all. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing various people on youtube and elsewhere performing covers of the Lufia music, which I was also very thankful for. One of those people was violinist Kohta Kawai, who along with Music ENGINE has made this concert possible. I’m so happy that this all led to a live performance of the Lufia music, and glad that I wrote that music so long ago.

—It sounds like a species of joy that only a composer can know.

Shiono: Yes. I mean, I had no idea when I was writing the music for Lufia that something like this would happen.

—I can see that. “What? Someday people will be performing Lufia music?!”

Shiono: Yeah, it never once crossed my mind! Awhile back I had a chance to see a different live performance of the Lufia songs, and it brought me tears. So I’m a little worried for tonight, hah!

—Please share any memories you have from the time you composed the music for Lufia II.

Shiono: Let’s see… well, Lufia was the first Super Famicom game I’d ever been involved in, so I kind fumbled my way through writing the music. Before then I had made lots of music for PC games, but with the SFC it was necessary to do all the sound sampling myself—there were no “sound libraries” at the time. It was very hard.

Yasunori Shiono

That experience informed the music in Lufia II, however, as I tried to focus a bit more on the sound quality and the overall atmosphere of the songs. The story for Lufia II was a major upgrade from the previous game too, so I felt like the mood of the music had to match those ambitions.

—Did the planners give you instructions on what kind of music to write?

Shiono: No, there weren’t a lot of requests from them. I was on very familiar terms with Miyata—we called each other “Miya-chan” and “Shio-chan”. The instructions I did get amounted more to stuff like, “Hey Shio-chan, for this town music, it should be like this” or “Make this sound town-ish” or “castle-ish”. (laughs)

—It sounds pretty vague. (laughs)

Shiono: Yeah, it was loose like that. I think they were trying to tell me, “do whatever you want”, I guess. I told them that it would be really helpful for me if they could give me some documents or materials that painted a clear, vivid picture of the scene they wanted to depict…

—No doubt that would make writing the music easier, I imagine.

Shiono: Well, unfortunately I never got that—just more “dungeon-ish”, “fight-ish”, “map-ish”… a lot of “ishes.” (laughs) But I managed to build the songs up from these hints in any event. It’s kind of funny, really.

—Do you have a personal favorite song from Lufia II, or one that particularly memorable for you? I know “The Savior of Those on Earth” and “To the Future” are especially popular among fans.

Shiono: Ah, that makes sense, since those songs are connected with the ending. In that final scene, when Selen has died and Maxim is pleading with Iris to tell him how to stop Doom Island from falling into Parcelyte, the music cuts out, and then right when Maxim cries out Tell me!, “The Savior of Those on Earth” starts. That part always gives me goosebumps!

The Lufia II OST

—Yeah, it’s great!

Shiono: Little directorial cues like that were done by Miyata, who had a good sense for those things.

—Was Miyata the one who matched the music to the scenes then?

Shiono: Yeah, and the timing of when songs would start, stuff like that. For “The Savior of Those on Earth”, Miyata did a good job explaining how the ending scene should be, so it wasn’t that hard to write. But I did have a tough time writing the opening.

—Time of Judgement.

Shiono: Yeah. That whole opening scene, with Time of Judgement and Rumbling—it was originally just two minutes long, I think? Intro music for games often follows a pattern where it ends abruptly for dramatic effect, but for this piece, they kept adding stuff and extending it. Miyata would come to me saying, “I want to add an extra event here, could you lengthen the song?” Or he’d add just a tiny bit extra, but then of course I had to add more too. (laughs)

—It was stitched together bit by bit, then.

Shiono: Yes. With so many different scenes introducing the characters, there was no other choice but to divide the song into measures, and add a little here, take a little out there. I left the main bass phrase the same throughout the piece.

—It sounds like it was a very difficult composition.

Shiono: Yeah, more than the song itself, it was just connecting all the gaps.

—Lufia still has many passionate fans today. What do you think accounts for its long-lasting appeal?

Shiono: I think it’s the characters, for sure. They’re very colorful. Though I didn’t make themes for each of the individual characters really, just Dekkar. Nonetheless, the way your party changes and morphs as the story progresses makes for a very colorful and unique game, I think. That’s also part of what made it easy to write music for.

—The characters are all depicted in great detail.

Shiono: They are.

—Speaking of Dekkar, his portion of the opening scene is where your name (in the credits) appears!

Shiono: That’s right! It was just an accident though. (laughs) I really liked him though, so I took that part of Rumbling and used it for Dekkar’s theme.

Lufia II – Liner Note Commentary

written by Yasunori Shiono; from the GSL series disc

Time of Judgement – If you divide the Lufia songs up into “light” and “darkness”, then this song represents the truest, deepest darkness. The idea of using timpani and bells was something I had already fixed on since the first game; they’re indispensable instruments for any song featuring the Sinistrals.

Rumbling – This song, in turn, embodies the “light”. Compared to the opening song in the first Lufia, which was also around 2-3 minutes, I finished this one relatively quickly. Unfortunately, it kept getting long and longer, ultimately ending up over 6 minutes. When writing gets like this, it feels more like patchwork than composition, to be honest. (laughs)

Earth – I wrote this overworld map song to have the same atmosphere as the one from the first Lufia. That game takes place 99 years later, so I was careful not to destroy the image I’d already created. This song is unique in that, whenever I try to whistle it, I always get it mixed up halfway through with the Lufia I theme. (laughs)

Battle #1 – The normal battle music from Lufia I was too short and repetitive, so I made the battle music for Lufia II as its own thing, without reference to it. I tried making the bass really active, to have breaks in the middle, and to keep everything varied throughout the song.

Peace of Mind – Just as the first Lufia has “Priphea Flower”, this song is critical to Lufia II, as it uses the motif of love, a main theme in the game. As such, it turned out alright, I think (I believe it was the 4th or 5th of about 10 takes I did).

Battle #2 – I think this one was written pretty quickly. Written for midbosses, and with a very active melody line, it’s got a different melodic feel from Battle #1. This is one of my personal favorites.

The Prophet – As Iris’ theme, you hear this song multiple times throughout the game. The bell and harp lines in the foreground evoke sadness, and I imagined the chorus as the heart’s crying out. It also makes the perfect bridge to “The Savior of Those on Earth” at the end.

A teaser for Lufia III. Judging from the tagline anata wa mada nanimo shiranai… (lit. “You still don’t know anything”), the game might have involved more of Alek, the mysterious character who orders the Sinistrals into action in Lufia II but is otherwise never seen again in the game.

The Strongest Man – This is the theme of Dekkar (a character I also love). The melody is used (in a slowed down form) in the opening scene, but it wasn’t originally written specifically for Dekkar… at some point it just became his song. I was enamored of his personality and arranged the song in this way, which I thought fit him.

Lexis Shaia Lab – This was also done in the image of Lufia 1’s Shaia theme. The melody is kind of haphazard and insistent, and was created very quickly. (laughs) My image for this song (and the first Lufia’s) was of a scientist tinkering away in his lab, with the timpani representing sounds of the factory, the marimba the sound of nails and screws, and so forth.

The Lost World – Coming at a climax in the story, this song is heavy and dark, signifying the weight of everyone’s hopes and wishes. In order to connect it with the Sinistrals, I added prominent bells and timpani.

The Final Battle – When I was composing this for the first Lufia, I had no conception of it being used for a sequel. It was just composed for the opening without any special considerations. For the Lufia II version, I pretty much used the data from the original as-is, not really doing any revisions or touch-ups. Even today it’s one of my favorites, and it’s also one of Lufia’s signature songs.

Battle #3 – This one caused me a lot of problems, and it took a long time to make, too. The melody and rythyms in the latter half, in particular, I just couldn’t get down. I re-wrote that part so many times I lost count. Even now, I remember the joy I felt when I finally got it finished. (tears)

The Savior of Those on Earth – The way this song begins, after “The Prophet” plays and cuts off, in the final scene with Iris, is just perfect. I remember clearly how the first time I played that part, I was so moved I got goosebumps, and even shed some tears. It plays during the final scene where you’re trying to escape from Doom Island within a limited time, and I strived to express that sense of emergency and pressure in the music.

To the Future – Probably the song that gave me the most difficulties. It develops into the melody from “Peace of Mind”, and I wanted it to show Maxim and Selen’s feelings for their children. Centered around the game’s theme of love, I tried to evoke the feeling of a child’s heartbeat in the rhythm, and build up to the ending with a nice slow tempo. I remember clearly how when I saw the ending, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

Priphea Flowers – We knew this one had to be there for the post-ending scene.

L-R: Yukio Nakajima (Chaos Seed / Energy Breaker composer), director Masahide Miyata, and composer Yasunori Shiono give a post-concert talk at the 2016 Music ENGINE performance. Shiono joked during this talk that for the ending theme, Miyata’s instructions were simply “something that makes you cry.”
Lufia – 2012 Developer Interview

featuring director Masahide Miyata

—How did the Lufia development begin?

Miyata: Four or five of us got together and started talking about making our own RPG. We developed a prototype version of “Esuto” for the PC-98, and shopped it around to different companies for distribution. This was before the era of things like powerpoint presentations, so we lugged a PC-98 and CRT monitor around with us to give our pitch. Taito was one of those companies we presented to. Then once the development was officially underway, the idea came up that, since we were gonna do this after all, we might as well make it for the Super Famicom.

—Where did the name “Estopolis” (Estopolis Denki is the Japanese title of Lufia) come from?

Miyata: Estopolis Denki was originally developed under the title “Esuteeru”,1 but someone had already taken out the copyright for that name, so we had to change it. We chose Estopolis since the root of the word resembled Esuteeru. Estopolis means “City of the East”, and we imagined this world having four continents, in the east, west, north, and south.

—Why is the overhead walking speed so slow in Lufia 1? The encounter rate also feels very high.

Miyata: While we were making Lufia, and during the debugging, the movement speed was not that slow. But with a faster movement speed, you’d end up reaching the next location too quickly, and it detracted from the sense of adventure… we upped the encounter rate for the same reason, to extend the play time. (nervous laugh)

—Zeppy, the “Fish Head” capsule monster, with the top-half saba (mackerel) and the bottom half human, was very strong. Where did the idea for a monster like that come from?

Miyata: The capsule monsters and the regular enemies were all the work of designer Tomonari Matsumoto. The “Fish Head” capsule monster was supposed to be a normal merman (top human, bottom fish) at first, but somewhere along the line that got flipped around.

—Many of the items in the Lufia series feature weird names not usually found in your typical fantasy RPG. Did you come up with those names, Miyata?

Miyata: The items were created by the same developer who did most of the menus. The whole “Sundleton Tea” thing was his idea too, because he was really obsessed with tea at the time.

The Surh Custom 11 sword was named after a guitar (the Suhr Custom Model) that the President of Neverland owned at the time. He’d bring it by the office sometimes and show it off occasionally, but only for a minute—he said it was sensitive to humidity with a neck prone to warping. That’s where we got the idea for the sword from.

Battles in Lufia were criticized for using the old Dragon Quest style of targeting, where allies will not re-direct their attacks when enemies die. This too may have been an attempt to lengthen the gameplay time.

—The Ancient Cave in Lufia II is so fun and easy to get hooked on. Miyata, have you ever cleared it yourself?

Miyata: I have not, actually. The truth is we had wanted to include a rogue-like dungeon like that in the first Lufia, but deadlines and memory limitations made it impossible. That’s why we put that sign up in the first Lufia, “Planned Construction Site”

—When it comes to the women of Lufia II, fans are split between Selen and Tia. Which camp do you fall in?

Miyata: I think I’m a Tia guy.

—If you uncurse the Cursed Bow, it becomes Arty’s Bow… but I thought Arty’s Bow originally something made for him specifically?

Miyata: No, we never intended it that way. I think including Arty’s Bow in Lufia II was probably just a simple call-back to the first game?

—In Lufia II, there’s the underwater city of Premarl and the character named Kaneamarl (Rochy in the US). Their names look similar, is there any connection between them?

Miyata: No, there isn’t. They were named without any particular intention.

—In the first Lufia, there’s an old man who lives in that shrine on Doom Island… what happens to him after Doom Island crashes?

Miyata: Does Doom Island crash at the end of Lufia…? I don’t remember. Anyway, the old man doesn’t appear in the ending, so you can assume he escaped safely. By the way, that man probably moved into Doom Island at the end of Lufia II, when he was still young, and so by the events of Lufia I, he’s an old man.

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