Quintet Developer Interview Collection (1993-1997)
This collection of interviews and developer commentary is something I cobbled together after a fairly exhaustive search for information about Quintet. It combines three short interviews, comments from the developers on some of their Super Famicom games, and composer comments from album liner notes. For more Quintet, check out the Terranigma and Soul Blazer interviews hosted at shmuplations.
Tomoyoshi Miyazaki - Designer
I wanted to write children’s books when I grew up, partly due to my parents’ influence. But I also loved games, and I wanted to do something that would make other children happy. I first started playing games in 4th or 5th grade, with things like Arkanoid and Tennis. Then, when I was in middle school, it became possible to play games at home, so my family bought me a computer. I would manually type out the code from game magazines and play games that way.
I was never very good at games, though, so I spent my time improving the programming code and gradually came to understand how they were structured. I started going to this neighborhood computer shop, and I eventually got a part-time job there. That was my entry into the business.
It might sound a little strange, but one of the things I drew inspiration from when making games was travel guides. Traveling and games are the same in that you set out somewhere with a purpose or goal. For instance, you journey to Nara to see the Great Buddha. But just going there and seeing the Buddha isn’t really what makes travel fun, is it? Its the unexpected things you find along the way that make it worthwhile. I think its the same with games. Those special episodes that happen when you travel are published in people’s travel accounts. When I’m writing a scenario for a game I often use them.
In games, the pleasures of repetition are very common. Think of Dragon Quest, where its fun to fight battles and get stronger. With Soul Blazer you’ve got the progression of building the world as you seal the enemy nests. For people who are bad at action games, fighting enemies itself might not be much fun, but defeating enemies here its closely connected with the building of the world. With the story of Soul Blazer, we didn’t want to make a typical character story, but rather something that would be told from a different perspective. We wanted to make a simulation/strategy game that is accessible, without the usual trappings of hardcore simulations.
Terranigma Developer Interview
from Comptique Magazine 3/97
—In Terranigma, why did you choose to have only one character to control, Ark?
Miyazaki: That was something that was decided at the very beginning, to only have Ark. Well, there’s also Yomi who you control inside Pandora’s Box. Because the player is alone in the story, we figured there should only be one character the player controls. That also makes it easier for you to empathize with the protagonist. One advantage was that since limiting the characters increases the memory available, we were able to do more complex and detailed movements and animation for Ark that we couldn’t do in the previous two titles. The controls are a step-up in that regard, I think.
—In the second half of the game the player must make the ultimate choice, between Overworld Elle and Underworld Elle. But whichever you choose, nothing different happens in the game. Was that intentional?
Miyazaki: We thought about adding some consequences to that decision, but we came to the conclusion that we, the developers, didn’t want to be the ones to express that. The Elle that is chosen will depend on the player. The story ends at Elle’s home, but as for what happens after… perhaps Ark’s future will change depending on which Elle was chosen.
—Are you saying that the conclusion of the final scene is left up to the player?
Miyazaki: That’s right. Terranigma is a RPG through-and-through. The player roleplays the character Ark in the world of Terranigma, but the reverse also occurs, that Ark roleplays the player. Therefore, as the creators of this game, we didn’t want to impose a single conclusion on the story–or rather, we couldn’t even if we'd wanted to. If the player choses Overworld Elle, perhaps Ark is reborn and returns to Elle’s side. If he chooses Underworld Elle, maybe he says farewell to Overworld Elle and is reunited with Underworld Elle after reincarnation.
Maybe the player doesn’t like either Elle, and something different happens altogether. We left the conclusion up to the player’s imagination: it's all been your own fantasy.
Developer Comments from the Quintet Website
This was Quintet’s debut work. Actually, our plan was to do an RPG for our maiden project. We were about 70% complete with it, when the sentiment emerged among us that “hey, if we’re going to develop for the Super Famicom, we’ve got to do something really SUPER!”
So we made a big u-turn in our development, and Actraiser was the result. The RPG we abandoned was meant to depict the entire life cycle of a planet, and when I think about it more level-headedly now, I can see that it was a bit unreasonable for a 4M cart. This idea did end up forming the basis of Terranigma, though.
I remember that the scene where the beam of light comes down from the heavenly castle, matched with Yuzo Koshiro’s music, got a really good reaction from players. So in the end, I think our decision to revise the game was the right one. (Tomoyoshi Miyazaki)
This game was designed for the overseas market from the beginning. Its customary to make overseas releases have very high difficulty, and Actraiser 2 was no exception: its extremely hard. When it came time to release it in Japan, we adjusted the balance for Japanese players… however, the Quintet staff in charge of debugging were all cut from the same cloth; that is, they were all extremely good players, and following their advice resulted in a game that was still very difficult. But if you just master the character’s movements, you’ll find you can progress at a brisk pace, and that the game has a lot of depth. (Suginaka Suguhito – Debugger/Tester)
Illusion of Gaia
We were working on this at almost the same time as Actrasier 2, so the deadlines we had for it were really insane. The fact that Illusion of Gaia still came out as such a polished work is really a testament to the hard work of the entire staff. It was well received overseas too, and we made French, English, and German versions in addition to the American one.
Creating all those different versions was quite an ordeal, as was checking all the data for them. If the wording of a certain phrase was even just a little off, it would have an entirely different meaning. So we were really scrupulous with our checking; after all, for a game like Illusion of Gaia, the story is the heart of the experience. I remember the epic struggle we had each day, opening up foreign language dictionaries and trying to grapple with words we’d never seen before. (Suginaka Suguhito – Debugger/Tester)
1997 Masanori Hikichi Interview
Masanori Hikichi - Composed the music and sounds for Terranigma. Currently working on a new game as the main composer. One of the few married people at Quintet.
—Lets start off with your basic info: name, age, etc.
Hikichi: My name is Masanori Hikichi. I was born in 1969, and I’m 27 years old.
—You work in the sound department at Quintet, but I’m guessing your hobbies also involve music?
Hikichi: Yeah, just give me an instrument and I’ll be happy. I also like talking with people about ghosts and spirits, especially since I’ve never had any such experiences myself.
—Ghosts? Well, could you tell us about your professional history next?
Hikichi: I first started out working for a music production company, inputting piano song data. After that I switched jobs for a company doing game-related work, and later I quit that and came to Quintet.
—Tell us about your work in the sound department.
Hikichi: I write songs, create patches/sounds, and make sound effects.
—You say those things so simply, but its really hard work, isn’t it? You’ve got to use complicated tools, lots of new technology… I’m someone who’s loved game music for a long time, so I really respect the people who make it. Well, next is a difficult question, but for those who aspire to work in the game industry, what skills do you think are necessary for the work, or what do you think would be good to study?
Hikichi: I would learn to play an instrument, even just one. And its even better if you can get some experience playing with others.
—I see. As expected, a sense of musicianship is very important. And how did you get involved in the game music business?
Hikichi: Someone who worked for a game-related music company invited me.
—Please give a final message to those interested in the game industry.
Hikichi: Throw away any ideas you have about how game music is “supposed to be.” Its best not to have such preconceptions if you’re going to make something new.
Terranigma Liner Notes
Shinji Futami & Jun Toda
Terranigma was a game created around a single theme. Expressing that in music proved to be quite difficult. The motif of the opening title track embodies designer/director Tomoyoshi Miyazaki’s ideas, and much of Terranigma’s music is derived from that motif. It guides the player into the world of Terranigma: sometimes gentle and encompassing like the heroine Elle, yet sometimes also harsh like the destiny Ark finds himself at the mercy of.
While you listen to this CD, try thinking about what the developers wanted to express. I know our feelings will reach you.
When I first read the story to Terranigma, I let out a cry (of joy?) at the sheer scale of it all. That was a year and a half ago. With each song I wrote for it, my ideas kept expanding, until all of a sudden I had written nearly three times the material I had started with. This was my first work with the Quintet sound team, and I’m very grateful to Hikichi Sensei who midway through the development helped improve the sound quality of my compositions. I’m also thankful to the entire Terranigma staff, the CD staff, and all my family and friends who have supported me. And finally, my thanks to you for buying this CD.
Our office is in a location blessed with natural beauty and fresh, clean air. There’s also many insects and creatures here that you could often see as a kid, but these days rarely seem to be around. So you might think that with the music of Terranigma being created in such an environment, we were trying to evoke something of this place… but I wonder if that’s really the case. I think we were just trying to make something “warm”, but who knows? I only prayed that the tearful days I had spent on these sound patches would amount to something, while the sun set on another day…
SoulBlazer Liner Notes
I wonder when it was, that game music earned the right to be seen as real music? Maybe it was when that Dragon Quest theme became a hit. Or maybe it was that bright theme of Super Mario Bros., endowing gamers with the courage to try again for a 100th time.
As the person in charge of music for Soul Blazer, those were my first thoughts. While I wanted to make excellent game music, I also wanted to make something that would sound great even if you heard it independently, outside of the game. This approach resulted something that I was fully satisfied with (as you must already know, since you bought this CD).
And to those who have bought this CD, I have a message. Please listen to the original CD I’m currently working on. It sure to be filled with sounds that will please gamers.
As the producer for Soul Blazer, one important reason I asked Yukihide to do the music was because I’m a fan of his work. But more than that, I felt that the world his music describes fit this game perfectly. He didn’t prove me wrong, and came up with song after song that perfectly matched our vision of Soul Blazer’s world. Of all the songs, I especially like “Peaceful Days“. This is the song that plays during the ending, and the music is precisely timed to the characters’ dialogue. I hope that listening to this CD brings back to your mind all those scenes from Soul Blazer.
Actraiser Liner Notes
The music specs on the Super Famicom really stand out from the current generation of consoles, and even compared with arcade machines, leaves nothing wanting. Its good enough to use as a digital sampler.
I had been wanting to make orchestrated game music based around strings and woodwinds, so this was the perfect hardware for me. However, since I started with zero knowledge on how to make those sounds, it was very difficult at first. I couldn’t get the songs to sound how I wanted.
In fact, the 4th track on this CD, “Fillmore”, has a different melody than you hear in the game. That’s because its the very first song I wrote for Actraiser, before I had gotten used to the hardware, so I wrote a very simple melody pattern for it.
I also had to revise almost all the sounds I was using, and be mindful of the memory limitations as well. Keeping the samples as small and clear as possible was a true challenge.
Regarding the samples (PCM), I used samples of live instruments. I was able to get a very natural sound out of them, and they were really superb. But they also had the drawback of taking up too much memory. And it was necessary to have a variety of different tones/sounds if we wanted a natural sounding orchestra, which only made the memory problems worse. We had to use various special techniques to get around the memory limitations.
Given those circumstances, in creating the music for Actraiser we focused not so much on the compositions themselves, but rather on getting the sounds to be as close to “real” instruments as possible.
And so we managed to complete Actraiser, but this game does not represent the limits of the Super Famicom’s sound capabilities. If I am ever given the chance again, I’d like to compose songs for this system that will eclipse these ones.
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