ZUNTATA - Darius / Taito Music Team
Translated by rancor.
Happy New Year to all! 9:30pm here in Tokyo, and I've just finished this latest translation as my new years gift to you all. This translation is from the new Darius Odyssey book:
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Sooooo... here we go!
Echoing Life’s Pulse In The Universe
The story of the grand battle behind the DARIUS series - what are the unknown tales from the sound magicians behind the making of this series?
The secret production story from the DARIUS sound crew.
—Ogura, would you please talk about the concepts and methods for composing the music?
OGURA: Since I am the type of person who cannot compose music without first coming up with the words and letters, I begin composing by selecting the right keywords. I could not have composed the music for the DARIUS series without these keywords which I derive from conceptualization. To achieve these ideas, I search for inspiration that my musical antenna would catch as I read book or take a walk around the town. That’s how I found the keywords needed for the composition. The keywords often reflect the title of the music. For instance, the theme for the score VISIONNERZ of DARIUS GAIDEN was “illusionary sight.” I decided on the music title reflecting the theme first, and it guided me to completion.
—The first DARIUS was loaded with Body Sonic which had an enormous impact. How did you compose it?
OGURA: The soundboard for DARIUS was special. It was made of two FM sound chips that each could produce three sounds. Each chip was turned into data after the three sounds of were grouped together, and both chips had to be played at the same time. But, a glitch in the design could cause them to play out of sync. Because the company’s sequencer at the time was an inconvenient type that used a hexadecimal number system, it was quite difficult to fix the time lag. The adjustment of the volume balancer was tricky too. Volume in general gives different impressions to people depending on their physical condition that day (laugh).
ISHIKAWA: I have heard that DARIUS’s Body Sonic was created simply by switching the low tone “on” and “off.” For works succeeding Ninja Warriors, a part of PSG channel was allotted to Body Sonic which was vibrated by synchronizing it with the explosions, but in DARIUS, it was merely a developing one that vibrated only when entered in the boss zone.
—Three years after that, the sequel DARIUS II was released, are there any episode with the volume?
OGURA: DARIUS’s music was composed under constant pressure. Since the first DARIUS was a success, the release of sequels could be anticipated, but coming up with the keywords that meet the expectations was hard. Hints for composing DARIUS II came from the Bible. The keyword derived from the chapter taking about “child of light,” the music was composed based on it. And in response to the request to incorporate the voice of a child calling “papa” from afar, the cry of the child gets clearer as the stages progress.
—Is that idea linked to the fetus boss (Biostrong) as he appears in DARIUS II?
OGURA: It was just a coincidence (laugh). You must have seen Biostrong while the game was being developed, but it was not the source for the idea. Composing starts both simultaneously and separately from game development, so - it is extremely rare that game images are available while the compositions are being written. That being the case, specifications are usually given for what it needed.
—I never knew that. There was an impression that all bosses in the last stage in DARIUS series appear synchronized with the music, that being the case, I thought the game development was done before the composition began, especially for the last stage in DARIUS GAIDEN.
OGURA: DARIUS GAIDEN was a special case. For example, synchronization was applied consciously to both the concepts, screens, and sounds. The sound direction was adjusted by constantly communicating with the programmers. The last stage begins with no music but only S.E. first, and then the music starts when the climax arrives.
ISHIKAWA: That type of direction is used in Dariusburst too. In the last stage, the same music continues from the beginning all the way to the scene where the boss appears, and the tone of the music changes when the boss finally shows up. I got the idea from the method used in DARIUS GAIDEN.
—G-DARIUS is regarded as the starting point of the series, does the sound used in it also reflect the concept?
OGURA: Not really, I was not conscious that the sound was made that way because the stories available while to me were really coarse. I didn’t even know the tagline “You Will Witness the Birth of Life” until the game was released (laugh). At the time, I was studying about chimeras created by immunology, and used what I learned as the concept for the music in G-DARIUS. The theme was that the enemy is the fusion of a biological being and a machine. The image of the music developed based on the theme coincidentally matched up with the unknown concept.
—I have been asking about episodes in making of the first DARIUS through G-DARIUS, but what are the most memorable works for you, OGURA?
OGURA: In terms of direction, it is DARIUS GAIDEN. I am fond myself of the idea to play the same music through both stages 1 and 2 is a good one.
—The bonus CD album contains a compilation called OGR SELECTION which you personally choose the tunes to be included, what standard did you use in order to pick them?
OGURA: When I got the offer, I had no idea how to choose the music. Once I started selecting songs, I realized that it was impossible to compose the selection with the 7 pieces of music. This selection is not what I consider “The Best”, but I rather tried to select the pieces that would tell a complete story. The first tune is CHAOS and the seventh is KIMERA II, that was already decided at the beginning, but the order and arrangement of the rest was up to me, and it was hard to do. I was not sure if it was a good idea to include the tune FAKE, or if the fifth track should be “Dada” or “Network”, and I completed it after repeated trial and error.
—ISHIKAWA, From your point of view as the producer of this bonus album, what was your impression of the OGR SELECTION?
ISHIKAWA: I honestly thought the album came out fine reflecting what OGURA’s music is all about. I was worried that he would choose a tune like CAPTAIN NEO, which plays in the stage 1 of DARIUS, caring for ZUNTATA (laugh).
Works as a sound engineer for ZUNTATA. Recently he took care of total sound design often. For Dariusburst he was responsible for both sound direction and sound effects design.
Notable compositions – Metal Black (sound effects), Darius Gaiden (sound effects), Psychic Force Series (sound director)
Works as a composer for ZUNTATA. He takes part in creating music for products ranging from arcade games to mobile applications. He is renowned for his wide range of music sense. For Dariusburst, he acted as the main composer.
Notable compositions – Haunted Museum
Works as a composer for ZUNTATA. He takes part in not only composing but also developing sound development aiding tools and sound systems by making use of his deep knowledge of sound software.
Notable compositions – Space Invader Extreme Series, Music Gungun! Series.
HISAYOSHI OGURA MUSIC LAB
Works as a freelancer currently after having created numerous reputable music under the name OGR for ZUNTATA. For him, “music” should provide visually active experiences and fuse sounds and images. He was one of the composers of the production of Dariusburst.
Notable compositions – Darius Series, Arkanoid, Kageno Densetsu, Galactic Storm, Kiki KaiKai
—The bonus CD album doesn’t only include OGR SELECTION but also the Super Famicom version of DARIUS TWIN tunes. What was the reason to include them?
ISHIKAWA: That’s purely fan service. To add premium value to the sum of the DARIUS ODYSSEY series, I thought it was appropriate to include DARIUS TWIN which is not available on CD yet. DARIUS TWIN’s music was composed by an outside contractor. But the direction and programming were done by us, so I guess you can say DARIUS TWIN is a work of ZUNTATA. Aside from DARIUS TWIN, there is SAGAIA GAME BOY version that is not available on CD yet, but it is going to be downloadable on iTunes Store as of December 2009. With this one too, you will be surprised it was created with only 3 simple sounds and some noises.
The Latest Work DARIUSBURST Sound Making Behind the Scenes
—Ogura, Tsuchiya and Koshio, three of you who participated in the composition of the music in Dariusburst, what were you guys conscious about while making the sounds?
OGURA: In hindsight, I think it’s fairly safe to say that the keywords in making the tunes were “prime numbers.” Although the way the producer Aoki expressed it and the way I did it were different, the belief that DARIUS sounds should be one of a kind was completely the same for us. The image I had in mind during the composition of the music was the establishment of a “network without the core” and “multi-dimensional structure,” but when I began thinking about the titles for the music, it became the keywords “prime numbers,” which were basically the words that related to the numbers that don’t have any divisors other than themselves. But there was more than meets the eye to it - a lot. Then I changed the thinking process for a bit, and came up with titles using some English words and numbers that had meaning to them, and then when I researched about them further, I found that those meaningful numbers themselves were prime numbers. It was also the case with G-DARIUS, these coincidental chemical reactions are what make creating music for DARIUS series (laugh).
TSUCHIYA: I began using a different approach to that of Ogura. I started by not feeling the atmosphere, but the words. Plus I haven’t heard any of Ogura’s music for DARIUS since I heard it once at the beginning of the project. Actually I tried not to. It was simply impossible to interfere with Ogura’s already existing world. What I was working on was to create music that lives up to what people expected in Dariusburst, and hadn’t heard Ogura’s Dariusburst music till recently.
—My impression on listening to the music by both Ogura and Tsuchiya was that as if you two had met up and composed the music together in a secretive meeting regarding the unified sprit felt in the sounds.
TSUCHIYA: That coincidence is what makes DARIUS sounds so interesting in my opinion. Although I was conscious the whole time not to be aware of the sounds Ogura created, but the end result has all the essences DARIUS sounds should have. That proves to me that DARIUS has the definite presence that determines the way the music sounds no mater who makes it.
ISHIKAWA: This time around, we asked Ogura to join as a sound team member this time around while Tsuchiya was chosen to be the main composer. As the sound director, I am relieved to get responses, that it was undoubtedly the DARIUS sounds, from the people who heard the Tsuchiya’s music (laugh).
—Was there any problem you had to overcome before you started composing?
KOSHIO: First of all I made some demos, but was told by Ishikawa they were not fitting as DARIUS sounds (laughs). Then I thought again what the DARIUS sounds were all about, by listening to Ogura’s past DARIUS sounds I tried to understand solely what DARIUS was really about. Finally I came to the conclusion that the music of Dariusburst exists somewhere has nothing to do with the view of world of DARIUS Ogura has created with his music up to now, as yet needs to have the impressions of DARIUS… Actual directions for the composition only became apparent after having listened to Tsuchiya’s music. Tsuchiya’s music was new and well represented DARIUS’s world.
ISHIKAWA: As the sound director, regarding the Dariusburst’s music making, I was nervous what kind of music Tsuchiya and Koshio would come up with after telling them to create something new instead of mimicking Ogura’s music. After all, I figured that most users were anticipating the DARIUS world created by Ogura. Honestly, in the beginning of the production, I was thinking that it was such a pain in the butt to direct it due the undeniable impact Ogura had created in the past (laughs). But Dariusburst was the only chance to show the world what ZUNTATA could do in the present progressive form.
WHO IS ZUNTATA - TAITO’S RIGHT-HAND MAN?
The name ZUNTATA was first used when the TAITO sound development team released the album DARIUS in 1987. Since then ZUNTATA has been active for over 20 years now. The main figure Ogura later became a freelancer. Currently with Ishikawa as the main guy, members as Tsuchiya and Koshio continue to progress toward their next stages.
Out of the many sound teams for video game makers, ZUNTATA is surely one of the most renowned. It is told that it was ZUNTATA who decided the sound specifications for TAITO’s arcade PCBs.
THE MUSIC STYLE IS EVER-CHANGING. IT ALL DEPENDS ON ATOMOSPHERES AND WHAT MY ANTENNA IS CATCHING.
Even after Ogura left TAITO, ZUNTATA is paving the way to revolution and continues to give birth to new sounds. The sounds of Dariusburst are the expressed determination for ZUNTATA. What constitutes DARIUS must be somewhere deeper than where Ogura’s music lies. I am pretty sure Ogura can describe what DARIUS is made out of, but we really don’t want to know. Otherwise there is no point for me to direct the music (laugh). I firmly believe that we obtained significant assets by trial and error in pursuit of what makes up of DARIUS.
—Speaking of what makes up DARIUS, would you tell us what it will be in the upcoming series.
OGURA: How we make the music is ever-changing. What we feel and is caught on our antennae at the time significantly changes the atmosphere of the sounds. There are no set ways the sound should fall into. We’d rather not say what it is in words but as long as we abide by it, I think we can keep creating new DARIUS sounds no matter if it would be in the arcade form or for PSP.
TSUCHIYA: I am well aware that DARIUS music has to be created by Ogura more that the fans do. Nevertheless, I would honestly glad if the users were interested in my other music after playing Dariusburst.
KOSHIO: What I noticed after completing the composition was that both the game creators and fans have strong feelings for DARIUS. So, I’d like to discover more of those feelings through Dariusburst. I would be truly honored if I could incorporate the synergy in creating future sounds.
ISHIKAWA: DARIUS was a piece of work in which sound direction was extremely difficult. If I can join the team again for the next project, I would love all the composers to let me hear the music made with unlimited imagination and new ideas again. DARIUS is a very special title to us, and we wouldn’t stop reinventing the sounds as well as the game itself.
—Finally, please give a message to the readers who will play Dariusburst.
KOSHIO: The visuals are beautiful and sounds are fit to the contemporary trends. We’d like the players to feel something that exists though the series by both watching, and listening to the new DARIUS.
TSUCHIYA: They should discover something new in the sounds if they read our interview once again after playing the game.
OGURA: Even though Dariusburst is for PSP, which is a small device, it is created so that you can feel the vastness of the world and the hugeness of the enemies. We really hope that the players enjoy it by expanding their imaginations without boundaries. We also recommend them to pay their attention to the original DARIUS soundtrack album, which is on its way to be released. If you listen to it as a CD album, you’ll start seeing a different Dariusburst world altogether.
ISHIKAWA: This latest Dariusburst sounds are high quality as music in general and also function really well as game music. That’s only possible because it exists within a game, and it can be considered as “the game sound.” We’d really like the fans to enjoy the music and sounds as they play the game without any preconception whether it is a DARIUS game or any other shooting game.
– The members of ZUNTATA and Ogura, thank you for the valuable talks today.
*This interview was recorded in 2009.
2013: ZUNTATA TODAY
ZUNTATA is thriving even after the year 2009 when the interview was recorded. In 2011 they held a solo live concert for the first time in 12 years, in conjunction with the DARIUSBURST - ANOTHER CHRONICLE developer talk show. In 2012, they released the album “COZMO ~ ZUNTATA 25th Anniversary ~” celebrating the 25th anniversary of the start of the company. It received much attention of game music fans for its luxurious content that included the work of 12 members of the team. It contributes their musical pieces to game companies other than TAITO too.