Anime Kickstarter project out of Japan, Under The Dog, has received a boost towards its goal of $580,000. Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear fame has thrown his support behind the project with the following quote:
“Coming with the permeation of the internet [in our daily lives], “creating” and a production’s “financing” structure have changed significantly.
Now, new methods of “creating” are being put to the test, where direct communication between the creator and the global user has become the norm and the creator is not bound by the former traditional investor or clientele. In such circumstances right now, a writer with remarkable talent, Jiro Ishii, who brought to the world numerous renowned adventure games during his “salary man” days, has now taken up the torch in order to challenge the traditions and establish this new future of “creating.” This is “Under the Dog,” the crowdfunding effort for an indie anime based on Jiro Ishii’s original story.
One cannot help but pay close attention to this project. One cannot help but cheer on this project. In particular, how can this creator who garners cult-like popularity catalyze a new chemical reaction [in the industry] by putting an emphasis on “creating,” which stands apart from the typical commercial oriented projects? One cannot help but look forward to this succeeding.
Jiro Ishii’s indie challenge will not only change the path for “creating,” but at the same time declare the answer for the question: Can game designers be accepted by the world as storytellers in [other mediums] as well?”
As of writing, Under The Dog has raised $616,732 of its $580,000 goal which is amazing and means this amazing 24 minute anime will go into production. If you’ve come to the party late and aren’t up to speed with this exciting project with some amazing names behind it, I’ve included a trailer along with some information on the people behind it and some amazing artwork.
During Japandaman and crew’s recent trip to Japan, we saw many cool stuff ranging from Tokyo Game Show to the many sights and sounds of Japan. However undoubtedly, the biggest highlight was reserved for the second last day when we managed to have some sit down time with an important guest. Project Phoenix marks Japan’s first foray into uncharted territory by being the first Kickstarter funded project, featuring amazing AAA talent, to come out of Japan. And leading the charge as Director and Producer of this huge undertaking is Hiroaki Yura, founder of the sublime Eminence Symphony Orchestra and CIA, or Creative Intelligence Artists.
We met up with Hiroaki in Harajuku where we were able to have a chat in a local cafe about the status of Project Phoenix, the state of indie game development and just why so much is riding on the success of Project Phoenix.
Japandaman: Is PP a code name, if so, when will we hear what the title will be?
Hiroaki Yura: Yes, its the project title. It’s not really the title of the game.
J: Do we know what the title will be?
HY: Hmm, no…no idea. NFI (laughs)
J: Has PP been an idea that you’ve had for a while?
HY: It was initially a get rich quick project. We were going to use a tower defence mechanism with some JRPG elements but as us creators got together, we’re never really good at making get rich quick projects. We decided to do a proper JRPG. We were kind of tired with the mechanics and we decided to do a pretty interesting RPG, sorry RTS mechanics.
J: How have you found the transition from music directing to leading a game development project?
HY: I haven’t finished my job yet, I can’t really comment on that. It’s my first time so we’ll see how it goes.
J: How did you pull the project team together? This is a large team of world renowned industry professionals, so pulling that together is a significant achievement, how did you go about doing that?
HY: I didn’t. I think we initially started with friends that I know and those friends brought in their friends to fill in gaps we don’t have filled. And the friends I know are really top notch developers and that’s because I don’t just work in japan, I also work outside of japan as well.
J: So it was word of mouth, people hearing about it and saying count me in?
J: Were there people that you wanted on the project that knocked you back?
HY: There are several but it’s mostly because they want to do it except they have other work, other commitments that’s going to take a lot of time.
J: If the game is successful, have you considered setting up your own game studio?
HY: We are planning to make a game studio for Project Phoenix. But it won’t operate like a normal game studio as in having a bunch of designers or illustrators. I think that defeats the point of being an indie game. I think its better to have freelance people and people get together on the merit of their skill rather than their business skill.
J: So it would be on a project by project basis?
HY: Yes. So people would still have to perform in order to be a part of it. They’re always being scrutinised.
J: With additional stretch goals being added, are you still in the process of adding to the team?
HY: It depends, if anybody has the skills that we need that benefits us.
J: So for all intents and purposes, the team isn’t locked down, it’s still open to having more people join?
HY: Well, to a certain extent. There are already a lot of people we haven’t announced.
J: Tell us how you were feeling with reaching and then surpassing your initial stretch goals?
HY: We’re not gullible enough to think or naive enough to think we can reach the biggest stretch goal of $4.8 million. But we did prepare it just in case. But truth be told, we only needed 100,000 to prove to the world that we can make it.
J: We noticed that one of the later stretch goals included the Skywalker ranch, did you have to negotiate this before offering it and is this one of your dreams, to record at Skywalker ranch?
HY: All you got to do is pay money to get to Skywalker Ranch. That’s it.
J: so it’s open to anyone as long as you have the money?
HY: Absolutely, why wouldn’t it be? It’s a studio. I think its the world’s best recording studio.
J: With the game itself, what stage are you up to? Are you still at concept stage or are you into the development?
HY: We’re into development already. I mean some of the art is still being concepted but we’re getting ready for mass production of characters and the world. So what does that mean? It means we are getting ready to set the standard of the model creation and how we do things. So once that’s set, then it gets out to a lot of other people that will turn out things of that quality.
J: With PP being Japan’s first indie game Kickstarter funded project, can you please tell us how that feels?
HY: It felt like the right thing to do, for me anyways.
J: Is this an inspiration to other indie developers in Japan?
HY: Well, I hope so, that’s what I kind of hoped from the indie stream event yesterday at Sony. The thing is its still very hard for people, indie people, to actually do this. Now Keiji san with mighty number 9 has a whole company set up just for this. So if he doesn’t, you know, he can take care of all that. For us, we don’t have a company, I’m bilingual and I know people outside of japan who are friends who are willing to help out that are doing this. But for other people, you need to speak english and deal with the backers. Talking to the backers even if you’re fluent in english is hard enough because you have so many questions flying around.
J: Do you see this as a start of a shift in development?
HY: I hope so. I’d love to have some competition.
J: What influenced your decision to port the game to PS4 and PS Vita? Playstation is talking about making the PS4 accessible to indie developers. Was this an influence?
HY: Not really, it was the fact that PS43 and Vita are compatible with each other. It was the fact that I believe currently Playstation is a superior, well the Playstation Vita and the Playstation 4 put together is a superior gaming experience than the Microsoft Xbox One. I hope Xbox One puts its focus back onto the gamers not just the multimedia aspects.
J: Do you see Nintendo’s stance on indie development a deciding factor?
HY: Well, Nintendo changed its tune on our portal Kickstarter. During the start of the Kickstarter, Nintendo said no Japanese indie developers are able to create games on their platform. I think 2 weeks into our campaign they changed their tune and they said they’ll allow, you know, the small type is gone. So I guess they’re allowing it now. But that being said for us gamers, us game developers, we want our game to be accessible by as many people as we can and the sales on the Wii U is way too low for us. It’s a great platform but the sales are just way too low for us to commit to it.
J: Me with the 3DS, that’s a different story?
HY: The problem with the 3DS is Unity isn’t supported so that’s a compatibility issue.
We had to wrap things up there but we were extremely thankful to Hiroaki for his time and wished him all the best with Project Phoenix. And for the record, Japandaman backed the project as well, We can’t wait to see this across all platform but especially on the PS4 and PS Vita consoles.
Previously reported as being Japan’s first indie Kickstarter development featuring AAA talent such as Hiroaki Yura from CIA and Eminence Symphony Orchestra and Nobuo Uematsu from Final Fantasy fame, Project Phoenix has now reached a new milestone.
Apart from appearing on Windows, Mac and Linux, the massive milestone that has just been announced is that the game will also be appearing on PS4 and PS Vita. Very exciting news for a Japanese indie title coming across to such a mainstream platform with the Sony console and handheld. The game is still a while away, not due for release until 2015. But if you want to contribute to the Kickstarter program and snag some awesome goodies along the way then click on the link below and join the cause. As of writing there are 70 hours to go before the deadline and some massive incentives to do so!
Project Phoenix marks Japan’s first indie Kickstarter project which reached its initial funding of $100,000 in just under 8 hours which is an impressive feat. The project features some of the best AAA talent from Western and Asian gaming with Hiroaki Yura spearheading the title as Director and Producer and Final Fantasy composer, Nobuo Uematsu, on board just to name a couple of the talent on board. Hiroaki is the man who created the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, responsible for many game and anime soundtracks and also the Director of Creative Intelligence Arts, or CIA.
Hiroaki has recently gone on record regarding Project Phoenix and the possibility of the title making an appearance on a Nintendo console when the game is completed in 2015. Specifically speaking, while Yura san is a fan of Nintendo, he doesn’t believe that Nintendo of Japan look towards indie developers as far in supporting their titles on Nintendo hardware.
The problem with Nintendo… You know, I like Nintendo and everything…but not a lot of people buy it. I know a lot of fans buy it, but there are so many restrictions with Nintendo, and also the fact that Nintendo in Japan does not accept indie games.
We think Nintendo is taking a wrong approach towards games like ours. I think maybe it has to do with the Kyoto culture…very old companies. Nintendo itself in Kyoto is not that old, because in Kyoto there are companies that survived for hundreds of years, and compared to them they’re relatively young, but in terms of video game industry they are very old. They have a set of rules that does not fit with the core values of our game, basically.
They have interesting hardware, but it ends at “interesting”. It’s not “exciting”.
Before I start this, I just want to preface it by saying that I’ve never reviewed music of this kind before so bear with me if I start to ramble on 🙂
Soul Calibur is game series with deep roots and a rich heritage, starting from Soul Edge in the arcades before being ported to the Playstation, right up to the latest incarnation in the series, Soul Calibur V. One thing that has remained a constant throughout the series has been the in-game music, or the soundtrack. But it’s in SC V that the music has really come into its own, thanks to the involvement and contributions of some of the heavyweights of the music world.
This soundtrack is literally a who’s who of the music scene with Junichi Nakatsuru (Soul series), Hiroki Kikuta (Secret of Mana), Tomoki Miyoshi, Andrew Aversa, Cris Velasco (God of War series), Inon Zur (Prince of Persia), Jillian Aversa, Eminence Symphony Orchestra, Hiroaki Yura plus loads more taking part in the production, composition and/or performing of the pieces. The soundtrack is spread out on three discs with the first two discs containing themes for each character in the game totalling 28 in all with some amazing highlights coming to mind. In particular Samsara: The Wheel of Eternity (Kilik’s Theme), The Invincible Blade (Mitsurugi’s Theme) and Venice Rooftops (SCV mix) (Ezio Auditore’s Theme). This is not to take anything away from the other tracks as all the themes are absolutely exquisite conveying drama and the emotion behind the character. The instrument sections themselves from the strings to brass and percussions are at their best and show the experience and professionalism of the musicians.
The third disc is made up of the music that is played out during the battles and in-game cinematics which are breathtaking and a joy to listen to. Some highlights for me were Home is Faraway with its sweeping sounds that take you away, Holy Requisition with beautiful choral arrangement and, the last three tracks of disc three deserve a special mention. These being The Last Wish, The Siblings’ Destiny and the amazingly sublime, The Breeze at Dawn. Jillian Aversa’s stunning ethereal vocals are laid out over an amazing composition that brings together string, brass, percussion with an amazing vocal arrangement. This track really gets me every time. Jillian is a standout on this track.
The soundtrack comes spread out across three discs in a gorgeous box with an impressive booklet containing previously unseen artwork and a credits list while the three cd’s come bundled in two attractive cases. This soundtrack is nothing short of amazing for the fan and for someone just getting into the world of gaming music, this is a package that will whet the appetite and leave you wanting more.
Don’t wait any longer, hunt this soundtrack down and get it into your player. This recording is a testament to CIA, the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, Project Soul and everyone else who was involved. A world-class piece of music.
[starreview tpl=16] Absolutely amazing soundtrack that will transport you to new levels.
Quick post to alert people to the news that Hiroaki Yura, from the Eminence Symphony Orchestra and CIA, will be holding a Japanese only broadcast with the man in charge of Katamari Damacy via the CIA Ustream channel, Tokyo Thunder. The event will be taking place at 1900 hours JST, today the 15th of January so for Melbourne viewers, that makes it 9:00PM AEDST.
Thanks to my readers for showing enormouse patience and as promised, the first of two interviews held at the Tokyo Game Show from the booth that Creative Intelligence Arts (CIA) had there. Another big thank you to JD’s Art Editor, Stephanie, for hosting the interviews while she was there!
During the interview, Hiroki Kikuta (@HiroakiYura) spoke through Hiroaki Yura (@Hiroki_Kikuta) acting as his translator hence why Kikuta san’s answers will be in 3rd person.
Stephanie: Ok, I’d just like to thank both of you today for doing this because I know you’re very busy. And if I could just start with Yura, with the Soul Calibur, you’ve recently been appointed the Musical Supervisor for the game, we just wanted to know what type of direction did you want to take the music in?
Hiroaki Yura: Ok, um, basically the same team was used to create Soul Calibur 1 to 4 and Soul Edge as well lead by Mr Junichi Nakatsuru but since he wanted to make it a bit different, it was (set) 17 years after Soul Calibur 4 and this game is much loved by the West, what we wanted to do is to give a little more Western flair but with Japanese tastes. So you know how they do modern Japanese food, it’s like that with music. What we’re trying to do is, trying to make a Japanese version, Japanese food but with modern Western taste.
S: Like a fusion?
HY: Yeah fusion exactly. And hence I had several composers from japan and the United States get together and create this music because I thought everybody would benefit from their talents.
S: That’s fantastic, so are you surprised about how the gaming public has adopted music as so mainstream. They’re all listening to it now, you see a lot people putting it onto their iphones?
HY: Well not really because we do a pretty damn good job! I’m actually quite glad that they do because I do think video game music should be respected and it deserves its respect as we do because these composers and performers they train so much to get it out there.
S: And especially as you were saying you’re trying really hard to create music that appeals to both Western and Japanese audiences.
HY: That’s correct or whatever music that appeals to humans.
S: Yes, exactly! Ok, if I could ask Kikuta san a few questions? So you composed the Secret of Mana, which a lot people loved the game, loved the soundtrack and they still talk about it today. It created a lot of fond memories.
(At this point, Hiroaki calls over to Larry from CIA to grab young SC V composer, Tomoki).
HY: Sorry, he’s another composer of ours, he’s only 18, he used to be from Australia and he’s working on SC V. We’ll finish Kikuta san first.
S: So when you were composing the score for SoM, did you know or did you think to yourself that this is going to be remembered years after the game had been released?
Hiroki Kikuta: He didn’t plan it for it to be heard for so long after the game was released but he felt, you know, he put in a lot of effort as, ah, tried his best to make sure that his music is heard as long as possible.
S: How important is it for you to reach out to your fans and communicate with them not just through your music but also just connecting via any other media?
HK: So he thinks it’s very very important that he reaches out to the fans and everything. Because it’s all part of a cycle where he puts something out and maybe it might take 15 years later but it will finally come back to him and that’s energy he needs to make new work happen.
S: That’s very interesting. I like that idea that you’re actually using your fans enthusiasm for your work and just in general what you’re doing to inspire you to create new music.
HK: He’s really happy about that and the fans that are listening are happy too.
S: So if we could just talk about Eminence for a little bit, I have to ask, a lot of people are asking in Melbourne, is there any plans for Eminence to be visiting Melbourne soon?
HY: Well I think this is probably the best answer that I’ll have, ah, is I can’t say anything at this stage. And it’s definitely not a no and I can’t say if it’s a yes but it’s something in between.
HY: Let’s just say something may happen next year. Early next year.
S: Ok, fantastic. With Eminence you’ve worked with Blizzard and you worked with a few large companies recording music so do you think that you’ll continue doing more major work with other companies and Eminence?
HY: Yes, I think as a Music Supervisor my time is not 100% diverted to Eminence but a lot of people do ask for our services, for Eminence’s services, so I think we will still continue to work with these companies.
S: That’s great. That’s fantastic. So again for Kikuta san, you used to be a manga illustrator, is this something you still do as a hobby or are you more devoted to your music now?
HK: He doesn’t draw as much but being able to direct pictures, manga or art, he actually used that skill to enhance his competition because it is very important for him, for people like myself as well, to understand what kind of music to write to what kind of picture.
S: So you use visuals to influence your music as well and do you find that being an artist and being able to draw also helps you build the music flow with the images?
HY: Yeah, that’s what he said.
A musical tour de force!
S: So which composition of work are you most proud of and why?
HY: In what kind of way? Video games or…?
S: Video games.
HY: The thing that he made, right?
HK: (proceeds to play “The Little Sprite” from Secret of Mana off his phone)
S: And why would this one be your favourite? Why is this your number one choice?
HK: It’s because it’s very fantasy like and he’s very into cute, fantasy like creatures and also the marimba is really out there. He really likes the marimba.
S: Ok, that’s very cool, I like that. So lastly, do you have any messages for your fans in Australia, both of you?
HK: He really really likes Australia, it’s a great country and the food is great so he wants to come back again.
S: Yes, you should!
HY: Yeah, um, me too!
S: That’s fantastic! Thank you so much you guys, I know it’s only a short interview, you’re very very busy today. I know you’ve got announcements later, Soul Calibur?
HY: Yeah, in about half an hour. If you like you can talk to Tomoki, he’s bilingual so he can speak English. He did all the cinematics for SC V.
(Yura then proceeds to call Tomoki over)
Yura: I’ll leave you.
Head on over to Part 2 of this exclusive as Stephanie interviews Tomoki, the composer bringing the cinematic world of Soul Calibur V to life.