Tag Archives: Eminence

Interview – Hiroaki Yura (Project Phoenix)

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.

Project Phoenix Logo

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?

HY: Yes.

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.

TGS Interview – Hiroaki Yura & Hiroki Kikuta From CIA

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.

Hiroaki Yura

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.

Hiroki Kikuta

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.

S: Mysterious.

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?

S: Yes.

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.

SC V Names Music Supervisor

Exciting news today from Japan regarding a hugely popular fighting franchise that just received a welcome coup. Music fans and soundtrack Otakus will be pleased to hear that Hiroaki Yura has been named the Music Supervisor of Namco’s upcoming fighter, Soul Calibur V. Hiroaki is no stranger to the music scene, being a violin virtuoso and the Director/Founder of the highly regarded Eminence Symphony Orchestra. Eminence have scored a large number of animes and games ranging from Xenoblade on the Nintendo Wii, to the extremely popular, “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” anime. Eminence are also well known for their sellout series of concerts entitled, “A Night in Fantasia” where they recreate the scores from various animes and video games projecting images from the material onto a massive screen that plays behind them. I have been fortunate enough to attend a couple of the ANIF concerts around Australia and let me tell you, they are nothing short of spectacular.

Earlier today I asked Hiroaki Yura to comment on this amazing opportunity:

“I feel very honoured to be a part of the Project Soul team. As Music Supervisor, I will be looking into how I can best continue and improve the 16 years of tradition that the Sound Director, Mr Junichi Nakatsuru has built within the team. Please look forward to our work!” Hiroaki Yura

Knowing that someone of the calibre of Hiroaki Yura will be overseeing the music, almost makes the wait for Soul Calibur V even more excruciating! Have a look at the Soul Calibur V teaser trailer below which was shown at the recent Comic-Con. Now picture that action with Yura san’s brand of music behind it…awesome!


And for the uninitiated, a clip below of the Eminence Symphony Orchestra performing a sublime mix of the Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 score from a few years back.


Japandaman, Hiroaki and Laucha at the Imagine offices, Tokyo, Japan 2010.