Revisiting NieR Replicant’s ethereal soundtrack 11 years on – PlayStation.Blog
When NieR Replicant launched in 2010, the soundtrack, masterfully created by Keiichi Okabe, was one of the most memorable facets of the PS3 action RPG. Since then, the 51-year-old Japanese composer has visited this haunting science fiction world several times. Outside of working on arrangement albums and live concerts, he returned in 2017 for the sequel to the acclaimed series NieR: Automata. In a few months we will be hearing modern reinterpretations of these classic tracks specially created for an updated version of the original called NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 …
In anticipation of this game’s release on April 23rd, we had the opportunity to ask Okabe-san if he should revisit this landmark work over a decade ago and see how the game’s ethereal soundtrack reinterprets for this new version becomes. In addition to discussing these re-recording sessions, the composer also gives an insight into his creative process behind selected original and new-playing tracks.
You created music for a wide variety of games before composing for NieR, one of the works you are best known for. How was composing for this game a unique challenge at the time?
Before that, I was more into arcade games than console games. So I’ve been asked many times to create eye-catching music that will inspire you to fight. At NieR, however, I put more emphasis on the music that does its job of expressing the unique world or conveying the emotions of a particular character and the feelings trapped in their heart.
The music did not clearly envision happiness, anger, sadness or recklessness, but was created to give the listener a feel for all the emotions that swirl in the nooks and crannies of their heart – like the faint glimmer of hope in the midst of sadness. or sadness mixed with bitterness.
“We recorded a youth choir for this song and I remember it was quite a difficult undertaking compared to recording an adult choir.”
Empathy is perhaps the most important topic of NieR. How do you translate this feeling into music?
I myself love music that evokes a lot of emotions. So it wasn’t too much of a struggle to express this in my work. However, I struggled to incorporate this flavor into most of the songs and still give it some variety and create the large number of songs.
Instead of the playback, I try to add emotion to the melody and I have a feeling that this might be inspired by old film scores.
“The piano in the background repeats a similar arpeggio, but the melody evolves throughout the song.”
One of the unique aspects of NieR’s score is the presence of vocals on most of the background tracks. Were there significant challenges in composing video game music with so much vocal work back then, and if so, how did you manage it?
Whenever we recorded vocals in music for video games or movies, I always got feedback, such as that the vocals overlapping with the character’s voice made dialogue difficult to hear or that the lyrics lead to that things are involuntarily implied feel intrusive. So when Yoko-san asks to record voices like a singer or a choir, I try to choose softer, more breathless tones with their own atmosphere, rather than looking for someone with more power. This is so that the singing does not stand out negatively.
In addition, the echo is one of the main characteristics of the NieR sound. By making the effects of the echo a little deeper, I think the vocals can sort of blend in better with the room and make it sound more airy. This helped give it a more unique type of presence as opposed to typical vocals.
“Originally a Japanese soprano sang this song, but this time we recorded someone in Hungary. So I recommend that you listen to and compare the wonderful points of each version when it is released.”
How much did you know about NieR when you joined the project 10 years ago? When writing, which aspects of NieR and its history have inspired you the most?
When I started writing songs for the original NieR Replicant, the game itself was still in the prototype stage and went through various trials and errors. So I tried to strike a balance between what director Yoko Taro asked for and the music I wanted to create without visualizing it.
Before I even worked creatively with Yoko-san, we were friends since we graduated from the same college. Even when we were working together on production for the first time, I was able to provide input and ask questions without having to hold anything back. As such, it was easy to grasp the intent behind the inquiries he was going to make.
Yoko-san informed me early on that the music will be an integral part of how the game is presented, so I definitely kept that in mind. For example, “Song of the Ancients / Devola” is set up so that you only hear the singing as you approach the character singing. Otherwise it is an instrumental track with no vocals. There are the kinds of determinations I would come across.
From the creation of the first song to the completion of the last song, I worked on it little by little over a very long period of time. As more progress was made in game development, I got more information and tried to strike a balance from there.
“Of all the dark songs in NieR, this song is one of the darker and more claustrophobic.”
The NieR soundtrack was recorded with great success. Since its original release, there have been arrangement albums, live concerts around the world, and more. How has that legacy affected the way you make music today?
It is my job and mission to compose and arrange quiet music, record these songs in the studio, integrate this music into the game content and deliver it to you, the players, through the medium. I can only find out what impact my work is having on the recipient by looking at the reactions on the internet and trying to imagine them in my head.
However, being able to hold concerts and see the comments of the fans from the stage or have meet and greets where I can communicate directly with people has allowed me to get a real feel for the feeling of everyone. That was very refreshing for me and left a lasting impression. There is no doubt that the experience adds to my motivation to keep creating even now.
“While NieR has many songs with a dark tone, this one is unusual and is supposed to give you the feeling of a spacious, open field.”
Can you tell us something about the direction you went in re-recording the score for NieR Replicant version 1.22474487139?
The music for the original title was not only created by me, but also by some of Monaca’s creators next to me. And for NieR Replicant Version 1.22474487139… instead of doing the arrangements myself, I was more of a music director teaching our creators.
“The arrangements of the newly arranged tracks are intended to highlight the colors of each participating artist. That way, I feel like even those who are familiar with the songs can reinterpret them. “
We have re-recorded all of the vocal elements, including Emi Evans vocals and choral singing, and replaced many instrumental elements that were played on a machine with actual instrumental performances. I think the sound is much richer this time.
For those of you who are going to play NieR Replicant for the first time this April, which song are you looking forward to the most?
It’s difficult to choose just one.
This time around everything is more robust, including the recorded instruments, and I think one of the biggest changes can be seen in the battle songs, which have a pretty large, orchestral setup. Especially for those familiar with the original, I hope you enjoy listening to the differences.
“Because of the detailed editing of this track, this version is very different from the one in the game. I think it can be enjoyed with a new perspective. “
“We were able to combine two versions of the original song at different tempos to give this version more oomph and make it more dynamic.”