Tomonori Sawada

Tomonori Sawada on Sonic Channel Creators Interview:

For the 23rd Creators Interview, we will introduce Tomonori Sawada who was in charge as Sound Director in Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity!

This time, we would like to talk with Mr. Sawada, the Sound Director of Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity released on January 17, 2008. First of all, could you explain about your job contents?

Hmm … my job….

First, it starts from the part of thinking about the rendition regarding the sound in the whole work. I will go decide it, discussing things like music of what kind of atmosphere to have and what kind of sound to apply to which scene with the sound staff. Then I consider things like schedule and estimate, manage what to finish by when, and so forth.

In this game, I take charge of two pieces of BGM and the production of all the sound effects in addition to such direction.

In the new game Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity this time, what parts have you been particular about personally?

With the Speed! speed! speed! feeling as the BGM concept of previous game, I produced it considering how to show the speed sensation in the first place, but by stressing the puzzling storyline in this game, I tried as if to have the slightly serious and dramatic melodies. And the player characters can use the gravity-controlling skills such as Gravity Control and Gravity Dive. I made them, being particular about smoothly expressing the feeling of zero gravity at that moment and the exhilarating feeling when dashing with SE and BGM.

If you have any appeal points and the like of this game in terms of sound direction, please let us hear about them!

It is called as the Music Link System inside my team that when using the aforementioned Gravity Control or Gravity Dive, it is made sure that the BGM changes in accordance with the action. It becomes a mechanism. For example, when turning into zero gravity, the time seems to have stopped once the BGM pauses, and when dashing, the music changes into a different pattern in accordance with that.

It feels quite good when turning a 90-degree corner using Gravity Control and deciding a hairpin turn. The sound also plays a part in that exhilarating feeling, so I want the players to play and check it by all means!

In proceeding with the project this time, what was the toughest? In what parts you went through the hardship?

After all, this is also about Gravity Control and Gravity Dive. I went through the hardship in the part of considering whether the way of making the BGM change towards these actions would be natural and effective. I repeated the trials and errors on things like what kind of starting way I should have when the BGM resumes after dashing and whether the exhilarating feeling would go up if showing some kind of difference from the previous BGM.

The rest is the schedule after all. It is usual. Even if there were tasks that would reach the point of not proceeding due to unexpected circumstances, I could not change the deadline, so I did things like reconsidering the management, priorities, and others of the tasks of each staff…. I have trouble in how to cope with it every time.

What moment do you think you are glad doing this job? What moment is enjoyable?

I am happy when creating a firm world in each scene for the whole work of course. The sense of accomplishment when being able to show the persuasiveness in which the world inside the game seems to really exist with BGM and sound effects is exceptional.

For example, I have tasks of applying the sound to the CG movies of the opening and the like. It is something with great intensity even if it is just a clip, but if I go apply the sound in detail to the events in the pictures, those scenes will come to be more lively.

When I complete such things with my own hands and the settlement is firmly produced in terms of rendition as well, I have my grinning moment, even if I do say so myself. (Laughs)

If you have any special feeling and the like regarding Sonic Riders series, please let us hear about them!

Actually, making a piece of BGM with my assistance in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for Game Gear was my first task after joining SEGA. Furthermore, I have come to be involved in Sonic series with my occasional assistance. I wanted to try to handle a Sonic title seriously sometime.

Therefore, I was happy when it had been decided that I would be in charge of the first Sonic Riders! … However, when the moment arrived, I was fairly troubled at what kind of feeling I should settle it in. And Sonic Riders is a spin-off series, so I thought that it would probably be good to express a different coolness from the previous Sonicness again. Showing the speed sensation occasionally as well, I performed it with music of my own best technolike atmosphere. I was grateful to be able to do it as I pleased quite freely through the series.

Concerning the Original Soundtrack: Zero Gravity Tracks.

When I make the BGM of the game, I produce it considering how the music would function effectively in the game. In the case of this time, they were made part by part in pieces for the music of each stage so that they change depending on players’ controls. However, when listening to it as a soundtrack CD in that case, it is not formed as music at all if leaving them scattered. So in Zero Gravity Tracks, I reorganize the music structure and include the re-recording after the game tasks ended so that those are formed as one piece. It can be said that the ones included in the game have been optimized for the game and the ones included in the soundtrack are the versions optimized for the soundtrack, even if they are the same music.

Then there are two theme songs of Sonic and Jet respectively. These two songs are what Tokoi, who took charge as Sound Director in Sonic and the Secret Rings, composed, and each of them becomes a very cool completion. For Sonic’s theme song Un-gravitify, I request the person called Mr. Cashell, who is from Ireland and being active as a vocalist in Japan, for the singing. He is singing advertisement songs and the like as well, and I think all of you have certainly heard his voice also. I think the voice quality of singing while preserving the coolness without becoming sultry was perfect for the atmosphere of music and game of this time.

Jet’s theme song is the same title Catch Me If You Can as the one of the previous game, but even if the base is the same song, it turns into an entirely different completion. The lyrics and singing are also by Mr. runblebee, who is from New York and a succession from the previous game, but it is a rap style in the previous game and this time, he sings in rock style. He plays an active part in Sonic and the Secret Rings as well and is a gifted person, who can correspond to various styles.

Also including the orchestra-style music of movie scenes and event scenes, the deeper and more dramatic music than the previous game is all present, so when you listen through the soundtrack, it is a guarantee that various scenes of the game will come to be brought back to your mind!

Could you please tell us the triggers, motives, and the like of joining SEGA?

After doing things like making music using synthesizer and the like due to my hobby since student days, I had vaguely been thinking things like I want a job related to music! I looked for a job in the direction such as recording company and radio station.

And then while I was looking at various things in a job-placement magazine, there was a recruitment article of SEGA development staff. It had sound team’s job scenery in some introduction photos, and seeing the image of working while being surrounded by those synthesizers, recorders, and others, I thought, This job exists!? And I did things like going to the company information session immediately and submitting demo tapes. I feel that it leads to now for this and that. (Laughs)

What kind of tasks did you want to do after joining SEGA?

I like new things, so I wanted to create an entertainment space as if I could experience a different world from the ordinary. For example, the sound expression in CD-ROM, which was still new at that time, and the ride of large-scale equipment or facilities.

During your student days, what kind of tasks had you put your effort into? How did you pass the time?

I like techno and new wave that heavily used the synthesizer since the old times and wanted to make such music by myself sometime as well. I thought I would do things like obtaining various information and could do what I wanted to do if joining a music club in university, but when it comes to music clubs of those days, 99% were band groups. It was a little different from what I was looking for.

But among those, there was a club doing my own imagined activities in only one part, so I joined that without hesitation. It was quite unlikely to capture things as a completed form with condition in which the music was recorded like the records or CDs that we usually listen to and pursue the way of creating good and interesting things. However, only that club was carrying out activities focusing on such things I am interested in. It taught me lots of things, and we made music while encouraging each other.

The tasks that I had done in those days and the tasks that I am doing in my current job are an extension as it is, so I think that if I did not have the experiences in that club, the current me would not exist.

May we also ask about your hobbies other than your job?

They are things like listening to music, viewing DVDs, watching foreign dramas with cable TV, and collecting minicars, are they? I do not seem to go out from home at all somehow, but trying food at various restaurants with my wife on weekends is also a hobby, isn’t it?

Among the tasks so far, what leaves you the best impression? Please let us hear the reason, too.

As I thought, Panzer Dragoon Saga (released on January 29, 1998) is the most deeply impressive. I think it is a successful example in which I could express the world of Panzer series with sound. Technically, I had challenged new tasks at a fast pace as well. I think I had made the world built up in the previous Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon II Zwei more refined in Saga.

It becomes common even now that it tells the story with CG movies or cutscenes and that the renditions of full 3D and full voice are united as one without feeling out of place in the game as well. It already turns into a title of as long as ten years ago, but I think it had taken the rendering’s expression of current games in advance.

The staff had also done their best in the BGM, and I think the best things had been finished technically as well as expressively for the BGM that plays with the built-in sound source of Saturn. When this project ended, I thought, I’ve done all the things I can do with Saturn’s sound!

Currently, what kind of tasks are you doing? I hope you could tell us in an acceptable degree.

For the next, I end up separated from Sonic, but the still unannounced new project has just started.

Inside the Sonic series, which character do you like the most? Please tell us the reason, too.

As I thought, it is Sonic. He is free and above all, the part—world’s fastest—is cool.

What is Sonic to you?

It is a being that I could not easily catch even if I tried after chasing and chasing, is it? I should say that even if I tried to fix the image in which Sonic might be such thing, it would end up being changed quickly, should I?

Finally, may I request your brief comment to everyone who is visiting Sonic Channel?

Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity has been further evolved from the previous game Sonic Riders. Please try to experience the race battles while controlling the gravity by all means! Do so together with the soundtrack Zero Gravity Tracks as well, please!

[Related item: Sonic Riders: Shooting Star Story Original Soundtrack: Zero Gravity Tracks]