Sonic Free Riders: The Secret Story of the Making of Soundtrack CD

Jun Senoue, Tomonori Sawada, and Kenjiro Morimoto on

The secret story of the making of Sonic Free Riders soundtrack CD is a must-read for Crush 40 fans!

Jun Senoue

Mr. Senoue is handling the theme song of the Kinect exclusive title Sonic Free Riders. I think that it is a title which is also clearly different from the Sonic series and Sonic Riders (referred to as Riders below) series so far, but in what kind of concept it was made?

Senoue: Regarding the theme song, I did not have the experience of being strongly aware of the fact that it is Kinect to that extent and then producing it. However, there are works with various genres in Sonic series and this time, it falls on the third game of the Sonic Riders series. Through the first and second games, they were the titles that had laid the dance-style beats in the core musically, but I probably would not make such music, so in the end, I adopted the method in which the British called Richard, who participated in the works like compositions of the racing game Sonic R released on SEGA Saturn and who is familiar with that kind of genre, completed what I have made.

I certainly feel the atmosphere to be different from the music of Sonic series handled by you so far.

Senoue: When writing the lyrics in terms of one characteristic of Kinect, “free” became a theme using the meanings such as being controller-free and being released from various things. It was “free” to the person taking charge of the lyrics, and after I variously showed the keywords associated with Sonic Free Riders, I instructed so that he would write them keeping those in mind.

Actually, were there any requests and the like from the standpoint of making the game?

Morimoto: I have handled Sonic Riders series until now. When making the first game, what I requested Sawada is that “I wanna differentiate it from the righteous Sonic Adventure.” Even though I followed the concepts “speed sensation” and “exhilarating feeling” which become the root, I wanted him to make comfortable sound of a racing game.

It seems difficult. (Laughs) Speed sensation and exhilarating feeling are not similar to the comfort of a racing game?

Morimoto: It might be so if putting it into words. But like the dance style that Senoue mentioned before, techno or some such is in contrast with rock. Even if one decides to carve out the same beat, techno and rock are different. Even if the destination where the users become comfortable is the same, I wanted to aim for the differentiation of the impression. I am a novice regarding music, so I could only tell you with a very vague form, though. All right? (Laughs)

I see.

Morimoto: Concerning Free Riders this time, we talked about whether we should return to the hard techno style of the first Sonic Riders. This was not a discussion limited to compositions. When considering the marketing, there was also an opinion saying that it would be better to decide on something easy to pick up for all the people who have purchased Kinect than the ones who want to play Sonic Riders series if anything, by the fact that it is a Kinect exclusive title. In that sense, we have also changed the compositions’ direction to softer … or rather, more neutral impression than the sharp one so far.

Senoue: A commercial feeling, am I right?

Tomonori Sawada

Sawada: Riders series is Sonic’s spin-off, so I have fairly done what I wanted so far. But if regarding the theme song, it becomes the third work this time, and while there are portions which I do freely, there are also Senoue’s speaking of Sonic, so I hoped to be able to merge Riders’ taste and the righteous taste so far. I slightly changed it from Senoue’s rock style, counted on Richard, and finalized it as if to decide on Riders’ direction.

But Free Riders is different from other racing games, and the stages rich in varieties like resort city, canyon in western reclamation era style, and snowfield are prepared. I think that it is tough to unify it with a theme that integrated those, though.

Sawada: It becomes the third work of Riders series, so the direction of the basic BGM is almost set, so … I have gotten used to it. (Laughs)

Senoue: Like “Leave Riders series to me!” (Laughs)

Sawada: No, no, it is Sonic’s spin-off series, so I feel more at ease than Senoue. (Laughs) At the beginning, I also hesitated a lot in terms of bringing it to a different direction, but it’s because it is the third work.

You said that there will also be people who will experience Riders series for the first time by the fact that it is a Kinect exclusive, but what are the points you have paid attention to in terms of that?

Sawada: For Kinect, they are the games that one will play moving the body, so I hoped to highlight the segment called “fun” more than ever. It is the form close to the first work. I had emphasized the storyline for the second work, so I also incorporated the serious feeling melodically, but for the third work, I feel that I have entirely brought the fun like the first work to the front.

Actually, how was your impression of listening to the theme song that Mr. Senoue had made?

Morimoto: How easy to understand it is, I think. (Laughs) It’s very Senoue. If illustrating Senoue’s song in words, I think that for the upper graders of elementary and junior high school students, it is the taste that strikes home to those advancing to western music and listening to the song voluntarily. It’s very lucidly cool. I think it is the age with strong desires in which the elementary upper grade’s children want to experience the slightly adult atmosphere, so conversely, I think Senoue’s adultlike songs coincide with Sonic games. I wonder if I would call it the feeling of wanting to overreach oneself. In that sense, the theme song this time is also cool. Easy to understand.

Mr. Senoue, how do you think after listening to what he said?

Senoue: I am happy when he can say so. (Laughs) It is a theme song, so I thought that it would probably be used in the opening and that I would bring the grip to the beginning. I started to make it under the condition of not looking at the storyboard and the like at all, so with the feeling of making the storyboard myself, I went on settling the composition while imagining things like making this part in this way, the title appearing here, and giving a jump.

Being good at such way of composing is also unique to Mr. Senoue who has handled Sonic the whole time, isn’t it?

Morimoto: I really think so.

The normal theme song and Crush 40 version of theme song are included in the soundtrack this time, and it seems that it can be said to be a very pleasant album for Crush 40 fans, doesn’t it?

Senoue: Regarding the normal theme song, how to decide on something commercial and easy to understand was the issue. In order to clear that issue, the help of the arranger Richard was necessary, and it was settled as one form after also selecting and particular about a singer’s voice quality. And when I turned out to make the soundtrack this time, I asked Morimoto, “Want something extra?” Then he said, “Yes.” “It’d be like this if I settled what I’ve made with my own worldview using something different from Free Riders’ concept.” And when I considered what I could do, I tried to put in that.

Kenjiro Morimoto

I have listened to it, but the atmosphere has been completely different although it is the same melody, hasn’t it?

Morimoto: It is a completely different impression from the original, isn’t it? Both express the speed sensation, but I have refreshing imagination as if a sharp effect line is running in the original and yet feel the intensity and passion like a torrent with the same speed sensation as well in Crush 40 version. Personally, I think that it is a “more Senoue-ish” work. To us, the creators, the main theme is something which becomes the concept for imagining the title’s final design, but if there were this Crush 40 version at the beginning, a more different Free Riders would probably be completed.

Sawada: Actually, the one used in the game is more like the game’s theme song. I feel that Crush 40 version is like “Now this is Crush 40!”, don’t you agree? I would like the listeners to enjoy that part as well.

By the fact that it is Kinect, do you have anything you were aware of in terms of making the compositions of the games of the type in which one plays moving the body?

Sawada: I hoped to be able to express the characteristics of the stages with music more than ever. I went on aiming for the forms as if the stages at the beginning are fun, and the serious and tense feeling appears as they gradually continue progressing.

I think that the way of making the game itself has changed considerably as well, but how was it?

Morimoto: For this, I might not be able to say that Kinect is the reason, but in believing that the way of making the sound of a racing game is very difficult, I think that there is segment that must not be overemphasized. Of course, I consider the excellence of music as well as game to be important too, but I think that the compositions in a racing game are materials which enliven the comfort, and that there is possibility in which the immersion towards the game would fade conversely if the music is overemphasized. By the fact that Free Riders is a racing game that one plays moving the body, I think that Sawada has made it, being aware of the taste in which one could comfortably experience the sound while moving the body.

Sawada: It’s the music that seems to be playing in club and in which one would seem to lose the time flow after the music is playing rather than that the melody is clear when it’s technolike dance music style. It is the comfort like turning into the trance state. A racing game is also a form similar with that, and I am aware of making things that would not seem to be a hindrance even if one is absorbed in the race and in which one would seem to lose the time feeling naturally.

I see. Mr. Senoue, how do you think after listening to the music other than yours?

Senoue: Previously, there was a stage called Green Forest in Sonic Adventure 2 which I handled, and although it is not a racing game, there was a setting in which it would explode if one did not leave the island within the time limit. That is, “Run through with all speed!” It was exactly the feeling like a racing game, but there, I did not put in the melody in the end. Actually, I had tried to put in the melody, but there was segment in which the elation would end up fading. And Let’s take it out, I thought. I think that it has an effect in which the repeat of the phrase heightens one’s immersion conversely.

Apart from that, did you have any difficulty in each stage?

Sawada: I’m not sure whether it is how I would show Riderslike feeling while combining the atmospheres of the stages. There are stages like relics, but I did things like trying to put in the sound of ethnic style, and insert the country sound if they are the stages of western America, and furthermore, I had a hard time in making Riders’ atmospheres merged. Then the part in which I must show the whole sense of unity is also a tough job. After that, I paid more attention to sound effects than compositions by the fact that it is Kinect. It is totally different from controller, so I thought that I must show the sound effects that fit users’ actions and movements.

Certainly, for Kinect, moving the body in an empty space and the sensation that the users have touched are the parts unable to be expressed with only sound, aren’t they?

Morimoto: It has also been set that one will play at a spot 1.8 meter away from the TV for the playing environment, so I have devotedly verified that situation. For example, if it’s a scene in which one wants to give an impact, it’ll try to purposely shift the position where the sound occurs.

The basic part of making the game is also changed, isn’t it?

Morimoto: Yes.

Sawada: I think that the way in which the easier-to-understand sound response comes back will lead to the exhilarating feeling of the players.

Mr. Senoue, how did you think after actually playing it?

Senoue: It was difficult until I got used to the controls. (Laughs) I have not yet tried playing with many people, so I would love to invite everyone to my house and play at the end of the year.

How about the most recommended tracks among the soundtracks this time?

Senoue: The bonus track that I have added to the end is a present to everyone who is always supporting us. On the other hand, the one included in the game is a form in which the music that I made also has this sort of amplitude. I think that it becomes an album in which one can enjoy such contrast, so I would love them to listen to both theme songs.

Sawada: I have done my best to make the segments of stage music, I want them to listen to all of them.

Morimoto: In the latter half of the development, there was a stage that I was debugging and the tuning did not easily end from August to September. That is the stage called Rocky Ridge. I had been listening to that music the whole time, so I still end up humming it unintentionally even if getting into my car. (Laughs)

It means that the music fits the stages so much, doesn’t it? (Laughs) Well then, finally, please have your brief comments for the fans.

Senoue: In 2010, especially at the end of the year, the titles of Sonic series are gathering together, and the fans of Sonic series might be about to hesitate over which to play, but I think that Free Riders is not only a title that one person will play but also a title that everyone will play and the spectators will be able to enjoy as well, so please try to play it by all means.

Sawada: It is completed as an enjoyable game for Riders fans so far as well as for the people who take advantage of Kinect and play the series for the first time, so I hope that they could play it at the end of the year by all means.

Morimoto: The elements which the fans of Riders series can enjoy are also included, and what’s more, it becomes a game in which one can enjoy the never-seen-before real communication that has used the new interface called Kinect. I hope that they could play Free Riders by all means during the gathering with family and siblings at the end of the year.

Thank you.

From left, Kenjiro Morimoto, Tomonori Sawada, Jun Senoue.

[Related items: Sonic Free Riders, Sonic Free Riders Original Soundtrack: Break Free]