A Classic Interview With Castlevania Composer Michiru Yamane
Author: Brandon Sheffield & Game Developer Staff
Date: 26 December 2013
Source: Game Developer
Michiru Yamane is one of the most notable composers in the field. In 2006, Game Developer's Brandon Sheffield spoke to her about her work.
In this reprint from the October 2006 issue of Game Developer magazine, Michiru Yamane opens up about her musical education and her work on a few classic Castlevania games. She would go on to leave Konami in 2008, striking out as an independent composer and scoring games like Skullgirls. Michiru Yamane is the principal composer for the game series Castlevania, among others. Her classical and dark arrangements in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night have earned her more prominence among game music writers, Konami fans, and the industry at large. Having worked in games since the late 1980s, Yamane is one of the most recognized composers in the field. Game Developer spoke with her about her influences and inspirations, as well as her plans for the future.
Game Developer: How did you first start at Konami?
Michiru Yamane: Just before my fourth year of college, I started looking around in the recruitment office for different jobs I could apply to, and I found Konami there. That's the whole story!
GD: It seems like a lot of people I've talked to at Konami joined up right after college.
MY: I actually had a teaching license at the time, and I did get another job, but it was part-time, and it didn't suit me at all. The school I was working for didn't really like me that much either, so I started looking for another job, and that's when I decided to join Konami.
GD: Did you study music in school?
MY: As a kid I started learning piano, and I went to a high school that had an emphasis on advanced piano. It was specifically a musical high school. But there were so many piano virtuosos who had technical skill and I didn't want to compete in that way, so I chose a university that had strong music composition courses.
GD: What made you interested in this sort of music, this sort of old, gothic, Victorian style?
MY: I guess it comes down to my schooling again. When I was at university, my thesis was based on the music of Bach, so I was immersed with pretty classic yet dark music. But I don't want to have that stereotype, if possible.
GD: What was the first game you did music for?
MY: Ganbare Goemon 2 in Japan, then some arcade titles, and some Game Boy work, but often I only did partial soundtracks. I moved on to some Super Nintendo and Genesis stuff as well, with Castlevania: Bloodlines and Rocket Knight Adventures. I'd say my big break was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
GD: What sound chip did you prefer from the old days?
MY: Probably the Genesis. For that system I got to do all the work, not just composition, but also synthesizing the music into the program. So it's particularly memorable for me.
GD: Do you ever have any influence on the design of games?
MY: Not from the early stages, but I can certainly influence design from a sound standpoint in terms of how things are implemented and the direction of events. I remember a specific time when my vision and [Castlevania director] Koji Igarashi's vision didn't overlap. At that time, I basically had to change my way of thinking to match his, so maybe I don't have that much control. But usually we're on the same page.
GD: With Castlevania specifically there's a lot of revision of classic music, it seems. Is that a problem for you?
MY: I do get to create lots of new music for the series, even with arrangements. I did one for Symphony of the Night and several more for the Game Boy Advance. I really like the music of Castlevania already, so it doesn't bother me at all.
GD: What games have influenced you in terms of sound?
MY: I really love the Tomb Raider games — well, 1 and 2 anyway. They don't have any music, but they have really good sound work, so that made me think more carefully about the way I use music in games.
GD: It seems like lately the Castlevania series is becoming less and less popular in Japan. Have you considered hiring a Visual Kei band [a Japanese music style that integrates rock and classical, in a manner similar to Castlevania's music] to do a tie-in with a future game?
MY: I haven't, but it seems like a good idea. For the next game we do plan to integrate some music with vocals, but it won't be rock. It'll be more operatic.
GD: What kind of music do you listen to?
MY: In the rock category, Dream Theater. I'd love to collaborate with them some day, but somehow I don't think that will ever happen.
GD: Do you ever make music just for yourself?
MY: Well, not really, unfortunately. Since I'm a Konami employee, I'm always devoting my full efforts to the music of whatever game I'm working on, usually Castlevania. But someday I'd like to. I'm afraid that if I did make my own music, it would sound quite a lot like Castlevania music anyway... would that be all right?