Suda51's Grasshopper Manufacture is readying their new horror game, Shadows of the Damned, for release later this month, and it somehow looks even trippier and creepier than anything the studio has produced in the past, including Killer7 and No More Heroes. You may not have heard, however, that Akira Yamaoka, famed composer for the Silent Hill series, is behind the music. Well we did, and we tracked him down for a few questions about his craft and the new game.
GR: Silent Hill and Shadows of the Damned are both horror games, but Shadows looks to take itself less seriously. How is that reflected in your work?
AY: Damned has horror elements, but it’s more of an action game than a straight-up horror title. This was my first experience composing music for a game like this. Even though the horror elements are light, I felt it was important for me to paint the atmosphere with those horror "colors" when creating the game’s soundscape. It was something new for me and a very exciting experience.
GR: What advice would you have for dev tearns as far as learning to create ambient horror more effective than the standard "booga booga jump out of a wall vent and scream"?
AY: I believe harnessing the power of the player’s imagination is the most effective way to scare them. It’s difficult to scare Japanese people in the traditional "shock-horror" style. There’s a saying in Japan that the ghost that you can’t see, but can feel, is the scariest. It’s natural for Japanese people to understand that type of atmospheric horror. The best way for a game designer to understand that type of horror would be to study Japanese culture, and then use his/her imagination to polish and shape it to the game design.
GR: Can you talk about your "Play for Japan" album?
AY: Play For Japan is a collective effort of video game composers to benefit the victims of the earthquakes and tsunamis that hit Japan last March. This effort reaches beyond borders and composers from all over the world have come together for this single charity album. Some artists who are contributing are Koji Kondo (Super Mario), Tommy Tallarico (Advent Rising/ VGL), Nobuko Toda (MGS), and Bear McCreary (SOCOM 4). We’re all connected in this industry, no matter where we live or work. I’m very proud of the album and I hope we can continue to come together for charity projects like this in the future.
GR: You've said in a previous interview that Suda51 was your favorite creator and that you love No More Heroes. What was it like getting a chance to work with Suda51? Is Shadows of the Damned your favorite game now?
AY: Suda 51 is a wonderful creator. We have a mutual respect as game creators. Of course, my new favorite game is Shadows of the Damned!
GR: What inspired you to go from making games to composing music for games?
AY: I’ve always been a fan of both music and games, so I wanted a job that would let me do both. That’s how I started in the game industry. I love composing music because it’s so powerful; you can influence people’s moods and emotions with music. That power to move people all over the world is amazing, I think. Since games reach people all over the world, I thought it would be the perfect place for me to craft my art.
GR: Who are your favorite composers working in the gaming industry today?
AY: Tommy Tallarico. He’s a great composer, an awesome musician, and a well respected businessman.
GR: Is there a series that you wish you could compose for?
AY: Heavy Rain!!!