Source: 15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Series Encyclopedia 2001-2016
Summary: In this interview published in 15th Anniversary Gyakuten Saiban Series Encyclopedia 2001-2016, composer Iwadare Noriyuki and composer/main sound engineer Horiyama Toshihiko talk about the music of the Gyakuten Saiban series. Iwadare is an external composer who first got to work on the series with Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney 3 - Trials and Tribulations) and worked on many other titles after that, while Horiyama is a Capcom employee who worked as main composer for Gyakuten Saiban 4 (Ace Attorney 4 -Apollo Justice) and has worked as main sound engineer and secundary composer on other titles.The two talk about the characteristics of the music of the Gyakuten series, how they come up with their compositions and how they record their music. Interviews with the composers of the music of this series are actually quite rare, and this is perhaps the most informative one available at the moment.
The Special Sound of The Gyakuten Series
Horiyama: If you ask me, the special sound of the Gyakuten series can be traced back to the fact that even in this day, it builds on the music style from games of the past. I think it is a continuation of the game music from the eighties. I think you can feel that in the way that each song has its own presence, a clearly defined melody. The feeling of each of these tracks is actually very pronounced, different from music that’s just there to accompany a game. Titles for high-end consoles lately—the music of what we call AAA games, are more like merged with those games…. Often, the tracks there feel like ambient background music, even more so than with films. But the Gyakuten series is different, and for better or worse, each track can stand on its own. I think that’s the difference to how we compose these soundtrack.
Iwamoto: The series originally started on the Game Boy Advance, so the number of different tones available was limited. That’s why we focused on melody. And it was done with the internal synthesizer, so it was difficult to make ambient music. I think that’s why melody turned out to be so important for these tracks.
Horiyama: That might be it.
The Difference In Sound Quality Depending On Hardware
Horiyama: Gyakuten Saiban 4 (Ace Attorney 4 - Apollo Justice) marked the jump from Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo DS, so that meant a hardware upgrade. We could produce more tones simultaneously, so the songs there became relatively richer. But in essence, the technology was still the same as with the Famicom, with an internal synthesizer, so the fundamental feeling of the soundtrack of Gyakuten Saiban 4 is quite close to that of the original three games. Talking from the composer’s point of view.
Horiyama: Then we got the Nintendo 3DS, so now we could stream the music instead of using the internal synthesizer…. Do the readers know what a stream is? You don’t use the chips inside the console itself to create music, but play the music from a CD-ROM…. Like with the PlayStation. That’s a stream. The 3DS uses cartridges, but you put the music data inside, and play that. So with Gyakuten Saiban 5 (Ace Attorney 5 - Dual Destinies), the music bcame even richer.
Iwadare: So we were able to use live music streams starting with Gyakuten Saiban 5, so personally, this was when I really could use the music the way I wanted. When you use an internal synthesizer, the music just never comes out precisely like you had first imagined. So I feel that with Gyakuten Saiban 5, I finally managed to compose the music just like I had imagined it. And then there’s the issue of loading. I heard that Mr. Takumi had always preferred the internal synthesizer, because it allowed him to have the music timed perfectly to the text appearing on screen. He hated even the smallest lag. So that’s why he stuck with the internal synthesizer. And I have to say, I think that perfect timing was used very well, just like a well-timed comedy act. It sure shows Capcom is situated in Ōsaka (laugh).
Horiyama: Haha. Nowadays we can put the stream data in the memory of the console, so there’s no time lag.
Iwadare: Not anymore. There is really no lag at all.
Horiyama: With Gyakuten Saiban 5 and Gyakuten Saiban 6 (Ace Attorney 6 - Spirit of Justice), we had to tinker with the music while playing off the speakers of the 3DS, but the speakers are not very powerful, so it’s difficult to get low tones. So in the early stages of creating the music, we had low tones from instruments like the bass or the kick drum sound louder. But when you’d listen to them with earphones, they’d sound too low, so we had to make it so that the 3DS would detect whether earphones were plugged in, so it would cut the bass.
Iwadare: The issue is which output to focus on. With Gyakuten Saiban, it was decided to make the speakers the standard, so Mr. Horiyama would come to my place and work on the adjustments.
Horiyama. Yes. I’d adjust the music for the 3DS speakers, and have the music jump automatically if earphones were plugged in. I adjusted the music for the 3DS speakers, because I thought that was the easiest method… Most people would play the game using the speakers, so I decided to go for that.
The Sound Effects Of The Gyakuten Series
Horiyama: I am not sure whether it was intentional or just a coincidence, but the Gyakuten series actually has no really comedic sound effects like “boin (laugh)”. It’s pretty interesting that it has realistic sound effects. Surprisingly normal sound effects. It’s up to the presentation to make the best use of them. We recorded a lot of new sound effects for Gyakuten Saiban 6, for example using a gavel to hit a wooden desk…. Obviously, this is an incredibly plain sound (laugh). We edit hat to give it more of an impact. We also recorded the sounds for Nayuta (Nahyuta)’s beads.
Iwadare: The instruments I could play myself, I recorded live, like the guitar, trombone and other brass instruments…
Horiyama: I think that sounds pretty good, it really sounds it was played live. Like the trombone.
Iwadare: If I know somebody, I’ll ask them too. Guitar solos and things like that. The guitar in Kokone (Athena Cykes)’s theme for example, I asked Mr. Yasufumi Fukuda for that for example. Also for Potdīno’s (Pees’lub Andistan’dhin) music (laugh).
Horiyama: Potdīno was originally supposed to be a character who after his transformation would play his Damaran as a electric guitar, so he’d have an animation for playing the guitar. So they had some staff members play the guitar a bit for that. But then it was suggested he’d also talk during his testimony with that animation, and then they said they wanted him to sing during his testimony… Then I think it was director Yamazaki who said we'd have the melody and the text of his testimony sync up. We created of music a lot for that. We had a different melody for each testimony. We really had a lot made for him.
Iwadare: It was almost like having Obachan (Wendy Oldbag) back. I’d love to see her again.
Horiyama: No… (laugh).
Iwadare: One of these characters again! (laugh) But he really stood out as a new character because of this.
Creating Character Themes
Iwadare: Mr. Horiyama here sends me the descriptions of the characters. I’ll take a good look at them and deliberate on them. As for how I work, I like to look at the illustrations. If the illustrations are in color, the better. Their primary colors, the clothing they’re wearing, their facial expressions, how they’ll appear in the game. I’ll examine all of that and then create the themes.
Horiyama: In my case, I was always able to go directly to either Mr. Takumi (Gyakuten Saiban 4) and Mr. Yamazaki (Gyakuten Saiban 6), so I could actively propose the music I wanted to make. But of course, I needed to create music that everybody could appreciate.
Iwadare: You don’t try to go for mismatches in Gyakuten Saiban, right?
Horiyama: No, mismatched music on purpose can have interesting results, but I never tried that.
Iwadare: I see.
Horiyama: That’s why I was always afraid you might’ve felt a bit cramped and limited (laugh).
Iwadare; Speaking of characters, what did we do for Gyakuten Saiban 5’s Kokone again? I think I wanted to come up with something sparkly.
Horyuama: You mean Hōtei no Kakumeiji “(The Courtroom's Revolutionnaire”)? I think I explained what for character she was, how she looked like, how she talked and what kind of track would be nice. And then I had you interpret all of that on your own to come up with a track.
Iwadare: Ah, yes. So you placed an order, and I made something that I thought fitted her image, and it was rejected. And that happened several times… You’re pretty strict.
Horiyama: No, no, no, not at all.
Iwadare: You told me “No” a lot of times. Not once, or twice. You’re really, really strict.
Horiyama: No, no, no (laugh). At first it was in major key, and very happy and sparkly. But we needed for the court, so that’s why I asked for lower key and that went perfectly. And with Gyakuten Saiban 6, it became a bit more rock.
Iwadare: 6, so rock (laugh) (TN: “Roku” means 6 in Japanese). The character also grew to fit that part, so I was glad. I tought she’d be more sparkly, but she had grown surprisingly into a reliable person.
Horiyama: You can do any song… I doubt handy is the right word, but you can do any kind of genre.
Horiyama: I think it’s more interesting if there are different kinds of music, so I’ve always composed my soundtracks like that. I think that has gone pretty well, if I say so myself.
Horiyama: Yes, there’s a lot of genre variation. If we go back, we have a jazz theme for Zenitora (Furo Tigre) in Gyakuten Saiban 3. And Godot’s theme was also something innovative.
Iwadare: Yes, with Godot, I had the image of what I wanted in mind in advance. It had to be hardboiled, like the jazz music they play in a local café. Enjoying the coffee there. So I came up with a tune that would fit there, and Mr. Takumi liked it. He was the one who gave the track the name Kōhī wa Yamiiro no Kaori (“Coffee With The Fragrance of Darkness”).
The Music of the Gyakuten Series
Iwadare: We are basically successors to the music of Gyakuten Saiban, so we use the feel of those songs as our basis. Some things should never change. Like the theme song of Naruhodo-kun (Phoenix Wright). It became more mature in Gyakuten Saiban 5.
Horiyama: Like we just mentioned, we could now use music streams, and that richness has also led to a kind of maturity, I think. For example, the sound of the violins is more real now.
Iwadare: The chords too.
Horiyama: We can do much more now.
Iwadare: Yes, we can use more of them now, so that gives it a more relaxed feeling. His song actually jumps around, like dun, dun, tak. Tattala tatta goes on top of that , but basically, that jump in his theme song has remained the same from the first game until 6. I think the eight notes there have remained the same also. And then I play around with the sounds beneath that, but the basic structure is the same. I add changes through instruments, or the placement of the chords, or making the snares of the drum sound heavier. It was really difficult composing the music when I joined the team for Gyakuten Saiban 3. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn't figure out what the melodies were in the Gyakuten Saiban soundtracks. So I asked the staff member who was in charge of the sounds back then how the melodies went. I think I asked about the courtroom opening theme. I asked if the pipe organ that goes “Pahpah, pahpah” was the melody. It turned out it wasn’t. I just couldn't hear it (laugh). It was different from the melody type I had imagined. So the sound engineer told me what the melody was, and after I started working on the soundtrack, it became more fun to me too. Like, hey, I can make these kinds of tracks too. Now I’m really good at it. Making Gyakuten-like music (laugh).
Horiyama: Gyakuten-like (laugh).
Iwadare: I could do a course on composing Gyakuten-like music. If you do this, it’ll sound Gyakuten-like! But I can’t reveal my secrets just yet (laugh).
Inspiration for Songs and The Environment
Iwadare: I usually get my ideas for the music while I’m walking my dog….
Horiyama: Is it just the inspiration for the song, or…?
Iwadare: The melody, chord progression, all of that.
Iwadare: I think while taking a stroll. Something will come up. And then I’ll hum it as I walk back. And immediately write it down so I don’t forget it. I’ll put it down then for a while, and then come back to it to work on it and see if it can become something. If we’re talking specifically about Gyakuten Saiban, I come up with the Tsuikyū (“Pursuit”) themes while walking outside.
Horiyama: The only place I compose music is at my desk at office.
Iwadare: Eh?! Only at the office? You don’t work on it at home?
Horiyama: Only at the office.
Iwadare: That’s pretty amazing actually.
Horiyama: I might vaguely think about what kind of song might be good, but in general, I only work on music at the office. At home there’s just too much noise bothering me.
Iwadare: Oh, yes, that does happen. That’s why I only work on music at night.
Horiyama: At the office, everyone around me is hard at work, so I can focus there. And of course, I feel like I can’t be the only one loafing around at the office.
Iwadare: Don’t you ever have doubts? About whether a song is good?
Horiyama: That happens of course.
Iwadare: I always come up with four songs before I send it to you! I make about four completely different tracks, and hesitate about which one fits the best (laugh). Well, I say completely different, but it’s the different of doremi, or miredo. I could go doreso, or dorela. But I try to even look at differences like that.
Horiyama: But you don’t hesitate between for example going jazz or rock?
Iwadare: No, I never feel doubtful there. It’s doubts about going with melody, or the chords. Tempo. The sound engineers, you know, are pretty fuzzy about tempo. They’ll have you change even one beat.
Horiyama: Sorry that happens all the time (laugh).
Iwadare: These guys, they'll brazenly send you a reply that you should speed up the tempo by two beats. But in the end, it's something we all work on. We all work together, we all listen to the songs together and agree on it together. And if they already have an idea of what they want, detailed comments like these are best. I can work with that. You’re probably the same, but I can’t come up with anything if they just tell me they want something that sounds like this or that
Iwadare: Being given other songs as examples is also bad. Especially if the song fits too well. If I feel the example fits perfectly as well, I give up, or perhaps that’s not the right expression, but I feel no satisfaction in working on it anymore. With Gyakuten Kenji (Ace Attorney Investigations), the games were not set in courtroom anymore right? So I was more free to compose the music. It was decided we’d use Mitsurugi (Edgeworth)’s theme from earlier games, but we made it more active. And as the main instrument, we went with the piano, as it was an instrument clearly divided in “black and white”.
The Instruments To Express The Faraway Land Of Kurain
Horiyama: Speaking of instruments, the setting of Gyakuten Saiban 6 was the fictional country of Kurain (Khura’in). So we talked about what atmosphere to go with. It shouldn’t be India.
Iwadare: China didn't fit either. Chachachachachacha… that’s China. So we tried Tibet, which was still close by. So I looked up what kind of instruments they used in Tibet, but I didn’t know any of them. But anyway, I wanted to stay away from Indian instruments.
Horiyama: At first we played a bit with the sitar.
Iwadare: But it just didn’t seem right with the sitar. The moment you heard it, you’d think of India. We didn’t use the dulcimer either in the end, but we ended up with all kinds of weird instruments. As for what I recorded at home, I had a tuned-up mandolin that created some mystifying tune, somewhat like a biwa. I used it for the Song of Devotion.
Horiyama: Those weren’t samples? You actually played it yourself?
Iwadare: Yes, I played it.
Horiyama: Wow. I mainly worked on songs for use in Japan…. But I made one song for Kurain. I was thinking of ethnic influences, so I used percussion instruments.
Iwadare: I used a lot of percussion instruments too. I tried to stay away from India, so I didn’t used the tabla.
Horiyama: The ring of the bell is pretty characteristics. I used that a lot. It fitted the image I had of mainland music.
Iwadare: The moment we talked about the Song of Devotion, I thought of Shimotsuki Haruka. We hadn’t worked together since she did Gyakuten Saiban 4’s Lamiroir. Her singing has a nuance to it that reminds of traditional folk songs. But she doesn’t sing like traditional folk singers, so it worked quite well here. I think it matched up very good.
Horiyama: Yes, I think her singing gives the track a lot of presence.
Iwadare: We actually had four verses in total. With lyrics. But we didn’t record it, so I hope one day we’ll get to that (laugh).
Horiyama: Was the recording difficult?
Iwadare: No, it went surprisingly smooth. We only had two singers, so it wasn’t anything complex. Each part had eight parts each, with one main. I had actually used a lot of voices, groaning and stuff, but it sounded too much like some kind of weird religious song.
Horiyama: Speaking of Kurain, the track I made for the scene where you win the Not Guilty verdict had too much going on at first. The image I had in my head was that of a dreamlike spiral flight of a butterfly, but then I toned it down a bit to get the final version. I used the synthesizer to create a moody track, the opposite of the previous Not Guilty scene tracks, which were very cheerful. And then there’s the happy track used in the wedding ceremony in the Special Episode Turnabout Beyond Time (Turnabout Time Traveler) of Gyakuten Saiban 6. I wrote about this in the booklet of the soundtrack of Gyakuten Saiban 6 already, but it was the last song I made for Gyakuten Saiban 6, so it’s full of memories to me. It was on the last day of work on office in 2015, when we had to clean up for the year. I had to finish my work before the year was over, so while everyone at the office had gone off to some end-of-year party, I was still working alone at the office at 10pm (laugh).
Iwadare: Full of memories indeed (laugh).
Looking Back At Yourself When You First Got To Work On The Gyakuten Series
Horiyama: I joined with Gyakuten Saiban 4, and knew nothing about how they made the music until then. I was pretty defiant towards Mr. Takumi, the director, back then. I think that in the end, it worked out, but when I look back now, I realize that the series had been supported by many fans until that point, so I perhaps should’ve taken on the challenge of composing the music, while building more clearly on what the Gyakuten Saiban series had done until then. I don’t think it’s good to base everything on the melodies of all the old songs, but I feel I should’ve looked better at the whole soundtrack of the complete Gyakuten Saiban series, to have used that as my starting point for my own work. If I could go back to that time, I would like to opportunity to talk more about all the possibilities we had with Mr. Takumi.
Iwadare: I am an external composer, so it’s pretty rare for me to be able to work on the Gyakuten series. A common acquaintance was called to see if they knew a composer, and I was there, so that’s how they got me. And we have worked together now from then all the way to this day, so yes, I think it’s important for me to be cherish all the acquaintances I have (laugh). And the first time I came to Ōsaka, Mr. Takumi treated me on fugu…. Wait, fugu has nothing to do with it (laugh). But I am really happy I did not decline the offer back then. I am able to do this work thanks to the people I have gotten to learn. I am really grateful.