When NieR Replicant launched in 2010, one of the most memorable facets of the PS3 action RPG was its soundtrack, masterfully created by Keiichi Okabe. Since then, the 51 year old Japanese composer has revisited that haunting sci-fi world on multiple occasions. Outside working on arrangement albums and live concerts, he returned for acclaimed series’ sequel NieR:Automata in 2017. And in a few short months we’ll hear modern-day reimaginings of those classic tracks, created especially for an updated version of the original entitled NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…
In anticipation of that game’s release on April 23, we had the chance to ask Okabe-san about revisiting that seminal work over a decade on and find out how the game’s ethereal soundtrack is being reinterpreted for this new version. Alongside discussing those rerecording sessions, the composer also gives insight into his creative process behind select game tracks, both original and new.
You have created music for a vast number of games before composing for NieR, one of the works you are most known for. In what ways was composing for this game a unique challenge at the time?
Previously, I was involved more with arcade games, rather than console games. So, often I would be asked to create flashy music with a momentum to excite you for battle. However, with NieR, I placed heavier emphasis on the music fulfilling its role of expressing the unique world or conveying the emotions of a particular character and the feelings trapped in their heart.
The music did not clearly envision happiness, anger, sadness or levity, but instead, was created to give the listener a sense of all the emotions swirling around in the nooks and crannies of their heart—like the faint glimmer of hope amidst the sorrow, or sadness mixed with bitterness.
“We recorded a youth choir for this song, and I remember it was quite a difficult endeavour compared to recording an adult choir.”
Empathy is perhaps the most important theme of NieR. How do you translate this feeling into music?
I, myself, love music that evokes a lot of emotion. So, it wasn’t too big of a struggle to express that in my work. However, incorporating that flavor into most of the songs, and still giving it some variety, plus having to create the large number of songs, was what I struggled with.
Rather than the backing track, I try to inject emotion into the melody, and I feel that might be inspired from old movie scores.