February 26, 2012 5:00 AM | jeriaska
While indie development is comparatively rare in Japan, prominent game composers are increasingly choosing similarly styled work environments through the formation of their own independent studios. For Uematsu, whose experience includes music for a dozen Final Fantasy titles, going freelance made room for establishing more personal projects.
Through Dog Ear Records, Uematsu focuses his attention on a mix of high profile projects like Piano Opera Final Fantasy IV/V/VI and his own more personally motivated albums, among them Octave Theory by Earthbound Papas. "Financially, we haven't had a big hit yet, or completely surpassed our monetary needs" he says of his studio. "On the other hand it's a very positive work environment."
Other experienced game creators in Japan have balanced work on triple-A development with their own indie projects. Yo1 Komori of Heloli continued to freelance as a programmer while he made Xbox Live Indie shooter Prismatic Solid and puzzler Hacotama. The designer saw XBLIG as a venue for exercising skills outside of his more specialized work for game studios.
Collaborating with Heloli on both Xbox titles were SuperSweep musicians Shinji Hosoe and Ayako Saso. As with their music for the Ridge Racer series of games, the composers were credited as SamplingMasters on the end titles. During our interview with the sound creators last year, they emphasized such benefits as greater artistic freedom and the option to publish soundtracks on their own label as the major draw of joining an independent project.
Indie games in Japan can hardly be discussed without mentioning Cave Story creator Daisuke Amaya. Having established himself through the release of freeware titles like Ika-Chan, the designer is now focused on publishing original and remastered iOS titles. His first app for Studio Pixel is a remake of Azarashi for iPhone, which will precede an entirely new underwater adventure title called Rockfish.
Tony Dickinson's contest-winning arrangement of Earthbound Papas' "Metal Hypnotized," selected by Dog Ear Records staff
The Tokyo-based developers at Nigoro share a similar story to Studio Pixel. Having started out making free Flash games, their first commercial release launched last year in Japan. The remake of their archaeological platformer La-Mulana, an anagram of studio boss Naramura, rose to the top of the WiiWare charts upon its debut and is currently being ported to PC. English-language localization is planned as well, through publisher Nicalis, the company responsible for bringing Cave Story to 3DS.
These examples from Japan demonstrate that indie development has benefits for veteran creators, as well as those just starting out. For the experienced, establishing an indie studio can allow for new artistic challenges and the potential for more personal forms of creative expression.
Photo and video interview by Jeriaska.