Yoshihiro Sakaguchi Interview: A Career After Capcom (November 2010)
The NES' Mega Man and Mega Man 2 might have been released over 20 years ago, but their scores — created by Manami Matsumae, Takashi Tateishi, and Yoshihiro Sakaguchi — continue to fondly remembered to this day. Following our group interview, the three musicians agreed to talk on a one-to-one basis about their works after the Blue Bomber.
In this interview, Yoshihiro Sakaguchi reflects more about his experiences in the music industry. He discusses his integral role at Capcom as a composer and sound producer for the Final Fight, Street Fighter, and Breath of Fire series. He goes on to discuss his subsequent career as a sound editor on various major anime titles, including the Gundam series, and reflects how he currently splits his work between Tokyo and Hollywood.
Interview Subject: Yoshihiro Sakaguchi
Interviewer: Chris Greening
Editor: Chris Greening
Translation & Localisation: Ben Schweitzer, Christopher Ling, Shota Nakama
Coordination: Ippo Yamada, Akari Kaida
Support: Don Kotowski
Chris: Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, while you're best known for programming music on the Mega Man series, you participated on many other prominent titles during your time at the company. In particular, could you discuss your roles on the original Street Fighter, Final Fight, and 1943: The Battle of Midway? How did you establish the musical direction for each of these legendary franchises?
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi: Although I was a sound programmer on the Mega Man series, I did compose the arcade versions of Street Fighter and Final Fight. I had a single goal for these games. At that time, composers and sound driver programmers worked separately, and there were no sound producers who could do all of the work. Differently from other sound producers for visual works, with games one must understand the game design and know the hardware. There was a need for people geared towards both sensitivity and technology.
In my case, I was looking to become an overall sound producer, but I also needed to be able to work with the technical programming. In these two projects I was able to personally produce the entirety of the sound. As they were both fighting games, I paid special attention to the music's tempo. In Final Fight particularly, I wanted a rock feel.
Chris: During the SNES era, you mainly focused on sound design roles, for example on Street Fighter II's various ports or the original Breath of Fire. What inspired you to solely focus on this role?
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi: When I moved to the NES and SNES, I took on sound driver programming. At that time the game hardware was improving, so I sought ways to improve the quality of the sound as well. It wasn't inspiration, but I looked at other works, and, aiming to improve upon what had been done, gathered a team of dedicated members. I left the composing to the others.
Chris: Eventually you left Capcom to become a sound editor for various animes. Why did you choose to switch from video game to anime productions? What did your new role involve?
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi: As of now I have left the game industry, and entered the film industry as a sound editor. For almost 12 years now I've been working on film and television, anime and live action (not just anime!!) projects. I've probably completed about 30 to 40 titles.
I changed jobs because I was still looking to become a sound producer, and at Capcom, I had aquired a wealth of sound editing experience. Working as a sound editor requires the kind of sensibility of a composer, as you have to match the various situations in each scene by adding sound. Film works are always viewed by an audience. Because of this, the tempo has to be good, and the elements shouldn't feel out of place. It is also necessary to pay attention the producer, the director, and the many other people involved in order to produce a work that will evoke response.
Chris: During your time as an anime sound editor, you have worked on eminent franchises such as Blood: The Last Vampire, Steamboy, Sakura Wars, and Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Could you elaborate on which productions you were responsible for and what your roles involved in each title?
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi: For Blood the Last Vampire, Steamboy, and SD Gundam Force, the work was done in a Hollywood dubbing studio, and I was able to participate on-site. There's a need in anime worlds for a lot of sounds that don't actually exist. For these projects, I've created countless original sounds and then used them in various works. I hope I have created sounds that complement the works and make them more enjoyable.
Chris: Finally, could you tell us a little more about what you're up to now as a sound editor? Many thanks for your time today and good luck with all your future works.
Yoshihiro Sakaguchi: In the end, the position of sound editor originated with Hollywood. I am now working with that title, and supervising sound editors are able to do comprehensive sound production. Now, my office is in Tokyo's Shibuya district, but I also have a movie dubbing studio created with members from Hollywood.
Please come to see it some time.
All images on this interview are copyright of Capcom. Many thanks to Ippo Yamada, Akari Kaida, and Don Kotowski for coordinating this interview. Thank you to Ben Schweitzer, Christopher Ling, and Shota Nakama for their help at various stages in the translation process. Finally, thank you to the staff at Inti Creates and Capcom for their cooperation.