Hi everyone, Hiroshi Yamaguchi here.
I worked as the composer on Bayonetta 3, and I have also been involved in the production of all the Bayonetta games so far! When we started developing the first Bayonetta game, we never dreamt of making it this far in the series. The first game was released in 2009. Now that I think about it, I’ve spent over 13 years of my life with Bayonetta. In fact, that’s more than 15 years now, when you count the development time for the first game. This milestone is deeply moving. No wonder my kid’s gotten so big.
After we had completed the first two games, we truly felt that there was nothing more we could do in terms of sound performance. We were under the impression that we had already pushed the envelope for the series. That said, this could be just the fate of any series, or it could just be that we tried to push our limits even further for the forthcoming iterations, however, we took a look back at our efforts for the first two titles and tried to expand on the music even further for Bayonetta 3. As Naofumi wrote in the previous entry, Bayonetta 3 is PlatinumGames’ largest music production thus far.
In Bayonetta 3, I composed the theme song We Are As One and I was the Music Supervisor on the project. The “Music Supervisor” is a fairly new role at PlatinumGames and it specializes in music supervision, production, and production management. In the past, the Lead Composer was responsible for this role in our company, but by decentralizing the pertinent functions, the Music Supervisor is now able to focus solely on supervising, enabling music production that goes beyond the limits of what was possible in the past as, of course, money and time are finite resources. There is so much more I would like to write about the work of the Music Supervisor; however, I will leave it at that and talk about the main topic which is the theme song We Are As One.
Let’s take a look at the recently published music video of the Bayonetta 3 theme song We Are As One.
Note that there are spoilers in this video! If you haven’t played the game yet, be warned!
We Are As One
- Vocals/Lyrics: Rachael Hawnt
- Composition: Hiroshi Yamaguchi (PlatinumGames)
LOOKING BACK AT COMPOSING WE ARE AS ONE
In fact, this song was the very first song completed for the game! At the time of producing the song, the game was not yet ready at all, and we only had an initial GDD (Game Design Document) and a simple scenario plot.
On one rather unforgettable very first workday for 2018, it is customary for us at PlatinumGames to kick off the new year by enjoying a light drink together in the office to commemorate the occasion. I vividly recall a certain event, just when I was feeling a little tipsy and in a fairly good mood mind you! Inaba-san came up to me and asked me on the spot to write a theme song (ballad) for Bayonetta 3. This request was like a smack to the face that sobered me up immediately. Actually, Kamiya-san was also present right there and then, and both of them told me that they had an idea for the scenario and how to promote the game. I remember that the scenario at that time was only a plot of a plot…of a plot…but Kamiya-san already had a grand plan (a delusion, perhaps?) in his mind and told me that he was going to develop the story with the keywords of “destruction” and “ruin”.
When I heard these keywords, I was a little taken back, but the more Kamiya delved into the creative direction for the game, I felt that beyond this rather pessimistic motif was more of a positive image of “future,” “hope,” “freedom from the curse of the past,” and so on, which seemed infinitely luminous in a sense. Although we didn’t go into that much detail in our initial conversation, I felt the positive vibes Kamiya was trying to communicate, and I decided to express that imagery in the theme song.
Our team wanted to create a simple, universal concept that would convey the message of the song intuitively, while keeping a jazzy, fashionable tone that would resound with the Bayonetta lore. We created three rough drafts and asked Kamiya to listen to them. His feedback was that the first draft was the closest to what he had in mind. The first draft was actually the one that I was able to create exactly as I had imagined from hearing out Kamiya’s concept, so I was convinced that this was indeed the case. We continued to develop the song in this way!
RECORDING AT ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS
We are grateful to have received the cooperation of various talented professionals in the process of completing the music for the game. John R. Graham, who has worked in Hollywood and recently composed music for Japanese historical dramas, was the orchestrator and conductor for the recording, and Daniel Kresco, who has won many prestigious awards, was the recording/mixing engineer. We did the recording at Abbey Road Studios in London. It was Koyo Sonae, who is active as a music producer, who proposed the idea of recording at Abbey Road and led us to the realization of the project. When we pondered about the best recording location in Europe, the birthplace of Bayonetta herself, we could not have imagined a more ideal plan! We spent more than a year in preparation and had countless correspondence with Koyo. Everything was a series of firsts for us, and it was the most exciting time in my life as a creator so far!
Unfortunately, I am unable to really show most of the photos I took for, let’s say, “many different reasons,” but I’d like to share with your three memorable photos that I took.
Our Vice President and two employees repeatedly walked back and forth across a certain pedestrian crossing after being summoned by our President early in the morning and being told to walk!
PlatinumGames members recording the handclap portion in the middle of the song.
My colleague KJ managed to leave our company’s mark at Abbey Road!
Rachael Hawnt, a truly talented performer active in the UK, wrote the lyrics and provided the vocals. I felt that her soulful, powerful, and all-encompassing voice was perfect for this song. Rachael was really looking forward to recording at Abbey Road, and it was amazing to witness the way she sang with all her heart and a truly emotional experience for me after we completed all the recordings.
I was blessed with wonderful musicians and the environment to produce this song, and the whole experience was the culmination of my music production for the Bayonetta series.
When we asked Rachael to write the lyrics, we communicated to her the story and themes that we have covered in the series up to that point in time. Kamiya wanted to connect the three games and ensure that they were treated as a trilogy.
In light of this, for those who have played through the trilogy, you will be able to feel certain moments of the series in various places when you listen to the lyrics. The word “Real Love,” which has been depicted throughout the series, closes the book and gently reminds us of the end of Bayonetta’s story in the form of this beautiful melody.
I also feel that the music video depicts the inner feelings of Bayonetta, which she usually keeps bottled up. In the last scene of the music video, she takes off her glasses and looks as if the weight of the world was lifted off her shoulders. Her dance here is also breathtakingly beautiful, resembling the life energy only her persona is able to radiate. The dance was performed by Koharu Sugawara, a very talented Japanese dancer who is active worldwide. When I first saw the way Koharu expressed Bayonetta with her dancing, this was the first time I was moved to the point of finally understanding what it means to have one’s soul fully tremble.
I am looking forward to seeing Bayonetta again, although I don’t know when that will be. As she says, “As long as there’s music, I’ll keep on dancing.” When and if that time comes, I want to be there to create the music! In the next entry, we’ll go over the song “Al Fine” and I’ll pass the proverbial mic back to Naofumi Harada, the creator of the song. As some of you may have noticed, We Are As One and Al Fine are sister songs. I’ll ask him to explain which parts pertain to the “sister song” bit. Until then!
After working at Clover Studio and SEEDS, Yamaguchi made his way to PlatinumGames. He worked as the Music Composer on titles such as Bayonetta, The Wonderful 101, Star Fox Zero, World Of Demons, BABYLON’S FALL (as Lead Composer), Okami, Anarchy Reigns, Bayonetta 2, SOL CRESTA (as Music Composer), Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (as Arranger), and Star Fox Guard (as Implementer). He oversees all aspects of PlatinumGames’ music production and spearheads initiatives both large and small in scale. He worked as the Music Supervisor for Bayonetta 3 and composed the main theme song.