Thursday, February 23, 2012

Influence- Akira Yamaoka

Something else I'd like to do on here is pay homage to some of my heroes and influences that have molded me into who I am today.

I'd like to start with one of my biggest musical influences, Akira Yamaoka.This man is essentially Silent Hill. The series would not exist as it is today without him. Silent Hill is not only one of my favorite video game series, but it's one of my favorite works of art in general. And if you think that is going too far, you must not have played them.

I've been playing these games since I was fairly young, and one of my biggest draws to this series in particular over the other, somewhat similar titles, was the music and sound work in general. Akira Yamaoka is singlehandedly responsible for every piece of audio that comes out of your speakers while playing the game, due large in part to the active role he plays as a producer as well. While most composers are content to just write the songs, collect their check, and move on, Yamaoka invests the entirety of his being into each project. As an example, in addition to composing the soundtrack to Silent Hill 2, Yamaoka was also responsible for creating and recording all the sound effects for the game as well. Not only was the game an eventual hit among fans, but many still feel it includes the best use of music in a game ever. While I can't readily commit to any one game as having better music than the others, it is clear in my mind that Silent Hill makes the best use of music of any franchise.

The video above includes my favorite single track, "Room of Angel" from the Silent Hill 4 Official Soundtrack, as well as various clips from the games running in the background to provide a little context as to how the music fits into the games.

When music is an essential part of something's identity, I think you've succeeded as a composer. Silent Hill marries gameplay, story, and music better than any other game, film, or anything else out there. This dependence on a single individual can prove troublesome however, and since Yamaoka's departure from Konami in 2009, the future of the franchise is now in jeopardy.

Silent Hill Downpour will be the first Silent Hill game released since Yamaoka's departure, and in an attempt to fill the very large shoes left behind, Konami has hired Daniel Licht (famous for his work on Dexter and Body of Lies). While I feel that there is no one else out there as uniquely qualified as Yamaoka, I hope for the sake of the franchise that Licht is successful in continuing the legacy of greatness started by Yamaoka. The game releases in March, so we will know soon enough. I'll post a full review of the game after I've gone through it, and I will definitely pay special attention to how the music has been handled in the latest installment. Until then, at least I have the soundtracks of every other Silent Hill game to hold me over.

I should mention at least briefly, that Yamaoka has since moved on to work for his friend and personal hero Suda 51 at Grasshopper. They have only collaborated on one game so far, but the result was excellent. Shadows of the Damned was an incredible game that I will likely review in full at a later date. Yamaoka's style did not diminish with a change in setting, and the music in Shadows of the Damned is once again an essential piece of the overall product. I look forward to his future work, and will continue to be motivated and inspired by his creativity and unrivaled work ethic.

   -Chris (A Huge Silent Hill Fan)

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