Octopath Traveler Composer Yasunori Nishiki Explains How HD-2D Influenced His Music

“I think the most distinctive feature of Octopath Traveler is the amazing graphics created by HD-2D”, composer Octopath Traveler Yasunori Nishiki tell me. “I thought the graphics were a wonderful mix of nostalgia and novelty. The challenge with Octopath Traveler’s music is that just as HD-2D gave the player that feeling, the music had to do the same.

HD-2D is a term coined by the developers of Octopath Traveler to describe its unique visual style, which sees the graphics engine combine 2D sprite work with 3D visual effects. The result is a combination of retro pixel art and modern environments detailed with sparkling water, sparkling snow, thick shadows, swaying trees and much more. It’s easy to see what Nishiki means when discussing the challenge.

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“It was necessary to evolve the music of the old RPGs,” explains Nishiki. “My childhood play experience is deeply linked to the basis of this effort. I love old RPGs, so I wrote music that wouldn’t disappoint, and I thought the game players would enjoy it too. Nishiki’s belief turned out to be correct – the soundtrack was universally praised by fans and was nominated for Best Score / Music at the Game Awards in 2018.


via Nintendo Enthousias

Fittingly for a game that draws inspiration from the past, Nishiki drew much of the inspiration for Octopath Traveler from his childhood. Although he started learning the piano at the age of five, he hardly cared at the time – but things changed as he got older.

“When I was about 12, I fell in love with the music of a Japanese band called Spitz,” Nishiki recalls. “My teacher taught me the chords when I took the group’s sheet music to a piano lesson. Once I learned the chords, I realized that if I knew these melodies, I could play whatever song I wanted with my original accompaniment. I got so excited that I finished playing all the songs on the band’s score. Then I started to make my own songs with original melodies and chords. It was my first experience of composition.

While Nishiki may have drawn inspiration from her experiences since childhood, that doesn’t mean that composing Octopath Traveler was without challenge. While he liked the whole experience, there were parts of the process that were still frustrating. “I remember composing the main theme was very, very difficult,” he admits. “Square Enix’s music director didn’t like it, so I rewrote the theme three times. I remember telling him on the phone, “If you don’t like it, I’ll quit the project.” But now I really like that main theme, and I’m very grateful to the music director for his tenacity.

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You write the main theme of Octopath Traveler the same way you come to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice. Video games are a collaborative art form, and Nishiki’s experience in composing the main theme underscores the importance of this approach. The result is proof: The Octopath Traveler soundtrack has always marked me as the highest score of any game I’ve played, and Nishiki’s ability to adapt clearly played into the masterpiece. final work.

The main theme isn’t Nishiki’s favorite though – that would be Among the Majestic Peaks. When it came to composing this, Nishiki found joy in the complex emotions of the tale. “The middle part of the music is so moving that it seems overkill for a song in a city, but I especially like doing moving tracks like this,” he explains. Among Stately Peaks, this is certainly not the only emotionally evocative song either, as tracks like Enveloped In Kindness and Sorrow both have a strong sentimental core.


via Slash Gear

With the HD-2D considerations and repeated rewrites, creating the Octopath Traveler soundtrack was clearly a complex and layered journey. What was particularly fascinating were Nishiki’s final thoughts on the soundtrack and the impact that similar works had on her own life and career.

“I have a lot of thoughts, but I’m very happy that many players liked the music of Octopath Traveler,” says Nishiki. “I think that the experience that has given me the wonderful RPG music that has nourished me in the past will be put to more use. I feel responsible for making RPG music even better in the future as a tribute to the music that uplifted me.

Nishiki’s take on the soundtrack’s potential legacy is indicative of the enduring connection between him and his calling. It is clear now, when I listen to one of the songs, that his emotions mingle with the melodies. Nishiki’s talent, combined with her relationship to music, has blended seamlessly into what has become one of video game‘s most touching soundtracks.

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