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Secret of Mana composer sought to push the limits of hardware

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Secret of Mana composer Hiroki Kikuta sought to push the limits of sound when it came to new console hardware during his time working on Famicom and PlayStation games, according to a Reddit AMA with the composer.

In response to a question about composing for the Famicom, Kikuta said it wasn't a question of scaling back compositions to meet hardware limitations, but more about working with what was possible and pushing forward from there.

"Of course, there were limitations to what could be done with the Super Famicom," Kikuta said. "However, as long as you can come to terms with the limitations of whatever equipment you use, great music can be made.

"Consider art as an example," he explained. "Using a lot of colors does not make an art piece greater. When it comes to ink wash painting (sumi-e) which utilizes only black color though, great art can be created. Thus, even with limitations, great music can also be made. That is why, someone like Koichi Sugiyama (composer for the Dragon Quest series) can make amazing music with Famicom hardware."

For PSOne action RPG Soukaigi, Kikuta used live instruments for the game's background track recordings. When asked if the use of live recordings resulted in the game having very few tracks, Kikuta confirmed this was case due to time and budget constraints.

"Soukaigi was an action game that used polygons and 3D graphics," he said. "It was an early release title for the Sony Playstation. For me, since Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 pushed the limits of sound that was capable for the SNES/Super Famicom, I wanted to do the same with what was capable with the Playstation. So I chose to use live recordings including having an orchestra and a band to create the sound capable of pushing the Playstation's limits. Recording itself took about a month.

"Due to the number of studios that had to be used to make the recording possible, the budget didn't allow for more music to be made," he confirmed.

Late last year, Square Enix released a Christmas album featuring holiday-themed versions of tracks from its games. X'mas Collections 2 included a track labelled as being from a "future project" tied to the Secret of Mana series. When asked if he is working on anything new, Kikuta was unable to comment on his current unannounced collaborations.

"I can't talk about new projects right now," he said. His most recent contributions were tracks for last year's RPGs, Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky for PS3 and Shining Ark for PlayStation Portable.