I wanted to start today with some outside information that exists about the creation of the audio for the game before jumping into my own thoughts about it. Here are three excellent videos that have a ton of useful, direct from the source information.
First of all, and this was the first video about the audio I encountered, a video from Playstation Asia about the creation of the theme, Hollow, for the Final Fantasy VII Remake. Here, Yosh from Survive Said The Prophet and Nobuo Uematsu work to record the vocal version of the track.
As of writing, this video has just under 3000 views. I'm really uncertain why it isn't of more interest! I first saw this in February, around the time it came out, and at the end of it I burst into tears. Not so much because of the theme, which is growing on me, but more because I was imagining how amazing it would be to be in a recording studio with Uematsu on the other side of the glass thanking you and applauding the work you'd just done. As I've rewatched it, a couple of the most outstanding quotes in this come from the singer, Yosh, who calls FF7R "an iconic project that represents Japan" and "a historical collaboration of Japanese music and Japanese games."
The second video I saw, and most illuminating for the kind of work I do, is a video from the Final Fantasy YouTube channel, Inside Final Fantasy VII Remake Episode 4: Music and Sound Effects.
Again, I'm really stunned at the low number of views. As of writing, there around almost 57000, which just seems so low to me!
This video interviews a number of people involved in the project, producer Yoshinori Kitase, music supervisor Keiji Kawamori, composer Mitsuto Suzuki, composer Masashi Hamauzu, and sound director Makoto Ise.
Kitase explains how he watched a video of the gameplay of the entire game of Final Fantasy VII as he prepared for this project, before any music was written. He took tracks from the original game and put them over gameplay for the new game to create an overall image and director for the remake's sound. Kawamori, Suzuki, and Hamauzu describe one of the most notable features of the game music: the decision to make various arrangements of the same theme that match with the game's scenes, sometimes being more cheerful or sad. In more active scenes, these tracks may react, cross fading between them seamlessly, thus increasing or decreasing the aural intensity depending on the player's actions. Kawamori explains how the design team stayed faithful to the original melodies that players would've heard hundreds of times playing the original and "enhanced them with a more modern sound, arrangement, and technology." I was also impressed when Kawamori explained that the spoken dialogue allowed the storytelling to happen better and this made them want to make the music even better. (Although I'm keeping my feelings mainly in the coming entries, I will say I would think of spoken dialogue as stepping on music, rather than helpful for it. I must say that I think the design team handled this very eloquently!) Suzuki and Hamauzu describe the difficulties of staying faithful to the originals but creating with your own voice. Hamauzu reveals that not only had he played the original FF 7, sang in the Sephiroth chorus, but also that Uematsu recommended him to work on the Remake. In a more technical turn, Ise describes the sound management system created for the game, MASTS, that allowed "AI to automatically generate all the sounds for character movement, based on things like the angle of their bone structure and the speed they are moving." There are also some shots of recording sound effects (12 min- 13 min).
Finally, I'll leave you with the most recent video I watched about the audio in FF7R. Although it's not a video that describes any technical aspects or has informative interviews, I do think many players would be interested to consider more about the voice actors in the game. This video, from PlayStationGrenade, Final Fantasy VII Remake: The Voice Actors Behind the Characters details where you've heard the English voice actors before in tv, film, and games.
At the end of the second video linked above, Kawamori says that he thinks "one way to get enjoyment from the game is to see how your actions affect the changes in music as you play." And that's exactly what I'm doing now as I play a second time through. I'm also replaying the original FF7 to compare the music and sound in this case. Illuminating! I'll be back with more thoughts about the process soon. Would love to hear any thoughts you have about the sound and music as well!