Tango Gameworks’ latest game, Ghostwire: Tokyo, is now out in the wild, and with it comes one of the most atmospheric and beautiful open-world games Tango has yet to deliver. Much of the game’s overall excellence is in the music, sound design, and atmosphere. It doesn’t fill much space with pointless songs, but rather lets downtown Shibuya speak for itself most of the time, only filling in the gaps when necessary and to great effect.
With that in mind, we caught up with Ghostwire: Tokyo director Kenji Kimura and composer Masatoshi Yanagi to talk about the game’s sound design. They shared all kinds of details, such as the inspiration for the Ghostwire: Tokyo soundtrack , the use of traditional instruments in his music, and the balance between open music and letting the environment fill the soundscape. Check it out.
Shacknews: The first thing that struck us about the world of Ghostwire: Tokyo was all the sounds and music coming from various sources. Much of what we saw and heard reminded us of my personal time spent in the city. We were curious if you spent time wandering around the city and soaking up the environments before composing?
Masatoshi Yanagi: Yes, before the pandemic, 2018 or 2019 so I think it was when we were still in pre-production, I walked around Tokyo in different areas like the Yanesen area, to get a sense of the different vibes of the town.
Shacknews: During development, did you share any references or media elements that inspired you and Yanagi-san to help inspire the soundtrack?
Kenji Kimura: I didn’t really need to give Yanagi-san much direction because he understood the game’s vision and we liked the same movies and bands. We were just talking about the game, what we were doing, and through our conversations he was finding out what would work well for each piece. I think I may have mentioned that I love the movie “Sicario” and the music of Johann Johannsson and that I love Daft Punk, but I don’t think we ever sat down to have a conversation about the trying to use them as reference materials for the game.
Shacknews: We noticed that during some of the most intense or suspenseful moments in the game, the soundtrack tended to feature more traditional orchestral arrangements with modern undertones. It feels like the soundtrack ties the modern settings together with the traditional mythology surrounding the various ghosts and demons you encounter throughout the game. Is that an accurate observation?
Yanagi: Yes, “mixing the traditional with the modern” was the vision of the music, and it’s wonderful that you could notice that.
Shacknews: The fog and complete lack of life on the city streets plays such a large role in the environmental presentation of this game. Can you talk about the balance between filling that void with music and letting the air, rain and various city noises fill in the gaps?
Yanagi: The feeling of immersion, of feeling like you’re in the city was very important to the game, so we mostly put the environmental sounds first and then used the music to help complete the atmosphere. , especially where more tension is needed. And so rather than using music with strong melodies to fill in the gaps, I tended to use music and sounds that would help with the atmosphere.
Shacknews: Obviously, for a game like this where ghosts and reality distortion play such a big part, there’s a lot to be said for intense moments. How difficult was it to dance between the relatively calm and intense horror peaks in this game?
Kimura: It was a challenge to balance the length of these intense moments as it required a lot of trial and error. We first create the visuals to create and verify the emotional curve, then determine the amount of walking needed to get to where that would be considered the peak. Working with Yanagi-san was easy because he would do the music and it wouldn’t require a lot of reshoots. His use of traditional Japanese instruments, and the way he combines them with the use of the synthesizer, is amazing. He is able to control the tension in such a beautiful way.
Shacknews: As players roam the town of Ghostwire, there’s a lot of live entertainment, music, and media going on in the abandoned settlements around us. Can you tell us to what extent these were original sound and musical compositions and what kind of reference was provided by third-party media? Was it interesting to create a soundscape in a city where life suddenly came to a halt in the middle of a busy day?
Yanagi: All the songs in the game were created as original pieces for use in the game. It was a lot of fun, because I got to work on very different types of music, which can be heard all over the game world from Tokyo. You can hear them walking around fashion stores, via fictional jingles, commercials and commercials that you would hear walking around town.
This covers our entire interview with Ghostwire: Kenji Kimura and Masatoshi Yanagi from Tokyo. The game is out today on PlayStation 5 and PC. Be sure to check out our review to see all of our thoughts on the game, and stay tuned for more coverage here at Shacknews.