Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster's HD-2D opera scene had dedicated "opera-specific development team"

Bringing Final Fantasy VI to modern platforms with its Pixel Remaster iteration posed new challenges for the team at Square Enix. In an interview with Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu and FF6 Pixel Remaster sound director Hidenori Miyanaga, the two explained how the game's iconic opera sequence required special resources to nail the moment, including a separate team of developers focused on the 2D-HD work and sound. 

For context, the latest FF6 release revisits the moment with Celes and the rest of the cast with added vocals. While versions of Opera "Maria and Draco" have long existed with voice recordings, that's not how the sequence went down in the original SNES release of the game. In a promotional video, Uematsu explained how the Pixel Remaster provided a new opportunity to add to the scene. Instead of only playing the instrumental version of the song, FF6 Pixel Remaster now has lyrics timed with in-game moments available in Japanese, Korean, Spanish, American English, German, French, and Italian. 

In an interview with Japan-based outlet Mora, Uematsu and Miyanaga provide further detail around the process. The sound director explained Uematsu made the request to add multiple languages for the scene, quoting Uematsu as saying he wanted "to deliver the dream of having people from as many countries as possible listen in their own languages."

While the sentiment excited and touched the developers on the sound team, they grew concerned about how the idea would translate visually. Specifically, they worried about the 2D sequences misaligning with a realistic singing voice. "Even so, we still wanted to somehow implement that," said Miyanaga "So Producer Akiyama made a critical decision to create an 'Opera-specific development team' separately from existing teams."

A dedicated team meant resources to focus on ensuring things in FF6 didn't feel like a mismatch between the HD-2D visuals, sounds, and lyrics. Uematsu went on to explain his experiences in adding bits of the story to the orchestrated versions of Opera "Maria and Draco" for performances in concerts like Distant Worlds.  According to the composer, the way those lyrics and moments resonated with the audience inspired him to make sure the vocals were recorded in more than just their original language.

"When it [the performance] ended with a bang, the audience did a standing ovation, which is really touching," said Uematsu. "Because such an image exists, I want to see it in this game too."

When Mora asked about how hectic the entire process of translating lyrics and sourcing singers must have been, Uematsu explained he was impressed by some of the talent involved and how they handled their unusual asks. He noted it's important to make Celes' own performance seem like it comes from a singer not skilled in opera, as she enters the FF6 scene at the last minute. He wanted her inexperience to come through in-game.

"For the roles of Draco and Lars, they are performed by professional opera singers in the game, so we also asked for the same professional singing here," said Miyanaga. "Meanwhile, Celes joined and sang in the event at the last minute, so she is not a professional singer. I thought it would feel off she had a veteran feel, so we had trials and errors in finding her singer."

Ultimately, opera singer Masumi Nemoto performed the part for FF6. Miyanaga's ask was strange for her talents, but to deliver the scene, they requested she "sing not too well in opera while making it sound more like a musical performance."

"I felt very sorry for her to do a reluctant recording as an opera singer, but I also think she fit the role very well," Miyanaga concluded."Actually, Nemoto-san was also present in the vocalization, and you can listen to her beautiful opera vocals in Dancing Mad."

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