My Favourite Game

Michelle Zauner, aka Ja­panese Break­fast, on the di­vin­ity of Switch


Michelle Zauner is a mu­si­cian who writes and per­forms un­der the name Ja­panese Break­fast. With two al­bums un­der her belt, she’s now turn­ing her tal­ents to videogames, pro­duc­ing the sound­track for forth­com­ing in­die ad­ven­ture Sable, which was an­nounced on Mi­crosoft’s stage at E3 in June. How did you first get into videogames? My dad had a Su­per Nin­tendo. It was a thing we did to­gether, play­ing games in our den. I got re­ally into Se­cret Of Mana; it’s still one of the only RPGs that’s twoplayer, and it was a big part of my re­la­tion­ship with my dad. It took months. Af­ter my dad got off work and I got off school, we’d play it for an hour or two. As I grew older and my dad got busier at work, I even­tu­ally grad­u­ated to a PlayS­ta­tion and started play­ing the Fi­nal Fan­tasy games. I got re­ally into FFVIII when I was in mid­dle school. My cousin in Korea, an older boy, in­tro­duced me to the series. I grew up go­ing to Korea ev­ery other sum­mer, and it was a big thing to go to ar­cades with my cousin. What draws you to RPGs in par­tic­u­lar? It’s a great way of sto­ry­telling. And I was a big an­ime fan, so I re­ally loved the art. I also liked strat­egy guides [laughs]. They had so much more art and in­for­ma­tion that you didn’t get in the game – all the char­ac­ter bios where it shows blood type and stuff like that. I was re­ally into that as a kid. I loved Chrono Cross, even though I never played Chrono Trig­ger. You could make cer­tain de­ci­sions that would un­lock char­ac­ters, but mean you could never meet oth­ers. I liked that el­e­ment of it. You’re scor­ing Sable at the mo­ment. How do you have to change your process when writ­ing mu­sic for games? I’ve been writ­ing pop songs ever since I was 16. They have a fa­mil­iar struc­ture – verses, cho­ruses, re­peat­ing parts. Game mu­sic doesn’t work that way. I’ve been cre­at­ing re­ally long, me­an­der­ing am­bi­ent loops, with no lyrics. That’s such a huge part of my [writ­ing] process for Ja­panese Break­fast; it starts with a vo­cal melody and lyrics, and ev­ery­thing else serves that. In­stead of go­ing into a song with a lyric idea and ex­pand­ing on it, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m in a desert. What does that sound like?’ What kind of di­rec­tion do the devel­op­ers give you? In the be­gin­ning Greg [Kythreo­tis, de­signer] gave me this amaz­ing glos­sary of land­scapes to think about. I have this spread­sheet of dif­fer­ent land­scapes and key­words, and I just at­tack one of them for a day. It’s fun to play them for my friends, give them that list and say, ‘Okay, where do you think you are?’ It’s a re­ally fun way to write, and they’ve been re­ally easy to work for. Do you find much time to play games these days, given your busy sched­ule? I do ac­tu­ally, be­cause I have a Nin­tendo Switch, which is God’s great­est gift to the tour­ing mu­si­cian [laughs]. I love it. Last year we had tour af­ter tour, and we had two days off be­fore leav­ing the US for Europe. I’d just bought Stardew Val­ley for PS4, which is an­other genre I re­ally love. Grow­ing up I was a big fan of Har­vest Moon – I guess my busy brain en­joys me­nial tasks like dig­i­tal farm­ing. I got so into it, and was re­ally sad when I went to Europe: ‘Ugh, I’m leav­ing be­hind my farm’. My bass player, Devin, had just got a Switch and was play­ing Stardew and I was so jeal­ous. When­ever he was go­ing to sleep on the bus, I’d ask if I could play it. I fell in love. The con­sole is just per­fect. It’s so cosy. As soon as I got back from Europe I got a Switch with Stardew and Breath Of The Wild – and on our Asia tour, I fell in love with that. Okay then: what’s your all-time favourite? It just has to be Se­cret Of Mana. The story and mu­sic are fan­tas­tic, the char­ac­ters are great, and it’s such a spe­cial, un­der­rated game. It’s the one that’s clos­est to my heart.

“I was a big fan of Har­vest Moon – I guess my busy brain en­joys me­nial tasks like dig­i­tal farm­ing”

Have you played it re­cently? Does it still hold up? This is very sad, but all my Su­per Nin­tendo games were in my in-laws’ at­tic, and they just, like, fried. My en­tire child­hood, gone. There was a Se­cret Of Mana re­make for PS4 that I was so ex­cited about, and I just hated it. It was so bad! I thought they were just go­ing to make the art bet­ter, but it plays like those old CD-ROMs you had in third grade with learn­ing games on them. It looks like one and plays like it too. It was so hor­ri­ble. A huge waste of money, and so up­set­ting. They should have just re-re­leased it as is on a new con­sole.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.