Interview: Hiroaki Yura discusses TINY METAL and the Eminence Symphony Orchestra at SMASH! 2017

Hiroaki Yura, founder of the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, violin virtuoso, involved in the creation of music for a number of films and interactive entertainment (including Diablo III, Valkyria Chronicles, and the SOULCALIBUR series of games, as well as “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya” and STEINS;GATE, among others!) attended SMASH! in Sydney last weekend to show off his latest efforts- TINY METAL, a turn-based war game that will be released on Windows, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch later this year.

We made sure to take TINY METAL for a spin in SMASH’s Gaming Area (spoilers: it’s awesome) before catching up with Hiroaki to find out more about this exciting new arcade turn-based strategy game!

Kat: You’re here, of course, to promote Tiny Metal. Can you tell us a little more about the game and how you got involved?

Hiroaki: I am the producer so I started Tiny Metal! The way I involved myself is, “Aha. I’m going to make Tiny Metal one day.”

Kat: You mentioned in the panel downstairs as well but you were already a fan of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem, so that’s where the idea came from?

Hiroaki: Yeah. That’s right.

Kat: Looking at the demo and from what you just said in the panel, it is indeed quite similar to Advance Wars. But there are a few more advanced features?

Hiroaki: There are several features that are different. In Tiny Metal there is “facing” so if you attack from the rear or if you attack from the side, you get a higher percentage RNG. RNG is a random number generator and basically, if you attack from the side, especially the rear, you get a higher percentage that you might critical hit. If you hit a critical, you do a lot more damage. This facing allows us not to get bogged down like Advanced Wars. If we’re going to make something like Advanced Wars, we might as well make it way better. The problem with Advance Wars is you can pin each other down and you just take turns to finish. That’s the usual infantry plus artillery tactic. All you have to do is just churn them out and then it becomes like…

Kat: Monotonous

Hiroaki: It doesn’t become fun, right?

Kat: Yeah.

Hiroaki: In our game, it’s hard for us to balance our own maps as well but especially when all the units are unlocked there is so much tactical flexibility and also all that terrain and all the sides and everything. If one thing crumbles, the whole cookie crumbles basically. That’s how we wanted it. You also don’t want your units to die out. You want to bring them back on, heal them up and then take them out again.

Kat: I think a lot of AW was it was kind of just send out in mass and attack.

Hiroaki: Yeah, and then you ran out of fuel, which we don’t have. We thought of fuel as an unnecessary feature in our game.

Kat: The character designs seem similar though! You mentioned that they’ll be a lot more characters but the main characters will be Nathan and Wolfang? Do you stick with them the whole time or are you able to select a certain character to play with?

Hiroaki: In this current game you always to pick Nathan and it’s always from his point of view, but you will get to see many other characters. And there may be a sequel, where he’s not the main character… Maybe!

Kat: Just talking more about you yourself for a moment. You’ve worked on a number of different projects like Project Phoenix and Tiny Metal, as well as Under the Dog, and of course you founded Eminence Orchestra and have worked on many anime and game soundtracks too. Is that something that you enjoy doing the most?

Hiroaki: I’m a fixer! I look at all this wonderful work that people do and I try to make it better. And the reason why I’m trying to make it better is because I see flaws in it and I’m always like, “If you only just change just one little thing, it will just make it so much better.” But they don’t see it! All my life, I’ve always been the guy on stage performing violin and all that but I actually prefer not being the front man, I like seeing the whole picture. The whole picture is more beautiful than the one specific thing.

Kat: You mentioned again in your panel, you said that you’ve been involved in all the music but then you stopped and really want to expand on just creating the game from scratch …

Hiroaki: Yeah. There’s so many times I was so frustrated because violin performance or even music recording has always been the last part of any creation and there are issues like scheduling and poor quality, and then we put the music to it. It’s like, “Why are we doing this?”. Or it just could’ve been done better, or if we had known about this even two or three weeks before then we could’ve …

Kat: You could’ve improved it.

Hiroaki: Yeah. That frustration kept on building until I said, “Fine, we’ll just do it ourselves.”

Kat: So in Tiny Metal has the composer has been involved from early on?

Hiroaki: Yeah, the composition and even sound design. The concept should be clear, so that people know what we’re making.

Kat: That’s something I really enjoyed about Advance Wars. I think one of the main characters had a really fantastic theme and I would leave my DS seating there, playing his theme over and over because I liked listening to it so much.

Hiroaki: Exactly. Actually, our music direction is very simple this time. We wanted an orchestra approach to this because, I like the Advance Wars soundtrack but it’s not my composer’s forte so we want the composer to do what he’s comfortable with and that’s orchestra stuff.

Kat: So the Tiny Metal OST might turn up in the next Eminence concert? sneaky look

Hiroaki: Perhaps. Yeah. But Eminence only performs the best. And people also have to have an air of familiarity with the game so unless the game sells very well I don’t think we will perform it.

Kat: But it could…!

Hiroaki: It could!

Kat: Has there been an OST for a game or an anime that you has stood out to you since the last Eminence Orchestra concert?

Hiroaki: In the past few years?

Kat: Yeah. Is there something that would be on the set list for the next (potential) “Night in Fantasia”?

Hiroaki: Maybe Gundam Unicorn? It’s been a while but it just stands out. But in my opinion, there’s not been great music that really stood out in the past few years. Actually, Tomoki (Tiny Metal composer Tomoki Miyoshi) did actually a very good job with I Am Setsuna but it’s not a orchestra work. It’s a piano solo.

Kat: Right. You could maybe adapt it?

Hiroaki: Perhaps.

Kat: And I just have one final question! If you could work on any anime or game or any project or if you did see that tiny flaw in something that you thought you could fix, what would it have been?

Hiroaki: It sounds a bit weird but, actually, I do want to just work with something with a proper budget. I used to work with games and film with a proper budget and then I started not to. I started working for really undercosted stuff. Then, I’m at this point where I’m really tired because it’s like, “I can’t do anything with this.” It’s like, you need to hire people, you need to pay people… I’m always for not overpaying but it’s come to a point where it’s like, “This is ridiculous, I can’t do anything with this.” What do you expect me to do?

Kat: Yeah. So going back to a bigger production?

Hiroaki: It’s not necessarily a bigger production, it’s basically telling people that audio actually matters and it affects the game or the film and people should respect that.

Find out more about TINY METAL here!