|Nintendo EAD||Game Developer||1996 - 2006||Composer|
|The Wind Wakers||Music Group||2002 -||Various Instruments|
|Nintendo EAD||Game Developer||2006 -||Sound Director|
Hajime Wakai is a veteran composer and sound director at Nintendo EAD, best known for his works on the Star Fox franchise. Having been passionate about music from a young age, Wakai learned to play the piano, flute, and saxophone, and also gained experience composing in a range of styles. After graduating from tertiary studies, he successfully applied to become a composer at Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development in 1996. Soon enough, he was asked to create the stage and battle themes for Star Fox 64 under the supervision of Koji Kondo. Benefiting from previous experience writing symphonic music, he offered musically lavish, thematically rich orchestral compositions reminiscent of those of Star Wars and other film franchises. While the score was synthesized, it sounded mature for its time. He also learned about the technical and contextual aspects of game sound production while creating the light-hearted sound effects for Yoshi’s Story, before contributing hard-edged funk-rock compositions for the Death Race and Staff Roll of F-Zero X.
In the first of several lighter roles, Wakai scored the Nintendo 64’s Pokémon Stadium with Toru Minegishi and Kenta Nagata. The first instalment of the series for home consoles, the soundtrack reflected a more whimsical aspect of Wakai’s musicality. He also returned to its sequel, combining endearing remixes with light-hearted original compositions. The artist was also responsible for the entire soundtrack to Pikmin. With this new IP, Wakai was given the freedom to meld all sorts of musical and artistic influences together in weird but wonderful ways. The score’s unconventional instrumentation, whimsical phrasing, and endearing character all matched the interesting premise and cute creatures featured in the game’s world. Making his mark on another flagship series, Wakai supported Nagata and Minegishi on 2002’s The Wind Waker; the artist maintained his quirky style to accompany the boss encounters, Forest Haven, and Wind Temple, among others.
In 2004, Wakai returned to score Pikmin 2 alongside Kazumi Totaka. While the score preserved a similar sound to the original, the music was generally more varied — each area featured multiple themes this time round, most of which were extensively developed to sustain the extended gameplay. The artist was also put in charge of the music for one of the company’s first casual titles, Nintendogs; in contrast to most of his other works, he deliberately produced low-key music that suitably accompanied the game, but was not intended for stand-alone listening. Wakai went on to make his belated debut on the Mario series with the DS’ New Super Mario Bros. in 2006. Asuka Ota produced the majority of the score, but his stylistic touches were evident in many of the world themes and mini-game tunes, which coloured an already accomplished score. Also that year, the artist made his long-awaited return to the Star Fox series to produce the majestic orchestral soundtrack for the DS’ Star Fox Command.
Wakai was promoted to the role of sound director for the first time on Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. Guided by his experiences on Nintendogs, he knew exactly how to approach the music and sound effects for this title, closely working with composer Ryo Nagamatsu on the score throughout. As Wii Music entered full production, Wakai took the central role of sound director once more. He oversaw the adaptation of the game’s 50 pieces — spanning classical, contemporary, and Nintendo songs — so that they would fit the band-based gameplay. The artist liaised with game director Kazumi Totaka throughout the production and also supervised a team of musicians. His own experiences in musical performance no doubt guided him through the project; indeed, even at Nintendo, he continues to perform music live as part of the in-house band The Wind Wakers. In other roles, he arranged his own work from Star Fox 64 for Super Smash Bros. Brawl and supported the sound production of Mario Kart Wii.
After wrapping up work on Wii Music, Hajime Wakai dedicated the subsequent three years directing the sound for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Under Wakai’s direction, the game modernised the series’ music with lavish recordings for full orchestra, extensive cinematic and adaptive underscore, and even some carefully integrated vocal performances. As the game’s lead composer, Wakai also developed the score’s rich orchestral style and central themes — in a novel twist, creating the main theme by reversing Zelda’s Lullaby. Though he found the process exhausting, the experience of hearing the soundtrack’s main theme live at The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony really motivated him to finish. The final score was a major success that won several awards. Most recently, Wakai served as the sound director on Nintendo Land; owing to his years of experience at Nintendo, he knew exactly how to recreate and modernise the sounds of the company’s most iconic franchises.
- Various Game & Album Credits
- Interview with Iwata Asks (English, November 2011)
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on January 20, 2013. Do not republish without formal permission.