SSF2 Dev Team Interviews: 194

Today we’re putting the spotlight on team members from across our development history once more. This time we had the pleasure to catch up with 194 (who also goes by the handle ‘Ikuyo’). Although she has since retired from the team, 194 was a staple member of the team during her tenure.

Can you describe what your role was on the SSF2 Dev Team?

Well, this changed over time. I originally joined as part of the first balancing team for the game, born out of the old Back Room. However, I would end up taking the chance to show some of my music work which caught the eye of some developers, who asked me to work on a medley for the Crateria stage. After this, I became SSF2’s first music-focused developer, and, eventually, the Audio team lead for several years.

I still had a hand in other stuff, funnily enough. When needed, I could help in some character programming and testing, as well as some content programming – I happen to be a programmer as a day job. I even dipped my toes in character design, as I was a major part in the redesign for Lloyd. However my main task for as long as I was on the team was to make music.

Is there any SSF2 music arrangement that’s a favorite of yours?

A lot of them actually! Several of them were big steps forward for me in terms of arranging, composition or production (even when a lot of them have aged… less than gracefully). if you don’t mind, here’s some of them

The aforementioned Super Metroid Medley, as introduced for demo 0.8, was my first major task as an arranger for the game, and it was a significant challenge. Medleys and mashups have been a staple of Smash music since Melee and Super Metroid’s soundtrack is both beloved and extensively covered by VGM artists of all shapes and sizes. While my approach to taking the soundtrack was relatively conservative, I put my own touch in it with some unique melody counterplays when I could. I also took particular care on making the transitions between movements feel smooth and interesting, which I feel the piece does very well, for example, when going from Brinstar to Crateria.

Another piece that is relevant in my history with SSF2 is none other than Menu itself. Since v0.8, we knew that we wanted to give the game its own music identity, and a large part of said process was coming up with its own main theme, as is tradition for Smash games. The original draft of the theme was written by another former dev (Suli) and I would clean it up, morphing it into the melody we know and love today.

Drafts of our main menu were already being written during development of v0.8b, but we couldn’t quite find the right sound for it until very close to the release of v0.9. A large part of this is thanks to Xyless, who had joined the team recently and would become my partner in development and composition. His skills at producing music, instrumenting and writing percussion were just what I needed to hone my own craft, and I’m deeply thankful for his help in the process.

The final version of what is known now as Menu 2 took several years to come up with, even if it took just some weeks to actually write. I didn’t know how well received this musical change would be – I was just a girl with an awful laptop, some VSTs and a copy of FL Studio 12, to replace music by freaking Nobuo Uematsu. I didn’t know it would become the biggest track of my career. And it would take me a long time to realize how much it impacted people. And that puts a smile on my face.

Finally, I’d like to shout out a personal favorite of mine – Song of Storms. Working with such an incredibly short track was a real challenge, and I took the chance to experiment with sound textures and harmonies to keep the piece ever evolving, similar to how Tsukasa Masuko approached said track for his arrangement in Brawl. I have a soft spot for it!

You were pretty instrumental in developing Smash Flash 2’s music identity. What were some of your goals?

Heh, instrumental.

To be honest, it took me a long time to realize the fact that I was, indeed, shaping the sound of SSF2. For a while my job was to add a little bit of music here and there, and it would take me some time, during the development of 0.9, to grasp the scope of my work. I think that happens to a lot of games like Smash Flash 2, especially given how both our skills improved and our attitudes got different about the game, as it went from a small project to a massive, professionally run game with tournaments and fans and such. 

A large part of update 0.9, in specific, was for us to find the identity of the game. Most of its early development was designed to more closely match Brawl – just like Smash Flash 1 was closely inspired by Melee, going as far as to mimic its menus. But from this update forward, we wanted the game to be its own thing, to be its own greatest hits celebration of what Smash Bros meant to us as a team. And finding the right tone between the familiarity of Smash sounds, which in itself is a great mix of Nintendo music, and our own personal influences and inspirations is a challenge. It’s scary too! You can feel somewhat safe imitating a specific goal, and venturing to a new direction, doing what you want to make instead of what others expect from you is scary, but also extremely exciting.

With that in mind, I wanted to infuse Smash Flash 2 of its own energy, giving it a sound that stood out against previous Smash titles. I went out of my way to cover tracks that had not been seen before in smash, and when tackling classics, I tried my best to give them a unique sound. And the titular theme of SSF2, in my opinion, represents that mix well. It evokes the energy of Brawl’s theme while having its own pace, its own energy that can manifest in solemn, serious combat (Battlefield), all-out hype (Menu 2), and even chill, laidback coolness (Waiting Room). I hope that players can associate the melodies of the game with their own memories of Smash Flash, and that the unique take Smash Flash is of the Smash framework is also manifested in its music.

What is your favourite piece of SSF2 Musical Trivia you can share with us?

It’s no secret that I wear my influences on my sleeve, and that I have zero shame to use them. If I were writing music for the game today, it would have been inspired by many soundtracks and composers I’ve studied lately. As such, I had no issues placing a lot of influences from Daisuke Amaya and his soundtrack for Cave Story in the game. It’s very widely known that Waiting Room was written for ORGanya, the sound engine of Cave Story. I even have the .org file and it can be played back in-game!

Similarly, I drew a lot of inspiration from tracks in Cave Story such as Last Battle for the first version of Final Destination. That version took a lot of time to come up with, and it took us a long time to find how to approach it. I always wanted FD to feel like a confrontation between the two Smash Flash 2 themes, but I couldn’t find a starting point for it. Funny enough, the chord progression had already been drafted in a midi file years before during some experimentation with the theme! So thanks past me for both testing a bunch of ideas with the main theme AND for backing up your files!

Oh, yeah, the two themes. Did you know the game has two themes? So does Melee!

What is other work you’re also known for?

After leaving the Smash Flash 2 team, I spent most of my time away from music. I wanted to find new interests and ideas. However, music is something I love making, and Celeste would help me reignite my love for writing and arranging. One of my first tracks was actually a cover of a theme from Celeste in the style of Cave Story, and it got a lot of attention, including being shared by the composer herself!

Any ongoing new projects you want to talk about?

In 2019, a friend and I launched a podcast project discussing and analyzing video games from the perspective of their music. We’ve kept at it for the last 2 years, and if you’re interested in hearing two women talk about VGM and you understand Spanish. I would advise giving it a listen! We discuss soundtracks of all kinds, from beloved classics to indie darlings to hidden gems.

Outside of that, I’ve been working on speedruns, both real-time and recently some tool-assisted stuff. I’ve run several games that make me tick, from Iconoclasts to Professor Layton, from Teleportower Plus to Ring Fit Adventure. I stream runs every so often, so feel free to tune in!

The Smash Flash 2 Team would like to give a shout-out to DemoGamerX for uploading the extended versions of the SSF2 tracks used in this article.