Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

By Jorge Ba-oh 08.05.2013

Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album on Nintendo gaming news, videos and discussion
The team behind the much loved and critically acclaimed Harmony of a Hunter tribute Metroid fan album return with an even greater project to celebrate Super Smash Bros - a collaborative musical effort spanning the three titles in the series to date called Harmony of Heroes. Cubed3 caught up with Darren Kerwin plus fellow musicians Pyro Paper Planes and Buoy to dicuss Harmony of a Hunter and plans for Harmony of Heroes.
Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Hi Darren, please tell us about Shinesparkers and your team.

Darren Kerwin: Shinesparkers is a fan specific Metroid fan website that focuses on the latest Metroid news. It offers exclusive content and features such as interviews with developers plus fan projects. We took a huge step to promote and mark the 25th anniversary of Metroid with magazine interviews and a tribute video with thoughts from fans as well as developers from various Metroid projects.
However, our more notable project has to be Harmony of a Hunter, an album created to mark the anniversary with a diverse collection of music from Metroid's twenty five year history. Our team is currently made up of myself, Naner (staff writer) and Sam (graphic artist). Our main goal is to help promote the Metroid franchise in a positive and accurate way and attempt to grow the fan base by encouraging more people to check out Metroid.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Harmony of a Hunter was well received by critics and our readers - please tell us about how it came out.
Darren Kerwin: Harmony of a Hunter was created to mark the 25th anniversary of Metroid. I felt it was important to mark this occasion with something special that incorporated something from every game in the franchise's history. We assembled a team that would be able to mark this anniversary with a diverse album of music that would appeal to many musical tastes. It was so popular that we decided to create a follow-up album, Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run. This contained themes that we wanted to add to the first album, but just didn't have the time due to a number of reasons. I'm really proud of what we achieved in both projects and I am really pleased that so many people enjoyed what we did.

Cubed3: The album and project has a huge range of contributors - how did these musicians all get involved?

Darren Kerwin: To start, I was already familiar with a number of musicians for years, some of them were good friends, and others were musicians or groups I admired from afar. From there, I advertised our project on OCRemix and sourced various musicians from YouTube, Newgrounds and a number of other places online. Eventually we assembled a team and created Harmony of a Hunter. For 101% Run, a lot of musicians returned to create music for a second time, including many new ones, some of which were fans of the original album.

Cubed3:  What would be your standout/favourite tracks from Harmony of a Hunter?

Darren Kerwin: I really hate it when I'm asked this question! (laughs) I shouldn't really have favourites for an album I've put together, but there's just something about Sam Dillard's music that impresses me.
Into the Green World (Brinstar Green, Super Metroid) is one of my favourites by him and was described by someone as being "better than the original", which is a huge compliment to Sam and myself.


Another would be Hi-Score's Samus Voyage. It's a huge medley featuring a piece of music from every Metroid game, all of which span a different genre. It was an ambitious collaboration of musicians headed by Sebastian Mårtensson. In theory, there was absolutely no way such a track should have come together so well, but Sebastian and his team did an amazing job. I also love Te Inveniam, it is such a notable track in many regards, it's the final journey of Samus in Super Metroid, from entering Tourian, to facing the Mother Brain. It was also a bizarre mix of Latin Opera and Metal, something that really stood out from everything else. Credit to Chris Apple who did a fantastic job on the track, his vocals are quite impressive!

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: How did you feel about the lack of support from Nintendo on Metroid's 25th Anniversary celebrations?

Darren Kerwin: This is a question I get asked quite a lot, and to be quite honest it's a question that I don't think people should dwell on too heavily. Fans may feel betrayed and abandoned, but they should also remember that Metroid also shared its 25th anniversary with another popular Nintendo franchise, The Legend of Zelda, which was also marking twenty five years. My feelings are that Nintendo would want to focus its attention on one franchise, one that was going to reach a larger number of people. Of course, this doesn't excuse the lack of recognition that Nintendo gave, and we can only speculate as to why they didn't focus their attention on that franchise too heavily. Another theory could be due to the sensitivity of the fanbase after the release of Metroid: Other M where fans responded to passionately. I am hopeful that Nintendo will recognise the franchise and the support for its anniversary, and I will continue to do my best to translate this to them in the most positive way I can with the support of fans.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Coming onto your latest project, Harmony of Heroes, please describe how that came about.

Darren Kerwin: After the release of Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run, we had pretty much exhausted all possible options for a third Metroid album. We had effectively covered the vast majority of themes from all Metroid games. However, there was still demand for a further album and I personally wanted to create a third album. There were other franchises and albums I wanted to cover, but Super Smash Bros. seemed to be the next logical step.
I approached this album with the understanding that Metroid fans were most likely Nintendo fans too, especially if they're anything like me. Super Smash Bros. not only features Metroid, but a whole host of other great franchises that many of us have grown up with. By choosing Super Smash Bros as our next album, we don't alienate a fan base we have built up already. It was important that we found an album that caters to the current fan base, but appeals to a wider number of fans too. While this was a very different project to Metroid, I still wanted to take the same path that I did with Hunter 1 & 2, ensuring that the music was diverse and covered lots of different pieces of music from all games. With this in mind, I expect Harmony of Heroes to be even more notable than both of our previous albums.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Pyro Paper Planes: I've been close friends with Darren Kerwin since the original Harmony of a Hunter project. His leadership and friendship inspired me to release my music to the Internet. When Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run was over, we all wanted to work on a new project, something that could include the Metroid series. Darren Kerwin came up with the idea of a Super Smash Bros. project. I've considered directing an album project, but I wanted more experience, and Harmony of Heroes seems like a great idea.

Buoy: I had contributed to Harmony of a Hunter: 101% Run with a remix of Phendrana Drifts Depths previously, after my internet homeboy Stephan Wells told me to. Stephan was also the one who recommended me for an assistant role for Harmony of Heroes, since he thinks I'm pretty good at evaluating music and giving constructive feedback and things like that. Darren Kerwin already knew me from 101% Run, so he hit me up on Facebook, described his plans and asked me if I was interested. Which I was!

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Which would be the most challenging franchise in Super Smash Bros. to tackle musically?

Darren Kerwin: Out of the six franchises we have recently announced, I personally think Pokémon could be challenging. A lot of these franchises have strong support, but Pokémon is very popular and has reached a huge number of fans, eclipsing Metroid in comparison. While I feel that we have a challenge to reach out to those fans, I grew up with Pokémon, and it's a franchise I feel passionately about and have a strong nostalgic connection to. I will be doing my best to give Pokémon the attention and respect it deserves.

Pyro Paper Planes: Each series presents its own challenge. Genre-wise, I think the range of artists involved in this project renders the difficulty somewhat of a moot-point. For example, I might have great difficulty writing an ambient piece for the energetic F-Zero series, but someone like VikingGuitar might find it very easy to write a rock arrangement. I'm curious to see how the more outlandish series are treated, such as Kirby. In the end though, the most challenging part of the project for us will probably be retaining a musical balance between the series. This is, after all, a Super Smash Bros. project, not, for example, a Zelda project.

Buoy: Of the confirmed franchises, Pokémon might be one of the more challenging ones. The Pokémon themes that have been featured in the Super Smash Bros. games aren't necessarily the most iconic ones, unlike most of the other franchises.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Which of the three Super Smash Bros. games do you feel has the most interesting soundtrack overall?

Darren Kerwin: I feel that all of the Super Smash Bros. games have great soundtracks, and we will be focusing on each of them in Harmony of Heroes. However, I feel Super Smash Bros. Brawl stands out above the rest due to the vast number of pieces in its soundtrack. It also contains a lot of music from Melee, some of which were arranged differently for Brawl. I feel there's a lot of interesting content within the soundtrack that we can focus on.

Pyro Paper Planes: I honestly love the soundtracks for all three games. The original is simply a classic; Melee's is refined and orchestrated, while Brawl's content is simply unparalleled to any soundtrack out there. There's a time and place for all of them on my playlist.

Buoy: Due to the sheer amount of songs featured in Brawl, that game features a lot of the most interesting songs. Of course, they're also more elaborate and fleshed out than the 20-something MIDI files on the N64 cartridge!

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Will there be individual discs/sections for each of the three Super Smash Bros. games or will the scores be blended together into one album?

Darren Kerwin: We actually have a very different idea on how we plan to distribute this album. Fans will eventually be able to download Harmony of Heroes in multiple different ways. For example, you may be able to download it by franchise, by game, as a whole or individually. We want to ensure that fans have the choice of what content they hear. My vision is that this album to have a substantial number of tracks, so by offering many download options to fans, they can hear exactly the content they wish to hear.
While we encourage fans to check out the entire project as a whole, we feel that fans will appreciate us giving them the choice. I must stress that this is still an early idea and we don't know exactly how things will turn out at such an early stage.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Which of the Super Smash Bros. titles do you enjoy playing most and why?

Darren Kerwin: I first started playing Super Smash Bros. with Melee, it was my first introduction to many of Nintendo's characters, especially Samus. I remember that I didn't quite enjoy it at first; it wasn't really my sort of game. However I continued to play and by the time Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released, I was a huge fan of the franchise. Out of the three released so far, Brawl is my favourite.

Pyro Paper Planes: Super Smash Bros. Melee will always have a strong place in my heart. I have so many memories associated with that game. I also think the game was ahead of its time. It looks great, sounds great, and plays great.

Buoy: I don't actually own any of the games, so I really only play the games while visiting friends. During the Melee days I would spend most of my time hovering far above the stage and eventually trying to ground pound people with Kirby, which was pretty fun. Brawl is the game I've enjoyed the most though, mostly due to the greater variety of characters, stages and game mechanics, but also because I don't die as much as I used to!

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Are there any non-Nintendo soundtracks that you are particularly found of?

Darren Kerwin: I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect franchise, there were several different musicians involved with producing the scores for all three games, and I love them all. In recent times, I have been quite impressed by Halo 4's soundtrack. I think Neil Davidge did a great job with the score but I just feel it was poorly implemented into the game. I also think Jeremy Soule is a wonderful composer; the score for Skyrim is outstanding!

Pyro Paper Planes: Asking a musician to pick his favourite music is like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. I have way too many video game soundtracks to mention here. I suppose I should mention that I'm a huge fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series, especially Sonic Colours. The music is just so much fun. I dare you to not nod your head to the beat of Sweet Mountain.

Buoy: Nope, I'm not much of a gamer (and most of the games I play are Nintendo ones) or a soundtrack listener. 

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Who would be your musical inspiration in the world of video game composition?

Darren Kerwin: I have been inspired by many musicians, as a huge Metroid fan I feel quite passionate towards Kenji Yamamoto's music, but Koji Kondo is probably my biggest inspiration. Back in 2011 I had the great honour of watching him perform live at Zelda Symphony. He played Grandma's theme from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It was beautiful; to see such a notable musician playing live before my eyes was so inspiring! I knew at that moment that I was in a very lucky position and that there was little chance that I and many others would ever have this opportunity again.

Buoy: Well, I have great respect for Koji Kondo since he composed so much of the music from the Super Mario Bros. series, which are definitely the games I've spent the most time playing. I'm sure he's had a good deal of influence on my own music simply due to the amount of time I've spent with those games and the soundtracks.

Pyro Paper Planes: In terms of video games, I cannot deny the influence the Metroid series has had on my music. In particular, Kenji Yamamoto's work on the Metroid Prime series is beautiful to listen to. I've tried to follow the blend of ambiences and orchestral elements in my music. I'd also like to mention Thomas Newman, composer for many films, including The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, and Finding Nemo.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: Beyond Super Smash Bros. are there any other individual franchises you would like to tackle in the future?

Buoy: That would be in a relatively far future - but all the Pokémon games have some brilliant tunes that I would love to hear new versions of.

Pyro Paper Planes: Right now, Harmony of Heroes has my fullest attention. I've considered participating in a project that does not include a Nintendo franchise. Who knows what the future holds?

Darren Kerwin: It's very difficult to say, there are so many amazing video games I would love to organise music for. I originally swore I would never direct an album after the first Harmony of a Hunter; they can be quite stressful and very time consuming. They need lots of dedication and organisation in order to deliver an effective product. But look where we are now? A second Metroid album and a Super Smash Bros album on the way! If we can pull this off, I think there are multiple directions we could take, it all depends on whether I have the time, patience and the support of fans to direct more albums.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Cubed3: The artwork and designs in Harmony of a Hunter are gorgeous. Would you consider a physical/disc release for collectors?

Darren Kerwin: We have no plans to release any physical copies of Harmony of Heroes.

Cubed3:  What are you hoping Nintendo will bring to the table with Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Nintendo 3DS?

Buoy: Hmmm. Based on the progression from the original Super Smash Bros., to Melee, to Brawl, it's reasonable to expect the fourth installment to be pretty grand, yeah? Apart from the new characters and stages that everyone's looking forward to, it would be pretty exciting if the characters could actually move in all three dimensions, unlike the current games where everything happens in one plane.

Darren Kerwin: Personally I think it's going to be difficult to top Smash Bros Brawl in terms of content, it was so vast! Rather than be better than its predecessor, I think Sakurai-san and his team should offer something different. There is so much potential in Nintendo's latest hardware and I truly hope that we see games that exploit those features. As long as the game is fun and appeals to both the hard-core and casual fan so that anyone can pick it up and play, then I think I'll be picking them up.

Image for Interview | Shinesparkers on Harmony of a Hunter and Harmony of Heroes, the Smash Bros Album

Pyro Paper Planes: With the addition of the thumbstick on the Nintendo 3DS, Smash moves can finally be implemented. As for the Wii U, unlike most multiplayer games, the additional screen isn't required for a fifth player. It would be interesting to see if Nintendo could introduce some new mechanics for the GamePad.

Gameplay wise, I think Brawl provided more than enough content, so I would like to see Nintendo refine everything, especially their online infrastructure. Being able to pick specific gameplay modes and rules would increase variety in the online experience.

Finally, for music, it would be nice to see Nintendo implement a custom music feature. While the soundtracks in the Super Smash Bros. series as always been sublime, there are many fantastic fan remixes of music out there that would fit well. The problem with custom soundtracks is that it tends to de-emphasize the soundtrack provided. Perhaps if Nintendo was able to create a system that integrated the fans' custom soundtrack with the original soundtrack, something similar to the MyMusic feature in Brawl, we would see the best of both worlds.

Box art for Super Smash Bros. Brawl

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