There are a good number of factors that go into making a classic video game – the visuals, the story, the characters, the gameplay and of course, the music. If you’re one of those gamers that have put together a dedicated playlist full of video game theme songs, then you realize just how integral a great soundtrack can be to a game’s overall presentation and experience. In the realm of role-playing games, Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series dominates the conversation when it comes to amazing musical scores.
Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV) Nobuo Uematsu is regarded as one of the most famous and well-respected composers in the video game industry. His legendary status has led to him being blessed with the nickname of the “Beethoven of video games music” and it’s easy to see (and hear) why. Uematsu is known for his wildly varied compositions that cover classical symphonic tunes, exciting heavy metal pieces and even songs that explore techno-electronica themes. Uematsu’s influences include Celtic and Irish music, as well as popular musical acts such as Elton John, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, etc. Final Fantasy VII’s most riveting tune, “One-Winged Angel,” surprisingly owes its inspiration to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Uematsu’s musical scores can tackle any mood by embracing a bright and bubbly atmosphere or an entirely dark and moody one. Nobuo Uematsu is a musical icon whose influential reach goes far beyond the world of gaming. Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XIII) Mr. Hamauzu appreciates the intricacies of classical and ambient music, which is evident in his musical works. While in kindergarten, his interest in music blossomed. And thanks to his parents, he learned how to play the piano through their studious lessons. His soundtracks mostly incorporate the use of the piano, but they also mix in all sorts of other instruments and genres. Hamauzu owes his inspiration to composers who’ve worked on animation, such as Hiroshi Miyagawa. He also cites instrumentalists as his other inspirations, which include Ryuichi Sakamoto of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Hamauzu’s love for classical music truly blossomed during his time spent at university and can be heard in his composing work for numerous RPG’s. Since leaving Square Enix behind, Hamauzu has kickstarted his own game development studio, MONOMUSIK. Junya Nakano (Final Fantasy X) Junya Nakano’s compositional work is applied to creating stirring ambient music. His style of music employs a heavy usage of percussive, timbral and rhythmic elements. Nakano’s musical influences include brass bands and electronic organ music. Nakano’s more uplifting tracks from Final Fantasy X are most closely associated with his desire to create music with a “vibrant and dynamic feel” that reflected everything he created up until that point. A lesser known but still highly regarded Square Enix game Nakano handled the musical score for is Threads of Fate, plus he helped arrange the soundtrack for Dawn of Mana and the Nintendo DS version of Final Fantasy IV. While he didn’t cite a specific musician that he also owes his musical inspiration to, Nakano pointed to fellow Square Enix colleague Masashi Hamauzu as an individual he admires greatly due to the amazing music he’s also known for. Naoshi Mizuta (Final Fantasy XI, Final Fantasy XIV) Naoshi Mizuta works hard to create the type of music that fits in well with a particular scene in order to make both elements equally important to whoever’s experiencing it. Even with the hardware constraints older consoles were known for, Mizuta still managed to produce unmistakable melodies without any added musical effects (back in the day, composers were only able to work with three channels of audio). He mostly owes his inspiration to Yellow Magic Orchestra artist Ryuichi Sakamoto and the aforementioned gaming industry legend Nobuo Uematsu. Some of Mizuta’s work can be heard throughout titles such as Capcom’s Mega Man & Bass and Street Fighter Alpha, plus another Square Enix project by the name of Parasite Eve II. Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy XI) Kumi Tanioka’s musical style is known for its usage of medieval and renaissance instruments that evoke the sound of world music. As a child, she focused on getting better at the piano, which is an instrument she brings up as one of her biggest influences. Music from other cultures, such as Indonesian and Irish, has also impacted her approach to composing video game music. As a lover of live musical performances, Tanioka regularly plays the music she’s responsible for in front of a crowd and loves to witness their connection to it in person. Besides her musical contributions to Final Fantasy IX, Tanioka also lent her talents to the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles series. Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII) Hitoshi Sakimoto tends to compose his music by working on the piano for a brief period of time before working on a computer to develop amazingly detailed arrangements. His influences are mainly old techno and progressive rock groups, as well as American jazz musician Chick Corea and (to no one’s surprise) Nobuo Uematsu. Sakimoto gets a kick out of jamming to techno and jazz-fusion music as well. He’s best known for scoring Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy XII.