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Interview with Yasunori Mitsuda (RocketBaby - February 2001)

The following interview was carried out by RocketBaby.net, a sadly defunct site that once interviewed numerous game composers. Square Enix Music Online is hosting the interview to avoid it being lost forever.

RocketBaby: At what age did you become interested in music?

Yasunori Mitsuda: I became interested in music when I was in high school. Back then, even though I composed as a hobby, my pieces were very amateur sounding and I knew that in order to become a professional composer, I had to first get a proper education in music. That's why I decided to enter a junior college of music. I think the first piece that I ever wrote was back in elementary school, during music class.

RocketBaby: When and why did you start working for Square?

Yasunori Mitsuda: I began working at Square from around April of 1992. I left a little while after Xenogears came out — around June 1998. Please refer to the English version of my homepage for more information...

RocketBaby: Please describe your thoughts on the following games:

Yasunori Mitsuda:

Chrono Trigger
I remember I worked like crazy on this one because it was my debut title. One of my memories from this game is that I got ulcers from working too hard.

Front Mission: Gun Hazard I wrote the songs for the SatellaView game Radical Dreamers while working on this game.

Tobal No. 1
I was caged inside the studio for a month and a half for this project. I started working on it during the beginning of summer, and when I finally finished, it was already autumn outside.

I got to travel to many different countries thanks to this project. I remember that at the very end, during the soundtrack mastering process, I had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Chrono Cross
The best thing about this title was that I had a chance to work with Masato Kato, and that we were free to create our own world — any way that we liked. Work-wise, the main difference between Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger was that we weren't tied down by any strange restrictions from our superiors.

RocketBaby: Do you admire any of your former Square colleagues?

Yasunori Mitsuda: Masato Kato and Hiromichi Tanaka. Mr. Kato, because he's simply the best scenario writer in Square. Mr. Tanaka, because even though his title is a "producer", deep down inside, he's a true "creator".

RocketBaby: Why do you create music and how do you create your melodies?

Yasunori Mitsuda: Hmm... I don't know. I wonder why? I just fool around on my keyboard, and melodies just flow to my mind.

RocketBaby: It is challenging to work within the parameters of game music. How do you sustain your creativity with such narrow limitations?

Yasunori Mitsuda: The way I look at it, "game hardware may come with limitations, but there's no limitations to music".

RocketBaby: You have a job that a lot of people would envy. Please tell us the best and worst parts about being a game composer.

Yasunori Mitsuda: I think it's the most exhausting and also the most difficult genre to work with. Many famous musicians in Japan have tried to take on this genre as well, but I don't think a single one has succeeded yet. It's not as easy as it seems. As a job... I don't think there really is a good point. The worst part is... you can't sleep.

RocketBaby: What do you think makes a good game composer?

Yasunori Mitsuda: I think it really depends on how well the person understands the game as a form of entertainment.

RocketBaby: What do you think is the most challenging impediment for aspiring game composers?

Yasunori Mitsuda: I think it's having to learn how to use all these new complicated equipments. There are even some professional composers out there that don't really understand how to use these equipments either, but if you want to raise the quality of your music and your sound, it's mandatory that you learn how to work with your gear (of course, we're talking only in the field of game music here, but...). If you're a composer and you really want to create a good piece of work, you have to study music AND, at the same time, learn how to use your equipment.

RocketBaby: What do you think about the PlayStation 2 and are you excited about any other next-gen consoles?

Yasunori Mitsuda: The PlayStation 2 library isn't particularly good, so it's a rather difficult platform to work with. As for other consoles, sorry, but I don't have any interests in game consoles.

RocketBaby: Would tell us some information about your work on your first PlayStation 2 game?

Yasunori Mitsuda: The most recent project that I've taken on is this role-playing game called Tsugunai, due out from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. I think the first time that I was contacted for this project was about a year ago. I wrote 40 pieces in total, and I was given complete freedom.

RocketBaby: What is your criteria for picking your jobs?

Yasunori Mitsuda: I have two criteria in choosing my jobs. One, how interesting the project sounds, and two, how much the project calls for my strengths as a composer.

RocketBaby: What is your criteria for choosing songs to be included in the soundtrack?

Yasunori Mitsuda: In the case of game music, I look at things such as whether the scene really "desires" the sounds, and if the piece creates a synergetic effect with that particular scene. I also make sure that the pieces do not sound too monotonous or tiring when played in a loop. For anything other than game music, I take a listen to the piece and make my final judgment based on "whether I'd be willing to pay for such a piece myself".

RocketBaby: What is your process when arranging your own music (Xenogears Creid) and other people's music (Street Fighter EX2 Arrange Album)?

Yasunori Mitsuda: When arranging songs, I constantly think about how to bring out the "best parts" of that particular piece.

RocketBaby: How has the process of making music changed for you from your early days until the present?

Yasunori Mitsuda: During my earlier days, I was always being pushed by deadlines, but recently I've learned to pace myself so that I don't run into such troubles. Consequently, I have more time and leeway than before, which allows me to work even harder to perfect my pieces.

RocketBaby: Of all the music you have written, what is your favorite and least favorite and why?

Yasunori Mitsuda: Sorry, but that's a secret... However, I CAN tell you that I would be lying if I said, "I like ALL the pieces that I've composed." (Laughs)

RocketBaby: Will you perform your music live?

Yasunori Mitsuda: I would really love to, but I'm just too busy with my job as a composer. I'm not really a good performer either so...

RocketBaby: How did you pick the name Hopeful Weeds for your fan club?

Yasunori Mitsuda: Basically, I think of myself as a "weed" because I wasn't born a gifted musician and was also never given any special education in music. But I do, however, feel that I keep a very strong hold of my hopes and aspirations, and also work hard to bring those dreams to reality. That's how I came up with the name "Hopeful Weeds".

RocketBaby: What will people of future generations think about Yasunori Mitsuda and his music?

Yasunori Mitsuda: Hmm... I wonder too!? What WILL they think? I hope they think that I'm an adventurous person who's always taking the road less traveled.