Born on January 21, 1972 in Shunan, Yasunori Mitsuda is the founder and president of music production company Procyon Studio. Throughout his early childhood in Kumake, Mitsuda was an enthusiastic and talented outdoorsman, but lacked the dedication to fulfil his dreams to be a professional golfer. Despite being given piano lessons during his high school years, he was initially unpassionate and never practiced. His initial lack of dedication could have been the bane of him, but he eventually found the inspiration and motivation to succeed. He began to appreciate music during his early teenage years thanks to enjoying Vangelis' Blade Runner and Henry Mancini's Pink Panther soundtracks. This gave him a new lifelong ambition to become an internationally acclaimed film music composer. He became a huge fan of computers after his father purchased him one, a rare item in that day. He gained further technical proficiency with electrical engineering classes at high school and regular experiences creating music and programming games. This put him in good stead for his career, set to be highly reliant on technical expertise.
In a move would either make or break him, Mitsuda decided to leave home and become independent in Tokyo following graduation from high school. With influence from his engaged sister and bold words from his father, he enrolled in a junior college to study composing and arranging. His two years at the junior college were the hardest he had to experience up to that point. As a result of his limited experience and musical knowledge, he received some ridicule from his teachers but hardened as a result and gained the dedication he lacked as a childhood. He still learned a lot from his teachers while assisting them work outside the college in tasks such as carrying instruments and also matured as a character through these challenging experiences. While there, he had regular early morning jam sessions and beer-induced escapades with long-term collaborator Yoshitaka Hirota. Late in his course, he took six months placement under a teacher working in the sound department of a game software company at the end of 1991. Though he had plenty of ambitions to become a film composer, his teacher realized he had no clear plans and recommended he apply for a job advertised at Square.
Under the belief that the job would lead on to bigger things, Mitsuda sent several sample pieces to Square. He was eventually invited to an interview with Nobuo Uematsu and sound programmer Minoru Akao in March 1992. Mitsuda surprised his interviewers by admitting that he wanted the job only as a stepping stone and that he had never played Square's biggest success, the Final Fantasy series. Nevertheless, the quality of his compositions and the extent of technical experience allowed him to eventually become employed under the title of composer. Mitsuda's first projects were actually dedicated to sound manipulation and sound effects design. He initially worked under Koichi Sugiyama on the Super Nintendo's Hanjuku Hero; he learned a lot under the respected Dragon Quest composer and demonstrated a meticulous attitude towards programming. Later working in sound-related roles for Final Fantasy V, Secret of Mana, and Romancing SaGa 2, he established a reputation of being the most meticulous person in Square when it came to sound quality and inspired an array of innovative techniques for improving Super Nintendo sound design alongside Hidenori Suzuki and Minoru Akao.
Despite enjoying these challenges and successes, Mitsuda realised that he would remain a sound designer for the rest of his career unless he did something bold. Audaciously, he gave an ultimatum directly to Square's vice president Hironobu Sakaguchi that, if he weren't given the role he applied for, he would quit the company. After subsequent discussions, Sakaguchi firmly understood the message and eventually assigned Mitsuda to score most of the collaborative Square and Enix collaboration Chrono Trigger after Koichi Sugiyama became too busy to work on it. Mitsuda felt an overwhelming amount of largely self-imposed pressure during this project and even collapsed due to physical illness at the end of it. Released in 1995, the final score memorably and fittingly complemented the worlds, characters, and eras of the time-travelling RPG and remains one of the most beloved scores of its era. The perfectionistic Mitsuda nevertheless found the music somewhat immature on a stand-alone basis and rejects that it is his representative album. Following its completion, he recruited the duo Guido to create novel acid jazz arrangements of the score on Chrono Trigger: The Brink of Time.
A year later, Mitsuda joined Uematsu to compose the more mature project Front Mission: Gun Hazard. He depicted a grim world victim to an organization's heartless manipulation with dark orchestral soundscaping and compelling percussion use. During the same period, he was entrusted with all aspects of sound production on the Chrono Trigger Satellaview spinoff Radical Dreamers. He pushed the Super Nintendo to its technical limits with his ambitious sound programming while creating music that would eventually thematically unite the scores of the Chrono series. Though too busy to compose many pieces, Mitsuda was the producer of the multi-artist score for the fighter Tobal No. 1 in 1996, incidentally Square's first PlayStation project. He recruited arrangers Guido to ensure a stylistically continuous electronic score and exploited the increased memory capacity of its console to stream instrumental performances. Also on behalf of the project, he collaborated with Guido to create another underground arranged album, the eccentric Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian. His experiences with leadership and multitasking on these titles provided the experience necessary to establish a successful company later in his career.
Mitsuda's final project as a Square employee was the high-profile RPG Xenogears released in 1998. He developed individuality as a game music composer by crafting sentimental and spiritual pieces with organic and worldly instruments. It also featured the first ballad to feature on a Square video game the Celtic ending theme "Small Two of Pieces" sung by Joanne Hogg. Xenogears' arranged album Creid differed from Mitsuda's previous arranged productions in that it was catered to be accessible to most fans, not just a cult audience; the Celtic-influenced album fully realised the musical potential of the Xenogears project and expressed Mitsuda's individuality, said to be composed from the heart. Having retained his intention to use Square to further his career, he decided to become a freelancer following the album's completion in order to move on to bigger and better things. He was regarded as a daring pioneer at the time since most of his contemporaries were in-house staff and inspired many others to later do the same. His initial work as a freelancer was Nintendo's Mario Party; though all but 60 of the 200 pieces he created were rejected, its light-hearted soundtrack was mostly enjoyed by those who played the hit title.
At request of Masato Kato, Mitsuda engaged in his final collaboration with Square by scoring 1999's Chrono Cross. His score coloured the game's parallel worlds and emphasised the drama of the story. It also proved melodically rich and stylistically distinctive due to the acoustic guitar-based sound he crafted with the help of synthesizer operator Ryo Yamazaki. Its vocal theme "Radical Dreamers" was so successful that Mitsuda was asked to compose a track for its vocalist Noriko Mitose on the original album Ten Plants 2 Children Songs. The related Melody of Legend albums also reflected on Mitsuda's accomplishments as a Celtic musician. On 1999's Bomberman 64: The Second Attack, he co-composed with friend Yoshitaka Hirota for the first time, resulting in a buoyant jazz-infused score. Mitsuda subsequently created two arrangements for the Street Fighter EX2 Arrange Album alongside the Arika team. He and Hirota later produced the drama albums for Resident Evil 2 and Street Fighter Zero 3; the duo preserved the atmosphere of each original score while engraving their individuality in the music. Also on behalf of Capcom, Mitsuda was also asked to arrange a ballad for Mega Man Legends and, with Kazumi Mitome, the vocal single for the anime Starbows.
On November 22, 2001, Yasunori Mitsuda established the music production company Procyon Studio to increase his prominence and revenue. The company remained small until recently given Mitsuda was its sole composer. However, it developed a reputation for high quality sound manipulation through the works of two former Square employees, sound programmer Hidenori Suzuki and synthesizer operator Junya Kuroda, on Mitsuda's projects and external ones. Sound designers Miki Ito and Masaaki Kaneko were also employed at the company, but left to join Hitoshi Sakimoto's Basiscape. With aid of an individual responsible for sales promotion, website management, and other administrative aspects, Mitsuda has also created the official fan club Hopeful Weeds, which periodically releases exclusive newsletters and music to its members. The company's first score was the RPG Tsugunai: Atonement. Given complete freedom, Mitsuda offered a thoughtful exploration of Celtic realms while evoking a wide spectrum of emotion and complementing the game. Its remastered album release An Cinniùint was the first to be released by Mitsuda's personal record label Sleigh Bells. Another of the company's earliest publications was the Chrono Cross Guitar Arrangement sheet music book.
Mitsuda continued to explore his identity as an organic composer with several smaller and collaborative projects at the start of the millenium. On Legaia 2: Duel Saga, he integrated organic instruments into ten distinctly styled compositions; his contributions ranged from the adventurous to the sinister and complemented the works of the main composer Hitoshi Sakimoto. Following this collaboration, Mitsuda was assigned to compose Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter, but was too busy to fulfill his commitments and let his friend Sakimoto take over. He nevertheless directed two employees to implement the score. Mitsuda's relationship with Yoshitaka Hirota reached its creative apex in 2001 with the critically acclaimed score to the cult RPG Shadow Hearts. Mitsuda contributed a limited number of compositions in a variety of styles, adding diversity, popular appeal, and accessibility to a score principally marked by Hirota's eccentric and experimental compositions. For the score to the PC's The Seventh Seal, Sailing to the World, the composer created ten well-developed themes that referenced many of his past works. It was later adapted into a piano sheet music book with an accompanying recording by Masashi Hamauzu.
Mitsuda spent much of the subsequent few years expanding his horizons. On 2002's Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, he overcame many challenges while orchestrating ten epic pieces for performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He proudly released the final results in a commercially available sheet music book. The score fluidly combined instrumental and vocal recordings with sequenced music and, despite a lack of gameplay compositions, was universally praised for the way it fitted the game's cinematic sequences. There were nevertheless elements of consistency with Xenogears such as the inclusion of two Celtic ballads sung by Joanne Hogg. In addition to appearances on Shadow Hearts II and the Street Fighter Tribute Album, Mitsuda dedicated much of 2003 to composing the anime series Bandai Channel. He enjoyed challenging himself by composing for an alternative medium to video games and returned to the field of anime just a year later with Pugyuru. Mitsuda's playful and percussive soundtrack to Graffiti Kingdom, Hako no Niwa, was another remarkable experiment; intended to resemble a child's scribblings, it resonated with what Mitsuda described as "a cascade of delightful, nostalgic, mysterious, and meaningless sounds".
In one of his most artistic works to date, Mitsuda created the concept album KiRite in 2005. He created one of his most memorable works to date by blending live instruments, the voice of Eri Kawai, and a wide variety of styles. The composer's music helped to paint a luscious picture of a fantasy world described in Masato Kato's accompanying book, The Five Seasons of KiRite. The story was interpreted in conjunction with Mitsuda's score on the play And Endless performed through Japan in 2006. Around the same time, Mitsuda explored new technology while creating a familiarly styled score for the mobile phone's Deep Labyrinth. He later collaborated with Kazumi Mitome to fulfil his ambition to score movies at last with Konami's science-fiction film Specter and created some music to accompany the television advertisements for two BOSE DVD players. In another challenging role, he recorded for big band to create an unprecedented mix of hard jazz and hip-hop on Tsukiyo ni Saraba's soundtrack Moonlit Shadow. The artist has also been involved in collaborative projects such as the scores for Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner and Super Smash Bros. Brawl as well as the arranged albums for Dark Chronicle, Rogue Galaxy, and the Shadow Hearts series.
Since 2005, Mitsuda has focused much of his attention on audio production for the DS. He initially explored the console by contributing three sinister tracks to The Masquarade Lullaby and the enhanced score for Deep Labyrinth's remake. Intrigued by its possibilities, he pursued several technical innovations on the console with the help of his employees, veteran sound programmer Hidenori Suzuki, synthesizer operator Junya Kuroda, and sound effects designer Etsuko Shimada. Through the brand Digital Sound Elements, his company offers high quality audio compression and a novel sound driver to overcome the DS' notorious technical limitations. Franchises such as Professor Layton, Pokémon Mysterious Dungeon, Ni no Kuni, and Shiren the Wanderer have extensively used this technology. To increase the productivity of his company, Mitsuda introduced several assistant composers at Procyon Studio. He initially hired Shota Kageyama for a six month period before introducing Shunsuke Tsuchiya, Maki Kirioka, and Hideaki Kuroda permanently. Mitsuda has supervised these artists and others on the traditional RPG scores for the Luminous Arc trilogy, while also serving as a sound producer for diverse projects such as Infinite Loop, Magnetica Twist, Tokyo Yamamoto Boys, and Treasure Report.
Despite his numerous production roles, Mitsuda has worked as a solo composer on several titles in recent years. He reflected his versatility once more on the PlayStation 2 strategy title Armodyne, blending militaristic anthems with an exotic main theme and several surprising experiments. He subsequently took listeners on a breathtaking journey on the DS' Soma Bringer. Produced over a two year period with a three disc span, diverse stylings, and refined samples the score reaffirmed that Mitsuda pushes boundaries with his RPG scores. The artist simultaneously produced a rich cinematic score for the MMORPG Lime Odyssey and enjoyed recording the title with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In further RPG projects, he produced the defining themes for two other games the DS' World Destruction and the Wii's Arc Rise Fantasia providing stylistic and melodic inspiration for his co-composers. Also a reputable and popular guest contributor, Mitsuda made contributions to the Darius Burst arranged album, Play For Japan charity album, and the final release of late vocalist Eri Kawai. His emotional theme songs have also recently appealed on the Wii RPG Xenoblade and the animation Mobile Suit Gundam 00.
Since the series' debut on the DS, Mitsuda has also scored the various game, anime, and movie adaptations of the popular soccer RPG series Inazuma Eleven. His initial game score inspired memories of Chrono Trigger with its light-hearted humorous tunes. However, he has taken the series' screen adaptations in a more mature direction, working closely with his resident orchestrator Natsumi Kameoka throughout. Played, watched, and listened to by hundreds of thousands in Japan, the Inazuma Eleven series has developed the composer's fanbase. In a further pioneering role, Mitsuda served as one of the producers of the KORG DS-10 a music creation program accessible to the masses through its touch screen functionality. To demonstrate its capabilities, Mitsuda formed the DS-10 Trio with the program's co-producers Michio Okamiya and Nobuyoshi Sano. Together, they have performed game remixes and humorous originals with the program at high-profile events such as Extra: Hyper Game Music Event 2008. Always keen to explore new technology, Mitsuda also flirted with game design as the producer of the retro shooter bQLSI Star Laser for the iPhone. He also composed several tracks to instil his unique touch on the game.
Despite such expansive activities, Mitsuda clearly remembers his roots and has dedicated considerable time to revisiting his older projects lately. As music supervisor of the DS' Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda emphasised that the sound should stay faithful to the original. More recently, he inspired and co-arranged a nostalgic orchestral album dedicated to Xenogears. He has also attended landmark concert performances of his music by PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, Video Games Live, Press Start: Symphony of Games, and Symphonic Fantasies, being greeted by adoring fans in all cases. Between such roles, Mitsuda continues to balance a range of roles: scoring new projects such as Inazuma Eleven Break and Half-Minute Hero 2, supervising diverse scores such as Wizardry Online and Tokyo Yamamoto Boys, and pioneering new technology with the KORG M01 and 3DS sound driver. The expansion of his sound production company has enhanced Mitsuda's productivity and versatility, though he continues to be a meticulous and individualistic artist. With further Inazuma Eleven projects on the horizon and possible Chrono Cross arranged album in the works, Mitsuda's musical story looks set to continue for a long time to come.
- Various Game & Album Credits
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on December 11, 2011. Do not republish without formal permission.