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Junya Nakano :: Biography

Overview Biography Discography Game Projects Interviews

Note: This biography was written exclusively for Square Enix Music Online by Chris. The act of using it without advance written permission is regarded as a copyright infringement. It was last updated on January 23, 2009.

Born on February 28, 1971 in Kyoto, Square Enix composer Junya Nakano has produced stylistically distinct music for a range of titles. While his music is melodically sparse, he never ceases to paint a flawless picture through his fascinating use of timbres and rhythms. When just three, Nakano was introduced to music by his parents; they offered him Electone organ lessons through the Yamaha Music Foundation program and encouraged him to join some brass bands. Also during his youth, Nakano grew to love video games after playing Taito's Space Invaders follow-up Lunar Rescue in 1979. While he was initially unimpressed by the barren sound of early titles, he enjoy the chiptunes that begun to appear during the 1980s. He developed a sense of musical individuality further by frequently listening to the radio during adolescence. He combined his passion for gaming and music in 1985 by composing MIDI music using the NEC PC-9801 computer. After leaving high school, Nakano attended a vocational school in 1987 to study composition and arrangement with the hope of entering the developing game industry.

Soon afer graduating, Nakano landed himself a composer role at the Kobe branch of Konami in 1991. During his three years at Konami, Nakano contributed music to eight Arcade titles. Given the games would be played in noisy venues, he focused on creating memorable melodies and firm sound projection. He specialised in scoring action games such as Astérix, Lethal Enforcers, Martial Champion, Mystic Warriors, and Polygonet Commanders. He even made a guest contribution to the massive overseas hit X-Men: The Arcade Game, featured in the Konami All-Stars 1993 album. His bold percussive style on these soundtracks complemented the electronic approach of his most frequent collaborator, Yuji Takenouchi. His other contributions to Konami included Hexion, where he incorporated DJing techniques, and Golfing Greats 2, incidentally his final work. Though satisfied with his accomplishments at Konami, Nakano decided he wanted to challenge his versatility by composing for narrative-driven titles outside the company. He also hoped he might receive some individual recognition in such roles.

In 1995, Nakano joined Square and immediately shone for his originality. He initially created four compositions for Front Mission: Gun Hazard; they were musically simple, based on repetition of dark suspended chords, agitated bass lines, and heavy percussion, but highly appropriate for representing a miserable war-torn world manipulated by a corrupt organisation. His first solo project, the Satellaview's Treasure Conflix, was brief but diverse. It featured adventurous and melodic title and overworld themes, a lyrical rock-based battle theme, and three ambient themes with curious rhythmical qualities. Also in 1996, Nakano joined most of Square's composers to score the fighting game Tobal No. 1. His three contributions were all electronically-oriented, but glimpses of his versatility were evident; one of his pieces featured distorted rock instruments and another was bagpipe-infused new age music. In 1997, Nakano was the synthesizer operator for techno score for Front Mission Alternative. He tried to make the most of the PlayStation's sound drivers despite composer Riow Arai's unreasonable requests to stream the music.

Nakano's first landmark score was the Japan-only mystery adventure game Another Mind. Given the score had a deadline of two months and was severely limited in the memory it could consume, Nakano conceived images quickly and composed with utmost practical efficiency without sacrificing quality. Much of the score created distinctive timbres and rhythms through layering of forces repetitive elements such as basso ostinati and suspended notes. He also manipulated leitmotifs for the first time, as reflected by the discreet yet meaningful use of the 'Another Mind', 'Guiding Wind' and 'Capricious' themes. His subsequent score to 1999's Threads of Fate (aka DewPrism) gave him worldwide recognition. He offered distinct soundtracks for the two scenarios of the game; sad but hopeful cues were used for the bereaved boy Rue while the spoilt princess Mint was depicted with humorous instrumentation. Nakano's soundtrack also included adventurous themes featuring whimsical melodies and exotic timbres as well as blistering battle themes dominated by dissonant harmonies and pounding percussion.

Nakano's productivity has decreased since Threads of Fate and he has mainly taken secondary roles on major projects. His 20 accepted compositions Final Fantasy X were stylistically distinctive from those of Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu. He characterised the dark and deathly nature of many of the game's environments with ambient themes; some were composed with brute efficiency, made entirely by layering of repeated percussion rhythms and string crisis motifs on high reverb. Nakano nevertheless added considerable diversity to the score with two intense boss battle themes, colourful setting themes for Guadosalam and Luca, and arrangements of Nobuo Uematsu's melodies for Mushroom Rock Road and the Calm Lands. While his overall role on the soundtrack was inconsistent and controversial, his compositions all worked well in the game and several were musically profound. Nakano also co-composed the duet "Endless Love, Endless Road" with Masayoshi Soken for the tribute album Final Fantasy X: feel / Go dream and briefly featured in the Final Fantasy X Piano Collections as the original composer of "Guadosalam".

Following Final Fantasy X, Nakano co-composed the scores to Asmik Ace's PlayStation 2 flight simulators SideWinder F and SideWinder V. His offerings were mostly aggressive rock and techno pieces, but still retained his idiosyncratic harmonic approach. Nakano was able to score these projects given artists of Nobuo Uematsu's short-lived subsidiary Square Sounds could technically be licensed to create music for other companies if not busy on other projects. Back at Square Enix, Nakano scored Musashi: Samurai Legend (aka Musashiden II Blademaster) with Masashi Hamauzu and Wavelink Zeal in 2004. This project provided his perfect opportunity to develop his trademark musicality while creating many unprecedented sounds. He fused his complex percussive style with extensive references to electronica, rock, and more exotic styles. In contrast to Final Fantasy X, his resultant works felt as artistic and refined as Masashi Hamauzu's. He offered his most elaborate and developed ambient compositions to date in addition to a whimsical shopping piece and several battle themes reminiscent of Final Fantasy X.

Nakano's latest compositions were featured on the Xbox 360 shooter Project Sylpheed. He blended acoustic and electronic forces across seven tracks in order to reflect the futuristic and alien environments of the game. Most served either to prepare for action with tense string motifs and chilling percussion rhythms or reflect the heat of the battle with heavy beats and operatic vocals. Nakano personally programmed the sound driver in order to maintain the tonal balance and sample clarity of his compositions. More recently, he produced four straightforward but atmospheric arrangements of Mana classics for Dawn of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 4). He was also selected to arrange half of Final Fantasy IV's DS remake under supervision by Nobuo Uematsu. Most themes stuck closely to their originals so that they felt natural in the scenes they were reused in. However, he added Celtic flair to some compositions to create a feeling of uniformity, particularly channeling influences from Celtic Moon. Nakano remains a veteran member of Square Enix's music team, but his current projects are unknown.