Ryuji Sasai :: Biography
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 September 10, 2007.
Born on December 21, 1961 in Osaka, Japan, Ryuji Sasai is a rock musician that has balanced work as a bass guitarist for several bands with contributions to several video game and anime projects. He started his career by joining the respected experimental rock band Novela in 1982; he was an instrumentalist and occasional songwriter for several of their albums, including Sanctuary, Legend of Final War, From the Mystic World, and WORDS. During their recordings, he was an anime composer for several popular children's TV series, including 1982's The Mysterious Cities of Gold with two others and, in a solo effort, 1984's Adventures of the Little Koala. After Novela dissolved in 1984, he produced several more scores, notably collaborating with Satoshi Kadokura to score 1986's movie Windaria (aka Once Upon a Time). In 1988, he joined the band ACTION, where he provided backing vocals in addition to bass guitar performance. The band were active between 1988 and 1998, the years that also spanned Sasai's career as a video game composer.
His earliest known game music works were on behalf of Crystal Software. His first score, the accompaniment to the PC-8801's Mugen No Shinzo III, was co-composed by Chihiro Fujioka for release in 1989. With Tadahiro Nitta, he subsequently provided the scores for MicroCabin's Xak: The Art of Visual Stage, Fray -In Magical Adventure-, and Xak II: The Rising of the Red Moon. Their light-hearted rock-tinged scores were released in two albums and were rather popular in Japan. After Fujioka had been recruited as a director for Square, Sasai was invited to join Square in 1991 after the company needed composers to support Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito. The first of his works was Final Fantasy Legend III (aka SaGa 3: Jikuu no Hasha) for the Game Boy. He composed the majority of the themes, most of which were mostly melody-focused and outwardly enjoyable, and also arranged two of Uematsu's Final Fantasy Legend compositions. Director Chihiro Fujioka also handled four compositions. The majority of the second disc of the compilation All Sounds of SaGa was dedicated to the score.
Sasai composed his second work for Square in 1992, creating the score for Final Fantasy Mystic Quest with Yasuhiro Kawakami. The first true Final Fantasy score not to feature Uematsu, Sasai handled most of the energetic themes while Kawakami focused on the calmer themes. Occasionally with the help of his guitar-loving collaborator, Sasai integrated an accessible rock-based feel to the score in order to appeal to American gamers, particularly evident in the battle themes and the arrangements featured in its soundtrack release. The game, while savaged by critics, developed Sasai's status as a cult composer. After an extended break during the peak of ACTION's activity, Sasai created his first solo effort in 1996 for the Japan-only Super Nintendo RPG Rudra no Hihou. His largest game score, it reflected the flavour of conventional RPG soundtracks, combining fun dungeon themes with rock-based battle themes. However, it was special for its time given the diversity and maturity of the compositions, complementing an excellent but underexposed title. Despite its quality, this work didn't provide Sasai with the same popular recognition that Nobuo Uematsu, Yasunori Mitsuda, and Hiroki Kikuta received during the same period.
Sasai's final contributions to Square were more experimental. In 1996, he produced the character select track for the Mitsuda-produced score to Tobal No. 1, appearing alongside a host of composers. Its arranged album, Tobal No. 1 Remixes Electrical Indian, opened with Sasai's track arranged by GUIDO in a jazz-rock fusion. His pinnacle of creative achievement was his final game work, the score to Bushido Blade 2. Creating a hard rock score that featured traditional Japanese instruments, the score reflected both the game's action basis and its fighting style. It was mostly of very high quality, including two arranged tracks at the start and end of the album as a bonus. Sasai left the games industry after ACTION dissolved in 1998, but remained active as a rock musician, having joined the Queen Mania tribute band soon after. Due to celebrate their tenth anniversary, Sasai will be active in the production and the band have adopted a gothic makeup-clad look inspired by various J-Rock bands. Though neither game music's most popular composer nor prolific contributor, Ryuji Sasai will be remembered for his enjoyable old-school scores and for increasing the stylistic diversity of Square's albums.