This biography was written by Terraguy exclusively for use at Square Enix Music Online. It may not be placed on any web site or otherwise distributed publicly without advance written permission, as this is a violation of copyright.
On March 21, 1959, in Kouchi City, Japan, an extraordinary video game musical genius was born. His name: Nobuo Uematsu. He started playing the piano at the young age of 12 without any formal training or studying (his inspiration was Elton John). He graduated from Kanagawa University, but, surprisingly, his major was not in music. When Uematsu turned 22, he joined many amateur bands as a keyboard player, but he discovered a knack for writing music. This, ultimately, was the springboard into what would be a magical career, catering to game moods and emotions through music. His first job was not as a composer for game music, but as a composer of music for commercials. In 1985, a friend who worked part time at Square Co., Ltd. asked if Uematsu would be interested in composing some music for a game being developed. Uematsu said yes, and the rest is history. The first game he did compose for was called Genesis, and at the time, was not seen as a big hit. In 1986, Uematsu started working full time for Square, and composed soundtracks for many of Square's trivial games, such as King's Knight, Alpha, Rad Racer, 3D World Runner, and Cleopatra no Mahou, among others. It wasn't until the end of 1987 when his works were thrust into the limelight.
In 1987, Nobuo Uematsu wrote the soundtrack for Final Fantasy. With its flowing lines of music and distinct style, it helped move the game along, bringing emotion and power to the places where they were needed. Of course, everyone knows about the game's success and how it prevented Square from bankruptcy. With Uematsu having written the soundtrack, his career in Square was secure. Uematsu then went on to write music for the rest of the numbered Final Fantasy games (all eleven of them, to date) and produced arranged albums for Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV. Fairly early in his career, he also worked on the SaGa series, composing the whole score for Final Fantasy Legend 1 (A.K.A. Makaitoushi SaGa in Japan) and co-composing the score for Final Fantasy Legend 2 (A.K.A. SaGa 2 Hihou Densetsu in Japan) alongside Kenji Ito. He also wrote music for the very popular score Chrono Trigger alongside Yasunori Mitsuda and the lesser-known score Front Mission Series: Gun Hazard Original Sound Version alongside Mitsuda, Junya Nakano, and Masashi Hamauzu. On each one, Uematsu evolved his style of composing. Each game he composed for had its own distinct style, and each soundtrack showed more and more of Uematsu's genius. Using the game as a reference, he created soundtracks that could bring out the true emotions of the place, character, time, battles, etc. and help both the story and the gamer along. Encompassing all sorts of different genres of music, he has used everything from Classical (many pieces) to rock ("Otherworld" from Final Fantasy X), from Spanish- ("Vamo Alla Flamenco" from Final Fantasy IX) to Irish- (Final Fantasy IV Celtic Moon) influenced music to create his soundtracks. Each piece he composed had some part in trying to smooth the flow of the game, while providing an immersive experience.
Arguably, Uematsu's peak of writing encompassed Final Fantasy VI to Final Fantasy IX. With hits like "Dancing Mad," "Aria de Mezzo Carattere," "Aerith's Theme," "One Winged Angel," "Liberi Fatali," "Eyes on Me," "Vamo' Alla Flamenco," and "Melodies of Life," his name became known throughout the RPG gaming world as the master of composing and the John Williams of video game music. Of course, some of his older pieces stayed on top of the onslaught of new compositions. Pieces such as the "Prelude," "Final Fantasy" theme, and "Chocobo" theme, all of which originated from his works in Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II, have survived, and remain synonymous with Uematsu's name. In many of the later Final Fantasy games he has composed, there has been a special track with a single vocalist. He has composed singles for popular Japanese pop singers such as Faye Wong, Emiko Shiratori, and RIKKI, and their tracks in the games, "Eyes on Me" (Final Fantasy VIII), "Melodies of Life" (Final Fantasy IX), and "Suteki Da Ne" (Final Fantasy X), respectively, have gone on to become hits. "Eyes on Me" even won "Song of the Year (Western Music)" at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1999. This set a landmark in itself, since it was the first time video game music had won such a prestigious award.
As well as all that, Uematsu has achieved further fame recently, in the form of a series of concerts. One such concert, "20020220: Music from Final Fantasy," became a hit, and later provided the basis for many of Uematsu's other orchestral concerts, which included the six-city, seven-show concert series "Tour of Japan - Music from Final Fantasy". Following this, Uematsu has also achieved international fame over the last year with the "Dear Friends - Music from Final Fantasy" concert, which occurred on the May 10, 2004 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and with a series of similar concerts that have been held across North America, Australia, and Europe throughout 2005. Another significant contribution he made to video game music was as the founder of the rock group The Black Mages, which have also produced a series of concerts. Set up in February 2003, the band has six members Michio Okamiya (Guitar), Tsuyoshi Sekito (Guitar), Kenichiro Fukui (Keyboards), Keiji Kawamori (Bass Guitar), Arata Hanyuda (Drums), and, of course, Nobuo Uematsu (Organ). They have produced two albums to date, The Black Mages and The Black Mages 2 ~The Skies Above~, which featured arrangements of various battle themes from the Final Fantasy series. They have also been featured on the Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange, released a DVD of a live concert, and are set to appear on the score for the highly-anticipated movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, which will be composed by Uematsu. In addition, with the recent concert "More Friends - Music from Final Fantasy," The Black Mages were able to perform in the United States, along with pop singers RIKKI and Emiko Shiratori.
More recently, many feel that Uematsu was slowly growing less inspired, first shown by working on the Final Fantasy X Original Soundtrack with Junya Nakano and Masashi Hamauzu. The soundtrack was widely considered to be excellent, and having some different and new insights onto music composition from Hamauzu and Nakano helped. However, many say that it was this game's soundtrack that showed that Uematsu was losing ground, as it was the first time he ever needed to co-compose a Final Fantasy score of the numbered series. In 2002, Uematsu composed what was to be his last Final Fantasy soundtrack under Square (now Square Enix). This was Final Fantasy XI, and it was by no way horrible, but just a departure from the style one would expect to see in a Final Fantasy score. Uematsu only composed 11 tracks, while Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka composed the rest. Some people also used 2003's Hanjuku Hero VS 3D Original Soundtrack, Uematsu's first solo work outside he Final Fantasy series since 1995, as evidence for loss of inspiration. Indeed, while the score was an enjoyable, it saw a return to NES-style sound quality and melodies, and many people felt this was inappropriate for a PlayStation 2 game, despite the fact it fitted the game's light-hearted style. His contributions to the score of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance alongside Hitoshi Sakimoto, Kaori Ohkoshi, and Ayako Saso were also small, and he only composed the main theme. Perhaps most significantly of all, however, when word of Final Fantasy XII came out, Uematsu only had the main theme to compose, with Hitoshi Sakimoto creating the rest. This would be by far the smallest role Uematsu had played in a Final Fantasy score of the numbered series to date. Evidently, it was time for Uematsu to step down.
That's exactly what he did. In October 2004, Uematsu amicably parted ways with Square Enix and founded his own music studio, called Smile Please Co., Ltd. It was the end of a great legacy, and the end of Uematsu's compositions for Square Enix. Uematsu had, at that time, composed soundtracks for more than 25 games. He had his works performed at multiple concerts, started his own rock band, and established himself as the most famous video game music composer overseas in history. He had even made contributions beyond video game music, having worked on the anime Ah! My Goddess, composed alongside Shiro Hamaguchi for the anime Final Fantasy Unlimited, and created his own solo album called Phantasmagoria in 1994. Even with these enormous achievements, he did not stop. One of his first customers from Smile Please was none other than Square Enix, where they implored Uematsu to continue the concerts he was hosting in the U.S. and work with the Hankuku Mages for Hanjuku Hero 4 ~The 7 Heroes~. Nevertheless, Uematsu's time working at Square Enix was over. Now working at Smile Please for both Square Enix and Mistwalker Studios (a company founded by Final Fantasy game creator Hironobu Sakaguchi), it is sure that many of his works will still take a great place in the VGM hall of fame. He is still widely considered to be one of the greatest video game music geniuses of all time, which almost all video game music composers have looked up to, and, who many gamers have felt the emotions of his carefully and beautifully crafted pieces.
List of Game Projects
Note: This list only includes games that the composer has actively worked on, so those games that feature reprises of the composer's work from older titles are not included.
Key: C = Composer, A = Arranger, P = Performer, S = Sound Programmer, E = Sound Effects, M = Synthesizer Operator
List of Albums