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Yoshitaka Hirota

Yoshitaka Hirota Date of Birth: September 1, 1971 (Kyoto)
Education: Graduated from a Junior Music College
Musical Influences: Erik Satie, David Bowie, The Clash
General Interests: Playing with Pets, Walking, The Internet
Instruments Played: Bass Guitar (Also a Vocalist)
Place of Residence: Tokyo
Official Web Site: Twintail Studio


This biography was written by Chris 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.

Yoshitaka Hirota, born in September 1, 1971, became fascinated with music and the energy of sound itself from a very young age. After hearing his brother play covers of songs by The Carpenters and The Beatles on the acoustic guitar, his influences gradually grew and he started to appreciate a wide variety of artists, some of which, like Erik Satie, were key figures in modernising 'classical' music, and others, such as David Bowie and Simon & Garfunkel, were popular music icons while he was growing up. This went some way to develop not only his varied musical tastes, but his vast imagination, and his inspiration was first put into writing at the of 10 when he created his first composition on a synthesizer. In 1986, inspired by bands such as The Sex Pistols, he aptly demonstrated his eclectic influences and willingness to experiment with musical genres by founding a hardcore punk band called "Bondage", where he played bass guitar and sung. At this point, it was more than clear that music was his primary love, and, despite having a limited musical education, he looked towards undertaking a musical career. After graduating from high school, Hirota made perhaps the biggest step of his life by moving to Tokyo, where he enrolled at a junior music college for a composition course. He was forced to attend such a college as opposed to a standard one as a result of his limited musical education and likely received some ridicule from teachers while there. He managed to succeed, however, and there were three keys to his success: his interest, his imagination, and Yasunori Mitsuda. Indeed, his college days were the beginnings of a collaboration with Mitsuda that looks set to last a lifetime. The duo would always go to school at 6:00 AM in order to avoid Tokyo's hellish rush hour and they played together while there. They bonded as friends quickly and often did crazy things together. For example, Mitsuda once reportedly ate a newspaper due to lack of money and also kicked a bicycle stand at a police car while drunk, yet blamed it on Hirota! Despite occasionally being on the wrong side of the law, the pair complemented each other perfectly, both musically and socially, with the help of lots of beer, one of Hirota's main indulgences, of course. Having graduated from the college at the age of 20, Hirota continued his education by working with a visual creator of East Europe that specialised in puppet animation. These studies were about the relationship between visuals and their accompanying music, which is obviously a key aspect to creating successful game music.

Hirota underwent a period of unemployment after these educational experiences, becoming poor as he was back at college. His luck changed when Mitsuda contacted him about creating sound effects for Square games in 1994. Mitsuda, having been employed by Square from 1992, was a somewhat dissatisfied sound programmer at this point, but still understood that the job was a strong pathway to other things. Hirota's first work was Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in Japan), and this was a superb starting point for his career, as perhaps Square's most successful Super Nintendo RPG. His sound effects sometimes featured directly alongside Nobuo Uematsu's music in the Final Fantasy VI Original Sound Version, with the train sound effects in "Mystery Train" and the wind sound effects in "Dark World" being the most obvious examples. Having already worked alongside Square's two most famous composers, he also worked alongside Yôko Shimomura on Live A Live in 1994. Soon after, Hirota and Mitsuda worked together for the production of a commercial item for the first time with Chrono Trigger in 1995. Hirota's sound effects played a significant part of the game, particularly during the warping sequences, and these sound effects actually featured at the end and introduction of some of the discs on the Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version. His next project was Seiken Densetsu 3, where he worked alongside composer Hiroki Kikuta, a key figure to the development of Hirota's career, and Hidenori Suzuki, who he described as a genius sound programmer that has often allowed his imagination to be presented in the finest way possible. Other significant Super Nintendo games that Hirota worked on were Front Mission: Gun Hazard, Bahamut Lagoon, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. He soon played a prominent role in Square's PlayStation era, creating noteworthy sound effects for Final Fantasy VII in 1995; this is Square's biggest commercial hit, which Hirota was proud to be part of. He contributed to Front Mission 2, Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon, and the cinematic RPG Parasite Eve soon after, which developed his versatility with the new console even further.

Presumably not a resident employee at Square, Hirota still conducted in a variety of other activities while working for the company's games. During this time, he played in another punk band, acted as a DJ in techno events, and participated in several live tours. The most significant evidence of these early activities was the album Talk While Asleep, released in 1995. This was an independent electronica album, where he was accredited by the pseudonym Core2; it featured four tracks, some of which were progressive ambient in nature and others which were aggressive techno compositions. He also received his first taste of composing game music in 1998 with the score for Hudson's Bomberman 64: The Second Attack. Here, he composed alongside Yasunori Mitsuda, who had just left Square himself, and they created a happy-go-lucky score that was a moderate hit with gamers. He also created the musical score for the movie We are not alone in 1998 alongside Kazumi Mitome. It was a romance movie that concentrated on a couple who were both hospitalized for having multiple personalities, and Hirota's eccentric touch was exactly what the film needed. Finding these two composing projects particularly inspired, Hirota looked towards taking on more substantial composing roles in the game music industry. Hirota's final three projects at Square — the sound effects creation for Racing Lagoon, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy VIII — were not sufficiently unique to appeal to him, despite his creations being highly admirable. Having already seen Mitsuda undertake a freelance career, he decided to work directly alongside him, producing three Capcom drama albums, resulting in the termination of his relationship with Square. Two albums were dedicated to the survival horror game Biohazard 2, and this project was particularly fun for the duo, as they enjoyed creating experimental music while drinking at a studio together. They produced strange and beautiful melodies, and, in most tracks, Hirota composed and Mitsuda arranged, though Hirota actually sung in certain tracks. They also created a drama album for Street Fighter ZERO3, adding to the wide discography of the Street Fighter series.

Hirota was later enticed to work in Hiroki Kikuta's new company, Sacnoth. Surprisingly, his first role for the company still involved sound effects creation, but it was for Kikuta's proposed magnum opus, the survival horror RPG Koudelka. Promised to take the RPG genre in a whole new direction, this appealed to Hirota's imaginative mind, unhappy with the juvenile and stagnant nature of many of Square's RPGs. Of course, it was not all plain sailing and the game received little popular acclaim, suffering from serious flaws in the combat system and other areas; this contributed to Sacnoth's financial provider SNK's bankruptcy and an internally undermined Kikuta's resignation. Though likely saddened by the loss of his friend from the company, Hirota was one of the few who blossomed due to this, taking over as the company's principle composer. He subsequently scored the NeoGeo Pocket Color's Faselei!, Dive Alert: Becky's Version, and Dive Alert: Matt's Version, all of which were obscure titles and hardly commercial hits. He also worked on behalf of Sega for the Dreamcast's Sonic Shuffle in 2000, which succeeded in being one of his lighter efforts. Hirota's breakthrough work at Sacnoth was, of course, 2001's PlayStation 2 Shadow Hearts, however. The game was the brainchild of Sacnoth's new company president, Matsuzo Itakura, and was still set in Koudelka's world and shared horror elements, but was altogether more refined, boasting a quirky style, a sense of humour, and a superior combat system. Its Original Soundtrack was simply a masterwork, featuring superb data manipulation from Masaharu Iwata and sound programming from Hidenori Suzuki, colourful track titles from James H. Woan, and even a small number of compositions from Mitsuda. Hirota's huge array of immensely creative, imaginative, and varied compositions were certainly its most profound feature, however, with the composer flawlessly combining symphonic epics and oriental-inspired gems with really unusual battle themes and heavy alternative rock pieces. Its soundtrack, just like its accompanying game, has achieved cult status and is widely regarded as a huge influence for the development of game music. After Aruze Corp took over the Sacnoth, 2003's Shadow Hearts: Covenant was released. Its soundtrack was more dramatic than its predecessor and was mostly written in an ad hoc basis, with lots of improvisation. Hirota was joined by four other composers here — Kenji Ito, one of the composers Hirota met back at Square, newcomers Tomoko Kobayashi and Ryo Fukuda, and, of course, Yasunori Mitsuda.

Hirota's latest Shadow Hearts score, 2005's Shadow Hearts From the New World Original Soundtrack, was more spiritual in nature, but retained the series' previous flair. Tomoko Imoto and Ryo Fukuda took on the secondary composition roles, with the former particularly adding a diverse array of compositions to the album, proving a worthy successor to Mitsuda. Near Death Experience, Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks was released on the same day as Shadow Hearts From the New World's score. The arranged album, which was named after Shadow Hearts' European battle theme, featured arrangements from all three scores, made by the series' four main composers. An emphasis was placed upon creating imagery and Hirota also considered the order in which the tracks were presented to be a significant feature in order to make the album tell a comprehensive story. The standout arrangement is generally considered to be Yoshitaka Hirota's "The 3 Karma - Cogito, ergo sum," which was an arrangement of the Shadow Hearts II Original Soundtrack's final battle theme "The 3 Karma," a multifaceted collaborative composition that featured Hirota, Mitsuda, and Ito all working together. This album was Hirota's second major arranged work in recent years, the other being the Angelic Vale Arrange Tracks, released on March 6, 2005. Though little information is available about this release (not even track listings, in fact), Angelic Vale was a rare Japanese strategy-based PC game and Hirota arranged two tracks in total. He has also recently worked on two vocal albums. The first, January 2005's Song of the Moon, is Saki Imozuki's debut single. All four tracks were composed by Imozuki and arranged by Hirota. The second is the debut album of Noriko Mitose, singer of "Radical Dreamers ~Unstealable Jewel~," and Hirota composed and arranged the album's second track, "Ten no Suzu." Having worked on five new albums in 2005, Yoshitaka Hirota has clearly turned heads due to his previous eclectic works, and his contributions look set to continue, with the next Shadow Hearts score almost certainly looking set to feature him.

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 = Sound Producer

Year Game Role
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
1994 Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in North America) E
1994 Live A Live E
1995 Chrono Trigger E
1995 Seiken Densetsu 3 E
1996 Front Mission: Gun Hazard E
1996 Bahamut Lagoon E
1996 Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars E
Sony PlayStation
1997 Final Fantasy VII E
1997 Front Mission 2 E
1997 Chocobo no Fushigina Dungeon E
1998 Parasite Eve E
1999 Racing Lagoon E
1999 Chrono Cross E
1999 Final Fantasy VIII E
1999 Koudelka E
Nintendo 64
1999 Bomberman 64: The Second Attack C+A
NeoGeo Pocket Color
1999 Faselei! C+A
2000 Dive Alert: Becky's Version C+A
2000 Dive Alert: Matt's Version C+A
Sega Dreamcast
2000 Sonic Shuffle C+A
Sony PlayStation 2
2001 Shadow Hearts C+A
2003 Shadow Hearts II C+A
2005 Shadow Hearts From the New World C+A

List of Albums

Original Scores

Arranged Albums

Other Albums

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