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Yasunori Mitsuda

Yasunori Mitsuda (Property of CocoeBiz) Date of Birth: January 21, 1972 (Tokuyama)
Education: Graduated from a Junior Music College
Musical Influences: Vangelis, Henry Mancini, Ryuichi Sakamoto
General Interests: Fishing, Traveling, Reading, Pottery, Film, Listening to Music
Instruments Played: Piano, Bouzouki
Place of Residence: Tokyo
Joined Square Enix: 1992 (left in 1998)
Official Web Site: Yasunori Mitsuda's Official English Site at CocoeBiz


This biography was written by Chris, Totz, and Wiesty 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.

Yasunori Mitsuda was born on January 21, 1972, in the city of Tokuyama, Japan, but spent most of his childhood in Kumake. Throughout his early childhood, he was a keen and active outdoorsman, a talented sprinter and swimmer, who was also passionate about fishing and golf (he wanted to be the next Tiger Woods). Unfortunately, he was irresponsible and never keen on practice, quitting golf and failing to achieve on the athletics track. Not surprisingly, this was also reflected in his music, which he was completely unpassionate about. Despite learning the piano throughout high school, he only really played it during his piano lessons and did not practice inbetween. Nonetheless, eventually he begun to appreciate music, and this came during his early teenage years, thanks to enjoying film scores, such as Vangelis' Blade Runner and Henry Mancini's Pink Panther scores. This gave him a new lifelong ambition — to become an internationally acclaimed film music composer — and though he didn't specifically fulfil this one, he obviously went on to do something very similar, and it was the fact his father was convinced to buy Yasunori a computer that led him specifically towards composing game music A rare item at that day, Yasunori became a huge fan of computers and wasa very technologically knowledgeable, thanks to his electrical engineering classes at high school and the fact he created music and programmed games regularly. This put him in good stead for his career, which relied a huge amount on technical proficiency.

After graduating from high school, the pathway towards his musical career reached another turning point, since he decided to leave home and become independent. This move was influenced by his sister, who was getting married at the same time. With bold words from his father, he was encouraged to move to Tokyo, where he enrolled in a junior college to study composing and arranging. This move was either going to make him or break him. Indeed, he had little musical knowledge, suffering from his lazy childhood, and this was why he was forced to go to a junior college, not a standard one. Knowing that he would need to do a huge amount of work to catch up, however, Mitsuda was wise enough to dedicate these years to constant work and learning. Despite being constantly ridiculed by needlessly cruel teachers and having been told he was a natural born failure, he never gave up and these comments simply hardened him and made him be even more determined to prove them wrong and succeed. Furthermore, in spite of their destructive comments, he still learnt a lot from his teachers by seeing them conduct their work outside the college (most were only part-time teachers and had careers elsewhere in the music industry). Though he was often given the tasks of carrying heavy instruments, this did not prevent him from learning. These two years shaped him into a man and made him a blossoming musician, and, while certainly tough and the hardest he had ever worked, his resolute determination to succeed was what made him an unexpected success.

During his junior college years, the prospect of finding a job was raised while working under a teacher at the sound department of a game software company during the Autumn and Winter of his second academic year (1991 and 1992). Since he had no clear plans (though plenty of ambitions), his teacher recommended that he apply for a job at Square, having seen an advertisement for a composing job in a gaming magazine. Though this was hardly what he wanted to do — he wanted to be a movie composer, not a game music composer — he decided to apply nonetheless and sent three sample pieces initially to the company. The sound team at the time (Nobuo Uematsu, Hiroki Kikuta, Minoru Akao, and Kenji Ito) decided that they needed more than three pieces to make their decision, however, and Mitsuda had to create three more compositions for them. Two days after sending them, he received an invitation to an interview and met with Uematsu and Akao at the start of March. Unfortunately, he made a number of poor responses at the interview, stating that he had never played the Final Fantasy series (Square's only major success at that time) and only wanted the job as a stepping stone to go on to bigger things. Despite the interviewers being horrified, they were still prepared to give him a job, having been impressed by his compositions, and he was employed as a composer the following month.

Mitsuda's first job came when he was asked to work with game music legend Koichi Sugiyama on Hanjuku Hero, Sugiyama's only contribution to Square. He was asked to work as a sound programmer and sound effects designer, and he truly enjoyed his work, since it was alongside such a respected and loved composer, who was well-known across Japan at that time. Sugiyama taught Mitsuda much and this certainly helped him later in his career, particularly when he had to write orchestral themes for the first Xenosaga game. Unfortunately, after being giving similar roles for Final Fantasy V and Secret of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 2) in 1992, and Romancing SaGa 2 in 1993, it dawned on Mitsuda that if he didn't do something, he would be given the role of sound programmer for the rest of his career, much like Minoru Akao. Having fought so many uphill struggles to succeed and remaining extremely ambitious, he wasn't prepared to stick this out, leading him to march into Hironobu Sakaguchi's office one day and give the ultimatum that either he was to be given a composing role or he would quit the company. It was an arrogant move perhaps — Sakaguchi was, after all, vice president of Square, so Mitsuda wasn't giving his ultimatum to some insignificant co-worker — but it certainly got the message across.

After much arguing and debating, Sakaguchi assigned Mitsuda to compose for Square's next major project in March 1995, Chrono Trigger, alongside Nobuo Uematsu and their new employee Noriko Matsueda. Though Sugiyama was originally supposed to collaborate with Uematsu on the work, he was reassigned elsewhere. Despite the overwhelming and self-imposed pressure upon him — by the end of the score, Mitsuda had lost 7 pounds in weight and even collapsed, having worked so hard — Mitsuda fulfilled expectations and succeeded in turning the score for the popular game into an overwhelming success, being responsible for the sheer majority of the compositions. This was one of the biggest turning points in his career and it continues to be the primary source of his popularity today. Firmly established as a composer, he was given major composing roles from then onwards. First, he worked with Uematsu and new employees Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano for the score of Front Mission: Gun Hazard at the start of 1996. Soon after, he created the score for Radical Dreamers, the second game in the Chrono series (unreleased outside Japan) and handled all aspects of composition and production (and even sung in one theme), giving him his first solo composing. His next work was the score for Tobal No. 1 in 1997, and though seven other composers worked with him on this project, he took the leading role and was the producer of the score, responsible for assimilating it all together.

Despite these three post-Chrono Trigger works featuring large contributions from Yasunori Mitsuda, it was only his next work — the solo composition of the score for Xenogears in 1998 — that gave him the same level of attention and acclaim as Chrono Trigger did. Here, he created a wide variety of themes, including a number of Celtic compositions (a genre he continues to frequently integrate into his themes) and two vocal ballads sung by Joanne Hogg (the first and second of many vocal ballads to be used in Square games). He decided to leave Square straight after this to become a freelancer, and the huge success of the Xenogears Original Soundtrack and its arranged album Xenogears, Creid: Yasunori Mitsuda & Millennial Fair ensured he left on a high. Though he only worked at Square for six years — making him Square Enix's shortest serving resident composer (along with Yasuhiro Kawakami) — the move was not a complete surprise, as he has always been ambitious and planned his works for Square to merely be a stepping stone for him to go on to greater things. Nonetheless, this wasn't his final work for the company, and after working on Nintendo's Mario Party in 1998 and Bomberman 64 and Bomberman 64: The Second Attack in 1999, he conducted his final work for Square to date: the score for Chrono Cross in 1999. Though the approach to the score was significantly different to Chrono Trigger's score, featuring more ambient and Celtic-influenced music, it was still a grand success.

As a freelancer, Mitsuda has been incredibly prolific, and much more successful than anyone else who has left the Square company so far (apart from Kenji Ito, perhaps). His first major project after Chrono Cross was the score for Tsugunai: Atonement in 2001. Its score was released in the album An Cinniùint, and though all the music on the album was re-recorded and re-sampled using different sound modules due to property rights, the music was left unaltered. This album was also the first of several released by Mitsuda's own record label, Sleigh Bells. In 2001, Mitsuda also composed 10 tracks for the PlayStation 2 RPG Shadow Hearts, while Yoshitaka Hirota took the center stage. For an RPG, the album was incredibly bizarre, but it featured some fantastic themes. A year later, he also collaborated with Hitoshi Sakimoto to create the score for Legaia Duel Saga, where he once again handled ten tracks. He later worked on Sakimoto's score for Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter as a sound programmer because of this collaboration. Also in 2002, he created the score for The Seventh Seal, and, though no Original Soundtrack was released for it, Mitsuda created Sailing to the World, which was released by Sleigh Bells in February 2002. Though most of these works were less popular than Mitsuda's previous compositions, as they were relatively obscure titles, Mitsuda's distinct styles remained and the works were enjoyed by many hardcore fans.

Apart from Chrono Cross, Mitsuda's most famous freelance soundtrack has definitely been the Xenosaga Original Soundtrack, which was released in 2002, a little after Sailing to the World and Legaia Duel Saga. Though Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht was not a Square work (since the Xeno franchise became a Namco and Monolith Soft franchise), Xenogears fans were ecstatic nonetheless about the release of the game, and Mitsuda came back to satisfy these fans. The album was an incredible summary of his works so far, as it featured many of his older styles once again, but it also presented some original compositions, and, to the surprise of many, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and a full choir performed on a selection of pieces for the score. Though creating orchestral music was extremely difficult and stressful for Mitsuda, he generally succeeded, and, while his orchestration was hardly conventional, it still sounded stunning. To the disappointment of many, the score for Xenosaga II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse, released in 2004, was not created by Mitsuda, however, and anime composer Yuki Kajiura and Super Sweep's Shinji Hosoe created the score instead. Nonetheless, fans were satisfied that Mitsuda returned to the Shadow Hearts series in 2004 to create a number several tracks for the Shadow Hearts II Original Soundtrack, alongside Hirota and Kenji Ito. While Hirota composed most of the tracks, Mitsuda was responsible for some of the musical fruit, with the battle theme "Astaroth" being particularly notable. Unfortunately, to the distress of Mitsuda's fans, he didn't work on the score Shadow Hearts From the New World, though August 2005's Near Death Experience, Shadow Hearts Arrange Tracks featured two of his arrangements as well as Yoshitaka Hirota's arrangement of his three-way collaborative composition "The 3 Karma."

Mitsuda's life story is indeed a poignant one. His initial lack of dedication could have been the bane of him, yet he made himself a success with maturity. Driven by ambition so strongly, his relentless determination during his junior college years, and while working in the game music industry, was what ensured he triumphantly become a musical success, despite having been ridiculed and having no apparent musical prospects when he entered college. After achieving so much since, his story looks set to continue for a long time to come, with Sleigh Bells releasing no less than five new albums over the last year. At the end of last year, he also composed the entire score for Hako no Niwa and worked with Miki Higashino on the score for Moonlit Shadow. Having also composed for the anime series Pugyuru at the start of the year, his latest project was Kirite, a collaboration album which saw him compose 14 pieces of music to accompany a story book from Masato Kato. His turnaround from failure to success is undoubtedly a breathtaking one, and even if one doesn't enjoy his musical styles, he deserves a huge amount of respect for this achievement nonetheless.

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
1992 Hanjuku Hero S+E
1992 Final Fantasy V E
1993 Secret of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 2) S+E
1993 Romancing SaGa S+E
1995 Chrono Trigger C+A
1996 Front Mission: Gun Hazard C+A
1996 Radical Dreamers C+A
Sony PlayStation
1997 Tobal No. 1 C+A
1998 Xenogears C+A
1999 Chrono Cross C+A
2000 Rockman DASH2 A
Nintendo 64
1998 Mario Party C+A
1999 Bomberman 64 C+A
1999 Bomberman 64: The Second Attack C
Sony PlayStation 2
2001 Tsugunai: Atonement C+A
2001 Shadow Hearts C+A
2002 Legaia Duel Saga C+A
2002 Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht C+A
2003 Breath of Fire V: Dragon Quarter M
2004 Shadow Hearts II C+A
2004 Rakugaki Kingdom 2 C+A
2005 Tsukiyo nor Saraba C+A
2005 Namco X Capcom C+A
2002 The Seventh Seal C+A
Mobile Phone
2004 Deep Labyrinth C+A

List of Albums

Original Scores

Arranged Albums

Other Albums

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