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Masafumi Takada :: 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 October 21, 2009.

Born on Auguust 2, 1970 in Inuyama, Masafumi Takada is a video game composer known for his highly stylised soundtracks on behalf of Human Entertainment, Grasshopper Manufacture, Nudemaker, and Sandlot. Introduced to music at a young age, he started learning the Electone when three and later enjoyed playing the piano and tuba at high school. He eventually left Aichi Prefecture to take a six year music degree at Tokyo, specialising in jazz music. After graduating, he looked for work as a musician and noticed interesting opportunities were emerging in the video game industry around 1996. It was around the time of the transition between the Super Nintendo and PlayStation eras, so Takada noticed there was more technological freedom available. Despite demonstrating a recent appreciation for the chiptune scene, he did not enjoyed game music previously and perceived it more as 'blippy chiptune sounds' than 'real music'. However, he looked forward to changing this while working with the PlayStation after seeing what certain other artists had achieved. As a big gamer too, a role as a video game composer seemed like an ideal way to combine two of his greatest loves.

Over the subsequent few years, Takada developed into a reputable game composer. After learning about the process of game scoring on the fishing game Tsuribaka Nisshi, he created an endearing score to Ranma 1/2: Battle Renaissance by blending oriental, rock, and pop influences. In 1997, he became a resident composer of the major video game developer and publisher Human Entertainment. An early highlight was 2Tax Gold where he offered action-packed electronic music for the main gameplay and diverse highlights elsewhere. He also prospered while offering a range of ambient compositions and interactive sound design on Goichi Suda's adventure game Moonlight Syndrome. After creating an upbeat mainstream-targeted score to Air Boarder 64, a sentimental ending theme for Vanguard Bandits, and theme song arrangements on Mikagura Shoujo Tanteidan, he concluded his time at Human Entertainment by crafting a slightly eccentric fusion score to the parodic Neko Zamurai. This was also one of the earliest scores that reflected his preference to integrate an overriding leitmotif throughout the soundtrack.

After Human Entertainment went bankrupt in 1999, Masafumi Takada managed to secure a permanent place in the industry. He was asked to become the composer of his spinoff company Grasshopper Manufacture after impressing SUDA51 so much on Moonlight Syndrome. He subsequently reflected his unique musical voice on the murder mystery game The Silver Case by blending warm funk-flavoured pieces, emotional piano-based improvisations, and the occasional sinister orchestral cue. The quality of the synthesis and sound effects was also advanced for the PlayStation. On behalf of Grasshopper Manufacture's own record label, Masafumi Takada adapted the music for its original soundtrack releases and two arranged albums. After this success, he and Shingo Yasumoto formed the band Torn to create the music for the PlayStation 2's Hana to Taiyo to Ame to in 2001. They blended their own moody compositions with mainstream-targeted remixes of classical music. The resultant score was released in two volumes — a relaxing album and a more upbeat album — several years apart.

In 2003, Takada was appointed as the composer and sound designer of the Game Boy Advance's Shining Soul II. He decided to develop his skills as an orchestral game composer on this project to ensure it was in line with other entries in the series. In addition, he experienced using particularly technologically limiting hardware for the first time, so needed to make many compromises in order to ensure the optimum gaming experience. The subsequent year, he offered a novel take on the horror genre for Michigan: Report from Hell. He built a mysterious and immersive accompaniment to the game by blending Debussy-inspired piano-based themes with engaging underscore and moody scene-setters based on cinematic conventions. The resultant soundtrack was a marked contrast to The Silver Case with its dark tone and minimal melodies. It certainly fitted SUDA51's different direction of the game while giving Takada the opportunity to further diversify his stylistic range. Another integral factor in the title was ambient sound effects design and Takada received assistance from Jun Fukuda in this role for the first time.

Despite being an employee of Grasshopper Manufacture, Masafumi Takada still found time to contribute to other companies. He was in high demand, having gained a reputation for being one of the most versatile, efficient, and technologically proficient composers in the industry. As he puts it, he aims to be more of a craftsman than an artist, creating pieces in any style or mood according to the requests of the developer. A particularly significant client was Sandlot, formed by former Human Entertainment employees. Takada has led the scores to their various mech-related games, including Robot Alchemic Drive, Monster Attack, and Global Defence Force, generally working in rock and funk styles. Takada has admitted that he often uses his reserved and rejected compositions from Grasshopper projects on these projects, but still ensures that the pieces are sufficiently high quality and suitably integrated into the game. In addition, he has been increasingly assisted by other composers and sound designers on the scores. His music from Tetsujin 28-Go and Chou Soujuu Mecha MG nevertheless remains some of the most colourful and popular elements from these games.

Takada has also maintained various close friendships with former Human Entertainment employees, most notably Hifumi Kuono who went on to found Nudemaker. On his behalf, Takada created all the sound for mech simulation title Steel Battalion: Line of Contact. He was widely praised for use of realistic sound effects and immersive surround sound. In addition, his compositions complemented the action with their blend of rock riffs and epic cinematic influences. However, he also offered gamers with the opportunities to load their own custom soundtrack. Largely as a result of this work, he was also hired by Clover Studio to compose the music for God Hand, also published by Capcom in 2004. He was asked to create a relaxing score by the producer, but this proved challenging given the intense action gameplay. He instead focused more on ensuring each piece of music was a memorable complement to the context it is used in, whether the campy character theme music, the worldly and modern location themes, or the inventive and energetic boss themes. The resultant score had even more personality than Takada's earlier efforts.

Takada regards the killer7 soundtrack to be his magnum opus. He worked on the Grasshopper and Capcom collaboration for approximately two years while handling some other projects on the side. He faced many difficulties composing a score that encompassed so many different characters and settings. As with most of his projects, he largely composed impulsively while putting his hand to the keyboard; however, there was a lot of trial and error, so a lot of the material was not used in the game. He also took great care to adjust the sound effects to fit particular settings and synchronise them with the music. The final score was widely recognised for its effectiveness in context, but was also enjoyed for its individuality and diversity as a stand-alone listening experience. After gaining international recognition for this work, Takada was asked to compose tracks to the latest instalments of the beatmania IIDX series. His annual guest contributions have proved popular in and out of the rhythm games. He also made an arrangement on the Bemani original album Denjin K on behalf of his old friend Toshiyuki Kakuta.

Following killer7, Takada went on to compose an instrumental hip-hop soundtrack to the anime-to-game adaptation Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked. The project was a massive challenge to him because it was the first time he had ever attempted to compose hip-hop music. The score also presented new opportunities in terms of interactivity; the music was carefully adapted by game programmers to form a basis for creating combo chains. Takada actually created the music using Logic Pro first and subsequently oversaw it being applied to the game system, making fine adjustments here and there. Five compositions from the soundtrack were also remixed or extended for a bonus CD that came with pre-orders for the game. This reflected Takada's wider musical ambition for the game while providing rhythm tracks to rap to. He simultaneously worked on the DS RPG Contact, creating a particularly rich and diverse score with Jun Fukuda. Also in 2006, he united with Jun Fukuda once again to create the light rock scores to Sandlot's latest low budget shooters, Global Defence Force: Tactics and Earth Defense Force 2017.

In 2007, Takada struck gold again by leading the score for Grasshopper's cult action game No More Heroes. He targeted the score towards Western gamers with a cool modern approach, ranging from boss themes inspired by The Chemical Brothers, to atmospheric jazz improvisations, to nine minute rock epics specifically composed for driving to. In order to portray the protagonist Travis, Takada arranged an catchy overriding motif throughout the game, but in different styles and varying complexities. He also offered various features to enhance the interactivity of the game, including the use of the Wii remote as a cell phone. Following the best-selling soundtrack release, the game's music was commemorated in several other albums. Takada united a team of progressive Japanese artists for a diverse remix album and even created a lush electronic medley of his own. Subsequently Grasshopper Manufacture commemorated his lounge jazz vocal composition "The Virgin Child Makes Her Wish Without Feeling Anything" with a single. Reflecting the wider impact of Takada's score, even the debut album of the jazz band The Outer Rim referenced the game and integrated Takada's main theme.

No More Heroes' soundtrack was incidentally released on the same day as the soundtrack for Takada's other big project, Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Given the game was a rails shooter, the composer took a rather different approach to other games in the series. He carefully matched the music to the game's often fast tempo and introduced electronic, rock, and hip-hop elements to the series for the first time. He nevertheless stayed faithful to the ambient concept of the series' music and also offered some abstract arrangements of previous themes in the franchise. He found the overall project challenging yet refreshing, though chose not to return to the sequel. Around the same time, Takada worked on two other horror projects, offering ghostly ethereal music to the anime adaptation Blood+ One Night Kiss and a psychologically affecting backdrop to Fatal Frame IV: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse. In addition, he oversaw his much more upbeat music from Hana to Taiyo to Ame to being adapted for its internationally DS remake Flower, Sun, and Rain. He also specially created a few new themes for this project.

Takada came to further attention in 2008 when he took a prominent arranging role on Super Smash Bros. Brawl. His roles included adapting music from Shin Onigashima, Yoshi's Story, Tetris, and WarioWare: Touched!, as well as his own music from Chou Soujuu Mecha MG. He was praised by Masahiro Sakurai for being able to arrange in so many different styles well. In the last year, Takada has left Grasshopper Manufacture to form his own studio, Sound Priestige, but will remain close to his former associates. In 2009, he reunited with Nudemaker and PlatinumGames to head the militaristic score to the DS RPG Infinite Space. However, his actual input on the score was relatively small and he was assisted by numerous others. He also announced his involvement on the company's apparently abandoned Steel Battalion project. In 2010, Takada is widely expected to return to No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle. He may also have future roles on Sandlot's Dynamic Slash, Grasshopper Manufacture's Kurayami, the DS remake of The Silver Case, and future Bemani productions. Now a new chapter in the versatile craftsman's career has opened, Masafumi Takada is expected to gain even more recognition with his future works.