Yasunori Mitsuda: Video Game Music at Its Best

Yasunori Mitsuda: Overview

Yasunori Mitsuda has made a reputation as one of the best video game music composers in the business. He is best known as a composer of RPG soundtracks, with his work appearing in games like Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Xenosaga, Shadow Hearts, and Xenoblade. However Yasunori Mitsuda music shows up in a lot of non-RPG games, too, including Smash Brothers Brawl, Front Mission: Gun Hazard, Mega Man Legends 2, and the Mario Party series. A few of Mitsuda's projects have even entirely broken out of video game music, such as his soundtrack for the anime series Inazuma Eleven, and his stand-alone album, Kirite.

Yasunori Mitsuda
Yasunori Mitsuda

Yasunori Mitsuda: Biography

Yasunori Mitsuda was born on January 21, 1972 in Tokuyama, Japan. He first became really interested in music during high school, when he became impressed by the soundtracks of movies such as Blade Runner and Railman . Inspired by movies like these, he decided to pursue a career in music composition.

After high school, Mitsuda attended Tokyo's Junior College of Music. As his time at the college drew to a close, he applied for a position as a sound producer at Square. Mitsuda was hired, and he spent a couple years working to develop sound effects for Square games like Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy V .

Yasunori Mitsuda's first breakthrough as an actual composer came in 1994, when he was assigned to work writing music for the upcoming game, Chrono Trigger . Although he was initially supposed to be the sole composer for the game, Mitsuda developed some health problems as the work progressed, and this led to a number of tracks being created by Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. In the end, Uematsu composed around ten tracks, with Mitsuda composing the rest of the eighty-three tracks on the game's soundtrack.

After Chrono Trigger got Mitsuda's foot in the door, he continued to work and progress as a video game composer. He continued working at Square until 1998, composing for games such as Front Mission: Gun Hazard , Xenogears , and Radical Dreamers . In 1998, he left Square and struck out on his own, working as a freelancer. This wouldn't be the last time he would work on a Square game, however; Mitsuda would later be hired as a freelance composer for the Square-produced Chrono Trigger sequel, Chrono Cross .

As a freelance composer, Yasunori Mitsuda composed the Xenosaga Episode 1 soundtrack for Monolith Soft, the music for Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant , and a host of other games. Recently, his work has been seen in Luminous Arc , Soma Bringer , Arc Rise Fantasia , Inazuma Eleven , Xenoblade , and Super Smash Bros Brawl .

Yasunori Mitsuda continues to work as a composer and arranger. He also helps to run Procyon Studios, a company which he founded to help distribute his work.

Chrono Trigger Main Theme-Chrono Trigger

To Far Away Times-Chrono Trigger Ending Theme

Corridors of Time-Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger was Yasunori Mitsuda's debut as a composer of video game music. However, it certainly made a big splash. Fans and critics agreed that Mitsuda had produced a unique and powerful soundtrack. Even now, over fifteen years later, many fans still feel it is the finest RPG soundtrack ever produced. In a review of the DS re-release of Chrono Trigger, IGN stated that it "has one of the best soundtracks in gaming history." Although Mitsuda feels a closer emotional attachment to many of his more recent games, he agrees that “Chrono Trigger is my landmark title.”

The Chrono Trigger soundtrack demonstrated Mitsuda's ability to capture a number of different moods, ranging from simple and touchingly wistful to grand and sweepingly heroic, and it showcased many of the stylistic elements which would characterize Mitsuda's work throughout his career. The music of Chrono Trigger was an eclectic collection which tied together sounds and musical influences from a number of different sources. In addition to the orchestral sound which is common in RPG music, Yasunori Mitsuda used jazz, folk, and rock elements freely. This resulted in an instantly recognizable and unique sound which drew the listener into the world of the game.

Shortly after Chrono Trigger was released, Mitsuda released an arranged version of the soundtrack under the title, Chrono Trigger Arranged Version: The Brink of Time . Mitsuda again chose an atypical style of arrangement: acid jazz. This proved somewhat controversial, with some fans loving the new sound and others feeling that the soundtrack had lost something in translation.

Chrono Trigger music has proved to be very enduring. In addition to the official soundtrack releases there have been a myriad of unofficial fan arrangements and remixes. One of the larger undertakings was Chrono Symphonic, which re-envisioned Chrono Trigger music as an orchestral film soundtrack.

Some professional artists have also used samples from the Chrono Trigger soundtrack as a part of commercially available albums. For example, Random/Mega Ran used music from Chrono Trigger in his song, Epoch. Also, Bad Dudes released a full album based on Chrono Trigger with the title Chronotorious.

Scars of Time-Chrono Cross Beginning Theme

Time's Grasslands-Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross

Although Chrono Trigger is esteemed by many as Mitsuda's best video game music, an equally large camp disagrees, claiming that title for its sequel, Chrono Cross . Although it takes places in the same universe as Chrono Trigger and uses many leitmotifs from its predecessor, the Chrono Cross soundtrack is definitely a beast all its own, with a unique feel and unique music.

The entirety of Chrono Cross takes place on a small archipelago, and Mitsuda tried to create a sound which would mirror the game's unique setting. In the Chrono Cross liner notes, he stated that he “tried to apply a Mediterranean sound to all of this music.” He went on to state that he experimented with Portuguese Fado guitar sounds, with African percussion, and with Finnish, Irish, Chinese, Greek, and Mongolian folk music. The result is an interesting and varied RPG soundtrack with a lot of heart and soul.

Although some fans have felt that Chrono Cross was not quite the game that Chrono Trigger was, few people can argue with Chrono Cross 's music. Like its predecessor, Chrono Cross music has received critical acclaim and earned the long-lasting love of its fans.

Although Mitsuda had left Square shortly before Chrono Cross was produced, Chrono Cross director Masato Kato actively campaigned for Square to allow him to write the soundtrack. In an interview, Kato stated that the company was opposed to hiring someone who had just quit.  However, for him and the rest of the Chrono Cross team, "it didn't matter if he was a freelance or if he was an employee; we chose him because we needed that one and only "Chrono Sound."

Battle Music-Xenogears

Xenogears

Xenogears was first released in 1998, and it was the last game Mitsuda would work on as an actual employee of Square. The game was a sprawling RPG exploration of myth, religion, and philosophy. The game takes place in a world which meshes futuristic and medieval elements. The game is widely acclaimed as a work of art, and the game's soundtrack is equally praised. Many critics have noted a strong Celtic influence on the Xenogears soundtrack, although there are also a number of other influences at work.

The Xenogears soundtrack was later released for sale by Square. Subsequently, two arranged versions of the soundtrack have also been released, Creid and Myth: The Xenogears Orchestral Album.  While Creid was released in 1998, Myth was not released until 2011.  Mitsuda has noted that further arranged albums are not out of the question is Myth performs well.

Final Battle Theme-Xenosaga Episode 1

Xenosaga Episode 1: Der Wille zur Macht

Xenosaga is considered by many to be a “spiritual sequel” to Xenogears. The game was created by a number of Square employees who left the company and founded a competitor, Monolith Soft. Although the game's creators have been careful to downplay the connection between the games, a number of similar ideas and themes appear in both games.

Yasunori Mitsuda was hired to create the music for the game. Xenosaga marked one of the first times that Mitsuda was able to record video game music with a large orchestra; the London Symphony appears in a number of tracks. In an interview, Mitsuda said that Xenosaga “was very interesting because I recorded it with a large orchestra” instead of having to use digital media. No doubt as a result of this, the Xenosaga soundtrack is more symphonic than a lot of Mitsuda's music. In addition to the orchestral pieces, Xenosaga also includes a number of beautiful choral songs.

Azure Cavern-Deep Labyrinth

Deep Labyrinth

Deep Labyrinth is an RPG originally released for the mobile phone in Japan, but subsequently ported to the Nintendo DS. Masato Kato (the director of Chrono Cross and personal friend of Mitsuda) acted as the game's writer, and Yasunori Mitsuda provided the music. Deep Labyrinth marks the first collaboration between Kato and Mitsuda since Chrono Cross.

Kato and Mitsuda would work together again on the experimental album Kirite.  And, of course, fans of the Chrono series hope to see these collaborate yet again on another Chrono game.  As of yet, these hopes have proved fruitless.

The Snow Howling-Kirite

Kirite

Kirite is a combination album and story which Yasunori Mitsuda wrote in collaboration with Masato Kato. In an interview, Mitsuda stated, “the story is about a girl who finds herself inside of the dreams of a girl who was in an accident--it's really dreamy. I wanted to express the dreamy atmosphere but also the borderless music; it's not Japanese music or American music or any specific style of music.”

Kirite includes both instrumental and vocal tracks. It shows influence from Jazz, Celtic music, pop, and more.  However, all of these disparate elements are combined into a unique and interesting whole.

Reincarnation-Sailing to the World

Rhythm of Red-Sailing to the World

Sailing to the World

Sailing to the World isn't one of Yasunori Mitsuda's best known works, but it is certainly beautiful and a must-have for any Mitsuda lover. The music was originally composed for a Taiwanese computer game called Seventh Seal, but was subsequently rearranged and released in album form. Sailing to the World was released in 2002.

Mitsuda's typical love of folk music from around the world shows through strongly in this album. Strong influence can be felt from Spanish and Celtic sources, although these certainly aren't the only influences. More than anything else, Sailing to the World feels like world music, with global influence and global appeal.

Sailing to the World displays a wonderful diversity of emotion, ranging from the fast and energetic "Rhythm of Red" to the simple but beautiful "Melody-Go-Round." The album concludes with the awe-inspiring and even spiritual track "Reincarnation."

Although it isn't Mitsuda's longest or most recent album, Sailing to the World is an extremely worthwhile and interesting piece of work. It showcases a beautiful depth and breadth of emotion, and it displays an impressive mastery of style.  Even though this album was released around ten years ago, it feels impressively mature.

Revolving Disk-The Boxed Garden

The Boxed Garden

The Boxed Garden

The Boxed Garden consists of music written for the game Graffiti Kingdom . Graffiti Kingdom is a Playstation 2 RPG which is the sequel to Magic Pengel . These games were particularly popular in Japan, but they also have done well in other areas of the world.

In Graffiti Kingdom the player plays as a ten-year old prince who has to protect his country by using a magical paintbrush. The prince progresses by drawing characters and bringing them to life. These "Graffiti Creatures" then fight for the character, in a style of game play that some have compared to a mix of Mario Paint and Pokémon.

Mitsuda's soundtrack for this game reflects this whimsical and childlike theme. The music of The Boxed Garden tends to be much more lighthearted and childish than a lot of Mitsuda's other work. One reviewer noted that Mitsuda captures the style of "lullabies, sing-a-longs, all those songs you were forced to sing in elementary school music class." The same reviewer points out that Mitsuda himself played every instrument used in The Boxed Garden .

Snowdrops Bloomin, Opalus-Arc Rise Fantasia

Arc Rise Fantasia

Arc Rise Fantasia is an RPG developed by Imageepoch for the Nintendo Wii. Yasunori Mitsuda collaborated with two other composers, Yuki Harada and Shunsuke Tsuchiya, on this album. Both of these composers work with Mitsuda at Procyon Studios.

Published in 2010, it Arc Rise Fantasia represents one of Mitsuda's more recent works, at least among those that are readily available in the United States. According to one reviewer, the best things about Mitsuda's work on this album are his "nicely crafted laid-back pieces" and his "grand, militaristic, and darker contributions." Mitsuda also contributes a number of short pieces and vocal tracks.


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Comments 5 comments

Drejification profile image

Drejification 5 years ago

Awesome Hub. I loved his work in the Chrono games which were the first ones I played featuring his music. I'll have to give Kirite a try, it sounds amazing.

Oh, and I pity anyone who dismisses video game music.


Christian H. profile image

Christian H. 5 years ago from College Station, Texas Author

Agreed. Video game music rocks. Yeah, Kirite's pretty cool. I like that it's available for instant download. A lot of Mitsuda's stuff is just hard to come by, at least in the states.


bindesh 5 years ago

Yasunori Mitsuda is my favorite music composer. Then comes Alexander Brandon who worked on Deus-Ex.

I am just trying to find musics like Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger. Can anyone provide me info of more composers?

I know FF series, UT etc. I am just looking for Japanese game musics...


bindesh 5 years ago

Yasunori Mitsuda is my favorite music composer. Then comes Alexander Brandon who worked on Deus-Ex.

I am just trying to find musics like Chrono Cross, Chrono Trigger. Can anyone provide me info of more composers?

I know FF series, UT etc. I am just looking for Japanese game musics...


gamemusic4life profile image

gamemusic4life 4 years ago from Midgar

I love reading about how composers got interested and got started in the industry. It really makes you think about how things work out and how they could work out for you.

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