Anime, Featured, Game Music

The Uematsu You Never Knew

The Uematsu You Never Knew

May 4, 2015 | | 3 Comments Share thison Facebook The Uematsu You Never Knewon Twitter

There’s a short list of Japanese names that have proliferated American gaming culture due to their huge influence. Shigeru Miyamoto, Yu Suzuki, Hideo Kojima and others have made a lasting impact. Another well-known name is Nobuo Uematsu, sole composer for the first nine games in the Final Fantasy series, and lead / contributing composer to almost all the others (he did the theme song for XII and sat out completely on XIII).

Game music fans are also likely to know that Uematsu continued to work with his old friend Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of the Final Fantasy series, when Sakaguchi went on to form Mistwalker. Hence, the soundtracks for Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and The Last Story were all composed by Uematsu as well.

Those are most of Uematsu’s “notable” works. But what about the rest? Are there any hidden gems among Uematsu’s lesser-known works? Let’s find out together by exploring five of Uematsu’s lesser-known projects, ranging from 1986 to the present.

1. ALPHA

Released in Japan for PC-88 / PC-98 in the year 1986, this quirky and likely forgettable adventure game came with a wildly fun and catchy theme song. The soundtrack for it was released on a Flexi Disc (pre-CD sound sheet). That’s about as old and obscure as you can get, and the craziest part is that the song isn’t a throw-away. It’s actually good music, indicative of Uematsu’s skill even as a younger composer.

more info: vgmdb

2. Makai Toushi SaGa (Final Fantasy Legend)

Rendered by many fans as “Warrior in the Tower of the Spirit World: SaGa,” Makai Toushi SaGa was a Game Boy game from 1989 that reached Americans a year later as “The Final Fantasy Legend.” The oft-misunderstood and even maligned SaGa franchise had its humble start on the Game Boy, and with it came one of Uematsu’s least-celebrated soundtracks. On a personal level, I absolutely adore this album and truly wish Uematsu had written more music for Game Boy. The final battle music, “Furious Battle,” features some absolutely insanely fast arpeggios and melodic runs. This particular song got some love on the recent “Battle SQ” arranged album (arrangement from novoiski), but for my money, I’d rather stick with the original version.

Also worth noting (and, perhaps, lamenting): while SaGa 2 and SaGa 3 got thorough DS remakes in Japan, the first SaGa was skipped in that line of remakes. Perhaps this will turn out to be an unexpected blessing, should they later choose to do a remake. Perhaps S-E would even be so kind as to localize this forgotten gem. Plus, new/arranged music! That’d be nice!

more info: vgmdb

3. Gun Hazard

Everyone knows that Uematsu contributed some tracks alongside lead composer Yasunori Mitsuda on the classic Super Nintendo RPG Chrono Trigger. However, most gamers don’t know that Uematsu and Mitsuda worked together one year later on one of Square’s final 16-bit games, a Japan-only spin-off game in the Front Mission series called Gun Hazard. This game was no Strategy RPG: it was a 2D action-based run-and-gun platformer, all inside those “Wanzer” mechs. Again, this one is split about 50/50 between Uematsu and Mitsuda (with Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano, Uematsu’s co-composers for Final Fantasy X, also contributing a handful of tracks). One of the most memorable themes from this excellent soundtrack is an organ and choir-based piece, “Atlas.” Fans of Uematsu’s “Dancing Mad” (FFVI) will be sure to like “Atlas” as well.

more info: vgmdb

4. Anata wo Yurusanai

AQ Interactive’s “hold your PSP vertical for our adventure game about infidelity, private investigators, and divorce” title apparently was on the heels of an American localization before the American publisher backed out of the deal. It’s too bad, because this is quite the interesting game. It also features a beautiful, jazzy soundtrack featuring Uematsu and other composers. Uematsu does all of the main themes, and the opener “Toneless” (sung by Japanese lounge star YVONNE) is wonderfully melancholy. The soundtrack for the game was the first on Uematsu’s on “Dog Ear Records” label, and it’s also available on the US iTunes Store, despite the game not existing in any English-speaking regions. The iTunes version, in fact, includes five tracks not found on the physical CD, mainly due to space restrictions (the total time of the digital release is 90 minutes).

Also, “Anata wo Yurusanai” is a tough name to render into English, but it is usually translated “I Don’t Forgive You” or “All Is Not Forgiven.”

more info: vgmdb | purchase: iTunes (US)

5. Guin Saga

Uematsu’s body of work is largely around video games. Only rarely does he dip into the realm of film and animation. One such work was the recent (2009-2010) anime series Guin Saga. Among all the music Uematsu wrote for this series (about 2 hours’ worth released on a two disc soundtrack), the most memorable is simply “Guin’s Theme.” It is an orchestral delight.

For more insight on this soundtrack, OSV’s founder Jayson Napolitano wrote this review at the time of the soundtrack’s release, back in 2009. Check it out!

Sentai Filmworks did a subtitle-only English localization of the 26-episode series, if you’re interested.

more info: vgmdb

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