James Peter
13 Oct, 2006

Yasunori Mitsuda Interview

PALGN Interview | We talk exclusively with the world famous composer behind the music of Chrono Trigger and Xenogears.
The fellas over at Eminence are hard at work preparing their next video game concert. One of the special treats at their upcoming Passion concert will be guest appearances by the famed Hitoshi Sakimoto and Yasunori Mitsuda. As a result they’ve kindly offered to help us bring you some interviews from Japan’s leading game music composers. Today we present our interview with the man most famous for his acclaimed work on the music of Square’s Chrono Trigger; Yasunori Mitsuda.

PALGN: Can you give a brief history of your musical background and development?

Mitsuda: I began learning classical piano when I was five years old, but I quit when I was 6 because I didn't like practice (laughs). I didn't do anything musical while in junior high school, but I frequently bought and listened to records. In high school I became immersed in films, probably watching 2-3 movies almost every day. After I picked up and watched Railman, I hoped to become a film music composer and then I decide to go to the music junior college after graduating from high school. After graduation, I joined Square (now known as Square Enix) and worked from Chrono Trigger as a debut work to Gun Hazard and Xenogears. Since 1997, I've been a freelance composer. After becoming freelance, I had worked on Chrono Cross, Xenosaga Episode I and The Seventh Seal, a big PC game from Taiwan. Also in 2001, to expand my music activity, I founded the music production company (music, sound effects, sound programming for games, publishing, label and so on), Procyon Studio.

PALGN: Can you provide an overview of your work, and pieces which may be recognizable to the Australian video game fans?

Mitsuda: The most well known titles I have worked on are;
  • Chrono Trigger
  • Chrono Cross
  • Xenogears
  • Xenosage Episode I
  • Shadow Hearts series
  • Mario Party
I don't know which of these have been released in Australia but you would probably know the theme of Chrono Trigger or 'Scars of Time', the theme of Chrono Cross.

PALGN: Do you credit any musical pieces or composers as being inspirational to your own work?

Mitsuda: I hear many different works from various composers since I prefer listening to music, than composing it. I would be inspired by every composer in that sense.

The man, himself.

The man, himself.
PALGN: Do you see the world-renowned Chrono Trigger as a landmark title in your career as a composer?

Mitsuda: Yes, Chrono Trigger is my landmark title. I guess it matured me a lot.

PALGN: Are there any other scores you have created that are especially memorable?

Mitsuda: I have an interesting story for each work, but Xenosaga Episode was very interesting because I recorded it with a large orchestra. However, I achieved and lost many things... (laughs).

PALGN: When creating a soundtrack, at what point in development are you called in? Does this vary depending on the genre of game or developer?

Mitsuda: It depends on each game developer, but I have often been called when the scenario (to some extent) and some illustrations are finished (once they have completed stuff they could show to me). In bad situations, I'm offered the job 3 months before the end of the game development. In these cases, I work on it with other composers, or, sadly, I decline.

PALGN: Do you create music inspired by what you see during a game’s development, or do you create a selection of pieces and provide them to the development team to fit to the best scenes?

Mitsuda: It takes about one month for me to start composing music on the game because I get various materials (e.g. scenario, the character's setting, background art and pictures of monsters) from the game companies and then firmly build the vision of the world in my head. Of course, depending on the game company, sometimes I can't get enough material, so I then work with what I have. So basically, I don't 'just compose music and then fit it somewhere'.

PALGN: Of the games you have scored, do you save your 'best' work for the 'best' (or likely to be the most popular) games?

Mitsuda: No. As I said in the last question, I think I have written the best fitting musical piece for the scene, I do not save good pieces and then provide them to other titles. I have never worked in such a way.

PALGN: Have you ever felt let down when the quality of a game doesn't live up to the quality of your music?

Mitsuda: Just between you and me, it often happens (laugh). But I never debase the quality of music for that. Instead, I work hard so that the players say 'only the music isn't bad' (laughs).

PALGN: Obviously, depending on the player, your scores may actually be repeated and heard looping many times. Is the repetition factor something you are consciously aware of when writing the music?

Mitsuda: Yes, I compose music being very conscious of the loop. If I change the key and the meter, I must return them. Also, I include many other factors in the organization of one piece. So, it may be harder than a usual composition.

PALGN: Are there any projects you have worked on which you are especially proud of? Perhaps your favourite soundtrack from all your work?

Mitsuda: I have feelings and an attachment to every work. However, I have a special connection to the Chrono series, Xenogears, Xenosaga Episode I, and the original album kiRite.

Xenogears in action. You'll have to imagine the music.

Xenogears in action. You'll have to imagine the music.

PALGN: Do you also play many video games? Which are your favourites?

Mitsuda: I like to play games, though I hardly have any time. The most interesting game I played recently was Age of Empires III. But I left it because I lost the saved data after I reinstalled OS for Windows, and then I hesitated to play it again from scratch (laugh). I'll play it again if I have time.

PALGN: Are you eager to be involved with various live concert events – both in Japan and Australia?

Mitsuda: Yes, as game concerts are held in many countries, I really want to attend them. Please continue to invite me more (laughs).

PALGN: Do you have a favourite composer or soundtrack you admire?

Mitsuda: My favorite composers are Maurice Ravel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Claude Achille Debussy, Robert Alexander Schumann, Antonín Leopold Dvorák and Gustav Holst. Though I have many favorite modern music composers, there are too many to list here, so I wrote only classical composers (laughs).

PALGN: Can you give us any information about current or future projects you are working on?

Mitsuda: Regarding games, I'm responsible for one PlayStation 2 game. It will be released in the end of 2006. Also, I will be responsible for two Nintendo DS games and one Wii game. In addition, I'll be releasing the arranged album of Chrono Cross next year and I'm working on a manual book for ethnic music. There are many things I want to do!

Eminence's next concert, Passion, will be held;

9th of December 2006
Meryl Theatre – Melbourne
1500 & 1930 Sessions

16th of December 2006
Verbrugghen Hall – Sydney
1500 & 1930 Session

We'll bring you more details shortly.

PALGN would like to extend its thanks to the Eminence Group for supervision and translation and of course Yasunori Mitsuda for taking the time to answer our questions.

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7 years ago
Good stuff!

Yeah, I'll be at the next Eminence Melbourne event, donning a Volunteer badge as usual, find me! I get to be totally standing next to Aya again! </fanboy>

But good interview, regardless!
7 years ago
Great interview.

"I don't know which of these have been released in Australia"

* Chrono Trigger - nope
* Chrono Cross - nope
* Xenogears - nope
* Xenosage Episode I - severely edited
* Shadow Hearts series - yes
* Mario Party - yes

It seems the better the game, the less likely we are to get it.

"My favorite composers are Maurice Ravel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Claude Achille Debussy, Robert Alexander Schumann, Antonín Leopold Dvorák and Gustav Holst"

IMO every RPG composer has copied Holst! Definitely heard some Debussy influence in Chono Trigger though.
7 years ago
"* Xenosage Episode I - severely edited"

Yeah... so much so that they severely edited it into a DVD movie of all the cut-scenes icon_razz.gif

His work on the Shadow Heart series is absolutely brilliant in my opinion.
7 years ago
DarkYoshii wrote
I get to be totally standing next to Aya again! </fanboy>
You seedy man!!! And no you wont 'cause I will get there first! icon_razz.gif
7 years ago
Was it more edited here than the US? I thought the US one just had segments cut out of 2 cutscenes.

More info on Mitsuda in Australia please! Eminence doesn't even list the Passion concerts on their site ~_~
7 years ago
EvilHayama wrote
More info on Mitsuda in Australia please! Eminence doesn't even list the Passion concerts on their site ~_~
I've got a bit more info. Will put an article up on it soon.
7 years ago
Odd, my loval video store had a copy of Chronotrigger.
7 years ago
nice interview, Gaybo.

sorry...been wanted to say that for a long time icon_lol.gif

I always loved the music in Chrono Trigger. Hey did Chrono Cross have a PAL release?
7 years ago
Really looking forward to this! Love both their work... Listening to BOF5 now icon_razz.gif

And yeah Xenosaga Ep. 1 only got released as a DVD movie bundled with Xenosaga Ep. 2 in PAL territories, the GAME NEVER got released here.

And no, neither did Chrono Cross... Which again is a really big shame... Squares excuse for that was that it was near impossible to translate - which is kinda true, but from memory most of us in Aus speak English.... ugh... If you can track down a copy it's definitly worth playing. Xenosaga 1 is still for sale - got mine from tronixweb
7 years ago
speaking of yasunori mitsuda, he's visiting australia!!!

He'll be at the Passion concert, held by Eminence.


this would be a great chance to see if you can meet him first hand and possibly get his autograph and a little conversation!
7 years ago
Yasunori Mitsuda, my favourite VG composer. If you haven't heard the Chrono Trigger or Chrono Cross soundtracks, do everything in your power to listen to them icon_razz.gif

It's good stuff.
7 years ago
DarkYoshii wrote
I get to be totally standing next to Aya again! </fanboy>
You are correct, sir! icon_biggrin.gif
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