Hitoshi Sakimoto during an interview in 2004
|Also known as||YmoH.S|
|Born||February 26, 1969
|Genres||Orchestral, electronica, jazz|
|Instruments||Piano, electronic organ, synthesizer|
Hitoshi Sakimoto (崎元 仁 Sakimoto Hitoshi , born February 26, 1969) is a Japanese video game composer and arranger. He is best known for scoring the games Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, though he has composed soundtracks for over 70 games and arranged music for more than 40 others. He began playing music and video games in elementary school, and began composing video game music for money by the time he was 16. Sakimoto's professional career began a few years later in 1988 when he started composing music professionally as a freelancer, as well as programming sound drivers for games. Five years and 40 games later, he achieved his first mainstream success with the score to Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. Four years and another 40 games later in 1997, he joined Square (now Square Enix) and composed his first international success, the score to Final Fantasy Tactics.
In 2002 he resigned from Square to form his own music company, Basiscape, through which he continues to compose music for games such as Final Fantasy XII. Basiscape has expanded since its founding to 10 composers, and is currently the largest independent video game music production company. In addition to video game soundtracks, over the years Sakimoto has also worked on projects such as anime series and vocal albums. His music has been played at numerous music concerts by groups such as the Eminence Symphony Orchestra, and his work on Final Fantasy XII was arranged for the piano and published as a book of sheet music.
Hitoshi Sakimoto was born in Tokyo, Japan. He began developing an interest in music beginning in elementary school, when he taught himself to play the piano and electronic organ and participated in some brass and rock bands. A fan of video games, he began creating his own games in junior high school with some friends. While in his senior high school years, Sakimoto wrote for the computer magazine Oh!FM and compiled data about pieces of music he liked, becoming a self-professed "computer, games, and music geek".
Sakimoto started composing for games when he was 16, and was paid to both create the music and the program to play it for several games. Composing for these games was the first time he had ever composed music for any instrument. His debut as a professional gaming composer came in 1988, when he and his friend Masaharu Iwata, whom he has worked with on numerous later titles, scored the shooter game Revolter, published by ASCGroup for the NEC PC-8801. Sakimoto also created the synthesizer driver "Terpsichorean" to enhance the sound quality of the game's music; the synthesizer driver has been implemented into many games throughout the Japanese game market in the early 1990s. Despite Revolter's success, he continued with his previous goal to become a video game programmer rather than a composer; however, his friends and colleagues encouraged him to continue composing game music. The recognition he gained within the gaming industry jump-started his career.
I still believe the sound can dominate the impression of the game, which was my reason to start this profession.
After Revolter, Sakimoto's music and synthesizer driver earned him immediate recognition in the industry, resulting in him being asked to score several Game Boy and PC-8801 games such as Starship Rendezvous and Gauntlet, as well as use his driver both in the scores he wrote and in other games such as Stone of Deigan in 1989 and The Witch of Barbatus in 1990. Between 1990 and 1992, Sakimoto worked on 24 different video games for several different companies such as Toshiba EMI, Artec, and Data East. It was during this time that he composed his first solo score, for 1990's Bubble Ghost.
Sakimoto's first encounter with mainstream success in Japan came about in 1993 when he composed Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. The game was directed by Yasumi Matsuno, and since the release of the title, he has chosen Sakimoto as a regular for his development team at Quest and later Square. Sakimoto also worked on 14 other titles that year, including Shin Megami Tensei and Alien vs. Predator. Over the next few years, he would go on to compose for or work on over 40 more titles such as Tactics Ogre and Dragon Quest VI. In 1997, Sakimoto joined Square and composed the score for Final Fantasy Tactics, which made him internationally famous, and was the score he was best known for outside of Japan until at least 2006. Although he worked on a handful of titles by other companies over the next few years, his next work for Square did not come until 2000, with the successful Vagrant Story. It was his last score as an employee of Square; although he went on to first compose Breath of Fire V and Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis for Capcom and Quest, after a couple of years of planning he resigned from Square to form his own company, Basiscape, on October 4, 2002.
Basiscape composes and produces music and sound effects for various types of interactive media, most notably video games. Sakimoto says that he left Square to found the company because he did not feel that he had enough "freedom" as an employee of a game company, though he notes that the cost of that freedom is the difficulty in remaining close to the development team. At its founding, it comprised only three members: Sakimoto, Iwata, and Manabu Namiki. Through Basiscape, Sakimoto continued to compose for several different companies, including Square—now Square Enix—with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The company expanded in 2005 with the addition of composers Mitsuhiro Kaneda and Kimihiro Abe. After the huge success of 2006's Final Fantasy XII, which he scored, demand for Sakimoto's compositions grew stronger with gaming companies and he decided to expand Basiscape again by hiring Noriyuki Kamikura, Yoshimi Kudo, Azusa Chiba. It is currently the largest independent video game music production company, and continues to work on large titles such as Odin Sphere and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. The composers for the company are able to procure individual work for themselves as members of Basiscape, as well as collaborate with other staff members on projects that are hired out to Basiscape as a company rather than any one composer, which allows the composers to remain freelancers while having the steady work of a full-time job.
Sakimoto has also been involved in non-gaming projects during his career. He contributed one track each to the albums Ten Plants (1998) and 2197 (1999), which feature music from various well-known artists. Sakimoto collaborated with singer Lia in 2005 to create the music for the album Colors of Life. He composed the music for two anime series; Romeo x Juliet (2007) and The Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk (2008); as well as the original video animation (OVA) Legend of Phoenix ~Layla Hamilton Monogatari~ in 2005.
Sakimoto has made numerous appearances at video game concerts that have performed his compositions. On July 12, 2006, he, along with Yoko Shimomura and Michael Salvatori, were special guests at a Play! A Video Game Symphony event at the Orchestra Hall in Detroit, Michigan. He has developed a strong relationship with the Australian-based Eminence Symphony Orchestra, and has attended several of their concerts. Sakimoto and Yasunori Mitsuda made a guest appearance at their Passion event in December 2006. In April 2007, he appeared at Eminence's A Night in Fantasia 2007: Symphonic Games Edition, which featured three of his compositions. Sakimoto and Mitsuda collaborated with Eminence in July the same year to create Destiny: Reunion, a concert held exclusively in Japan. Eminence released Passion (2006) and Destiny: Dreamer's Alliance (2007), two studio recorded albums that feature various compositions from the Passion and Destiny: Reunion concerts respectively. Although there have been several official Final Fantasy concerts dedicated to the music of the series, none have included music by Sakimoto, although a book of sheet music from the music of Final Fantasy XII rewritten by Asako Niwa as beginning to intermediate level piano solos was produced by DOREMI publishing.
Sakimoto composes his music by playing the pieces "briefly on the piano", and then working on a computer for more detailed arrangements. The style of Sakimoto's compositions is mostly orchestral; he creates the orchestral sound by playing the music through a sequencer instead of using a real orchestra due to the high cost. When composing a soundtrack for a video game, Sakimoto first sits down with the director or producer of the game and works out what emotions they want the game to evoke in the player, and after making a demo for them, sets out to create music that fits that feeling. He claims that his style of composition does not change when he works on non-game works such as anime series, saying that only the tone of the pieces is different. He attributes any changes in his style over the years to his desire to constantly keep growing and learning new styles and techniques, saying that if you have not moved forward in your skill and style over time, "you've wasted your time".
He has stated that his biggest musical influences are "old techno and progressive rock" groups such as the Japanese electropop group Yellow Magic Orchestra. When he was starting out in the field of music, he went under the pseudonym "YmoH.S", a reference to Yellow Magic Orchestra. He also cites the American jazz musician Chick Corea as a major influence. While creating the music for Final Fantasy XII, however, his biggest musical inspiration was former regular series composer Nobuo Uematsu. Sakimoto enjoys listening to techno and jazz fusion in his spare time. While he sometimes gets inspiration while relaxing at home, Sakimoto feels that his best ideas come to him while he is at his studio concentrating. One of his favorite soundtracks he ever composed was the one for Vagrant Story.