Creator / Nobuo Uematsu

Nobuo Uematsu (born March 21, 1959) is one of the most important composers of Video Game music to date. Ever since starting his career at 1985, he has worked on the soundtracks of over forty games. His best known work is with the Final Fantasy series, whose main installments all had completely Uematsu-made songs up until the tenth part. However, he returned to the series to compose for Final Fantasy XIV.

Since leaving Square Enix in 2004, Uematsu has worked as a freelancer, composing for such projects as Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and Super Smash Bros. Brawl. He also had a rock band, called The Black Mages, which played heavy rock covers of his Final Fantasy songs, as well as another band called Earthbound Papas (no relation to the game). For the past decade, Uematsu has also been arranging his work for orchestras. He personally travels with the Distant Worlds concert tour, directed and conducted by fellow game-composer Arnie Roth.

He reunited with Hironobu Sakaguchi for The Last Story. He also teamed up with fellow FF alumni Hideo Minaba in Granblue Fantasy.

Has his own Awesome Music page.

Currently, he and his band have lent their music score to Compile Heart's game called Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory. He is also the primary composer for Terra Battle.

He considers the soundtrack of Final Fantasy IX to be his favorite.

Tropes present in his work include:

  • Bilingual Bonus: When his work gets adapted for vocal arrangements, they are frequently in many different languages. Languages used have included Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Saami.
  • Dark Reprise: It's extremely common for character themes to get darker arrangements to highlight tragic events in the characters' past. For a few examples from Final Fantasy VI, "Locke's Theme" gets a minor-key rearrangement as "Forever, Rachel"; "Setzer's Theme" gets the more subdued "Epitaph" to highlight his tragic past; "Coin of Fate" is a slower and sadder rearrangement of "Edgar and Sabin's Theme"; "Awakening" is a more subdued version of "Terra's Theme" (which also has a subdued version in the game opening); "Celes' Theme" is a tempestuous version of "Aria di mezzo carattere" that plays during Celes' Attempted Suicide; and of course, Shadow's spaghetti western-styled theme gets a dramatic, tragic orchestral rearrangement when he is Driven to Suicide in the finale. From Final Fantasy VII, "Flowers Blooming in the Church" gets rearranged as "Aerith's Theme" for that scene; "Cid's Theme" gets a slower, sadder rearrangement as "Launching a Dream into Space"; "Red XIII's Theme" gets a more dramatic rearrangement as "The Great Warrior" (and is also worked into "Cosmo Canyon"). Nearly every game contains multiple examples of this.
  • Epic Rocking: With "Dancing Mad" (at around seventeen minutes on the OST) and the ending theme of Final Fantasy VI (at around twenty-one) standing out as the top examples. The opera from the same game could be considered even longer, but it's usually divided up into multiple tracks; however, one arrangement had the entire opera included as a single track that lasted for over twenty-three minutes.
  • Genre Roulette: His soundtracks frequently flit from genre to genre at the drop of a hat. For example, "Otherworld" from Final Fantasy X is basically straight-up Death Metal (although the Black Mages' remake turns it into more or less Power Metal).
  • Instrumentals: Most of his stuff. Starting from Final Fantasy VI, there is usually at least one song that contains lyrics (although the limitations of the technology at the time meant that the SNES couldn't actually produce vocal sounds, which made their first appearance in his soundtracks with Final Fantasy VII's "One-Winged Angel"), but the majority of his work is still instrumental. However, some of the songs also have vocals added in their arranged versions ("Dancing Mad" and "My Home Sweet Home" are two good recurring examples of this), and Earthbound Papas' albums actually contain more tracks with vocals than without.
  • Leitmotif: His soundtracks make liberal uses of this. Final Fantasy VI gives every permanent playable character at least two versions of his or her own theme (with the exception of twins Edgar and Sabin, who share the same theme): the main version of the theme, plus a reprise in the finale. Several character themes, including Terra's, Edgar/Sabin's, Locke's, Celes's, and Setzer's, get three or more arrangements. Most other soundtracks he's composed don't go to quite this extent, but it's still uncommon starting from Final Fantasy IV for a major character not to receive at least one version of his or her own theme.
  • Loudness War: His game soundtracks don't get this for the most part, but most of the Black Mages' material was badly brickwalled. It got less severe on each of their releases, though, to the point where only a couple of songs on the third album were noticeably affected, and doesn't affect Earthbound Papas' material too badly (Dancing Dad even comes out to a highly respectable DR10).
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: "One-Winged Angel" is probably the Trope Codifier for video game soundtracks, and it's far from the only time he used the trope.
  • Rearrange the Song: His work has frequently been rearranged for various formats, usually orchestral or Progressive Metal adaptations. Uematsu himself plays keyboards in the Black Mages and Earthbound Papas, and is partially responsible for the arrangements. Nearly every one of his Final Fantasy soundtracks also was given an arrangement album, sometimes in wildly different genres like Celtic folk music.
  • Recurring Riff: There are several throughout his work on the Final Fantasy series:
    • For example, most of the battle themes contain the same bass line (Final Fantasy VIII leaves the bass line out... until the final battle theme, "The Extreme"), and almost all of them open with the same sequence of notes.
    • The eponymous "Final Fantasy" theme appears in almost every game he composed as well (it's absent from Final Fantasy X, and also doesn't appear until the ending of a couple others).
    • The "Prelude" also appears in every game he composed, although the Final Fantasy X arrangement is strikingly different from any of the earlier ones (still the same melody, though).
    • The "Victory Fanfare" had identical melodies in all games until Final Fantasy VII, and even in that game it made a cameo as the chocobo racing victory theme (as well as a minor-key Dark Reprise for chocobo racing losses), and also reappeared with the same melody in Final Fantasy IX. Moreover, even Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII's fanfares open with the same notes as the others.
    • The chocobo theme appears in countless variants throughout the games he's worked on (and some he hasn't).
    • The moogles also have the same theme in most of the games they appear in.
    • Most of the time, individual games will have recurring themes as well. Some are described above under Dark Reprise, but nearly every major character has his or her own leitmotif.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: He's quite fond of quoting Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in particular. Examples appear in "Golbeza, Clad in Darkness" and "Dancing Mad" amongst other songs.
  • Sincerest Form of Flattery: He's admitted the intro of "One-Winged Angel" was stolen from Jimi Hendrix' "Purple Haze".
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The use of katakana for some of his song titles has resulted in occasional title confusion in English. The theme for Zozo from Final Fantasy VI is usually translated as "Slam Shuffle" (including in official releases), but there is good reason to suspect that it may have been intended to be translated as "Slum Shuffle", since Zozo is a slum. The katakana for the two words is the same (スラム, suramu). Additionally, the Final Fantasy IX song "Rose of May" is frequently mistranslated as "Loss of Me". Other English titles don't correspond to their Japanese titles at all, which is sometimes for the better ("Devil's Lab" was "Magitek Research Facility", "Tenderness in the Air" was "Town Theme", "Fate in Haze" was "Cave Theme", "Another World of Beasts" and "Illusionary World" were both "Phantom Beast World") and sometimes arguably not ("Mad Dance of the Ominous Star" is arguably an even cooler title than "Dancing Mad", and "Tower of an Evil God" is definitely cooler than "Kefka's Tower" or "Last Dungeon").
  • Spiritual Successor: Earthbound Papas to the Black Mages. The reason the latter was disbanded is because Square Enix owned the trademark, which prevented the band from performing material Uematsu had written for games not related to the Final Fantasy series (as well as from performing much original material). Earthbound Papas' lineup also does not contain any current Square Enix employees for this reason.
  • Triumphant Reprise: There have been quite a few of them. For example, Beatrix' subdued theme, "Rose of May", gets a much more upbeat reprise as "Protecting My Devotion" (or "Someone to Protect") towards the climax of the game. More notably, the finale of Final Fantasy VI contains of examples of this for nearly every character theme (Shadow's gets a Dark Reprise instead, and Setzer's is reprised in both forms to highlight the danger the party faces at certain points in the narrative), with Celes and Locke's standing out as perhaps the best example of this, as the two themes, which had been played separately throughout the game to that point, finally interlock with one another to commemorate the characters' romance. And then the series' main theme gets a triumphant reprise to top the whole thing off. It is an unquestionable example of Crowning Music of Awesome.
  • Uncommon Time: Most of his soundtracks will have several examples of this, and sometimes they get really complicated. Details can be found on the trope page.