From left to right: Takahashi, Shimomura, Mitsuda, Kiyota, CHiCO, Tomori, Hiramitsu.
As mentioned in our past Xenoblade music coverage, the game boasts a team of 6 composers. Some of them are more well-known than others, so here is an introduction to all of them, taken from the Xenoblade Music Team Iwata Asks.
Yasunori Mitsuda is a long-time acquaintance of Tetsuya Takahashi’s, the director of Xenoblade. The two even call each other “Micchan” and “Taka-san.” They’ve worked together for 15 years, on numerous projects, the most notable of which are Xenogears and Xenosaga Episode I. In fact, Takahashi specifically felt that he had to give one of the most important parts of the game, the epilogue, to Mitsuda -– partly because of the trust between them and partly because Mitsuda’s name is practically bound to the word “Xeno,” even if Xenoblade is not at all related to the other Xeno games.
In his student years, Mitsuda was always in charge of the acoustics for theater. He knew most of the actors and actresses, so as a part-time job, he would compose the background music and play with the sound effects. One day, the figure who was more or less his teacher was working on a project for Enix, and Mitsuda was helping him. When asked, “What are you going to do for your job?”, though, he had no idea. Then, his eyes happened to fall upon a Square recruitment ad in a game magazine. Under his teacher’s suggestion, Mitsuda applied and got the job.
However, since he had always been working with drama, he didn’t really get to be the main composer for his own game until he negotiated with Hironobu Sakaguchi and was placed on Chrono Trigger, which came along in 1995. This was also the first game that he and Takahashi worked on, with the latter being the graphics director. Mitsuda theorized that there were probably many who were just waiting for him and Takahashi to work on another game together after such a long time, but he also said that, with all the energy and time he put into composing, he wanted not only old fans, but also new fans to enjoy the idea of a “New RPG” that Xenoblade embraces.
Yoko Shimomura is just as big a name as Mitsuda. She and Takahashi have known each other for years (they both worked at Square) and were acquaintances, but have never worked on the same project together. Takahashi wanted to create a different feel from all the RPGs he’d worked on thus far, and this was true for music as well, so he had Shimomura work on the main theme and the opening song.
Originally, she was nervous, thinking that Takahashi would be an incredibly difficult person to work with and would provide hard-to-follow directions, but it turned out that that wasn’t the case. She stated that he has an incredibly firm vision of the game, and that sometimes, when she would take a little shortcut in her songs because she was out of time and wanted to work on it later, Takahashi would zero in specifically on those parts.
The roots to Shimomura’s venture into the world of gaming started in her early years. When she was still a student, she took piano lessons. At the time, she was obsessed with Super Mario Bros. One day, her hands wouldn’t move during her piano lesson, and when her teacher asked her why, she replied that she had played games throughout the previous night. Her teacher jokingly suggested that she get into games if she liked it that much. Shimomura said she didn’t think much of it, but before she knew it, she was working in the games business already.
Among Shimomura’s works are Street Fighter, Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and Mario & Luigi RPG. When Shimomura was first presented with the concept behind Xenoblade, she was both amazed at the scale of the world and the gods. In fact, she was so in awe of the grandness of everything that she wondered just how the game would unfold, which led to other questions that kept cropping up in her mind, like how gravity worked or what lay on the other side of the oceans. With this, and the scenario which she read later, she rallied together her determination and decided to compose pieces that would be just as grand.
Manami Kiyota was introduced through Dog Ear Records, Nobuo Uematsu’s production company. It was a simple matter of “Would you like to work on this project?” followed by a “Yes, I would!!” Thus far, she’s composed for PokéPark: Pikachu’s Great Adventure and has sung the opening song for The Glory of Heracles.
When she was little, she always enjoyed playing games, and when she was in middle school, she enjoyed playing the games that Mitsuda and Shimomura worked on, so she was exhilarated to be working on the same project as them. It was her dream to go into the world of a game, and when she was given the project, she felt like she was walking in that world, especially since she was able to connect with the protagonist and feel what he was feeling.
The last three people are all members of ACE+. Chico (CHiCO) and Tomori originally formed the group ACE, and with the addition of Kenji Hiramatsu, the team name changed to add the “Plus.”
Chico started out in with acting, and since she much preferred to pair her performance up with her own songs rather than established songs, she took up composition. Gradually, she became entrenched into the music world and when her manager asked her if she would like to work on game music, she ended up working on Minna de Tamagotchi. She also sang the main theme for Luminous Arc 3, which Mitsuda composed for.
She was especially interested in the scenario. Sometimes, when she was alone, she’d even read through the lines out loud with different voices. Aside from the fact that she was simply interested in the script due to her background in drama, she also felt that it helped her internalize the world, allowing her to compose better.
Tomori was a guitarist that Chico invited to work with on Minna de Tomogotchi, and he has been working with her ever since. He also sometimes gives performances and composes background music for commercials and movies. When he touched the game for the first time, he was very impressed with the relaxing atmosphere in the game. This was also why, when he composed, he tried to forget about everything complicated and just peacefully compose his pieces.
Out of the three-person team, Hiramatsu was the only person who liked games before he started composing for them. He’s a big fan of Nintendo (according to Chico) and often takes on the role of explaining the more difficult gaming jargon to the other two members.
When he was in elementary school, he would find sheet music in magazines and play them, and he became addicted to music when he became part of a band in high school. Other than composing for commercials and movies, he’s also the support keyboardist for songs by other artists. Hiramatsu especially wanted to give adults who played the game the feeling that they got when they played their grand adventures as children.
Image sourced from the Nintendo website.