The spectacular website Shmuplations has freshly translated a 2000 interview from Nice Games magazine with Yasunori Mitsuda, the legendary composer of numerous fantastic video game soundtracks (most notably Chrono Trigger in Nintendo circles). At this time, the younger Mitsuda had recently finished soundtracks for the likes of Xenogears and Chrono Cross, but he offered a candid discussion in the interview of how he got started in music, how he got hired at game developer Square, and his perfectionist attitude to composing. And there are some funny highlights in there.
Yasunori Mitsuda decided in his last year of high school that he wanted to do music as a career, and he enrolled in a junior college of music where his teacher was Norihiko Yamanuki, who composed for various high-profile affairs and created the soundtrack to The 7th Saga. Mitsuda was dedicated to getting as much hands-on experience with composing as possible, anywhere it availed itself, and he got to go drinking with his teacher and other accomplished musicians one night.
However, he said that his teacher “made a huge fool” out of him because they said things about him like, “Forget this guy; he’s just some junior college student.” Thus, Mitsuda thought to himself, “Just wait, I’ll show you! I’m gonna become way more famous than the lot of you!” In the world of nerds, at the very least, he’s likely succeeded at that.
Yamanuki also helped Mitsuda get a job though, as on his student’s 21st birthday, Yamanuki took out a game magazine and encouraged him to apply to a job listing from Square. So Mitsuda did just that, preparing a demo tape and shipping off — but then he got no response. Then this happened:
Wondering if it had even arrived, I called Square up, and they told me “Uematsu would like to hear a few more songs, if you don’t mind.” So I went back and recorded some more and sent them off, and this time, I got a call the very next day to come in for an interview. (laughs) To be honest, the whole experience left me wondering what was up with this company. (laughs) I didn’t have some burning desire to write game music, so at the interview, when they asked about my future goals and if I wanted to do this work my whole life, my answer was “No, not particularly.” (laughs) My feeling then was more like, hey, if this will give me an opportunity to write music, I can use it for the experience.
Of course, Yasunori Mitsuda ended up getting that Square job anyway. He didn’t get to compose though, and around a year later, after threatening to quit over it, Hironobu Sakaguchi suggested Chrono Trigger could be the right fit for him. The rest is history. Although, Mitsuda clarified that composer Nobuo Uematsu was only later added to Chrono Trigger to help finish the soundtrack after Mitsuda fell into poor health with a stomach ulcer; it was never to utilize Uematsu’s “star” power. Uematsu in fact left Mitsuda a letter of congratulations following the game’s release and the positive reception to the soundtrack. Uematsu even jokingly told him, “I can’t imitate your style, I’m afraid to say.”
Check out Shmuplations for even more of Yasunori Mitsuda’s early history and how he adapted Russian traditional music for soundtracks.