Nobuo Uematsu

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Nobuo Uematsu
植松 伸夫
Uematsu in 2011
Born (1959-03-21) March 21, 1959 (age 64)
Alma materKanagawa University
  • Composer
  • keyboardist
Musical career
Years active1986–present
LabelsDog Ear Records

Nobuo Uematsu (植松 伸夫, Uematsu Nobuo, born March 21, 1959) is a Japanese composer and keyboardist best known for his contributions to the Final Fantasy video game series by Square Enix.[1][2] A self-taught musician, he began playing the piano at the age of twelve, with English singer-songwriter Elton John as one of his biggest influences.[3]

Uematsu joined Square in 1986, where he first met Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. The two later worked together on many games at the company, most notably in the Final Fantasy series. After nearly two decades with Square, Uematsu left in 2004 to create his own production company and music label, Dog Ear Records. He has since composed music as a freelancer for other games, including ones developed by Square Enix and Sakaguchi's development studio, Mistwalker.

Many soundtracks and arranged albums of Uematsu's game scores have been released. Pieces from his video game works have been performed in various Final Fantasy concerts,[4][5] where he has worked with conductor Arnie Roth and Game Concerts producer Thomas Böcker on several of these performances. Uematsu was also the keyboardist in The Black Mages in the 2000s, which played various hard rock versions of his Final Fantasy compositions. He has since performed with the Earthbound Papas, which he formed as the successor to The Black Mages in 2011. Uematsu has made several listings in the Classic FM Hall of Fame.[6]


Early life[edit]

Uematsu was born in Kōchi, Kōchi Prefecture, Japan.[7] A self-taught musician, he began to play the piano when he was between the ages of eleven and twelve years old,[1] and he did not take any formal piano lessons.[8] He has an older sister who also played the piano.[4] After graduating from Kanagawa University with a degree in English, Uematsu played the keyboard in several amateur bands and composed music for television commercials.[1] When Uematsu was working at a music rental shop in Tokyo, a Square employee asked if he would be interested in creating music for some of the titles they were working on. Although he agreed, Uematsu at the time considered it a side job, and he did not think it would become a full-time career. He said it was a way to make some money on the side, while also keeping his part-time job at the music rental shop.[4]

Square (1985–2004)[edit]

Uematsu joined Square in 1985 and composed his first soundtrack, Cruise Chaser Blassty, in 1986. Shortly after, he met Hironobu Sakaguchi, who asked him if he wanted to create music for some of his games, to which Uematsu agreed.[4] For the next year, he created music for a number of games which did not achieve widespread success, such as King's Knight, 3-D WorldRunner, and Rad Racer.[1] In 1987, Uematsu and Sakaguchi collaborated on what was originally to be Sakaguchi's last contribution for Square, Final Fantasy.[9] Final Fantasy's popularity sparked Uematsu's career in video game music, and he would go on to compose music for over 30 titles, most prominently the subsequent games in the Final Fantasy series. He scored the first installment in the SaGa series, The Final Fantasy Legend, in 1989. For the second game in the series, Final Fantasy Legend II he was assisted by Kenji Ito.[1] In late 1994, Uematsu was asked to finish the soundtrack for Chrono Trigger after Yasunori Mitsuda contracted peptic ulcers.[10] In 1996, he co-composed the soundtrack to Front Mission: Gun Hazard, and created the entire score for Dynami Tracer. He also created music for three of the games in the Hanjuku Hero series.[1]

Outside of video games, he has composed the main theme for the 2000 animated film Ah! My Goddess: The Movie and co-composed the 2001 anime Final Fantasy: Unlimited with Shirō Hamaguchi. He also inspired the Ten Plants concept albums, and released a solo album in 1994, titled Phantasmagoria. Feeling gradually more dissatisfied and uninspired, Uematsu requested the assistance of composers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano for the score to Final Fantasy X in 2001. This marked the first time that Uematsu did not compose an entire main-series Final Fantasy soundtrack. For Final Fantasy XI from 2002, he was joined by Naoshi Mizuta, who composed the majority of the soundtrack, and Kumi Tanioka; Uematsu was responsible for only eleven tracks.[1] In 2002, fellow Square colleagues Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi Sekito asked Uematsu to join them in forming a rock band that focused on reinterpreting and expanding on Uematsu's compositions. He declined their offer at first because he was too busy with work; however, after agreeing to perform with Fukui and Sekito in a live performance as a keyboardist, he decided to join them in making a band.[4][11] Another employee at Square, Mr. Matsushita, chose the name The Black Mages for their band.[4] In 2003, Keiji Kawamori, Arata Hanyuda, and Michio Okamiya also joined the band.[1] The Black Mages released three studio albums and performed at several concerts.

Freelancer (2004–present)[edit]

Uematsu left Square Enix in 2004 and formed his own production company, Smile Please.[12] He later founded the music production company and record label Dog Ear Records in 2006.[13] The reason for Uematsu's departure was that the company moved their office from Meguro to Shinjuku, Tokyo and he was not comfortable with the new location.[4] He also stated that he had reached an age where he should gradually take his life into his own hands.[14] He does, however, continue to compose music as a freelancer for Square Enix. In 2005, Uematsu and several members of The Black Mages created the score for the CGI film Final Fantasy VII Advent Children. Uematsu composed only the main theme for Final Fantasy XII (2006);[15] he was originally offered the job of creating the full score, but Hitoshi Sakimoto was eventually assigned as the main composer instead.[1] Uematsu was also initially going to create the theme song for Final Fantasy XIII (2010). However, after being assigned the task of creating the entire score of Final Fantasy XIV, Uematsu decided to hand the job over to Hamauzu.[1]

Uematsu also works closely with Sakaguchi's development studio Mistwalker, and has composed for Blue Dragon (2006), Lost Odyssey (2007), Away: Shuffle Dungeon (2008); The Last Story (2011); and Terra Battle (2014). He also wrote music for the cancelled game Cry On.[16] Uematsu created the main theme for Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008.[17] He then composed the music for the 2009 anime Guin Saga; this marked the first time he provided a full score for an animated series.[18] Uematsu has contributed music and story to e-books, such as "Blik-0 1946".[19]

Uematsu appeared five times in the top 20 of the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame. In 2012, "Aerith's Theme", written by Uematsu for Final Fantasy VII, was voted into the number 16 position in the annual Classic FM (UK) "Hall of Fame" top 300 chart. This was accompanied by "Dancing Mad" and "To Zanarkand".[20] It was the first time that a piece of music written for a video game had appeared in the chart. In 2013, music from the Final Fantasy series received even greater support and was voted into the third position on the Classic FM Hall of Fame.[6] Uematsu and his Final Fantasy music subsequently appeared at number seven in 2014,[21] number nine in 2015,[22] and number 17 in 2016.[23]

In September 2018, Uematsu announced that he would take a hiatus in order to recover from work fatigue, which led to him being hospitalized.[24][25] He composed the main theme for 2020's Final Fantasy VII Remake, "Hollow".[26] Sakaguchi said that Uematsu's work on 2021's Fantasian could be his last major game score due to health issues.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Uematsu resides in Tokyo with his wife, Reiko, whom he met during college. They have a summer cabin in Yamanakako, Yamanashi.[4] In his spare time, he enjoys watching professional wrestling, drinking beer, and bicycling.[1] Uematsu has said he originally wanted to become a professional wrestler,[28] mentioning it was a career dream when he was younger.[29]


Uematsu at a Distant Worlds concert in 2009

Uematsu's video game compositions have been performed in numerous concerts, and various Final Fantasy concerts have also been held. Outside Japan, Uematsu's Final Fantasy music was performed live for the first time at the first event of the 2003 Symphonic Game Music Concert in Leipzig, Germany.[30] Other events of the Symphonic Game Music Concerts featuring Final Fantasy music were held in 2004, 2006, and 2007.[31] The concert in 2004 featured a world premiere of Those Who Fight from Final Fantasy VII. Japanese pianist Seiji Honda was invited to perform the arrangement together with the orchestra.[32] Another world premiere was "Dancing Mad" from Final Fantasy VI, performed by orchestra, choir, and pipe organ.[33] The event in 2007 included "Distant Worlds" from Final Fantasy XI, performed by Japanese opera soprano Izumi Masuda.[34]

A series of successful concert performances were held in Japan, including a Final Fantasy concert series titled Tour de Japon. The first stateside concert, Dear Friends – Music from Final Fantasy, took place on May 10, 2004, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California, and was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. It was conducted by Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra director Miguel Harth-Bedoya.[35] Due to a positive reception, a concert series for North America followed.[36] On May 16, 2005, a follow-up concert called More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy was performed in Los Angeles at the Gibson Amphitheatre; the concert was conducted by Arnie Roth.[37]

Uematsu's Final Fantasy music was presented in the concert Voices – Music from Final Fantasy, which took place on February 18, 2006, at the Pacifico Yokohama convention center. Star guests included Emiko Shiratori, Rikki, Izumi Masuda, and Angela Aki. The concert focused on the songs from the Final Fantasy series and was conducted by Arnie Roth.[38] Uematsu and several of his fellow composers were in attendance at the world premiere of Play! A Video Game Symphony in Chicago in May 2006;[39] he composed the opening fanfare for the concert.[40]

Musical style and influences[edit]

The style of Uematsu's compositions is diverse, ranging from stately classical symphonic pieces and heavy metal to new-age and hyper-percussive techno-electronica. For example, in Lost Odyssey, the score ranges from classical orchestral arrangements to contemporary jazz and techno tracks.[41] Uematsu has stated that he is a big fan of Celtic and Irish music, and some of his work contains elements from these musical styles.[42] Uematsu's Final Fantasy scores vary from upbeat, to dark and angry, to melancholic in nature. For instance, the music of Final Fantasy VIII is dark and gloomy, while the soundtrack to Final Fantasy IX is more carefree and upbeat.[43] His Final Fantasy music has been described as being able to convey the true emotion of a scene; an example is "Aerith's Theme" from Final Fantasy VII.[1] In an interview with the Nichi Bei Times, Uematsu said "I don't really self-consciously compose music for Japan or for the world, but I do think there is something in my more melancholy pieces that has a distinctly Japanese quality."[44] He has been named one of the "Innovators" in Time's "Time 100: The Next Wave — Music" feature.[45] He has also been called the "John Williams of the video game world"[46] and been credited for "increasing the appreciation and awareness" of video game music.[47]

Many of Uematsu's musical influences come from the United Kingdom and the United States.[48] He cites Elton John as his biggest musical influence, and he has stated that he wanted to be like him.[4] Other major inspirations include The Beatles, Emerson, Lake & Palmer,[49] Simon & Garfunkel, and progressive rock bands.[4] In the classical genre, he cites Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as a great influence.[48] Uematsu has said that 1970s bands, such as Pink Floyd and King Crimson, influenced his Final Fantasy compositions.[4] The lyrics for the piece "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII were taken from the medieval poetry on which Carl Orff based his cantata Carmina Burana, specifically the songs "Estuans Interius", "O Fortuna", "Veni, Veni, Venias" and "Ave Formosissima".[50] In turn, Uematsu has had a major influence on video game music and beyond the video game industry as well. For example, "Liberi Fatali" from Final Fantasy VIII was played during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens during the women's synchronized swimming event.[51][52] From the same game, "Eyes on Me", featuring Chinese pop singer Faye Wong, sold a record 400,000 copies and was the first song from a video game to win an award at the Japan Gold Disc Awards,[47] where it won "Song of the Year (International)" in 2000.[53] Uematsu said that he gets more inspiration from walking his dog than from listening to other music.[54]


Video games
Year Title Role(s) Ref.
1986 Cruise Chaser Blassty Music with Takashi Uno [1]
Alpha Music [1]
King's Knight Music [55]
Suishō no Dragon Music [56]
1987 3-D WorldRunner Music [1]
Apple Town Story Music [1]
Genesis Music [1]
Aliens: Alien 2 Music [1]
Cleopatra no Mahō Music [1]
Rad Racer Music [1]
Nakayama Miho no Tokimeki High School Music with Toshiaki Imai [57]
JJ: Tobidase Daisakusen Part II Music [1]
Final Fantasy Music [3]
1988 Hanjuku Hero Music [1]
Final Fantasy II Music [58]
1989 Square's Tom Sawyer Music [1]
The Final Fantasy Legend Music [59]
1990 Final Fantasy III Music [60]
Rad Racer II Music [61]
Final Fantasy Legend II Music with Kenji Ito [62]
1991 Final Fantasy IV Music [1]
1992 Romancing SaGa Arrangement of "Heartful Tears" [63]
Final Fantasy V Music [1]
1994 Final Fantasy VI Music [13]
1995 Chrono Trigger Music with Yasunori Mitsuda [1]
1996 Dynami Tracer Music [1]
Front Mission: Gun Hazard Music with Yasunori Mitsuda, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano [1]
1997 Final Fantasy VII Music [1]
1999 Final Fantasy VIII Music [1]
2000 Final Fantasy IX Music [11]
2001 Final Fantasy X Music with Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano [11]
2002 Final Fantasy XI Music with Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka [1]
2003 Final Fantasy Tactics Advance Main theme [1]
Hanjuku Hero Tai 3D Music [1]
2005 Hanjuku Hero 4: 7-Jin no Hanjuku Hero Music with several others [64]
Egg Monster Hero Music [65]
2006 Final Fantasy XII Ending theme "Kiss Me Good-Bye" [1]
Blue Dragon Music [11]
2007 Anata o Yurusanai Music with several others [66]
Lost Odyssey Music [11]
2008 Super Smash Bros. Brawl Main theme [17]
Lord of Vermilion Music [1]
Blue Dragon Plus Music [1]
Away: Shuffle Dungeon Main theme [1]
2009 Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow Music [67]
Sakura Note Music [1]
Kurulin Fusion Music director [1]
2010 Lord of Vermilion II Opening theme "Dawn of Vermilion 2" [68]
Final Fantasy XIV Music [1]
Lord of Arcana Music with Kenichiro Fukui and Satoshi Henmi [69]
2011 The Last Story Music [1]
Unchained Blades Main theme [1]
2012 Jyuzaengi: Engetsu Sangokuden Music with Kevin Penkin [1]
Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory Music with Kenji Kaneko and Kenji Ito [1]
Unchained Blades EXXiV Music with Tsutomu Narita, Michio Okamiya, and Yoshitaka Hirota [1]
Fantasy Life Music [1]
2013 Norn9 "Ark of Destiny - World in the Norn" [1]
Lord of Vermilion III Main theme "Code : Vermilion" [70]
Ragnarok Odyssey Ace "Roar of the Black Dragon" [71]
Fairy Fencer F Music with several others [72]
Hometown Story Music with Tsutomu Narita [73]
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas Music with Kalle Ylitalo and Kenji Ito [74]
Wonder Flick Music [75]
2014 Granblue Fantasy Music with Tsutomu Narita [76]
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Opening theme "Shoot That Crimson Sky" [77]
Terra Battle Music [78]
2015 Megadimension Neptunia VII Main theme
Chunithm: Seelisch Tact "Theme of Seelish Tact" [79]
Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Main theme "Dragonsong" [80]
Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force Music with several others [81]
2016 Super Senso Music [82]
2017 Terra Battle 2 Music [83]
Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood Main theme "Revolutions" [84]
Final Fantasy XV: Comrades "Choosing Hope" [85]
2019 Terra Wars Music [86]
2020 Final Fantasy VII Remake Main theme "Hollow"; original music [87]
2021 Fantasian Music [88]
Dungeon Encounters Music director [89]
2022 Fairy Fencer F: Refrain Chord Main theme
2023 Final Fantasy XVI Music with Masayoshi Soken [90]
2024 Granblue Fantasy: Relink Music with Tsutomu Narita [91]
Year Title Role(s) Ref.
2000 Ah! My Goddess: The Movie Main theme [1]
2005 Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Music with Keiji Kawamori, Kenichiro Fukui, and Tsuyoshi Sekito [1]
2007 Blue Dragon Main theme [92]
2009 Guin Saga Music [11]
2012 Fairy Tail the Movie: The Phoenix Priestess Ending theme "Surely Forever" [93]
2017 Granblue Fantasy The Animation Music with Tsutomu Narita and Yasunori Nishiki [94]
Year Title Role(s) Ref.
1993 Final Fantasy V Mambo de Chocobo Music [95]
Final Fantasy V Dear Friends Music [1]
1994 Final Fantasy VI Special Tracks Music [96]
Phantasmagoria Music [1]
F. F. Mix Music with several others [97]
1998 Ten Plants "Forget the Dream of Tomorrow" [1]
1999 Ten Plants 2: Children Songs "Tomorrow's Weather" [1]
2003 The Black Mages I Music, keyboards [42]
2004 Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange Arrangement of "Flame Demon Monster Gaspard" [98]
The Black Mages II: The Skies Above Music, keyboards [99]
2008 The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight Music, keyboards [13]
2010 Nobuo Uematsu's 10 Short Stories Music, story [1]
2011 Earthbound Papas: Octave Theory Music with Earthbound Papas [1]
Play for Japan: The Album "Every New Morning" [1]
2012 Reiki Japan Music [100]
2013 Blik-0 1946 Music, story [101]
Earthbound Papas: Dancing Dad Music with Earthbound Papas [102]
2022 Modulation - Final Fantasy Arrangement Album Music [103]
2024 Merregnon: Heart of Ice Music [104]


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