RPGFan Exclusive Interview #2: Nobuo Uematsu, Smileplease
translated by Chris Winkler
Following last week's interview with GameArts president Youichi Miyaji, this week's interview will feature none other than Nobuo Uematsu. Since the 1980s his name has been synonymous with the compositions for Square Enix's flagship series Final Fantasy. Hence, it came as a surprise when the maestro left his long-time employer after 20 years to found his own company, Smileplease, in 2004. He still worked on the Final Fantasy XII soundtrack together with Hitoshi Sakimoto, and in today's interview revealed his continued interest in working on the series he helped to create.
Since he has gone freelance Uematsu has teamed up with his old friend Hironobu Sakaguchi again and now serves as composer of Sakaguchi's three next-generation RPG titles. In today's wide-ranging interview Uematsu will not only talk about his motivation behind going freelance and the new games he is currently working on, but also comment on Final Fantasy and his future plans as far as concerts and his band The Black Mages are concerned. Enjoy.

Q: Mr. Uematsu, we have many questions for you, but first, could you tell us about the impetus that made you enter the game industry?
A: One of my friends was working part-time as a planner at Square (editor's note: since April 1st 2004 Square Enix). The impetus was that I had been offered a job as a composer. That's how I ended up joining Square. We are talking about the year 1985 here.

Q: Mr. Uematsu you have left Square Enix last year to found your own company Smileplease. What was the reason behind this decision? Is it because of the greater freedom, a freelancer enjoys?
A: The reason was, that I thought I had reached an age where I should gradually take the control over my own life into my own hands.

Q: Compared to the main themes of previous Final Fantasy installments, how is the main theme of Final Fantasy XII different? Also, how do you generally speaking select the songstresses to perform these main themes?
A: Main themes of previous installments means "Distant Worlds" in case of Final Fantasy XI and "Suteki Da Ne" in case of Final Fantasy X, right? In any case, for the main theme of Final Fantasy XII "Kiss me Good-bye" I can self-confidently proclaim, that I have created a melody more beautiful than [any other] before. I always select the songstresses instinctively.

Q: Mr. Uematsu you are currently composing the music for Hironobu Sakaguchi's Cry On and Lost Odyssey, but will you work on the Final Fantasy series again in the future? Do you know who will be composing the music for the new PlayStation 3-based Final Fantasy game?
A: In case I'm offered the job, I definitely want to do it. At this point in time I have not heard anything regarding the new Final Fantasy game [though].

Q: Could you tell us something about Cry On and Lost Odyssey's music and its composition?
A: Cry On and Lost Odyssey? We aren't talking about Blue Dragon? Currently I'm focusing on compositions for Blue Dragon. I have already completed the recording of several songs and look forward to the game's completion. Compositions for Lost Odyssey will become my main job during the first half of this year and Cry On will probably [follow] during the second half.

Q: How has game music changed during the 16-year period from the Super Famicom to the next-generation consoles?
A: Just because the hardware has evolved, it does not mean that the quality of the music has improved proportionally. During the Famicom years, you could only get three tones out [of the machine], but at the same time games of that period featured a lot of charming melodies.

Q: Apart from composing game music, you are also involved in Final Fantasy music concerts and perform with your own band. What is your favorite work, Mr. Uematsu?
A: I'm probably a fickle personality. Hence, I'm doing this and that and remain busy on a daily basis. I like composing, orchestra concerts and live performances by the rock band. After I have accomplished something, I like to share joy and a smile with many staffers.

Q: What is in store for the worldwide critically acclaimed band The Black Mages and Final Fantasy music concerts in the future?
A: As far as the orchestra concerts are concerts, I'm thinking about a world tour right now. I would like to try and perform in many countries worldwide in America, Europe, Asia.... The Black Mages will produce their third album this year. Because the amount of things I still want to try out with this band is comparable to a mountain, we can release multiple albums. There are a lot of voices from various countries around the world demanding live concerts, but it is difficult to adjust schedules, since not only I, but also the other band members are all busy day in day out.

Q: Mr. Uematsu what games are you playing yourself?
A: Since I have been busy recently, I can't take time off [to play games], but the genre I like is RPG.

RPGFan would like to thank Nobuo Uematsu for his cooperation and support in enabling us to present this exclusive interview to our readers.

Youichi Miyaji - President, GameArts
Nobuo Uematsu - President, Smileplease
Takashi Fukushima - President, Media Vision
Hidetoshi Endou - President, Hudson
Shinjirou Majima - President, Arte Piazza
Takuya Iwazaki - Producer, Cavia