Soundtrack Central The best of VGM and other great soundtracks

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Chris May 10, 2010

In this thread, please list who you consider top ten RPG composers. It's up to you what criteria you use, e.g. whether prolificness, influence, or personal considerations are most important to you. I'll see if I can tally up the results between three sites (SEMO, STC, VGMdb) and then post up an interesting feature about it. 

Here are my own. Those who achieved top places are those who I felt were the most influential, as well as competent. Only ten places, so I had to leave out some who are worthy of great consideration, like Hiroki Kikuta, Yoko Shimomura, Mieko Ishikawa, Kohei Tanaka, and Miki Higashino.

1)    Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy, Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon)
2)    Koichi Sugiyama (Dragon Quest, Shiren the Wanderer, EVO)
3)    Yuzo Koshiro (Ys, Oasis, Etrian Odyssey)
4)    Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono, Xeno, Soma Bringer)
5)    Jeremy Soule (Elder Scrolls, Guild Wars, Secret of Evermore)
6)    Motoi Sakuraba (Tales, Star Ocean, Baten Kaitos)
7)    Hitoshi Sakimoto (Ivalice Alliance, Vagrant Story, Odin Sphere)
8)    Noriyuki Iwadare (Grandia, Lunar, Langrisser)
9)    Shoji Meguro (Shin Megami Tensei)
10)    Masashi Hamauzu (Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy X, Unlimited SaGa)

Idolores May 10, 2010

In no order.

1) Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) - A man whose body of work needs no explanation or introduction. He's composed some of the most recognizable themes in the history of video games. Even his less memorable work (FFVIII in my opinion), remains incredibly nuanced.

2) Yoko Shimomura (Parasite Eve, Kingdom Hearts) - A woman of variety, maybe not as much as the other "Yoko" in the composition field, but responsible for some incredible soundtracks. As much as I loved Super Mario RPG, Legend of Mana and Kingdom Hearts, I gotta give it up for Parasite Eve, which is definitely my favorite of her discography. Here's hoping she returns for 3rd Birthday.

3) Yasunori Mitsuda (Xenogears, Chrono Cross) - Responsible for Xenogears and Chrono Cross, either of which alone would cement his place on any list like this, but then you factor in Chrono Trigger and Soma Bringer, not to mention the arrange albums for Trigger and Cross and it's not difficult to see why he's revered as much as he is.

4) Shoji Meguro (Shin Megami Tensei) - A man of eclectic composition capabilities. Campy, retro, modern, heavy hitting seemingly all at once with his own personal blend of rock and j-pop. I haven't heard his entire body of work, but I've definitely heard enough to say he deserves to be mentioned. One of my favorite composers ever, I feel cooler just listening to his work.

5) Yoshitaka Hirota (Shadow Hearts) - Another man with a very distinct style. I love his blend of ethnic industrial which seems to be unique to Shadow Hearts. His library of compositions is sadly not as large as it deserves to be, and with Shadow Hearts kaput, I'm not sure where he's headed. Tragic, but the four Shadow Hearts albums we got were amazingly good, so much so that I think he deserves a spot.

6) Miki Higashino (Suikoden) - The lighter side of ethnic influenced composition that I've grown to love in recent years. Her style is punctuated with harmonious leads and ethnic hooks of various styles, to my ears it's a good sound, and one of the rare instances that I call inconsistency a good thing. She's worked on other stuff, mainly a bunch of shmups, but the biggest surprise is that she worked on Moon Remix RPG Adventure, which I'm still dying to play.

7) Hitoshi Sakimoto (Vagrant Story, FFXII) - It is difficult for me to explain why I love this man's work. He is capable of composing sweeping, epic songs, fluent with energy just as easily as he can produce songs of quieting introspection. His work on Vagrant Story is by and large my favorite for it's dark tone and creeping, rustic composition. I loved the man's work on Odin Sphere and am currently in love with Muramasa: The Demon Blade

8) Noriyuki Iwadare (Lunar, Grandia) - Upon reflection, I'd say that Iwadare's style leans closer to the traditional conception of RPG music, that is, what I imagine when I think of the genre's earlier trappings. His work on Grandia and Lunar was perpetually sunny and upbeat and his later work on Langrisser was a delicious treat. His whole style reminds me of glam rock in that it's cheesy and not really nourishing, but wholly enjoyable.

9) Hiroki Kikuta (Secret of Mana, Soukaigi) - Let's forget the massive boat of fail that was Koudelka in it's entirety and remember that at this man's peak, he did some of the most classic VGM of all time. Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 and Soukaigi are some of the most iconic works of VGM available and to not mention this man in a list like this seems a horrible disservice.

10) Michiko Naruke (Wild Arms) - In all honesty, I haven't heard every Wild Arms soundtrack completely, but what I have heard, I've loved. Her work on the series combines traditional RPG composition with instrumentation that is strongly redolent of the old west to create a style that is unmistakably hers. I look forward to playing through the actual games to complement what I've heard.

Ashley Winchester May 11, 2010

Idolores wrote:

Here's hoping she [Shimomura] returns for 3rd Birthday.

She is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_3rd_Birthday

I know wikipedia isn't the most reliable source for info, still...

I'll be picking this up for the PSP once it's ported.

Idolores wrote:

10) Michiko Naruke (Wild Arms) - In all honesty, I haven't heard every Wild Arms soundtrack completely, but what I have heard, I've loved. Her work on the series combines traditional RPG composition with instrumentation that is strongly redolent of the old west to create a style that is unmistakably hers. I look forward to playing through the actual games to complement what I've heard.

I love Naruke in WA1 and WA2 (yes, WA2 has some very rough moments) but in even being a fan, I would just have a hard time placing her in my top ten. Then again, I'd have a very hard time even making up a top ten for this subject.

Idolores May 11, 2010

Ashley Winchester wrote:

I love Naruke in WA1 and WA2 (yes, WA2 has some very rough moments) but in even being a fan, I would just have a hard time placing her in my top ten. Then again, I'd have a very hard time even making up a top ten for this subject.

I must've heard only the best that the series had to offer, then. Even still, she deserves it as far as I'm concerned.

I opted to leave out artists known for RPGs such as Koshiro or Iwata, because speaking frankly, I love them, but definitely not for their RPG work.

Ashley Winchester May 11, 2010

Idolores wrote:
Ashley Winchester wrote:

I love Naruke in WA1 and WA2 (yes, WA2 has some very rough moments) but in even being a fan, I would just have a hard time placing her in my top ten. Then again, I'd have a very hard time even making up a top ten for this subject.

I must've heard only the best that the series had to offer, then. Even still, she deserves it as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know if you want to say that. A lot of what I said has to deal with the fact when I first got into VGM, I blindly bought into the idea I had to like ALL of her work when - in fact - I didn't. It was a tough lesson but an important one. Why I created such a personal illusion I'll never know.

Anyway, don't let what I said discourage you from listening to WA music beyond the PS1 entries. There are some good tracks beyond that - Alter code:F was decent and XF (Crossfire) really surprised me. There is even some hidden gold in the other ones, just not enough for me to openly endorse them.

Idolores May 11, 2010 (edited May 11, 2010)

Ashley Winchester wrote:

I don't know if you want to say that. A lot of what I said has to deal with the fact when I first got into VGM, I blindly bought into the idea I had to like ALL of her work when - in fact - I didn't. It was a tough lesson but an important one. Why I created such a personal illusion I'll never know.

Anyway, don't let what I said discourage you from listening to WA music beyond the PS1 entries. There are some good tracks beyond that - Alter code:F was decent and XF (Crossfire) really surprised me. There is even some hidden gold in the other ones, just not enough for me to openly endorse them.

Maybe I wasn't clear. My experience with the music comes from the first four games. I haven't touched Alter Code F yet.

With that said, I went back to the tracks from 3 and 4 that I heard, and they eschew the wild west flavour, now that I really listen. This is really strong music, otherwise, though. I'm surprised you didn't cotton to it.

EDIT: Apparently, Ko Otani composed the anime adaptation's score, who was responsible for Gundam Wing's excellent music, as well as Shadow of the Colossus.

Adam Corn May 11, 2010 (edited May 11, 2010)

For those that are feeling a little deja vu, here is a similar thread from a while back.  Understood if you want to get people's recent picks or expand the selection to include Western composers for the purpose of your poll though, Chris.

Top Ten JRPG Composers

I'm not involved enough in RPGs to list my own picks but if you were including the composer's influence as a major factor, from a Western perspective there's no way you can't have Uematsu as number 1.  Personally I would consider competency and prolificness as the important factors.

guizhang May 11, 2010

sakimoto, meguro, .... those two are the standouts for me.
i also like sakuraba (his more ethereal works), sugiyama, mitsuda (ps1 era), ummmmm



can't stand anything uematsu has done post nes era, except for a few track here and there.

Grassie May 11, 2010 (edited May 11, 2010)

Chris wrote:

[a list]

A good  list!

Uematsu is number 1. It would be unhonest to place him anywhere else, no matter what one's personal taste would be, just like Adam said. And Mitsuda is number 2. Number 3 is more difficult. I can find good reasons for putting both Sakimoto and Sugiyama on that spot, and Sakuraba as well. Note that all of them are S-es. Hamauzu gets 4, due to X and XIII, and Shimomura gets 5 for Kingdom Hearts. Kikuta and Hirota are my favourite of the bunch, and I guess Iwadare is big enough to enter the list. . . Or perhaps Meguro, or Soule? But I don't care for for Soule, and I haven't heard anything of Meguro's work. Iwadare it is, then. Edit: No. It's Ito. I forgot Ito.

I like Koshiro, but I wouldn't consider him an RPG composer, even though he has composed for a few RPGs / ARPGs.

1.) Nobuo Uematsu
2.) Yasunori Mitsuda
3.) Hitoshi Sakimoto
3.) Koichi Sugiyama
3.) Motoi Sakuraba
4.) Masashi Hamauzu
5.) Yoko Shimomura
6.) Hiroki Kikuta
6.) Yoshitaka Hirota
7.) Kenji Ito

Raziel May 11, 2010

I already posted this on SEMO, but hey, why not here as well.

1. Shoji Meguro (all, although I consider his magnum opus to be Shin Megami Tensei III NOCTURNE Original Soundtrack and the additional maniacs CD)
2. Hidehito Aoki (Persona: Be Your True Mind Original Soundtracks)
3. Shunsuke Kida (Demon's Souls OST)
4. Miki Higashino (Gensou Suikoden 2 Original Soundtrack)
5. Yuzo Koshiro (7th Dragon, Actraiser)
6. Motoi Sakuraba (Star Ocean -The Last Hope- Original Soundtrack, Infinite Undiscovery Original Soundtrack)
7. Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack, Parasite Eve Original Soundtrack)
8. Masaharu Iwata (BAROQUE Original Soundtrack)
9. Yoshitaka Hirota (SHADOW HEARTS Original Soundtracks plus1)
10. Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy VII Original Soundtrack, Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack, FINAL FANTASY & FINAL FANTASY II Original Soundtrack)

Ashley Winchester May 11, 2010

Idolores wrote:

With that said, I went back to the tracks from 3 and 4 that I heard, and they eschew the wild west flavour, now that I really listen. This is really strong music, otherwise, though. I'm surprised you didn't cotton to it.

Actually, I'll totally agree with you that 3 is overflowing with that Wild West flavor - even beyond the music - more than any game in the series. Unfortunately, that doesn't help when the game is 60 hours of rinse, lather and repeat. In an answer to your question however, I think my displeasure with the games beyond WA2 helped fueled my dismissal of a lot of the music. Whether that's fair or not, I don't know but no one should take my opinion to seriously since I just repurchased 3 for $5 like a week ago and Alter code:F for $12 despite selling them off at one point. Like most people, I'm a hypocrite to some extent.

Still, I'll totally admit there are good tracks to be found. "Blood, Tears and Dried-up Wasteland" anyone? Awesomeness.

Chris May 11, 2010

Adam Corn wrote:

For those that are feeling a little deja vu, here is a similar thread from a while back.  Understood if you want to get people's recent picks or expand the selection to include Western composers for the purpose of your poll though, Chris.

Yeah, I vaguely remember that thread and thought it'd be interesting to see -- after the bad reception to that article -- what the game music community would choose if they had their own opportunity. I think it'd be interesting to tally the results and see how they compare.

Ramza May 11, 2010

Chris:

Unless your top 10 is ranked (I'd move Hamauzu higher), I think I'd make basically the exact same list you did. It is an honest take on RPG composers. As someone whose field of expertise is RPG soundtracks, I'm with you step for step.

GoldfishX May 11, 2010

Copied from SEMO:

1. Nobuo Uematsu
2. Mieko Ishikawa
3. Yuzo Koshiro
4. Hiroki Kikuta
5. Bo (Classic Phantasy Star series)
6. Shinichi Sakamoto (Wonder Boy series)
7. Yasunori Mitsuda
8. Miki Higashino
9. Noriyuki Iwadare (through Grandia 2)
10. Motoi Sakuraba (through Star Ocean: Blue Sphere)

Surprisingly, Naruke has kind of fallen off...I'm not big on Sakuraba or Iwadare anymore, but the soundtracks they're on here for are monster enough to keep them on here. That's actually more or less the story with a lot of RPG composers...Uematsu is here for FF7 and prior work mostly, but...lol, it's more than enough to justify that #1 spot.

Sound Team JDK as a whole deserves mention, because stuff that comes directly out of Falcom (old or new) tends to get my attention and scores I don't like from them are usually the exceptions. I figure putting Ishikawa and Koshiro that high up is good enough representation (sorry Jindo!) Bo and Sakamoto don't have a lot under their belt, which is sad, because both of them have a great sense of old-school melody. Their stuff has always been pretty indispensable for me.


First person to include Takeharu Ishimoto on their list (either here or SEMO), I promise to send them an apple core and the remains of a half-eaten Oreo cookie. Offer is still standing...Don't all jump at once, people.

guizhang May 12, 2010

Grassie wrote:
Chris wrote:

[a list]

A good  list!

Uematsu is number 1. It would be unhonest to place him anywhere else, no matter what one's personal taste would be, just like Adam said. A

what? these are personal lists, how can personal taste not matter?

Dragon God May 12, 2010

This is fairly easy.

1. Nobuo Uematsu

Really, this guy is responsible for making the RPG music good.

2. Masashi Hamauzu

Can't say I've come across a bad soundtrack. A lof of the games he worked on DID suck, but the music was usually solid.

3. Michiru Yamane

SOTN for the win !

4. Hitoshi Sakimoto

Vagrant Story is pretty high up there, as is FF Tactics.

5. Masaharu Iwata

Baroque.... need I say more ?

6. Hiroki Kikuta

SD2, SD3, Soukaigi.  Yep, all great works from the man.

7. Koji Kondo

Zelda counts.... right ?

8. Kenji Ito

So much filler, yet so much awesome battle themes.

9. Shinji Hosoe

A sad thing he is so hated.... yet Xenosaga II was brilliant. Never mind Kajiura's stuff.

10. Tim Larkin

I had to place at least one American here.  Myst V still tugs at my heartstrings everytime I listen.

So there.

Idolores May 13, 2010 (edited May 13, 2010)

Smeg wrote:

Bo! Hardcore. Who doesn't finish an Oreo though?

A filthy communist, that's who.

Ashley Winchester May 13, 2010

Idolores wrote:
Smeg wrote:

Bo! Hardcore. Who doesn't finish an Oreo though?

A filthy communist, that's who.

It's been nice knowing you comrade.

Chris Aug 29, 2010

Hi all! Thanks for participating in this survey. I think it's been very interesting. The article is now at last up, featuring the top 20 plus commentary:

http://squareenixmusic.com/features/top … sers.shtml

Any thoughts on the results? Expected or surprising? Positive surprises? Disappointments?

I'm personally pretty pleased and think the results fit quite well with what I expected, plus my own listings. I would have wanted at least one Western composer and would have switched Hamauzu with Sugiyama. But overall, pretty cool.

Anyway, sorry for the delay! Hope you enjoy it. Hopefully do something like this again soon.

Qui-Gon Joe Aug 29, 2010

Crud, another thread in which I had responses begun in a text file but never posted them.  Better late than never?  sad

1. Yoko Shimomura - My favorite composer overall, actually - I still feel she's been the most consistently high quality throughout her career and does the best job of making individual soundtracks sound unique while retaining the flavor of what makes her sound like herself

2. Mieko Ishikawa - I wish I could just do a "Sound Team JDK" entry, but since so many have been part of it, that wouldn't be fair.  I decided to go with the one who did my favorite Ys entry, which would be III.

3. Yasunori Mitsuda - I feel that for a while he masked uninteresting compositions behind high sound quality, but Soma Bringer was pretty freakin' awesome, which brought him back up in my book.

4. Nobuo Uematsu - Not a terribly original choice, but I still like him now and even love Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey.

5. Noriyuki Iwadare - Lunar + Grandia = love.  Too bad the soundtrack was just about the only good thing about Grandia III...

6. Miki Higashino - Wish we'd hear more from her - she was brilliant on the Suikodens.

7. Hiroki Kikuta - Soukaigi (while barely an RPG if at all) would put him on this list even if he hadn't contributed other great works.

8. Motoi Sakuraba - not as big a fan as some people, but I adore Baten Kaitos and always find his soundtracks listenable, if a bit same-y.

9. Koichi Sugiyama - only recently started getting into DQ, but so far I LOVE what I've heard.

10. Michiko Naruke - I love all the WA stuff that she's done - another composer I wish we'd hear more of.

Man, that list makes me sound like such a Square whore.

Chris Aug 29, 2010 (edited Aug 29, 2010)

Damn, if you posted earlier, Mieko Ishikawa would have (quite deservedly) jumped up to the top 20. She ranked just one below Naruke on the first countup. Her lack of picture would have sucked if she made it into the top 10 though.

Glad to see Shimomura love. Her work on Last Ranker was especially good.

rein Aug 29, 2010

I'm a bit surprised that Hamauzu made the list.  This is not to suggest that he doesn't belong on the list.  Rather, I had expected that nostalgia would weigh so heavily in the voting that relative newcomers like Hamauzu would be left out in the cold.

I'm surprised that Iwadare didn't make the cut, in part also because of the effect that I figured nostalgia would have on the proceedings.

I'm disappointed that Higashino missed the top ten by a full five positions, but I suppose that since I didn't vote I oughtn't to complain.

Cedille Aug 29, 2010

I'd be more surprised if nostalgia puts Kikuta within the top ten while younger, yet influential composers like Meguro and Hamauzu didn't appear. As far as my pure personal preference goes, I don't mind Meguro even on #2. Hamauzu, while I don't think of him as the musical god as his fans claim, also deserves somewhere within the ten (but I'd lower him than Ito).

GoldfishX Aug 29, 2010

I think if Higashino had helmed the Suikoden series for longer than she did, she'd have been far higher (and opinions on the soundtracks wouldn't be so mixed). Her influence in the main themes is still felt, but I feel like any composers that work on that series are doomed to live in her shadow (unless it's just outright bad like Suikoden III).

I'm fine with the list since, mainly because outside of Falcom, newer RPG music doesn't interest me at all and I'm perfectly fine with rewarding longevity with nostalgia votes. Why reward composers of modern soundtracks with votes they don't deserve when I can give the ones with indispensable longevity their due? In the case of Kikuta, even though Lost Files and Alphabet Planet are not soundtracks proper (I didn't care for Concerto Gate), they would still be enough to consider a vote without his three big ones up there. I felt odd leaving Naruke completely off, but Wild Arms music is a very rare listen nowadays.

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