Nobuo Uematsu is a Japanese video-game composer who has garnered widespread fame for his work on the ‘Final Fantasy’ series by Square Enix. One of the best-known composers in the video game industry, he is often regarded as the "Beethoven of video games music”. A native of the island of Shikoku, Uematsu is a self-taught musician. Inspired by the likes of English singer-songwriter Elton John, he started playing the piano when he was about 11 or 12 years old. In 1985, he started working at Square, where he later became acquainted with ‘Final Fantasy’ creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. In the ensuing two decades, they collaborated on several projects. Uematsu made his departure from Square in 2004 to establish his own production company. He has since served as a freelance music composer on several games. Throughout his career, Uematsu has put out several soundtracks and arranged albums, and his music has been performed at various concerts. Between 2002 and 2012, he served as the keyboard player in the hard rock band The Black Mages. Uematsu has been featured five times in the top 20 of the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on March 21, 1959, in Kōchi, Kōchi, Japan, Nobuo Uematsu taught himself how to play various musical instruments. Despite never receiving any formal piano lessons, he became a proficient player of it. He grew up with an older sister who also could play the piano. He obtained a degree in English from Kanagawa University.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Square Enix Years
After graduating from college, Nobuo Uematsu was involved in several amateur bands and composed jingles for television commercials. He was employed at a music rental shop in Tokyo when he met someone who was working at Square Enix. It was through this person he landed his job at the company.
He began working at Square in 1985 and created the soundtrack for ‘Cruise Chaser Blassty’ in 1986. At some point, he and Sakaguchi met and started their collaboration.
In the next few years, Uematsu worked on several videos games that were not that successful, such as ‘Genesis’ and ‘Alpha’.
In 1987, he and Sakaguchi worked together on what was supposed to be latter’s last project for Square, ‘Final Fantasy’, an incredibly popular video game that went on to have a huge cultural impact.
’Final Fantasy’s success secured his position in the video game industry, and he went on to create music for more than 30 titles, including for the ensuing entries in the ‘Final Fantasy’ series. He also worked on the soundtracks for games like ‘Chrono Trigger’ (1995), ‘Front Mission: Gun Hazard’ (1996), and the entire ‘Hanjuku Hero’ series.
Besides video games, Uematsu served as the composer on the 2000 animated film ‘Ah! My Goddess: The Movie’. He was one of the composers on the 2001 anime series ‘Final Fantasy: Unlimited’. In 1994, he put out a solo album, entitled ‘Phantasmagoria’.
During the composing of the score for ‘Final Fantasy X’ (2001), Uematsu experienced dissatisfaction and lack of imagination. As a result, he asked for assistance from fellow composers Masashi Hamauzu and Junya Nakano. This was the first instance when Uematsu did not make an entire ‘Final Fantasy’ main series soundtrack.
He later collaborated with Naoshi Mizuta and Kumi Tanioka on ‘Final Fantasy XI’ (2002) and Hitoshi Sakimoto on ‘Final Fantasy Tactics Advance’ (2003).
Career as a Freelancer
In 2004, Uematsu quit Square Enix and launched the production company Smile Please. Two years later, he set up the music production company and record label Dog Ear Records.
One of the main reasons for his departure was Square’s relocation of their office from Meguro to Shinjuku, Tokyo. He has also stated that he wanted to take control of his life. Despite this, he did several freelance projects for Square.
As a freelancer, he has composed scores for video games like the ‘Blue Dragon’ series, ‘The Last Story’ (2011), the ‘Fairy Fencer’ series, and the ‘Terra’ series. He and Hitoshi Sakimoto were nominated for a BAFTA Game Award for Best Original Score in 2007 for ‘Fainaru fantajî XII’ (2006).
From 2002 to 2012, Uematsu was part of the instrumental rock band The Black Mages along with his Square-colleagues Kenichiro Fukui and Tsuyoshi. They put out their self-titled debut album in 2003, which was followed by ‘The Black Mages II: The Skies Above’ in 2004 and ‘The Black Mages III: Darkness and Starlight’ in 2008.
Uematsu is an extremely respected figure in the world of music and has delivered live performances all over the world. He composed the main theme of the anime film ‘Blue Dragon’ (2007) and the ending theme of ‘Fairy Tail the Movie: The Phoenix Priestess’ (2012).
Family & Personal Life
Nobuo Uematsu met his future wife Reiko while they were in college. They presently live in Tokyo, Japan and have a beagle named Pao. The couple also owns a summer cabin in Yamanakako, Yamanashi.
An avid fan of professional wrestling, he wanted to join the profession as a child. In his free time, he loves drinking beer and bicycling.
In September 2018, Uematsu revealed that he was going on leave for the rest of the year and putting his projects on indefinite hold so he could recover from an unstated illness.