|Jaleco||Game Developer||1996 - 1998||Synthesizer Operator|
|Square||Game Developer||1998 - 2003||Synthesizer Operator|
|Square Enix||Game Developer||2003 - 2008||Synthesizer Operator|
|Square Enix||Game Developer||2008 -||Composer, Synthesizer Operator|
Ryo Yamazaki is a composer and synthesizer operator at Square Enix best known for his collaborations with Masashi Hamauzu and Hidenori Iwasaki. Born on July 1, 1972 in Niigata, he remained close to his birthplace throughout his childhood and studied piano at the University of Niigata. Having a deep passion for technology, he joined the game company Jaleco in 1996 and worked on several games there in composing, sound design, and voice editing roles. His most notable project was as the composer, synthesizer operator, and sound programmer on the PlayStation’s Dragon Seeds with Kenichi Arakawa. Two years later, he was recruited with four others as a synthesizer operator for Square in order to improve the realism of the instrumentation in their PlayStation soundtracks. In this role, Yamazaki is required to use his specialist knowledge of sequencers and sample libraries to interpret MIDI data created by the composers he worked with. While he composed previously, Yamazaki felt he would have more success as an operator given his technological expertise.
Yamazaki’s first project as a synthesizer operator was Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon 2. The project tested his versatility given he was required to manipulate the contributions of four composers. A rewarding aspect of this role was being able to make friends with various people and talk about music and games; the great sense of happiness he receives from working with many different kinds of people is the aspect of his job that he most values. Subsequently, he worked as part of a team of manipulators on Front Mission 3 and Legend of Mana. On Chrono Cross, Yamazaki persevered in fulfilling every one of Yasunori Mitsuda’s requests to build a convincing guitar-based sound on the score — often inspired by Mitsuda’s enthusiasm and ability to communicate exactly what he wanted to convey through his music. Despite feeling somewhat reckless in his attempts to express some humanity through computerised performances, Yamazaki melded likely the most realistic PlayStation score ever created and won the respect of his colleagues. Also that year, he was given the opportunity to implement three tracks on Noriko Matsueda’s soundtrack for Racing Lagoon.
Ryo Yamazaki developed a close working relationship with Masashi Hamauzu on the score for 1999’s SaGa Frontier II. He found programming the game’s classically-oriented yet individualistic compositions to be a revealing testament to the potential of game music. Also feeling inspired by Hamauzu’s passion for creating music, Yamazaki felt relieved that the composer expressed mutual appreciation for his implementation. Yamazaki developed his relationship with Hamauzu on several subsequent scores. On Final Fantasy X, he focused on implementing some of Hamauzu’s diverse and mature works while two others interpreted the rest of the score. He later worked on Masashi Hamauzu’s score to 2002’s Unlimited SaGa — Square’s first all streaming RPG. The pair worked on an intense schedule of one theme per day and even developed a unique production process when creating the game’s electronic themes; after Hamauzu produced a rough draft for a piece, the pair analyzed the composition and worked together intensively to produce the final draft. Yamazaki also suggested that Mio Kashiwabara should be the singer for "Soaring Wings," having met her at the Tokyo University of Arts festival two years earlier.
Having demonstrated his competence and creativity as a synthesizer operator, Yamazaki was designated several other significant PlayStation 2 projects. He manipulated Yoko Shimomura’s popular score for 2002’s Kingdom Hearts. The score was carefully and convincingly synthesized using the console’s internal sound memory, which was limited due to the need to load stage and battle music simultaneously. After minor contributions to 2003’s Final Fantasy XI: Rise of the Zilart and Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, Yamazaki programmed Hidenori Iwasaki’s militaristic score for Front Mission 4. His implementation was praised for the way it had the quality of an action movie. In a rare composing role, he also produced some short electro-acoustic tracks and a rampant Zimmer-inspired theme for the score. The artist went on to have a small role on 2005’s MMORPG Front Mission Online, composing and manipulating the multifaceted "In the Name of Honour" and "All Out War", but left Hidenori Iwasaki and Tsuyoshi Sekito to program their own work. Given his commitments to Hamauzu, he was unavailable to operate subsequent Front Mission and Kingdom Hearts scores.
Ryo Yamazaki’s collaborations with Masashi Hamauzu thereafter received much attention among soundtrack collectors. His versatility was significantly tested on 2005’s Musashi: Samurai Legend (aka Musashiden II Blademaster) given he was required to implement the compositions of Hamauzu, Nakano, and the duo Wavelink Zeal. Between them, the composers blended symphonic, electronic, rock, world, and ambient music, often into the same composition. In particular, Nakano’s creations required the use of unconventional ensembles and appropriate percussive emphasis. Yamazaki’s implementation exceeded expectations and took Square Enix’s sound quality to a new level. Unsurprisingly, he was asked to return as synthesizer operator for Hamuzu’s epic Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. He helped to establish the score’s melancholic sound by blending atmospheric symphonic compositions with action-dominated rock segments. While the soundtrack featured a mixture of orchestral recordings and sequenced pieces, Yamazaki ensured a seamless transition between them. The final score was Square Enix’s most lavishly produced up to that point. In addition to main score, he also composed two action themes, "Fierce Battle" and "Time Limit", featured in the title’s multiplayer sound collection.
In the last few years, Yamazaki has taken more composing roles at Square Enix following the departure of most veterans at the sound team. He composed relaxing electronic compositions "Colored Monotone", "Feel Gravity", and "Blooming Scape" for the three volumes of iTunes’ Square Enix Music Official Bootleg series. These creations were among the best received on the albums and finally asserted Yamazaki’s identity as an independent electronic artist. The artist further demonstrated his flair for electronic soundscaping with his contribution, "Flow", to the original concept album Music for Art. Supporting Square Enix’s endeavours in new media, Yamazaki went on to create subdued electronic scores for several flash games; he handled the music for Ancient Game, Margin Margin, and Yosumin between collaborations with Iwasaki on Fumikes and Mitsuto Suzuki on Gravidis. While these works were minor, the compositions added to the charm of the games and gave Yamazaki more experience. He also handled the music for the adaptations of Yosumin for the DS and Xbox Live Arcade, complementing the puzzle gameplay with lively technopop tunes.
In 2009, Yamazaki reunited with Iwasaki to compose the Wii’s Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers. In this role, he collaborated with Hidenori Iwasaki as an equal rather than assistant and created approximately half of the total score. At the request of the producer, he distinguished the title from past scores in the series with compositions with country and jazz compositions, and even revitalised a couple of past favourites with bluegrass and flamenco arrangements. Demonstrating a previously unseen compositional versatility, his other contributions ranged from full orchestral cues, to hard rock battle themes, to minimalistic ambient soundscapes. Yamazaki also developed his collaboration with Hamauzu on the high-profile Final Fantasy XIII, but worked as an arranger rather than synthesizer operator. He was responsible for two hybridised arrangements of Lightning’s Theme and an audacious vocal rendition of the Chocobo’s theme. Following this, he supplemented the soundtrack release of Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals and made an appearance on Square Enix’s Christmas album. In 2010, Yamazaki also briefly returned to the role of synthesizer operator for the Wii’s Mario Sports Mix and the PSP’s Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection.
In the last few years, Yamazaki has primarily worked on casual games. He complemented the visual style of the WiiWare storybooks The Tales of Bearsworth Manor with spooky orchestral compositions reminiscent of Danny Elfman, before creating a mixture of upbeat and sentimental tunes for the iOS’ Otome Break. He also lent his services to Square Enix’s subsidiary Taito on the music for the iPhone’s New Bust-A-Move; in order to retain the characteristic feel of the puzzle series, the score combined various upbeat poppy tunes with a few arrangements of fan favourites. Also leaping to the chance of writing orchestral music, he offering shimmering contributions to the epic browser title Monster x Dragon and the album release of Sengoku IXA. Among Yamazaki’s other recent works include a guitar-heavy track for Demons’ Score, four robust medleys on Lord of Vermilion Re:2, and a supporting role on Gunslinger Statos. Since 2011, Yamazaki has supplemented Final Fantasy XIV’s patches with several pieces of new music used in various frontiers during the MMORPG. Also maintaining a close relationship with Masashi Hamauzu, he mixed "You’re Beautiful" for the independent group Ainu Rebels and arranged tracks such as "Divine Conflict" and "Crimson Blitz" for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
- Various Game & Album Credits
- Official Profile (Japanese)
- Interview with Yasunori Mitsuda (Japanese, September 2000)
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on December 30, 2012. Do not republish without formal permission.