Veteran Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu believes settling for Hollywood-style scores means ‘game music cannot develop further’

Videogame music never ceases to amaze me. Whether I’m listening to Nero’s battle theme, Devil Trigger, from Devil May Cry 5 or immersing myself in the beautiful Peruvian-inspired soundscape of Ultros, the creativity and breadth on offer is astounding and something to celebrate. Well, at least that’s what I thought. It turns out that Nobuo Uematsu, the veteran Final Fantasy composer, thinks we can do better and that Hollywood may be holding us back.  

In an extended interview with NewsPicks (translated by Automaton) Uematsu explains why he thinks the current landscape of game music can do better. “I think people need to have more freedom,” he suggests, arguing that the issue may be because directors and producers are “satisfied with movie soundtrack-like music in games.” Uematsu even went as far as to say that if this Hollywood style carries on, then “game music cannot develop further.” 

While I agree that you can always improve, all the game soundtracks I’ve listened to recently have been outstanding. There’s the retro synthwave of Sea of Stars, the epic scores accompanying Final Fantasy 16‘s thrilling fight scenes, and Pacific Drive‘s incredible radio soundtrack, which will almost definitely make its way into my Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year. 

But apparently, it can get better: “Game music will become more interesting if composers consider ‘what is something only I can do?’ and use their own knowledge and experience to be truly creative,” Uematsu said. 

Uematsu also warned against using AI to compose soundtracks. He described how the role of an outstanding score is to convey empathy between composer and listener: “reaching deep down inside yourself to find aspects unique to you and then expressing them.” This isn’t something that can (or should) be substituted for AI.  

That being said, it looks like Uematsu won’t be working on too many more creative projects, as his last full soundtrack was for Fantasian in 2021. Previously, Uematsu said that he doesn’t have “the physical or mental strength” to compose entire game soundtracks anymore: “I think I’d rather use the time I have left to work on other projects that I love.” Fans will still be able to enjoy a new theme Uematsu composed for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, No Promises to Keep, which is apparently based on rearrangements of his favourite music from the original FF7.

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