|Konami||Game Developer||1991 - 1994||Composer|
|Square||Game Developer||1995 - 2003||Composer|
|Square Enix||Game Developer||2003 - 2009||Composer|
|GE-ON-DAN||Artist Collective||2010 - 2011||Member|
Junya Nakano is a former composer at Konami and Square Enix who has produced stylistically distinct music for a range of titles. Born on February 28, 1971 in Kyoto, Nakano was introduced to music by his parents when just three; they offered him Electone organ lessons through the Yamaha Music Foundation program and encouraged him to join some brass bands. Also during his youth, Nakano grew to love video games after playing Taito’s Space Invaders follow-up Lunar Rescue in 1979. While he was initially unimpressed by the barren sound of early titles, he enjoyed the chiptunes that begun to appear during the 1980s. He further developed his musical identity by frequently listening to the radio during adolescence. Going to combine his passions for gaming and music, he started composing MIDI music using the NEC PC-9801 computer in 1985. After leaving high school, Nakano attended a vocational school in 1987 to study composition and arrangement with the hope of entering the developing game industry.
Soon after graduating, Nakano landed himself a role in the sound of Konami’s Osaka branch in 1991. During his three years at Konami, Nakano contributed music to eight arcade titles. Under the supervision of Yuji Takenouchi, he learned much about producing game music while scoring titles such as X-Men: The Arcade Game, Hexion, and Polygonet Commanders. In each case, he focused on producing music that would project in busy arcade venues and used and carefully programmed pieces to overcome the limitations of the Yamaha YM2151 sound chip. He nevertheless took a range of approaches at the company, spanning humorous approaches on the comic book adaptation Astérix, to worldly stage compositions on the fighting title Martial Champion, to blends of techno music and traditional Japanese elements on Mystic Warriors. Nakano closed his time at Konami by offering an upbeat pop-flavoured scores to 1994’s Konami’s Open Golf Championship and Golfing Greats 2. The following year, he was removed from the sound team following a large personnel change.
Nakano soon bounced back from this chance event when he joined the sound team of RPG developer Square. He soon received a fresh challenge when he was asked to compose four narrative-driven compositions for the Super Nintendo’s Front Mission: Gun Hazard under the supervision of game music idols Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda — offering straightforward ambient compositions to depict the game’s wartorn world, focusing on deep suspended chords and heavy percussion sequences. He took a more diverse approach to his first solo project, the Satellaview title Treasure Conflix, offering a memorable overture, adventurous overworld themes, a rocking battle track, and three ambient soundscapes. The artist reflected his versatility further with his guest contribution to the fighting game Tobal No. 1, exploiting the technical freedom of the PlayStation with a distorted rock piece and some bagpipe-infused new age music. Also taking technical roles at Square, he implemented the techno score for Front Mission Alternative using the PlayStation’s sound drivers against composer Riow Arai’s requests to stream the music.
Nakano’s first landmark score was the mystery adventure title Another Mind. He was given a deadline to complete the score in two months and also faced major memory restrictions throughout the project. He overcame these challenges by conceiving images quickly and composing with utmost practical efficiency without sacrificing quality. Much of the score created distinctive timbres and rhythms through layering of forces repetitive elements such as basso ostinati and suspended notes. He also manipulated leitmotifs for the first time, as reflected by the discreet yet meaningful use of the ’Another Mind’, ’Guiding Wind’ and ’Capricious’ themes. Nakano’s subsequent score to 1999’s Threads of Fate (aka DewPrism) gave him worldwide recognition. He offered distinct soundtracks for the two scenarios of the game; sad but hopeful cues were used for the bereaved boy Rue while the spoilt princess Mint was depicted with humorous instrumentation. The score also included adventurous themes featuring exotic timbres and blistering battle themes dominated by dissonant harmonies and pounding percussion.
Since completing Threads of Fate, Nakano has principally taken secondary roles on major projects. He gained the attention of soundtrack collectors by composing a portion of the score for 2001’s Final Fantasy X alongside Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu. While his 20 accepted compositions were often melodically sparse, they painted a flawless picture of many of the game’s environments with unusual timbres and rhythms. He characterised the dark and deathly nature of many of the game’s environments with ambient themes; some were composed with brute efficiency, made entirely by layering of repeated percussion rhythms and string crisis motifs on high reverb, whereas others were more elaborate. He brought further diversity to the score with two intense boss battle themes, colourful setting themes for Guadosalam and Luca, and arrangements of Nobuo Uematsu’s melodies for Mushroom Rock Road and the Calm Lands. Nakano also co-composed the duet "Endless Love, Endless Road" with Masayoshi Soken for the tribute album feel / Go dream.
Following Final Fantasy X, Nakano composed the score to Asmik Ace’s PlayStation 2 flight simulator SideWinder F. His offerings were mostly aggressive rock and techno pieces, but still retained his idiosyncratic harmonic approach. Nakano was able to score this project given artists available at Nobuo Uematsu’s short-lived subsidiary Square Sounds could technically be licensed to create music for other companies. Back at Square Enix, Nakano scored Musashi: Samurai Legend (aka Musashiden II Blademaster) with Masashi Hamauzu and Wavelink Zeal in 2004. This project provided his perfect opportunity to develop his trademark musicality while creating many unprecedented sounds. He fused his complex percussive style with extensive references to electronica, rock, and more exotic styles — going on to offer his most elaborate and developed ambient compositions to date in addition to a whimsical shopping piece and several dense battle theme. In contrast to Final Fantasy X, his resultant works felt as artistic and refined as his collaborators.
Nakano was given the opportunity to explore his musicality further on the Xbox 360 shooter Project Sylpheed in 2006. He blended acoustic and electronic forces across seven tracks in order to reflect the futuristic and alien environments of the game. Most served either to prepare for action with tense string motifs and chilling percussion rhythms or reflect the heat of the battle with heavy beats and operatic vocals. Nakano personally programmed the sound driver in order to maintain the tonal balance and sample clarity of his compositions. Nakano went on to produce four straightforward organic arrangements of Mana classics for Dawn of Mana and, to support Square Enix’s exploration of alternative media, brief scores for the flash games .JP ~ Bring Back the Internet and D-Moment; in both cases, he complemented the scenarios with atmospheric compositions, often blurring the boundaries between music and sound design.
In 2007, Nakano arranged the controversial score for the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV alongside Kenichiro Fukui. His arrangements adhered closely to the originals so that they felt natural in the scenes they were used in and did not consume excessive resources. However, he added Celtic flair to some compositions by channeling influences from the arranged album Celtic Moon. He subsequently led the music production for the sequel Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, reprising arrangements for the DS remake and offering ten new compositions. The highlights of his contributions were a series of foreboding pieces to represent a mysterious girl, a terrifying orchestral battle theme, and a ten minute ending suite. In 2009, Nakano was also asked to score the Fullmetal Alchemist adaptations Prince of the Dawn and Daughter of the Dusk for the Wii. He complemented various scenes and events in the game with straightforward music, while reflecting the uplifting feel of the series.
Nakano served as an arranger for the soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIII at the request of composer Masashi Hamauzu. While his role was limited to two themes, "Tension in the Air" and "Desperate Struggle", they were among the most chilling in the game with their respective suspenseful soundscapes and furious tutti. He closed his time at Square Enix with the uplifting electronic opener "Glitz" to the original album Music for Art. Having struggled to find a secure place in the music team, due to the ever-shifting demands of game music production, Nakano left Square Enix during a reshuffle at the end of 2009. The following year, he joined the sound creator’s alliance GE-ON-DAN, created by his former supervisor Yuji Takenouchi. On behalf of this group, he offered an exotic arrangement of a DeathSmiles stage theme in his characteristic style in 2010. To the disappointment of his followers, Nakano has not been heard from since. It remains to be seen whether he has retired or will eventually return to game music.
- Various Game & Album Credits
- Official Profile (Japanese)
- Interview with RocketBaby (English, February 2002)
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Last updated on June 8, 2011. Do not republish without formal permission.