Koichi Sugiyama, the head composer of Dragon Quest music since its inception 35 years ago, has passed away at age 90. In a statement put out on Square Enix Japan’s website, the company stated he died of septic shock on September 30th. He was making music for the upcoming twelfth Dragon Quest game, The Flames of Fate, though it is unclear how far along he was in his progress. A memorial is currently planned by Square Enix and will be held sometime in the future.
Sugiyama composed over 500 songs for the Dragon Quest series, whose influence is felt throughout much of Japanese video game culture. Along with series creator Yuji Horii and character designer Akira Toriyama, he was considered one of the “big three” that made Dragon Quest definitively itself. Classically trained, his work inspired a number of other notable Japanese composers, including Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, and in the ’90s he introduced the Orchestral Game Concerts in Tokyo, which were some of the first symphonic renditions of video game music in the world.
However, it must be acknowledged that parts of Sugiyama’s legacy are, put politely, extremely controversial. Most notable were his denial of Japanese war crimes, his various anti-LGBT positions, and his tight leash over the rights to his work and its various arrangements. So it goes without saying that Sugiyama leaves behind a complicated history. Time will tell who fills his position at Square Enix, and we’ll be sure to let you know first thing when it happens.
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