Hayato Matsuo Profile

Also Known As:
松尾早人 (まつおはやと) / MOM MATUO
Date of Birth:
August 13, 1965 (Kashiwa)
Game Works:
Shiren the Wanderer, Ogre, Dragon Quest
Official Site:
Japanese Profile


Organisation Type Tenure Role
G-Clef Music Group 1990 – 1994 Guest Keyboards
Imagine Music Production 1996 – Composer, Arranger
Creative Intelligence Arts Music Production 2010 – 2011 Composer, Arranger



Hayato Matsuo is a prolific game, anime, and J-Pop composer represented by Imagine. Born on August 13, 1965 in Kashiwa, Matsuo was introduced to the electone at a young age by his mother, an organ and piano teacher. A little after leaving elementary school, he started composing for the instrument in order to perform at the Yamaha Junior Original Concerts. He soon became obsessed with progressive rock, notably Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Rick Wakeman, and drew inspiration from the former’s Tarkus in particular while composing. During high school, his tastes diversified; he loved Yellow Magic Orchestra, begun to appreciate Western pop music, and also started to enjoy the work of modernist composers and his protegé, late film composer Jerry Goldsmith. The artist studied at the composing department Tokyo National University of Fine Arts from the late 1980s until his graduation in 1991, which enabled him to refine his compositions and develop his typically grandiose orchestration. He was introduced to computer sequencing while there and soon bought a computer of his own. While at university, he also engaged in some part-time musical work, including the synthesizer operation of NHK’s feature program Shosoin in 1990. These roles led him to meet Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama and, having developed an inclination to compose for video games, he begun to study under him.

Having proved one of Sugiyama’s best pupils, Matsuo was entrusted to contribute to the anime series Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibouken in 1991. While Sugiyama created a few original compositions for the project, the majority of the score featured Matsuo’s carefully tailored arrangements of a selection of music from the first Dragon Quest games. He reprised this role for the three Dragon Quest movie adaptations released in 1991 and 1992 and his arrangements were featured in medleys for the accompanying original scores. Through these projects, Matsuo adopted a conservative approach to these arrangements, appreciative of the factors that make Dragon Quest’s music so popular in Japan. He nevertheless meticulously arranged each piece of music to complement the scenes they were used in. Matsuo’s versatile musicianship and understanding of Dragon Quest music made him Sugiyama’s arranger of choice for several subsequent projects. He initially arranged and implemented Koichi Sugiyama’s music from 1986’s Dragon Quest into the 70 minute drama album Dragon Quest CD Theater. The influential release featured a variety of Japanese voices acting out an elaborate interpretation of the game’s story over synthetic classically-oriented orchestral music and some sound effects. Its success inspired Enix to release 12 more drama albums up to 1996, all of which were carefully arranged by Matsuo.

Matsuo also participated in the instrumental band G-Clef as an additional keyboard player from 1990 to 1994. Established by core members Dai Sakakibara, Tetsuya Ochiai, and Yuichiro Goto, the band adopted a unique style influenced by progressive rock music and Queen. Matsuo’s most significant contribution to the band was “Maternity Women,” the representative song of their third album Kiss to Fence; here he stood in because pianist Sakakibara was involved in a serious traffic accident during the album’s production. Matsuo also performed “Umbrella Romance” for their fourth album Happy Box and crucially befriended his current colleague Kouhei Tanaka, performer of “Ogre Battle”. Another initial reflection of his eclecticity came from his involvement in several of Shinji Hosoe’s Synergy and Troubadour albums. Matsuo first participated in these albums by co-composing “NUTS” on MCMXCI with Hitoshi Sakimoto. He later created expansive solo compositions on the albums Be Filled With Feeling, Great Wall, Kaki-In, G.T.R., T-O-U-R-S, and 2197, taking a break from orchestral composition to explore jazz fusion, progressive rock, funk, samba, electronica, new age, and even hip-hop music. Having established a strong reputation established, and close relationships with composers such as Koichi Sugiyama, Kouhei Tanaka, and Hitoshi Sakimoto, it was clear that Hayato Matsuo had a fruitful career ahead.

Matsuo’s first game project was the Mega Drive strategy game Master of Monsters. Sugiyama was initially asked to score the game but, wanting to focus on other projects, decided to supervise Matsuo instead. The artist aimed to portray the individual characteristics of each monster, while still offering refined, unrestricted musicality. The resultant soundtrack was a convincing quasi-orchestral effort that was was subtle melodically, exuberant harmonically, and rigorous technically. The title also continued his relationship with long-term collaborator Hitoshi Sakimoto, who programmed and arranged his work. Shortly after its completion, Matsuo was also recruited to compose a few orchestral pieces on the PC-9801’s Mercury – The Prime Master, under direction by famous anime composer Taku Iwasaki. He also created a modernist orchestration of Populous’ “Ending Theme” for the influential Orchestral Game Concert organised by Sugiyama. While the young artist was very nervous to be part of this event, he found the overall experience very satisfying. The following year, Matsuo was largely responsible for the score to the Super Nintendo’s action-packed remake of Syvalion. Again supervised by Sugiyama, he worked closely with Katsunari Kitajima to create upbeat funk-based tunes. In his final project as Sugiyama’s student, he made two breathtaking orchestrations for 1992’s Orchestral Game Concert 2 from Chunsoft’s Otogirisou, composed by his future wife Chiyoko Mitsumata.

Matsuo achieved a breakthrough in terms of popular musician on 1993’s Super Nintendo strategy game Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. While he composed a mere three tracks — “Krypton”, “Dark Matter”, and “Accretion Disk” — they exposed his ability to create militaristic symphonic action themes to the masses. Matsuo took the leading role on the game’s ’inspired by’ album Ogre Battle Image Album ~ The Entrance, intending it to be progressive rock experience akin to Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Here, he offered four tracks, including an opening theme with narration, a 20 minute medley of Ogre Battle themes, the dazzling piano-led “Spectrum,” and the concluding piece “Neo-A Planet’s Death,” a reprise from Troubadour’s Great Wall. Popularly regarded as a rare blotch on Matsuo’s discography, the album lacked a coherent and thoughtful execution despite its interesting ideas. In a further collaboration with Sakimoto, Matsuo composed half of the mainstream-influenced action score for Sword Maniac in 1994 and adapted it into a synthetic arranged album. He also created the scores to the two Classic Road horse-racing games, arranged music for the Turbo CD port of World Heroes 2, and offered a few catchy funk compositions for Super Hockey ’94.

In 1994, Hayato Matsuo was responsible for composing a major anime series, Magic Knight Rayearth, under the supervision of Sugiyama once again. Some compositions retained the RPG feel so prevalent in the story, while others went far beyond what he had created up to that date, especially the surprisingly dark action themes. The vocal themes, particularly the opener “Unyielding Wish”, have become particularly famous in Japan. Following this success, Matsuo returned to score its second series and even arranged the score for the Saturn adaptation. Having created a strong impression in the animation industry with these works, he was subsequently asked to score the mecha-based Golden Brave Goldran and magic girl series Kaito Saint Tail independently from Sugiyama. Also in 1995, Matsuo arranged Koichi Sugiyama’s work with ethnic and orchestral instrumentation for the Fuurai no Shiren Super Arrange Version and orchestated Kamaitachi no Yoru’s “Sequence” for the final Orchestral Game Concert. Another important work was the Hudson Turbo CD fighting game Tengai Makyou: Kabuki Itouryodan, where he attracted the praise of Kouhei Tanaka. At his request, he went on to produce the drama adaptations of the scores for Future-Retro Hero Story and Violinist of Hamelin.

At advice from Tanaka, Yuji Saito scouted Matsuo to compose for the music production company Imagine in 1996. He was delighted to be employed at such an eminent company, aware it would increase his opportunities in game, anime, and J-Pop music. At Imagine, Matsuo has developed a reputation for being an excellent anime composer. He received his first opportunity to compose an animated movies with 1996’s Landlock and subsequently received recognition for his light-hearted mix of orchestral and tribal music in 1997’s Haunted Junction. The artist demonstrated his youthful side further by working on Surfside High School and Teacher, Don’t You Know? a year later. Matsuo reunited with Magic Knight Rayearth seiyuu Megumi Ogata to produce her acclaimed album Multipheno in 1996; he emphasised the theme of split personalities in the album by blending frivolous jazz-based tracks like “Coming Out” with soft acoustic ballads like “Dear, My Angel”, while producing songs that were intended to challenge and develop her vocals. He has since demonstrated his versatility by composing vocal singles for artists such as Hiroko Kasahara, Yuri Shiratori, Konami Yoshida, Noriko Hidaka, and Mayumi Tanaka. The artist also worked on his final drama CDs in his initial years at Imagine, adapting the stories of Golden Brave Goldran, Landlock, and, for the Falcom Special Box ’96, Ys V to music.

Also continuing to compose regularly for video games, the transition to the Saturn enabled him to produce more lavish scores than before. The sequel Masters of Mosnters: Neo Generation featured a surprisingly diverse score, while the strategy game Dragon Force II set the bar high with elegant cinemastic underscoring. The artist also stayed close to the Fuurai no Shiren series, mixing arrangements of Sugiyama’s classic pieces with his own compositions for the series’ two Game Boy adaptations and Dreamcast spinoff. He revisited another past work in 1999 with Ogre Battle 64: Personal of Lordly Caliber, creating 29 rich symphonic tracks in a curious reversal of roles of the Ogre Trio. For Front Mission 3 — his first collaboration with Square — he offered a stock of militaristic action cues with funky atmospheric themes that inspired Koji Hayama’s eventual contributions. Matsuo also worked on the RPG Chou-Mahsin Eiyuuden Wataru: Another Step, the strategy game Dragon Force II, and the fantastical orchestration of the main theme for NiGHTS into Dreams… At the end of the millenium, following extensively briefing from Yu Suzuki, Matsuo beautifully arranged the Shenmue Orchestra Version for performance by the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra and Chinese instrument soloists.

As an established composer at Imagine, Matsuo no longer needed to rely on word-of-mouth to be recruited to scores and instead was assigned several high-profile animation projects by producers. For instance, his versatility made him a strong choice to score Gosho Aoyama’s Collection of Short Stories, while his background favoured his assignment to Street Fighter Zero’s movie adaptation. For Street Fighter Zero, Matsuo rejected influences from the game series in favour of a striking orchestral soundtrack; the artist was delighted to have the budget to record with the Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra on this project, believing orchestras can enhance the atmosphere and scale of a piece of music in a way samplers cannot. While largely known for his dark symphonic works, Matsuo created mostly light-hearted music for the series Fabre Sensei wa Meitantei and Captain Kuppa. He was also assigned to write the music for the modern adaptations of Spirit of Wonder and Cyborg 009; in each case, he demonstrated some influence from their respective original composers Kouhei Tanaka and Koichi Sugiyama, while still having the confidence to express his individuality and indulge in some experimentation. The artist also occasionally arranged music on behalf of other composers at Imagine, for instance for the One Piece and Sakura Taisen series.

Between 2000 and 2005, Matsuo produced relatively few contributions to video games in favour of anime scoring. Nevertheless retaining close ties to Sega, he sensitively arranged and orchestrated the ethnic vocal themes for Panzer Dragoon Orta and Panzer Dragoon Saga. and made several arrangements of Kouhei Tanaka’s Sakura Taisen RPG scores. He also scored the pre-made full RPG Fu-Ma included in RPG Maker II and continued to adapt music for the Fuurai no Shiren series. Despite such works, Matsuo had lost touch with Sugiyama and finally reunited with him in 2003 due to a chance meeting through horse racing. The pair became friends again — Sugiyama even became reliant on Matsuo for technical assistance with his PC — and started to engage in professional collaborations again. For Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special, Matsuo made orchestral arrangements of numerous pieces from the numbered Final Fantasy series and also saw the implementation of Dragon Quest pieces. Yet this period was dominated by his scores for the major anime series Transformers: Armada, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor, and the serial and movie adaptations of Kamen Rider 555. The artist demonstrated flair for orchestral cinematic underscoring in all these projects and produced several noteworthy opening and ending themes.

Following his solo score for Chunsoft’s short-lived GameCube MMORPG Homeland, Matsuo has had several high-profile collaborative roles on several game projects. At Sakimoto’s request, he created seven orchestral compositions for 2006’s Final Fantasy XII, including the aggressive modernist compositions for the Dreadnought Leviathan and the harmonically lush pieces for Nabradia. Described by Sakimoto as the best orchestrator he is aware of, Matsuo was also responsible for the orchestrations of the opening and ending movies. Under the direction of Sugiyama, Matsuo arranged Dragon Quest VIII’s pieces for its mystery dungeon spinoff Dragon Quest Yangus, including tempo fluctuations and smaller nuances to simulate the sound of a real orchestra to the best of his ability. In a further techically demanding role, Matsuo and his wife Chiyoko Mitsumata were responsible for the sound design of the three Dragon Quest remakes for the DS. He was chosen for these projects given his long-standing familiarity with the original compositions and his meticulous attention to detail when MIDI sequencing, known for instance to consider where a flautist would take a breath even on MIDI. Among other roles, the artist was responsible for the arrangements featured in the PSP and DS iterations of the Itadaki Street series, the latter also including some Mario pieces.

In the realms of anime, Matsuo offered romantic orchestral scores for the series Yomigaeru Sora: Rescue Wings and Les Misérables: Shoujo Cosette. In both cases, he conveyed their respective Japanese and French settings without relying excessively on clichés. Matsuo also achieved much attention and acclaim for his soundtracks to the three Hellsing animation videos in 2008. Having held a long-standing fascination with dark and emotional music, Matsuo felt this series was perfect for him. He chose to record the soundtrack with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, knowing they could achieve the dramatic sound he desired. By contrast, Matsuo developed a much lighter sound for the two seasons of The World God Only Knows, combining romantic recordings with chamber ensembles with whimsical hybridised pieces. Beyond his work on scores, Matsuo has also created special arrangements for several concert productions. He was delighted to hear his performances live at the The String Concert of Haruha Suzumiya, Monster Hunter Orchestra Concert, and the Final Fantasy XI Anniversary Concert. He also produced special arrangements of Chrono Cross for Australia’s A Night in Fantasia 2009 and Pikmin for Germany’s Symphonic Legends.

The majority of Matsuo’s recent video game works have been for the Fuurai no Shiren series, which has rapidly expanded with Fuurai no Shiren 3 for the Wii and four new games for the DS. While these scores have included reprises of the series’ main theme, they were otherwise dominated by rich new compositions from Matsuo. When composing these titles, Matsuo ensured that he did not lose the series’ characteristic feel, yet at the same time brought out the different settings and mood of each instalment. In other roles, the artist has written short scores for the DSiWare’s Pinball Attack and Arrow of Laputa, between lending his expertise as a choral arranger on El Shaddai. The artist also remains Sugiyama’s most trusted disciple, having recently taken responsibility for programming Dragon Quest X’s score on the Wii. Matsuo’s latest anime scores are based on two long-running manga franchises, Crayon Shin-chan – The Storm Called!: Me and the Space Princess and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, both released in 2012. The soundtrack for the latter has already generated considerably attention with its bold, eclectic stylings. Hayato Matsuo will continue to grace the anime and video games with his music for years to come.


– Various Game & Album Credits
VGMdb Discography
Official Profile (Japanese)
JCAA Profile (Japanese)
Interview with Game Music Online (English, January 2010)

© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). Many thanks to PQTN for translation assistance. Last updated on January 20, 2013. Do not republish without formal permission.

Posted on January 20, 2013 by Chris Greening. Last modified on March 21, 2014.

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About the Author

I've contributed to websites related to game audio since 2002. In this time, I've reviewed over a thousand albums and interviewed hundreds of musicians across the world. As the founder and webmaster of VGMO -Video Game Music Online-, I hope to create a cutting-edge, journalistic resource for all those soundtrack enthusiasts out there. In the process, I would love to further cultivate my passion for music, writing, and generally building things. Please enjoy the site and don't hesitate to say hello!

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