Motoi Sakuraba Profile
|Also Known As:
|Date of Birth:
August 5, 1965 (Akita)
Tales, Star Ocean, Mario Sports, Dark Souls
|Deja Vu||Music Group||1984 – 1989||Composer, Keyboards|
|Telenet Japan (Wolfteam)||Game Developer||1989 – 1995||Composer|
|Sargent Wolf Band||Music Group||1989 – 1990||Composer, Arranger|
|Freelance||N/A||1995 –||Composer, Arranger|
|Namco Tales Studio||Game Developer||2003 –||Composer|
|Team Entertainment||Record Label||2003 –||Artist|
|Sound Horizon||Music Group||2006 –||Keyboards|
|GE-ON-DAN||Artist Collective||2009 – 2011||Member|
Motoi Sakuraba is a progressive rock musician known for his prolific roles on video games. Born on August 5, 1965 in Akita Prefecture, Sakuraba’s love for music developed after he received piano lessons while in the middle of preschool. Having quit when his kind teacher was replaced by a more severe one, he started to become much more active in sports, spending his days and nights playing basketball and volleyball. Nevertheless, upon entering senior high school, he decided to pursue music again and used all his savings to buy a Teisco 110F Synthesizer. Despite his timidness, Sakuraba became a talented solo performer and local band member, gaining a reputation as an excellent keyboardist by the time he graduated. Through his band activities, he enjoyed a wide variety of artists that influenced his personal style. Initially inspired by Pink Floyd and his favourite band UK, the artist went on to explore the electronics of Yellow Magic Orchestra, symphonies of Outer Limits, jazz improvisations of Chick Corea, and counterpoint of J.S. Bach. While all these artists influenced his personal style, he has gradually listened to fewer artists since his youth, preferring to focus entirely on his own music while working. Tending to emphasise spirituality over technicality, Sakuraba’s compositions tend to be unbound by form and exuberantly express his emotions.
In 1983, Sakuraba entered the University of Meiji. Taking his synthesizer with him, he performed hard rock music regularly and even composed his first original tracks. The subsequent year, he was inspired to form the progressive rock group Clashed Ice. Initially a two-man band comprised of himself (composition, keyboards) and Genta Kudo (vocals, drums), they enjoyed modest success performing live performances. After the pair graduated in 1985, the band became noticed and masterminded by Made in Japan Records producer Shingo Ueno. They changed their name to Deja Vu and introduced bassist, guitarist, and vocalist Tetsuya Nagatsuma. The group became recognised throughout Japan as a result of a successful tour and reached their peak of commercial success in 1988 with the release of their only studio album, Baroque in the Future; composed entirely by Sakuraba, the album featured a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks bonded by the the aim to present Baroque music in a futuristic manner. After Nagatsuma left the band in 1988, Sakuraba’s producer introduced two of Outer Limits’ former members to Deja Vu to restore activity: Tomoki Ueno (vocals, keyboard) and Ken Ishita (bass, electric guitar). Despite participating in several successful concerts with French band Atoll and beginning work on their second album, the band unexpectedly split in 1989 as a result of musical differences between the members.
Sakuraba nevertheless maintained close links to the progressive rock industry through Shingo Ueno. In 1989, he co-composed “Fragoroso” for Pazzo Fanfano di Musica, a Japanese tribute album to Italian progressive rock; he created a definitive highlight of the critically acclaimed album by blending lyrical piano motifs and romantic violin performances in irregular metre. More significantly, Sakuraba was asked to create his own original instrumental album, Gikyokuonsou. With a flexible schedule to work with, the composer was able to focus carefully on composing and recording each of the eight pieces. He recorded the album for his favoured rock ensemble — featuring himself on keyboards, Ken Ishita on bass guitar, and Takeo Shimoda on drum kit — and placed particular emphasis on keyboard improvisation and jagged rhythmical constructions. The exuberant pinnacle of the album, “Motion”, remains one of the composer’s personal favourite works to date. But all too aware of the instability of the music industry — having seen his band split up and the studio he recorded Gikyokuonsou with go broke — Sakuraba decided to find stable employment. He thought becoming a full-time game composer would be the best solution, given the boom of the industry during the late 1980s. He had acquired an appreciation for the both the synthesizer, through listening to its pioneer Isao Tomita, and the video game sound, due to some gaming experiences during his youth.
In 1989, Sakuraba became a resident composer of Telenet Japan subsidiary Wolfteam and went on to score fifty games over four years on their behalf. During his initial year, he learned about the process of composing music and designing sounds for games as part of the Sergeant Wolf Band alongside Masaaki Uno and Yasunori Shiono. Having debuted the company on Akushu , the artist subsequently appealed to listeners with his emotionally directed approach on Arcus II: Silent Symphony, offering sentimental character themes and rousing battle themes. Designed for the technological limiting PC-8801, MSX, and Genesis, he needed to take a straightforward approach to his composition and made a number of compromises during the score’s production. Sakuraba demonstrated his versatility with traditional instrumental fusions on the historical simulation Zan: Kagerou’s Era, dazzling electronic tunes on the industrial shooter Granada, and hard rock approaches on the more punishing shooter Final Zone. In each case, the music complemented the scenarios of the games, while also reflecting the composer’s personal tastes. For their soundtrack releases, Sakuraba also offered bonus arrangements that explored his inspirations further. The artist also scored several more experimental games with the sound team, namely D: European Mirage, Ryu, and Niko 2, in each case reflecting their contrasting visual styles. The sound team was disbanded in June 1990 after Wolfteam was folded back into its parent company.
Having establishing himself as one of the brightest composers at Telenet Japan, Sakuraba worked on numerous titles as a composer in subsequent years. He developed upon the traditional influences of the Zan series with eight other scores for a range of platforms — most notably, pushing the SPC chip to its limits by emulating Japanese instruments on the Super Nintendo’s Zan III: Spirits. In parallel, he also explored the distinctive tonalities and timbres of Chinese music with several scores for the Tenbu simulations. The artist also received the opportunity to offer richer music for several games produced for the Mega CD; in notable firsts for him, he created an emotional vocal theme for Aisle Lord and an orchestral instrumental score for the Fhey Area. In other high-profile works, he portrayed some action-packed adventures with a trilogy of titles – Earnest Evans, El Viento, and Annet Again – between fulfilling consumer’s expectations with an upbeat melodic score for the space shooter Sol-Feace. While many of these projects were special to him, he composed other titles such as Crystal Chaser and Ace o Nerae! with utmost efficiency during the few spare moments he had. Having created the scores for many of these titles alone, he certainly cemented a reputation among his employees as the most efficient and adaptable composer in the sound team.
During his final years at Telenet Japan, Sakuraba worked on several important RPGs for the Super Nintendo. In contrasting projects, he created soft ethereal sounds for Angel’s Song alongside Michiko Naruke and an entertaining diverse score for Hiouden with Shinji Tamura. However, his most famous score at Telenet Japan was 1995’s Tales of Phantasia alongside Tamura. With the experience of so many scores behind him, Sakuraba had no problem producing diverse music to complement the RPG’s various scenes. His battle tracks particularly entertained listeners with their light rock style and energetic melodies, while his quasi-orchestral themes complemented setting ranging from peaceful towns to ominous dungeons. The game formed the basis of one of the most popular RPG series and its score remains one of the most popular for the Super Nintendo in Japan. However, a conflict with publisher Namco and a long publishing delay led to the slow demise of an already notoroious Telenet Japan. After the company switched focus, Sakuraba was contracted on a freelance basis to create the music for their pachinko simulations; alongside Tamura, he produced short buoyant jazz scores for 14 such titles for the Super Nintendo. However, the artist was no longer a resident employee at the company and decided to challenge himself on a range of external works.
Having stayed neutral during the numerous conflicts leading to the division of Telenet Japan, Sakuraba contributed to the three resulting companies as a freelancer. He remained close to his old studio Wolfteam as they pursued further development of the Tales series under the co-ownership of Namco and Telenet Japan; the series spawned numerous new games, though Sakuraba, Tamura, and director Eiji Kikuchi were the only consistent contributors up to 2003. The composer also worked closely with independent studio Camelot Software Planning, taken over from Sega by Masaaki Uno; Uno requested that Sakuraba create the scores for the company’s subsequent works, including titles in the Mario Sports, Golden Sun, and Shining series. However, Sakuraba’s mainstream exposure has principally emerged as a result of his explorative contributions to tri-Ace’s Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile series. Funded by Enix, the developer was created by Yoshiharu Gotanda and other Wolfteam veterans in protest to Namco’s handling of Tales of Phantasia. Sakuraba’s involvement with tri-Ace also eventually established his links to record label Team Entertainment and the spinoff company tri-Crescendo. With so many commitments, Sakuraba adopted an even more demanding schedule than before; he worked 12 to 20 hour days, abandoned most of his other interests, restricted himself to three hours sleep a night, and relied heavily on coffee and proteins for his energy.
Sakuraba’s first freelance work was Camelot’s Beyond the Beyond for the PlayStation. While the RPG was critically unsuccessful, its MIDI-based soundtrack was especially melodious and atmospheric. On behalf of Sony Records, Sakuraba was asked to produce an arranged album dedicated to the release, featuring a series of ten minute progressive rock medleys. Sakuraba simultaneously produced the score for tri-Ace’s science-fiction RPG Star Ocean. While the game sold relatively few copies as one of the Super Nintendo’s final titles, the emotionally engaging and sensitively refined score was subject to much praise. It received a joint arranged and drama album, the Star Ocean Perfect Sound Collection, shortly after its release that reflected the grandiose musical ambitions for the series. The artist also reunited with director Eiji Kikuchi and composer Shinji Tamura to score the music for Tales of Destiny. Coinciding with the game’s transition to the PlayStation, the music maintained but refined the elements that were popular on Tales of Phantasia. At popular demand, Tales of Phantasia was remade for the PlayStation the following year, complete with a remastered soundtrack release. It was challenging for Sakuraba to juggle score and album productions for three companies, but he carefully streamlined his approach for maximum efficiency.
In another defining work, Sakuraba further demonstrated his flair for epic scoring on the Saturn spinoff Shining the Holy Ark. He presented the music in a particularly special arranged album, which was synthesized with the same equipment as Gikyokuonsou and culminated in the nine minute piano improvisation “Elegy of the Bewildered”. He returned to score the three scenarios of Shining Force III in the subsequent years, before expressing himself freely on the arranged album dedicated to the score, rebranded as his second solo album Force of Light in the West. Also with Camelot, Sakuraba created the relaxing score for the first instalment of the PlayStation’s Hot Shots Golf series; his relaxing score enhanced the popular game and established a style that he later fleshed out in the Mario Golf series. The following year, Sakuraba subsequently captivated millions across the world with the score for Star Ocean: The Second Story. The emotional score both exhilarated listeners with the rock organs of battle theme “Stab the Sword of Justice” and touched them with the gorgeous operatic voices of “Theme of RENA”. The title’s arranged album served to magnify this effect, emphasising the inspiration behind the original score and the musical sensitivity of its creator. Between such roles, the artist also produced eight atmospheric compositions as a guest contributor on Yoshiharu Gotanda’s @MIDI’s People project.
In 1999, Sakuraba produced the soundtracks for his earliest anime soundtracks, Vanny Knights and Saiyuki, Sakuraba created compositions largely stylistically continuous with his game compositions. He opted to avoid producing detailed cinematic underscoring, since he wanted to express his music freely, rather than be restrained to create something potentially stereotypical. The composer was simultaneously responsible for scoring tri-Ace’s second major success, Valkyrie Profile. Its soundtrack had a more spiritual and atmospheric focus than the Star Ocean series, but included many accessible rock-based battle themes and dungeon tracks as well. Its release was accompanied by a progressive rock arranged album and a particularly creative voice mix album; for the latter, Sakuraba blended arranged music from the soundtrack with voices of characters from the game. In a further role, the artist composed the first game in Camelot’s Mario Golf series for the Nintendo 64. Here he united arrangements of Koji Kondo’s music with the style he established in Hot Shots Golf. The game’s success inspired Mario Tennis, released for the same console, featuring a score of light rock tournament themes and further Nintendo arrangements. He also led the score for Wolfteam’s final non-Tales project, Cybernetic Empire, and returned to create more familiarly styled RPG music on Tales of Eternia.
At the start of the millennium, Sakuraba had a succession of roles on portable consoles for his three favourite companies. The composer maintained his light-hearted musical approaches while adapting to technological limitations on the Game Boy Color titles Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, and Mobile Golf. However, the artist dedicated more time to exploring the vastness of space once more with the spinoff Star Ocean: Blue Sphere — employing a number of techniques to ensure that the epic scope of his music was maintained on the handheld and also produced some lavish arrangements for its soundtrack release. Returning to Camelot, Sakuraba also won the hearts of gamers with a highly melodic score for Golden Sun. Facilitated by the transition to the Game Boy Advance, he was able to take a wider range of stylistic approaches than his earlier handheld approaches and channelled a strong rock influence. These musical approaches were elaborated upon for the sequel Golden Sun: The Lost Age released the following year. Sakuraba also blended reprises of his music with new pieces on the portable sequel Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon and featured on three subsequent productions of the series for the Game Boy Advance. In another novel role, Sakuraba arranged half of the music for the arranged album of Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Children at the request of his principle record label and promoter Team Entertainment.
After fulfilling his company commitments with these projects, Sakuraba returned to score two Tales projects with Tamura. A step forward in terms of quantity, the score for the PlayStation 2’s Tales of Destiny 2 yielded a four disc soundtrack, though the stylings and samples were familiar to most series followers. Their warmly received soundtrack to the GameCube’s Tales of Symphonia was also similar to their predecessors, but was produced in novel circumstances. The title was developed by novel team at Namco Tales Studio, formed after Namco bought out Telenet Japan’s remaining stake in the series. The title also represented a foray back into the world of Nintendo, though a Japan-only PlayStation 2 version was made the following year. In further Nintendo productions, Sakuraba scored Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour and Mario Power Tennis for the GameCube, offering much richer arrangements throughout these titles and a selection of new compositions to complement their gameplay; to commemorate their releases, the Nintendo Dream magazine released Mario Sports CD The Best featuring arrangements of themes from the two scores. Around the same time, Sakuraba contributed to further television productions such as Knight Hunters Eternity, Atashin’chi, Bouken Yuuki Pluster World, and Umigame to Shonen. Following these works, he took a break from anime scoring to focus on his more recognised game works.
Sakuraba’s next major project was the massively hyped Star Ocean Till the End of Time, featuring his most lavishly developed and produced compositions up to that point. In contrast to his previous sampled works, he decided to record the entire score with performers; the first volume of the soundtrack was performed by a chamber orchestra while the second volume featured a progressive rock band led by Sakuraba on keyboards. The artist also indited the game’s arranged album, which had a more considerable symphonic emphasis that his previous arranged albums, and a voice mix album inspired by the success of its Valkyrie Profile equivalent. He also returned to create music for the new areas and FMV sequences featured in Square Enix’s director’s cut edition of the title. Inspired by the popularity of his tri-Ace work, the musician produced a two hour concert at Zepp Tokyo on July 19, 2003 dedicated to his works on the Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile franchises. After several symphonic productions, Sakuraba returned to his roots with a rock concert for his favoured ensemble; the composer’s supreme arrangements and keyboard performances were complemented by the performances of drummer Toshihiko Nakamura and bassist Atsushi Hasegawa, both of whom had solos on the extended “Theme of RENA” arrangement. A DVD was released, featuring an official live video of the concert, as was a full audio recording.
Becoming a four company man, Sakuraba scored Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean at the end of 2003 in a novel collaboration. The game was principally developed by tri-Crescendo, a company founded by Wolfteam’s Hiroya Hatsushiba, which had previously programmed the music of Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. With the creators emphasising sound production throughout, Sakuraba was challenged to refine his musicality and explore new directions. Apparently succeeding, the soundtrack was named best soundtrack for a GameCube game in 2004 by IGN. As the site describes, ’everything from the beat-happy and infectious combat themes to the subtle and melancholic tracks during the game’s more dramatic moments draw the player deeper into the game world’. Sakuraba commemorated the music for the game alongside some recycled arrangements and original compositions in his second live concert during 2004. The almost exponential increase in Tales releases after the formation of Namco Tales Studio ensured Sakuraba remained busy after Baten Kaitos. The soundtracks to Tales of Rebirth and Tales of the Abyss were significantly more technologically commanded than their predecessors; the latter was even mostly streamed, allowing Sakuraba to enhance fidelity and timbres with his own audio equipment. Ever carefully balancing his responsibilities, Sakuraba also maintained his compositional duties on Camelot’s Mario Golf: Advance Tour and Mario Tennis Advance, retaining the idiom of the Mario Sports series despite hardware restrictions.
The subsequent year, Sakuraba blended extravagant arrangements of Baten Kaitos compositions with high quality new compositions for the prequel Baten Kaitos Origins. The three disc soundtrack was described as a more consistent experience that its predecessor, but with fewer highlights. Sakuraba did not participate in 2005’s Radiata Stories by tri-Ace, likely due to high workload, though Noriyuki Iwadare arranged three of his Star Ocean compositions for the game. He nevertheless handled Asmik Ace’s PlayStation 2 card game Duel Masters, crafting a score mainly built upon diverse main theme arrangements. The artist reunited with the company on the high school simulation Tenshou Gakuen Gekkou Hasumi; its light-hearted soundtrack featured many novelty compositions and battle themes using oriental instrumentals. Given his prominence, Sakuraba was also asked to create several tracks for several album releases. After retaining the light-hearted style of the Mario series in all his Mario Sports works, he gave the series’ main theme a more dramatic symphonic scope on the Famicom 20th Anniversary Arrange Soundtracks. On behalf of Team Entertainment, he also contributed progressive rock arrangements to the collaborative arranged albums for Dark Cloud 2, Phantasy Star Online, and Rogue Galaxy, between writing a bonus remix for a Pachinko compilation album and revisited the FM sound module for a tribute album.
Sakuraba’s highest profile projects during 2006 were dedicated to the Valkyrie Profile series. For Valkyrie Profile’s PSP remake, Sakuraba oversaw the remastering of its soundtrack and the reprints of its albums. The score to its PlayStation 2 sequel Valkyrie Profile 2 Silmeria represented an evolution in musicality. He captured the dark tone of the game with evocative symphonic movements and deep ambient soundscapes, while offering orchestral twists on his trademark battle themes. Like the giant projects that preceded it, emotional arranged and voice mix albums were also released for the score. In addition, he held his third live concert with Nakamura and Hasegawa to coincide with the game’s release on June 8. The concert received a partial official CD release featuring all new arrangements, though no DVD recording was made available. During 2006, Sakuraba also returned to the Tales series with a series of new games and remakes. He worked as a solo composer for the first time on the series on the externally developed DS title Tales of the Tempest, between arranging and expanding the score for the remake of Tales of Destiny and writing five additional tracks for its director’s cut. He also arranged 21 pieces from across the series for the DVDs offered as pre-order bonuses for the remakes of Tales of Destiny, Tales of Destiny 2, and Tales of Destiny: Director’s Cut.
In 2006, Sakuraba moved house and established his personal studio. Misty Inn Studio features the numerous instruments he owns, such as his beloved KORG CX-3 synthesiser, as well as a Bösendorfer 225 grand piano that he purchased after finding 88 key pianos too limiting. He was able to improvise on the instrument on his subsequent work, tri-Crescendo’s Eternal Sonata. Given the game was a fantasy based on Chopin’s life, its soundtrack exuded a fantastical and romantic sound, culminating in a bombastic final battle arrangement and a tragic operatic vocal theme. Propelled by this score, Sakuraba decided to dedicated his second true solo album – released some 15 years after his first – to solo piano compositions; the 14 compositions of Forest of Glass were each inspired by abstract images and enhanced by Sakuraba’s personal performance. Sakuraba also decided to explore vocal music further by creating “Contradiction” for The Idolm@ster Radio Vocal Master and “image” for the collaboration album Message. Apparently undazed by his numerous commitments, Sakuraba created a light-hearted rhythmically focused accompaniment to Camelot’s We Love Golf and a lively orchestral score for Success’ Drone Tactics at the end of 2007. He even managed to squeeze in progressive rock arrangements of seven tracks for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, including tributes to his own Mario Sports and Golden Sun work, not to mention a bonus medley on the Red Stone Original Soundtrack.
In 2008, Sakuraba’s music featured on several high profile RPG projects by tri-Ace. Though he had limited involvement in the PSP’s Star Ocean remakes, his soundtracks for the titles were printed by Square Enix instead of Team Entertainment for the first time. For the Xbox 360’s Infinite Undiscovery, Sakuraba largely rejected progressive rock in favour of an epic orchestral score featuring choral work and ethnic influences. Nonetheless, he ensured a varied accompaniment to the gameplay with Baroque-inspired small ensemble pieces and improvised piano pieces too. On the DS’ Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, Sakuraba blended enhanced reprises from Valkyrie Profile score with suitably moody new compositions; he compiled most of his best efforts from the score into a highly emotional arranged album. Also returning to work on several novel Tales productions, he expanded upon the score for Tales of Symphonia for its Wii sequel and handled the anime adaptation of Tales of the Abyss after several years away from non-game scoring. The artist spent even more time crafting a more mature and cinematic score to the Xbox 360’s Tales of Vesperia. In further arranged productions, Sakuraba created the first commercially released arranged albums for the Tales series in 2008 — a progressive rock battle album and a temperamental piano recording. Between these projects, Sakuraba also offered three new compositions for the PlayStation 3 version of Eternal Sonata.
In 2009, Sakuraba returned to his favourite series to create the expansive soundtrack to the prequel Star Ocean: The Last Hope. Featuring the greatest symphonic focus of all Star Ocean titles to date, it reflected the evolution of his orchestral style through projects like Valkyrie Profile 2, Eternal Sonata, and Infinite Undiscovery. Nonetheless, Sakuraba appealed to his fans with rip-roaring progressive rock battle themes such as “Blood on the Keys”, progressive jazz dungeon themes such as “Memories in the Earth”, and arrangements of Star Ocean classics. Also returning to produce music for several Tales scores, he created familiarly styled scores for the DS’ Tales of Hearts and Wii’s Tales of Graces. In further roles, he added music to the new scenes of the ports of Tales of Vesperia and Tales of Graces, between making guest contributions on Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 2 and Tales of VS. for the PSP. He also made impacting contributions to the collaborative arranged albums for Etrian Odyssey II, DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou, and Mushihimesama Futari, between making guest contributions on Half-Minute Hero and Otomedius G. He closed the year by creating a four disc score for Marvelous Entertainment’s Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga; on this project, he complemented the various settings, battles, and events of the traditional RPG with classically-oriented orchestral compositions.
In 2010, Sakuraba reunited with tri-Ace to co-compose the Sega-published RPG Resonance of Fate. At the request of the developer, he deviated from his typical progressive rock sound in favour of old-fashioned rock and funk tracks that emphasised riffs over melody. The resultant tracks remarkably contrasted with the score’s orchestral compositions produced by Kohei Tanaka. Continuing to revisit past projects, he also adapted the music of the sequel Tales of Phantasia: Narikiri Dungeon X for its DS remake. Also marking his long-awaited to a beloved franchise with Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Sakuraba retained the series’ adventurous atmosphere while exploring new timbres on the DS. In a rare collaboration with Nobuo Uematsu, Sakuraba also performed a well-received set at the Fantasy Rock Fes 2011 in Kawasaki, blending covers of game music with tributes to progressive rock masterpieces. Inspired by his bandmates’ performances, Sakuraba embraced the opportunity to improvise at this concert and ended up hitting the keys so hard during rehearsals that his hand swelled. The artist pre-released the solo album After all… at the concert. Throughout the project, Sakuraba was inspired by phrases he had written in the past and his memories of performing on tours. Sakuraba also penned arrangements for the collaborative arranged albums Dariusburst, DeathSmiles II, Ragnarok Online, and Castlevania, which were largely mediated through his associated with sound creator’s alliance GE-ON-DAN. He has also recently penned guest contributions to Otomedius X, GuitarFreaks, Yuusha 30 Second, and The Land of the Rising Sun.
Sakuraba recently offered his darkest score to date to reflect the relentlessly hostile environments and challenging combat of Dark Souls. Recorded with full orchestra and choir, the compositions spanned authentic medieval pieces, contemporary classic works, and ambient drones. By contrast, his contributions to the equally high-profile Kid Icarus: Uprising were full of courage and whimsy. As the biggest contributor on the multi-composer score, Sakuraba produced many of the title’s central themes and defined its adventurous full-orchestral sound. Also maintaining a relationship with familiar developers, Sakuraba reunited with Camelot on Mario Tennis Open and tri-Ace on Beyond the Labyrinth. On the latter, he deviated from his usual approaches to portray the game’s transparent but cramped dungeons with electro-acoustic explorations. With the recent departure of Shinji Tamura, Sakuraba has also helmed most recent titles in the Tales series alone. With Tales of Xillia and its direct sequel, the artist produced a sprawling, well-producing score that still maintained the delicate, familiar colours of the franchise. Sakuraba has additionally produced a second battle tracks album for the franchise, recording all tracks with rock band, and reprising his role on Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 3. Also starting to flirt with casual gaming, Sakuraba’s music features on the browser-based Shinrabansho Frontier and iOS’ Samurai Empire. In addition, he featured as a keyboardist on Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, having maintained an associated with visual kei project Sound Horizon since the theme song for Atelier Iris: Grand Fantasm.
Away from composing, Motoi Sakuraba is a quiet family man who enjoys the company of his wife Yuko and his daughter Mio as well as the occasional motorbike ride. However, his opportunities for personal time are limited given he is the most prolific composer in an industry dominated by workaholics. Whereas composing seven tracks a year was normal for him before joining Wolfteam, these days he sometimes composes more than 250 pieces a year and seems to always have several new projects to work on. Wolfteam’s numerous spinoffs — Namco Tales Studio, Camelot, tri-Ace, and tri-Crescendo — have provided him with the sheer majority of his work after he became a freelancer. While he extensively reuses certain chord progressions and other features in his compositions, he is keen to individually characterise each of his scores, creating distinct sounds for the Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Golden Sun, Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, Baten Kaitos, and Tales series. He has also succeeded in evolving his style over the years, becoming an accomplished symphonist, a versatile arranger, and an all-round musical polyglot while staying true to his progressive rock roots. It has been announced that Sakuraba is producing the score for the impending Valhalla Knights 3 and will perform at Sound Horizon’s latest concert dedicated to Bravely Default. It is also likely that he will be involved in Dark Souls II and upcoming Tales games.
– Various Game & Album Credits
– VGMdb Discography
– Liner Notes Translations
– Motoi Sakuraba Wiki
– Official Website (Japanese)
– Former Official Website (English)
– Interview with Official Site (English, January 2008)
– Interview with Square Enix (Video, March 2009)
– Interview with Game Music Online (English, December 2011)
© Biography by Chris Greening (September 2007). 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.