serena playing some harp music in dragon quest xi

S2 E34 – Dragon Quest Music Is Awesome (Koichi Sugiyama…Not So Much)

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This week, we’re talking about the music in Dragon Quest!

It’s a special Patreon patron-request episode. Our newest patron, Abigail, belongs to the tier that lets you choose your own episode topic, and she chose music. Which is great. We haven’t really done a full episode on music before, so it’s the perfect time to do that!

The music of DQ has always been done by Koichi Sugiyama, who is kind of a turd. 

Who is Koichi Sugiyama?

Should’ve mentioned him in the Old Man episode, because he’s the oldest of them all. He’s officially the oldest video game composer ever. He’s approaching 90.

He’s worked on a Godzilla film and at least one Gatchaman movie, which kinda ties him indirectly to another famous artist in the video game world beside Akira Toriyama: Amano, who started in the animation department working on Gatchaman anime in the 1970s.

Dragon Quest Music: The Beginning 

According to legend, Koichi Sugiyama wrote the theme for DQ on his first try in less than five minutes. Although, Sugiyama says…”54 years and 5 minutes”

He would get frustrated with Koichi Nakamura (Chunsoft dude) about the music in the earliest Famicom entries because he had high aspirations for the music that just technically couldn’t be done yet.

People LOVE “A Lonely Youth” from DQ 2. To me, it seems to be an unofficial favorite. I see so many people loving that song. And I think it’s a good one, but it’s not my favorite.

Austin’s favorite DQ soundtrack is from 1.0 of DQ X. It’s by far the most eclectic mix of music in a DQ game, and I really love the Eleven stuff, especially in the capital city. The Weddie stuff ain’t bad neither.

Beej…doesn’t know any particular tracks because he’s just about music illiterate. But he loves the fanfare! It makes him feel like going on an adventure!

Theatrhythm Dragon Quest

People criticize the music of DQ as being too similar, and while that’s fair, I don’t think Sugiyama really cares. I mean, he’s got the DQ Ballet that’s an ode to his music, and an entire video game dedicated to his songs. He’s the only composer in the WORLD who has a video game just for his songs. Even the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games has music from different composers.

The game is cool, and you can download a demo for it onto your 3DS. It’s in Japanese, but it plays like Theatrhythm FF and Guitar Hero, so it’s not super hard to figure out. If you like rhythm games and have played a few, then I don’t think you’ll have a hard time understanding it.

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Sugiyama The Nationlist Pig – Oink Oink

Okay, so elephant in the room (pig in the room?), Suigiyama has some extreme political leanings. He’s a major nationlist, and even belongs – or has belonged – to several lobbyist groups that promote nationalistic and isolationist policies. 

Look at the guy. He looks like a cheerful old grandpa. But he’s actually got some pretty far-right political leanings. He doesn’t seem bothered with America so much as he’s bothered by Japan and how he feels like Japan is leaning too heavily into western ideals. He works to cover up war crimes and sex trafficking and is the Japanese equivalent of a holocaust denier.

He also has this weird thing where he thinks smoking cigarettes isn’t bad for you and is sissy American propaganda. He’s lobbied against smoking bans in Japan because he thinks Americans are weak for banning it. It’s a weird hill to die on.

You also have to understand that he was a kid during WW2 so that’s probably why he harbors some ill feelings against Japan getting “Americanized.” I mean, I might be a nationalist if a foreign country bombed my homeland when I was like eight years old and then kept us on a short leash for decades after the fact.

Still, we can’t talk up Sugiyama’s musical influence and just completely disregard the bad stuff.

Should Someone Besides Sugiyama Do DQ Music? Let us know your thoughts!

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Dragon Quest FM is a weekly Dragon Quest podcast hosted by Austin and B.J.!

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