Koichi Sugiyama, the composer of the iconic theme to Dragon Quest (and so much more), has died. He was 90 years old.
In a statement posted on the series’ website, it’s announced that Sugiyama died on September 30, of septic shock. In addition to composing the original Dragon Quest’s main score, so famous it was played as part of the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, Sugiyama went on to write over 500 pieces of music for the series, in a career that spanned decades.
Sugiyama’s first piece of video game work was with the company then known as simply Enix, on 1985’s World Golf, while his last contribution was, fittingly given his history, the as-yet-unreleased next entry in the Dragon Quest series, Dragon Quest XII. His use of orchestral composition was pioneering in the video game space, and while we take live renditions of game scores for granted now, Sugiyama led the way with live recordings and performances as far back as the mid-80s.
While admired the world over for his musical talents, Sugiyama’s career was not without controversy; he was a notoriously public denier of the Nanking Massacre, and also repeatedly downplayed the role “comfort women” played in the Japanese war effort. He even went as far as joining a number of prominent Japanese politicians in lending his name to a full-page advertisement published in the Washington Post in 2007, aimed at American efforts at seeking an apology from the Japanese government for the country’s inhumane treatment of these “comfort women”—in effect sex slaves—during the Second World War.
Square Enix’s statement says Sugiyama’s funeral was a private one, attended only by family and friends, and ask fans to withhold from sending gifts or condolences in lieu of a public “farewell party” that’s planned for a later date.
Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda wrote in a separate statement:
I would like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest sympathy to Koichi Sugiyama’s friends and loved ones. Words cannot express the scale of the contribution made by Koichi Sugiyama from the birth of the DRAGON QUEST series until now. I remember seeing him conduct the orchestra in a DRAGON QUEST concert as if it were yesterday.
I thank and honor him for his long years of service and the many wonderful pieces of music he has written for our games, and offer my heartfelt prayers for the repose of his soul.