Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama has died

Koichi Sugiyama, the composer of many classic video game scores, but best known for his work on the Dragon Quest series, has died at the age of 90. He died on September 30th, with the cause of death being septic shock. 

Sugiyama had a history of composing for television and film right back into the late 1960s, but made his video game debut in 1985. He composed music for a few Enix video games before working on the music for 1986's Dragon Quest - the game and series that would go on to define his career. He led the music composition on all eleven numbered Dragon Quest entries over several decades, and also composed music for a number of the franchise spin-offs. In all, he composed over 500 songs for the Dragon Quest series.


Sugiyama's scores came to be synonymous with the Dragon Quest series, with his work even appearing in the recent opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. His work was often considered fundamentally transformative within the world of video game music, and was among the first video game compositions to be performed live by a full orchestra. He was recognized throughout his career with a wide variety of awards and accolades from peers, the public, the media, and the Japanese government. His musical legacy cannot be understated.

While beloved for his musical contributions to classic games, Sugiyama also became a more divisive figure in recent years as more of his political beliefs came to light, including his steadfast denial of the Nanjing Massacre and of the Japanese forces' use of "comfort women" during World War II. These and similar comments on other issues resulted in some fans calling for Square Enix to cease using Sugiyama for Dragon Quest scores, though the company never entertained these demands. 

His death was announced on the official Japanese Dragon Quest website, while the Square Enix corporate portal carries an English-language statement on the news from President and CEO Yousuke Matsuda. The official Dragon Quest website also confirms that Sugiyama's final work was to compose music for the upcoming Dragon Quest XII - ending his career much as he began it.