Koichi Sugiyama, the composer of the long-running and hugely popular Dragon Quest franchise, has died at the age of 90. Confirmed in a tribute post on the official Dragon Quest website, Sugiyama died of septic shock on September 30, 2021.
While Dragon Quest has only enjoyed a decade and a half of success in the West, thanks to the breakout hit of Dragon Quest 8 on PS2, the series has remained one of Japan’s most popular for 35 years, and Sugiyama scored For all eleven games in the mainline Dragon Quest series.
Sugiyama’s musical contribution to the Dragon Quest series is clearly eccentric. The main theme of the series in particular is so iconic that it was played during the opening ceremony of Tokyo Olympics 2020 among many other famous gaming themes.
Many of the beloved songs composed by Sugiyama are featured throughout the series, including the catchy menu theme and extensive orchestration of Dragon Quest 8’s Overworld theme: Marching Through the Fields.
Koichi Sugiyama’s final contribution to the Dragon Quest series will be in the upcoming Dragon Quest 12: The Flames of Fate, which is due for release on Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4 and PC at an as yet unannounced date.
And while the pleasant, carefree melodies that fill the world of Dragon Quest are certainly among the series’ most iconic tracks, it’s hard not to turn your head over the series’ many battle themes. Dragon Quest 8’s general combat theme, War Cry, is perhaps one of the more famous pieces in Sugiyama’s repertoire, thanks in no small part to the energetic salvo of trumpets and marching percussion.
However, even some of the series’ opening tracks sound like they were written for a large orchestral performance, as demonstrated by Dragon Quest 3’s phenomenal fighting spirit, which Here it was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
genius with controversial ideas
Unfortunately, Sugiyama’s work has been tarnished by some people’s own views on political and social issues. While he was undoubtedly a musical genius, his opinions often landed him in hot water.
Sugiyama infamously denounced the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, in which Japanese troops massacred hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers and civilians.
The man co-hosted an event with anti-LGBT politician Miyo Sugita in 2018 whose views include ending the education of LGBT issues in schools across Japan.
Ideas like these are hard to stomach for most, and they certainly take away some of the seemingly incredible work off Sugiyama’s list. But it’s hard to imagine what the Dragon Quest series would look like without Sugiyama’s work, as it gives the series a distinctly whimsical flair that perfectly matches its cartoonish aesthetic and larger-than-life characters.
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