Yoko Shimomura during a 2007 concert
October 19, 1967 |
Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan
|Genres||Symphonic, electronic (chiptune, video game)|
|Associated acts||Alph Lyla|
Yoko Shimomura (下村 陽子 Shimomura Yōko?, born October 19, 1967) is a Japanese video game composer. She has been described as "the most famous female video game music composer in the world". She has worked in the video game industry ever since graduating from the Osaka College of Music in 1988. From then until 1993, she worked for Capcom, where she composed wholly or in part the scores for 16 games, including Final Fight and Street Fighter II.
From 1993 to 2002 Shimomura worked for Square (now Square Enix), where she composed for a further ten games. While working for Square, she was best known for her work on the soundtrack for Kingdom Hearts, which was her last game for the company before leaving. Starting with Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, she began working as an active freelancer, writing for over a dozen titles.
Her works have gained a great deal of popularity, and have been performed in multiple video game music concerts, including one, Sinfonia Drammatica, that was focused half on her "greatest hits" album, Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura, and half on the music of a previous concert. Music from several of her games have been published as arranged albums and as piano scores.
Yoko Shimomura was born in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan on October 19, 1967. She developed an interest for music at a young age, and started taking piano lessons "at the age of four or five". She began composing her own music by playing the piano randomly and pretending to compose, eventually coming up with her own pieces, the first of which she claims to still remember how to play. Shimomura attended Osaka College of Music, and graduated as a piano major in 1988. Upon graduation, Shimomura intended to become a piano instructor and was extended a job offer to become a piano teacher at a music store, but as she had been an avid gamer for many years she decided to send some samples of her work to various video game companies that were recruiting at the university. Capcom invited her in for an audition and interview, and she was offered a job there. Her family and instructors were dismayed with her change in focus, as video game music was not well respected, and "they had paid [her] tuition for an expensive music school and couldn't understand why [she] would accept such a job", but Shimomura accepted the job at Capcom anyway.
While working for Capcom, Shimomura contributed to the soundtracks of over 17 games, including the successful Street Fighter II, which she composed all but three pieces for. The first soundtrack she worked on at the company was for Samurai Sword in 1988. Final Fight, in 1989, was her first work to receive a separate soundtrack album release, on an album of music from several Capcom games. The first soundtrack album to exclusively feature her work came a year later for the soundtrack to Street Fighter II. While she began her tenure at Capcom working on games for video game consoles, by 1990 she had moved to the arcade game division. She was a member of the company's in-house band Alph Lyla, which played Capcom video game music including pieces written by Shimomura; she performed live with the group on a few occasions, including playing piano during Alph Lyla's appearance at the 1992 Game Music Festival.
In 1993, Shimomura transferred to another game company, Square (now Square Enix). She moved to Square because she was interested in writing "classical-style" music for fantasy role-playing games; at Capcom she was in the arcade game team and was unable to transfer to the console game team to work on their role-playing video game series Breath of Fire, although she contributed one track to the first game in the series. Her first project at the company was the score for the role-playing video game Live A Live in 1994. While she was working on the score to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars the following year, she was asked to join Noriko Matsueda on the music to the futuristic strategy RPG Front Mission. Although she was overworked doing both scores and it was not the genre that she was interested in, she found herself unable to refuse after her first attempt to do so unexpectedly happened in the presence of the president of Square, Tetsuo Mizuno. These games were followed by Tobal No. 1, the last score she worked on with another composer for a decade.
Over the next few years, she composed the soundtrack to several games, including Parasite Eve and Legend of Mana. Of all her compositions, Shimomura considers the soundtrack to Legend of Mana the one that best expresses herself and the soundtrack remains Shimomura's personal favourite. Parasite Eve on the PlayStation had the first soundtrack by Shimomura that included a vocal song, as it was the first game she had written for running on a console system that had the sound capability for one. In 2002 she wrote the score for Kingdom Hearts, which she has said is the most "special" soundtrack to her, as well as a turning point in her career; she named the soundtracks to Street Fighter II and Super Mario RPG as the other two significant points in her life as a composer.
Kingdom Hearts was wildly successful, selling more than four million copies worldwide; Shimomura's music was frequently cited as one of the highlights of the game, and the title track has been ranked as the fourth-best role-playing game title track of all time. The soundtrack has led to two albums of piano arrangements. Kingdom Hearts was the last soundtrack that she worked on at Square. After the release of Kingdom Hearts in 2002, Shimomura left Square for maternity leave, and began work as a freelancer in 2003. She has built on the work she did while at Square; since leaving she has composed or is composing music for eleven Kingdom Hearts games and Nintendo's Mario & Luigi series. She has also worked on many other projects, such as Heroes of Mana and various Premium Arrange albums. On February 10 and 11, 2014, Shimomura played piano at a retrospective 25th anniversary concert at Tokyo FM Hall. She performed songs from games such as Kingdom Hearts, Live a Live, and Street Fighter II. During the Beware the Forest's Mushrooms performance from Super Mario RPG, Shimomura was joined onstage by fellow game composer Yasunori Mitsuda, who played the Irish bouzouki. She is currently working on the score for Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III.
After composing soundtracks to over 45 different games, Shimomura has become one of the biggest names in video game music composition, and has been described as "the most famous female video game music composer in the world". In March 2008, Shimomura's best works compilation album Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura was released containing her compositions from Kingdom Hearts and other games in a full orchestrated score. It includes music from Final Fantasy XV, Live A Live, Kingdom Hearts, Front Mission, Legend of Mana, and Heroes of Mana; Shimomura has stated that she chose music that was popular among fans and well-suited for orchestration, but had never been performed by an orchestra. In a 2008 interview with Music4Games regarding the project, Shimomura commented that with the sheet music generated for the project, she would be interested in pursuing a live performance of Drammatica for fans if the opportunity arose. On March 19, 2009 that wish was realized when it was announced that Arnie Roth would conduct the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra at the concert Sinfonia Drammatica in the Stockholm Concert Hall, which would combine music from the album with performances of Chris Hülsbeck's Symphonic Shades concert. The concert took place on August 4, 2009. On March 27, 2007 Shimomura released her first non-video game album, Murmur, an album of vocal songs sung by Chata.
Music written by Yoko Shimomura for Kingdom Hearts made up one fourth of the music of the Symphonic Fantasies concerts in September 2009 which were produced by the creators of the Symphonic Game Music Concert series and conducted by Arnie Roth. Legend of Mana's title theme was also performed by the Australian Eminence Symphony Orchestra for its classical gaming music concert A Night in Fantasia 2007.
Music from the original soundtrack of Legend of Mana has been arranged for the piano and published by DOREMI Music Publishing. Two compilation books of music from the series have also been published as Seiken Densetsu Best Collection Piano Solo Sheet Music first and second editions, with the second including Shimomura's tracks from Legend of Mana. All songs in each book have been rewritten by Asako Niwa as beginning to intermediate level piano solos, though they are meant to sound as much like the originals as possible. Additionally, piano sheet music from Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II has been published as music books by Yamaha Music Media.
Musical style and influences
Shimomura lists Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, and Maurice Ravel as some of her influences on her personal website. She has also stated that she has enjoyed "lounge-style jazz" for a long time. Despite these influences and her classical training, the diverse musical styles that she has used throughout her career and sometimes in the same soundtrack include "rock, electronica, oriental, ambient, industrial, pop, symphonic, operatic, chiptune, and more". She draws inspiration for her songs from things in her life that move her emotionally, which she describes as "a beautiful picture, scenery, tasting something delicious, scents that bring back memories, happy and sad things... Anything that moves my emotion gives me inspiration". Shimomura has also stated that she comes up with most of her songs when she is doing something that is "not part of [her] daily routine, like traveling." Although her influences are mostly classical, she has said that in her opinion her "style has changed dramatically over the years, though the passion for music stays the same." Shimomura has said that she believes that an important part of "the creative process behind music" is to "convey a subtle message, something that comes from your imagination and sticks with the listener, without being overly specific about what it means", rather than only writing simple themes with obvious messages. Her favorite track that she has ever composed is "Dearly Beloved" from Kingdom Hearts.
- Samurai Sword (Famicom Disk System) (1988)
- Final Fight (1989) (Minor role) – with Yoshihiro Sakaguchi (uncredited)
- Code Name: Viper (1990) (All songs except Stage 1) (uncredited) – with Junko Tamiya
- Adventure Quiz Capcom World: Hatena no Daibouken (1990) (Minor role) – with Yoshihiro Sakaguchi, Manami Matsumae, Junko Tamiya, Hiromitsu Takaoka, and G. Morita (uncredited)
- Gargoyle's Quest (1990) (Minor role) – with Harumi Fujita (uncredited)
- Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (1990)
- Mizushima Shinji no Daikoushien (1990)
- Nemo (1990)
- Mahjong School: The Super O Version (1990) (Minor role) – with Masaki Izutani (uncredited)
- Street Fighter II (1991) – with Isao Abe
- Buster Bros. (PC Engine) (1991) – with Tamayo Kawamoto
- The King of Dragons (1991)
- Block Block (1991) – with Masaki Izutani
- Varth: Operation Thunderstorm (1992) (Minor role) – with Masaki Izutani
- Breath of Fire (1993) – with Yasuaki Fujita, Minae Fujii, and Mari Yamaguchi (Only composed "Trade City")
- The Punisher (1993) – with Isao Abe
- Live A Live (1994)
- Front Mission (1995) – with Noriko Matsueda
- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996)
- Tobal No. 1 (1996) – with many others
- Parasite Eve (1998)
- Legend of Mana (1999)
- Chocobo Stallion (1999)
- Hataraku Chocobo (2000)
- Kingdom Hearts (2002)
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (2003)
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (2004)
- Pop'n Music Carnival (13) (2005) – (Only composed "Majestic Fire")
- Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (2005)
- Kingdom Hearts II (2005)
- Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner (2006) – with many others
- Heroes of Mana (2007)
- Luminous Arc 2 (2008) – with Akari Kaida, Yoshino Aoki, and Shunsuke Nakamura
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (2009)
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (2009)
- Pop'n Music The Movie (17) (2009) – with many others
- Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010) – with Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto
- Kingdom Hearts coded (2010)
- Xenoblade Chronicles (2010) – with ACE+, Manami Kiyota, and Yasunori Mitsuda
- Last Ranker (2010)
- Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (2010)
- Radiant Historia (2010)
- The 3rd Birthday (2010) – with Tsuyoshi Sekito and Mitsuto Suzuki
- Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming (2011) – with many others
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012) – with Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto
- Demons' Score (2012) – (Only composed “Azazel del cielo ardiente”)
- Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (2013)
- Exstetra (2013) – (Only composed “Main Theme”)
- Rise of Mana (2014) – (Only composed “Where the Heart Beats Free”)
- Final Fantasy XV (TBA)
- Kingdom Hearts III (TBA)
- F-1 Dream (PC Engine) (1989) – original score by Manami Matsumae
- Sweet Home (1989) – original score by Junko Tamiya
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) – "Tetris: Type A", "Gritzy Desert", and "King Dedede's Theme"
- Little King's Story (2009) – Responsible for the arrangement of Maurice Ravel's Boléro.
- Captain Commando -G.S.M. Capcom 5- (1992) – with Alph Lyla
- Game Music Festival ~Super Live '92~ (1992) – with Alph Lyla
- Street Fighter II Collector's Box (1993) – with Alph Lyla
- Parasite Eve Remixes (1998)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange (2004) – with many others
- Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange (2004) – with many others
- Dan Doh!! (2004)
- Best Student Council (2005)
- Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange (2006) – with many others
- Murmur (2007) – original album with lyrics and vocals by Chata
- Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura (2008)
- Mushihimesama Double Arrange Album (2009)
- GeOnDan Rare Tracks Ver. 2.0 (2010) – with many others
- GeOnDan Super Rare Trax: The LAND of RISING SUN (2011) – with many others
- GO! GO! Buriki Daioh!! (2012)
- X'mas Collections II (2013)
- memória! ~ The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura (2014)
- Game Music Prayer II (2014)
- Shimomura, Yoko (2009-10-01). "Interview with Yoko Shimomura (September 2009)". Square Enix Music Online, GameMusic.pl. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- Shimomura, Yoko. "Profile" (in Japanese). Yoko Shimomura. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- Shimomura, Yoko. "RocketBaby's interview with Yoko Shimomura". RocketBaby.com. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- Jeriaska (2009-08-31). "Interview: Magical Planet – The Music of Hiroki Kikuta & Yoko Shimomura". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- Final Fight -G.S.M. CAPCOM 3-. Pony Canyon (1990-05-21). PCCB-00030.
- Street Fighter II Image Album -G.S.M. CAPCOM-. Pony Canyon (1991-11-21). PCCB-00075.
- Greening, Chris (2007-08-31). "Game Music: Yoko Shimomura". Square-Enix. Retrieved 2012-01-22.
- "Kingdom Hearts tips scales at 4 million". GameSpot. 2004-03-17. Retrieved 2007-05-18.
- Smith, David (2002-09-16). "IGN Kingdom Hearts Review". IGN. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- Sullivan, Meghan (2006-08-08). "Top Ten RPG Title Tracks". IGN. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
- "Yoko Shimomura drammatica Interview with Music4Games". Music4Games. Archived from the original on 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2008-05-28.
- "Sinfonia Drammatica". Square Enix Music Online. 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- "Concert program for download". Symphonic Fantasies. 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2009-11-02.[dead link]
- Shea, Cam (2007-03-03). "A Night in Fantasia 2007 – The Track List". IGN. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- "Doremi Music Web Site" (in Japanese). DOREMI Music Publishing. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- "Mana Series :: Sheet Music Books". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
- "ヤマハミュージックメディア − 楽譜／雑誌／音楽ソフト −" (in Japanese). Yamaha Music Media. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- "Yoko Shimomura :: Biography". Square Enix Music Online. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- Tamiya, Junko. "Junko Tamiya Interview: Creating Capcom’s Incredible NES Scores". Game Music Online. Retrieved 20 May 2014.
- Kevin Gifford (2010-07-28). "Atlus Announces Radiant Historia". 1UP.com. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
- "マリオ＆ルイージRPG4: 音楽室". Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- "Kingdom Hearts III Famitsu Info". Retrieved 2013-06-24.
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- Official website (Japanese)