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Yoko Shimomura
下村 陽子
Shimomura in 2024
Born (1967-10-19) October 19, 1967 (age 56)
Alma materOsaka College of Music
  • Composer
  • pianist
Years active1988–present
Musical career
LabelsBrave Wave Productions

Yoko Shimomura (下村 陽子, Shimomura Yōko, born October 19, 1967) is a Japanese composer and pianist primarily known for her work in video games such as the Kingdom Hearts series. She graduated from the Osaka College of Music in 1988 and began working in the video game industry by joining Capcom the same year. She wrote music for several games there, including Final Fight, Street Fighter II, and The King of Dragons.

Shimomura left Capcom and joined Square (now Square Enix) in 1993, with her first project there being Live A Live. She would later become better known for writing the music for Kingdom Hearts, which was her last game at Square before leaving to become a freelancer in 2002. Despite leaving, she has continued to work with them in later Kingdom Hearts entries and other games such as The 3rd Birthday and Final Fantasy XV.

Other well-known games Shimomura has worked on include Super Mario RPG, the Mario & Luigi series, Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, Radiant Historia, and Xenoblade Chronicles. Her works have gained a great deal of popularity and have been performed in multiple video game music concerts. Music from several of her games have been published as arranged albums and piano scores. She is also a member of the music label Brave Wave Productions.

Early life[edit]

Shimomura was born on October 19, 1967, in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.[1][2] She developed an interest for music at a young age, and started taking piano lessons "at the age of four or five".[3] 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 says she still remembers how to play.[3] 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.[4] 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.[3][4]


Shimomura in 2007

While working for Capcom, Shimomura contributed to the soundtracks of over 16 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.[5] The first soundtrack album to exclusively feature her work came a year later for the soundtrack to Street Fighter II.[6] While she began her tenure at Capcom working on games for video game consoles, by 1990 she had moved to the arcade game division.[1][4] She was a member of the company's in-house band Alph Lyla, which played various Capcom 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 left Capcom to join another game company, Square. She stated that the move was done because she was interested in writing "classical-style" music for fantasy role-playing games. While working for Capcom, she was in the arcade department and was unable to transfer to the console department to work on their role-playing video game series Breath of Fire, although she did contribute one track to the first game in the series.[4] Her first project at Square 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 the following year, she was asked to join Noriko Matsueda on the music to the futuristic role-playing game 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.[4] These games were followed by Tobal No. 1, the last score she worked on with another composer for a decade.[1]

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.[7][3] 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.[4] 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.[8]

Kingdom Hearts was wildly successful, shipping more than four million copies worldwide;[9] 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.[10][11] The soundtrack has led to two albums of piano arrangements.[8] 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.[12] 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 arranged albums.[1] In February 2014, Shimomura played piano at a retrospective 25th anniversary concert at Tokyo FM Hall.[13] 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 composer Yasunori Mitsuda, who played the Irish bouzouki.[13] She most recently composed and produced the majority of the score for Final Fantasy XV, which she began writing for in 2006, a decade before the game was released.[14] She is also a member of the music label Brave Wave Productions.[15]


Shimomura has been cited as one of the most well-known video game music composers.[7][8] Shimomura's best works compilation album, titled Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura, was released in March 2008. The album contains compositions from Kingdom Hearts and many other games she worked on in full orchestration, with Shimomura stating that she chose music that was popular among fans and well-suited for orchestration, but had never been performed by an orchestra before.[16] 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.[16] In March 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 in August 2009.[17] In March 2007, Shimomura released her first non-video game album, Murmur, an album of vocal songs sung by Chata.[8]

Shimomura's music 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.[18] 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.[19]

Music from the original soundtrack of Legend of Mana was 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.[20] Additionally, piano sheet music from Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II has been published as music books by Yamaha Music Media.[21]

Shimomura's first dedicated concert performance outside Japan was held at the Salle Cortot in Paris in November 2015.[22] Later that same month, she performed at the El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City.[23] In September 2016, some of her music for Final Fantasy XV was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London, as well as in Boston, with Shimomura herself performing on piano.[24][14] Shimomura composed for the concert work Merregnon: Land of Silence.[25] Her work was performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and filmed at the Stockholm Concert Hall in 2021, with more performances in other locations starting in 2022.[26][27] She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2024 Game Developers Choice Awards.[28]

Musical style and influences[edit]

Shimomura lists Ludwig van Beethoven, Frédéric Chopin, and Maurice Ravel as some of her influences on her personal website.[1] She has also stated that she has enjoyed "lounge-style jazz" for a long time.[4] 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".[7][3] 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".[3] 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."[3] 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."[4] 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.[4] She stated her favorite composition was "Dearly Beloved" from Kingdom Hearts.[8]


Video games[edit]


Video game compositions
Year Title Notes Ref.
1988 Samurai Sword [3]
1989 Final Fight "Round 5: Bay Area 2 & 3" [3]
1990 Code Name: Viper All tracks except Stage 1 by Junko Tamiya (uncredited) [29]
Gargoyle's Quest With Harumi Fujita (uncredited) [3]
Adventures in the Magic Kingdom [3]
Mizushima Shinji no Daikoushien [30]
Nemo [3]
Mahjong School: The Super O Version With Masaki Izutani (uncredited) [30]
1991 Street Fighter II With Isao Abe [4]
The King of Dragons [3]
Block Block With Masaki Izutani [30]
1992 Varth: Operation Thunderstorm "Bonus Stage" [3]
1993 Breath of Fire "Trade City" [4]
The Punisher With Isao Abe [3]
1994 Live A Live [3]
1995 Front Mission With Noriko Matsueda [3]
1996 Super Mario RPG [3]
Tobal No. 1 With several others [1]
1998 Parasite Eve [3]
1999 Legend of Mana [31]
2000 Hataraku Chocobo [3]
2002 Kingdom Hearts [3]
2003 Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga [8]
2004 Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories [3]
2005 Pop'n Music 13 Carnival "Majestic Fire" [32]
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time [8]
Kingdom Hearts II [8]
2006 Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner With several others [3]
2007 Heroes of Mana [1]
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories [8]
2008 Luminous Arc 2 With Akari Kaida, Yoshino Aoki, and Shunsuke Nakamura [33]
2009 Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story [8]
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days [8]
Pop'n Music 17 The Movie "Twin Hero - Oath to Tomorrow" [32]
2010 Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep With Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto [8]
Kingdom Hearts coded [34]
Xenoblade Chronicles With Manami Kiyota and ACE+[a] [35]
Last Ranker [8]
Kingdom Hearts Re:coded [34]
Radiant Historia [36]
The 3rd Birthday With Tsuyoshi Sekito and Mitsuto Suzuki [8]
2011 Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming "Battle of the God 9"
2012 Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance With Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto [37]
Demons' Score "Azazel del cielo ardiente" [38]
2013 Mario & Luigi: Dream Team [39]
Kingdom Hearts χ [40]
Exstetra "Main Theme" [41]
2014 Rise of Mana "Where the Heart Beats Free"
Terra Battle two tracks [42]
V.D. -Vanishment Day- [43]
2015 Chronos Ring With Kenji Ito and Evan Call [44]
Chunithm: Seelisch Tact "Tango Rouge" [45]
Kakuriyo no Mon "Ihou no Shugosha" [46]
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam [47]
2016 The Alchemist Code With Shinya Tanaka and Shigeki Hayashi [48]
Black Knight and White Devil With Shota Kageyama [49]
Final Fantasy XV With Tetsuya Shibata, Yoshino Aoki, and Yoshitaka Suzuki [14]
2017 Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage [50]
Magicians Dead Next Blazing With Masato Kouda and Makoto Iida [51]
Egglia: Legend of the Red Cap With Yoshitaka Hirota [52][53]
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology [54]
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions [55]
2018 Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey [56]
2019 Kingdom Hearts III With Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto [57]
Rakugaki Kingdom "Yume to Gensou no Enbukyoku" [58]
Renshin Astral Paris battle themes [59]
2020 Streets of Rage 4 "Shiva" [60]
2021 Gran Saga [61]
Xuan-Yuan Sword VII "Mohism" [62]
2022 Sin Chronicle "La Giustizia" [63]
Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope With Grant Kirkhope and Gareth Coker [64]
TBA Kingdom Hearts IV [65]


Video game arrangements
Year Title Notes Ref.
1989 F-1 Dream Original music by Manami Matsumae [3]
1991 Buster Bros. Original music by Tamayo Kawamoto [66]
2008 Super Smash Bros. Brawl "Tetris: Type A", "Gritzy Desert", and "King Dedede's Theme" [67]
2009 Little King's Story Maurice Ravel's Boléro [68]
2013 Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Orchestrations [69]
2014 Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U "Magicant / Eight Melodies", "Try, Try Again", "Route 10", and "Ryu Stage" [70]
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix Arrangements, orchestrations
2018 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate "Kass' Theme", "Vega Stage", "Treasure Trove Cove", "Pasta", "Dance of the Blocks", "Cosmo Canyon", "Moonsiders 1st", and "Hand in Hand" [71][72]
2020 The Wonderful 101: Remastered With several others [73]
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory Arrangements [74]
2022 Live A Live HD-2D Remake Arrangements [75]
2023 Super Mario RPG Arrangements [76]

Other works[edit]

Other works
Year Title Notes Ref.
1989 G.S.M. 1500 series ~ Sweet Home Arranged two tracks
1992 Captain Commando -G.S.M. Capcom 5 With Alph Lyla
Game Music Festival ~Super Live '92~ With Alph Lyla
1993 Street Fighter II Collector's Box With Alph Lyla
1998 Parasite Eve Remixes With several others
2004 Dan Doh!! Anime [3]
Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange With several others [77]
Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange [78]
2005 Best Student Council Anime [3]
2006 Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange With several others [3]
2007 Murmur Original album, with lyrics and vocals by Chata [8]
2008 Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura [16]
2009 Mushihimesama Double Arrange Album with several others [79]
2010 GeOnDan Rare Tracks Ver. 2.0 with several others
2011 GeOnDan Super Rare Trax: The LAND of RISING SUN with several others
2012 GO! GO! Buriki Daioh!! with several others
2013 X'mas Collections II with several others [80]
2014 memória! ~ The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura [81]
Game Music Prayer II with several others [82]
2017 Napping Princess Anime [83]
2018 High Score Girl Anime [83]
2019 Ladderless original album by Oldcodex, composed "Deeply Mind" [84]
? Composed "Nocturne"; tribute album to XXXTentacion [85]
2020 Yucho Pay Original Image Song #TOKIWOMEKURUYUBI [86]
2021 Merregnon: Land of Silence Concert [87]
2022 Legend of Mana: The Teardrop Crystal Anime [88]
2024 Mahō Tsukai ni Narenakatta Onna no Ko no Hanashi Anime [89]


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