• The Minds Behind the Melodies (of Life) - Yoko Shimomura

    Around thirty years ago, most people would scoff at the notion of video game music being a valid form of art. But now things are different. We have entered an age when not only video games themselves are being accepted as an artistic medium, but even their specific elements – music included – are not denied their value. It is no understatement that a large part of this change in attitude can be attributed to the influence of JRPG composers, a lot of whom have worked for Square Enix at least for some time. So let me start this article series, dealing with those very individuals, by talking about the most famous female video game music composer in the world.

    Born in 1967 in Japan’s Hyōga prefecture, Yoko Shimomura exhibited a great interest in music from an early age. Around the age of four or five, she started taking piano lessons and soon started even composing her own melodies. She graduated from the Osaka College of Music in 1988, majoring in piano. Though she was set to begin her career as a piano tutor, she instead decided to follow her passion for video games and after sending in samples to multiple companies, she was taken in by Capcom in the same year she graduated, much to the bafflement of her family.

    Shimomura worked for Capcom until 1993 and has composed for 16 games, contributing well known soundtracks such as Final Fight and Street Fighter II. Owing to her classical training, she was eager to compose something more symphonic, however, thinking she could do much better with fantasy RPG music. She tried to become a part of the Breath of Fire project, but ended up composing only one track to the first game in the series. And so, in 1993, she left the company and joined Squaresoft, where she composed her first complete RPG soundtrack, Live A Live.

    Her work for Squaresoft continued until 2002 when, after taking maternity leave, she quit the company and started freelance work. While working for the company, though, she composed some of her best known soundtracks: Super Mario RPG, Front Mission, Parasite Eve, and Legend of Mana, which she considers her best work to date. Of course, her most well-known contribution to Square was the music to the Kingdom Hearts series, which remains her most popular work to date.

    The first word that comes to mind regarding Shimomura’s style is ‘romantic’. Frederic Chopin and Maurice Ravel are some of her main influences, which shows in her use of dramatic pianos and melancholy, minor harmonies.

    On the other hand, her work on the lighter elements of the Kingdom Hearts series and the Mario RPGs presents a lighter side of the movement, with light, happy melodies, contributing heavily to the whimsical atmosphere of the games.

    Though by far one of the most interesting characteristics of her music is how expertly she blends romantic, symphonic elements with electronica. It’s hard not to feel pumped up when listening to some of the more recent Kingdom Hearts boss themes.

    So what is Shimomura doing now? She still composes music for Mario RPGs, mostly the Mario and Luigi games, all of which she has scored so far. She also continues to write music for Kingdom Hearts and will be scoring the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III, but probably her most awaited soundtrack at this moment is that for Final Fantasy XV, and with good reason.

    Shimomura herself has said that her style has changed substantially over the years and that most of her melodies come to her when she visits new places. Let’s hope she remains as passionate about music as she always has been and keeps inspiring others through her music. As she says herself, music should convey a subtle message to the listener, move them. Considering her personal favorite piece is also one most beloved by fans, I think she achieves that.

    What are your personal favorite Shimomura tracks? Let us know in the comment! Also, please vote in the thread poll to decide which composer will be covered next!
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Minds Behind the Melodies (of Life) - Yoko Shimomura started by Fynn View original post
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Formalhaut's Avatar
      Formalhaut -
      I love video game music, I have many songs on my iTunes currently from OSTs. I do feel as though composers are often the unsung heroes of video game creation, talked about only my avid fans.
    1. Ayen's Avatar
      Ayen -
      Good article is good.

      My vote goes to Takeharu Ishimoto.
    1. Endless's Avatar
      Endless -
      An article on the awesome Yoko Shimomura, and no sample of her works for the Mana series? I am disappoint.

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