October 19, Hyogo Prefecture
Education: Osaka Music University
Favorite Drink: Tea and coffee
Favorite Food: Sushi, fruits,
bagel, cheese, and more!
Hobbies: Traveling, shopping, reading
Influences: Lots of people
Favorite Game(s): Final Fantasy,
Dragon Warrior, and puzzle games. Currently I’m playing Final
Favorite Movies: Shine
Studio Gear: Power
Macintosh G3 & G4, MOTU 2408 & midi timepiece & DP3,
AKAI S3200XL & S6000, YAMAHA02R, other MIDI instruments
Sound Tools: Piano
Front Mission (SNES/1995)
Parasite Eve (PSone/1998)
Legend of Mana (PSone/1999)
LIVE A LIVE (SNES/1994)
Super Mario RPG (SNES/1996)
Kingdom Hearts (PSX2/2002)
RocketBaby: At what age did you become interested in music?
Yoko Shimomura: Hmm, I wonder when it
was that I became interested in music? (laughs) I started learning
the piano at the age of 4 or 5, so I think I already liked music
I don’t remember exactly when it was that I composed my first
song. Shortly after I started learning the piano, I remember playing
it randomly and I would pretend like I was composing new songs.
For some odd reason, I can still play the first song that I actually
finished composing. But I will never play that song in front of
anyone since it sounds really silly (laughs).
RB: How did you get started in the game making business?
YS: I’ve been playing videogames since
before my career in this business, but what happened is several
videogame companies were recruiting students back then and I applied
with barely any hope of getting accepted to any of the companies.
However, I got accepted! Although my path was already set to become
a piano instructor, I chose the path of videogames instead. My parents
cried, my friends were worried and my teacher was stunned (we’re
talking about way back when game music wasn’t as popular as
it is these days).
RB: What is your process for creating music?
YS: Whenever I come across a phrase that I
like (both singing and playing the piano), I record that particular
phrase on a song composing software. If I come up with a new phrase
or come across new tunes at the hot springs during my travels, that
can be troubling!
RB: What are your thoughts about arranging the classic
Disney tunes? Which was your favorite Disney tune to arrange? Which
was your least favorite Disney tune to arrange?
YS: To be completely honest, I felt a huge amount of
pressure working on such grand tunes that is recognized by many
people. I was very careful in making sure that we didn’t ruin
the image and the mood of the original song, and at the same time
comply with the sound specs of the PS2. Do you think it turned out
OK? (laughs) My favorite tune would be…“Under the Sea”
since it was my field of specialty. There aren’t any tunes
that I didn’t like arranging. Really.
RB: How did you create Kindom Hearts' music?
YS: I’m not sure how to answer that
question… Since the game is an action game, I wanted to create
songs that would make the players feel really good, like “in
tune” with the music while they are playing the game. So I
played the game over and over and recorded gameplay to see how it
would feel as a viewer and came up with songs using trial and error.
I also used scripts and illustrations as reference and gathered
rough ideas. Once I came up with an image or a picture of what I
thought would work, we would talk it over with the director and
the planners and have them listen to the demo of the song. Of course,
we had different opinions almost all the time…
RB: What were your first thoughts when about doing the music
for a game that combines the worlds of Disney and Square?
YS: At first I was like "Oh,
please don't make me do it. I'm sorry, but I can't do it.”
I could not imagine what kind of world “Kingdom Hearts”
would end up being…therefore, I had no idea what type of music
I should write! This game has the token Square style story
but then Donald battles with that distinct voice and "Winnie
the Pooh" is listed as the preferred music to be used among
others...it was like, “What kind of game is this?”
That was my earnest first reaction (laughs).
RB: How do you over come the limitations of the
hardware creating the music for Kingdom Hearts?
YS: Hmm, actually there are
a couple of songs that surpassed the limit… I asked a lot
from the manipulators. I don’t think I could’ve done
this by myself. For example, the original song of “Nightmare
before Christmas” is all orchestrated. The length of the track
and the PS2 sound system made it impossible to reproduce the original
track. I remember being troubled with how to arrange the song so
that we wouldn’t lose the mood and atmosphere of the song
when arranged for the game. Instead of using the tools properly,
it all came down to trial and error, although it may not have been
the most efficient way (laughs). I’m the type of person that
tries until I can’t go any more. If I can’t do it, then
I think of another way. I hate to give up and I have hard time drawing
the line --- when and where to give up. To everyone I’ve caused
trouble to, I’m sorry!
RB: If you could change anything about Kingdom
Hearts music, what would it be?
YS: If I were allowed to add to
just the music without changing anything else, I don't think I would
add anything to it. So…no changes. However, if any of
the events/settings changed or the specifications of any of the
worlds changed, then I would probably change it. Change it to where
all the songs would be orchestrated and songs would actually be
sung. Well, I guess that would be impossible… (laughs)!
RB: Please share your experiences on the following games:
I worked on FM with just one other person so
it was very exciting. We were under a very tight schedule
and worked on it with fighting spirit wanting to express heavy
heated battles and angst.
I tried to write music that was inorganic, something
unique to Square. However...umm...it was a project loaded
with hardships (laughs). It was really tough.
Parasite Eve Remixes:
Ah yes, it was a CD made from one simple suggestion,
"Wouldn't it be interesting to produce re-mix Parasite Eve
music rather than making different arrangements?" I was
in charge of figuring how much we can expand on Aya's theme which
was first written as the Parasite Eve theme music. I
really wanted to do it and I rather like the way it came out.
Legend of Mana:
I kept saying I wanted to work on a fantasy and
this title finally came around. I really had fun with it.
I tried hard to make it fit the style of the game and to express
I have devotion to all
my soundtracks, so it would be very difficult to choose the 'best'
one. If I must, it would be Legend of Mana? I think
it best expresses myself."
-Yoko Shimomura 2002
RB: What inspires your music?
YS: There isn’t one
thing in particular; rather, a lot of different things give me inspiration.
I tend to come up with tunes when I do things that are not part
of my daily routine, like traveling. But even during my everyday
life, I come up with tunes when I’m emotionally moved. By
looking at a beautiful picture, scenery, tasting something delicious,
scents that bring back memories, happy and sad things… Anything
that moves my emotion gives me inspiration.
RB: Do you ever seek the advice of the other Squaresoft
composers? Is there competition between the Square composers? Is
there a game you wanted to work on but didn't get to do? Who is
your favorite Square composer?
everyone works at their own pace so there is not much exchange of
“advice.” Occasionally, we would be like "Hey,
this is what I came up with, what do you think?" and ask for
opinions. There is no competition among the Square composers, at
least not that I see on the surface (laughs). Maybe no one
mentions it but they are all burning up inside with rivalry (laughs).
(No comment on games that I wanted to
work on and favorite composer)
RB: All of your soundtracks (except Parasite
Eve) are pretty diverse, incorporating many different styles, how
do you fit so many different styles in 1 soundtrack.
YS: Wow, are they diverse and do
they incorporate different styles? Really? Personally, I feel
like they are all over the place (laughs). Although I do try
and decide the “base” of whatever it is that I’m
shooting for so, may be that is working... In my opinion, all
of the tunes created must be in sync with the game and it must feel
comfortable when I play the game. If the music is diverse
and if it sounds like it incorporates many styles, then that
game must have as many different elements but also possess an image
as a whole.
RB: What advice would you give to those who want to create music?
YS: I don’t even think that I’m at
that position to offer advice but I guess if I were to say something,
in this position, you need a flexible and strong mind and heart,
and also the power to cope with emergency situations. Every
experience will come in handy so the more experience one can have
RB: Any final thoughts?
YS: Every title I worked on and all of the
tunes I created are all dear and precious. There are many
tunes I have written in the past that I feel like saying, "What
the!? How embarrassing!!" and would like to have sealed.
But by the time they leave my hands every single one of them become
fond memories. I have titles that I would like to work again
as a new project if the opportunity were to arise, but I’ll
keep it a secret.
In terms of Kingdom Hearts, it was an immense project with
many hardships. When the soundtrack was completed and I listened
to it in its entirety, it almost made me cry. Please, someone,
praise me (laughs). This title features dark music, cheerful
music, sorrowful music…I was able to write a variety of tunes so
although it was a massive project, at the same time, I enjoyed working
on it very much. I am very proud of the work on Kingdom Hearts and
if everyone can add it to their favorites, I will be very happy.
A big thank you to Ms. Shimomura for taking the time to chat. Thanks
to Squaresoft, Misa, Daniel Kalabakov, Datschge and Shinsuke Fukuda.