Yoko Shimomura is an incredibly talented video game music composer from Japan. She is most well known for composing the soundtracks to the Kingdom Hearts series, Mario & Luigi RPG series, Seiken Densetsu (Mana) series and most recently the upcoming Final Fantasy XV soundtrack but has composed and arranged music for a huge number of games over the past 30 years and has been called the most famous female video game composer in the world!
Yoko Shimomura was born on October 19, 1967 and has worked composing music for video games since graduating from the Osaka College of Music in 1988. Originally she worked in for Campcom from 1988 to 1993 after which she worked for Squaresoft (now Square Enix) until 2002. Since 2003 she has been working as a freelance composer.
Early Life and Education
Yoko Shimomura was born in the Hyōgo Prefecture in Japan and became interested in music at a very young age. She started taking piano lessons when she was “four or five”. It wasn’t very long until she started playing the piano randomly and pretended to compose music. Eventually she started to come up with her own compositions and she still remembers how to play the first song she ever composed.
After high-school Yoko Shimomura attended the Osaka College of Music. She majored in the piano and graduated in 1988. Originally she planned to become a piano teacher and even received a job offer to be a piano teacher at a music store. However she loved playing video games and decided to send samples of her music to several video game companies that were recruiting at the university. She interviewed with Capcom and was offered a job. Her teachers and family didn’t think highly of this as at the time video game music wasn’t well respected. Her parents especially weren’t happy as they had paid the tuition for an “expensive music school”. Despite this, Yoko Shimomura accepted the job with Capcom anyway.
Work and Career
The first soundtrack she worked on at Capcom was for a game called Samurai Sword, this was in 1988. In 1989 she composed the soundtrack to the video game Final Fight and this was the first game to receive a separate soundtrack release. She originally started working on the soundtracks for home consoles but in 1990 she moved to Capcom’s arcade division. During her time at Capcom she worked on the soundtracks of over 16 games and was also a member of the company’s in-house band called Alph Lyla even performing live on occasion.
In 1993 she joined Square (now called Square Enix) because she was interested in composing more “classica-style” music for RPGs such as Final Fantasy. The first game she worked on with Square was the RPG Live A Live in 1994 and a year later she composed the soundtrack to Super Mario RPG the Legend of the Seven Stars. Over the next few years she worked on many soundtracks, two of her most famous ones being the Parasite Eve and Legend of Mana soundtracks. To this day Shimomura considers the Legend of Mana soundtrack the best expression of herself and it’s still her favourite work.
Later she composed the soundtrack for Kingdom Hearts which she described as the “most special” soundtrack to her. She also said that the soundtracks for Street Fighter II and Super Mario RPG were also very significant to her career.
After Kingdom Hearts was released in 2002 Yoko Shimomura left Square on maternity leave. She started work as a freelancer shortly after. Currently she is working on the soundtracks for both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3.
Style and Influences
On her official website Shimomura lists Beethoven, Chopin and Maurice Ravel as her influences. She’s used many different styles of music such as industiral, chiptune, rock, electronica, oriental, ambient, symphonic, operatic and more.
She says she draws her inspiration from things in her life that move her emotionally. Anything that causes her to feel emotion gives her inspiration. She also says that she comes up with most of her songs when she’s doing something outside her regular routine like travelling.
Yoko Shimomura believes that an important part of her creative process is to try to convey a subtle message that comes from your imagination and sticks with you, without being too specific about what it means. She prefers this method over writing simple themes with obvious messages.
Out of all the music she has ever composed her all time favourite song is Dearly Beloved from Kingdom Hearts.
Yoko Shimomura has worked on a huge number of video game soundtracks, arrangement albums, charity music collections and more. If you’d like to learn more about a specific item in her discography and listen to the music please click on the links below.
- Samurai Sword (1988)
- Final Fight (1989)
- Code Name: Viper (1990)
- Adventure Quiz Capcom World: Hatena no Daibouken (1990)
- Gargoyle’s Quest (1990)
- Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (1990)
- Mizushima Shinji no Daikoushien (1990)
- Nemo (1990)
- Mahjong School: The Super O Version (1990)
- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
- The King of Dragons (1991)
- Block Block (1991)
- Varth: Operation Thunderstorm (1992)
- Breath of Fire (1993)
- The Punisher (1993)
- Live A Live (1994)
- Front Mission (1995)
- Super Mario RPG (1996)
- Tobal No. 1 (1996)
- Parasite Eve (1998)
- Legend of Mana (1999)
- Hataraku Chocobo (2000)
- Kingdom Hearts (2002)
- Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (2003)
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (2004)
- Pop’n Music 13 Carnival (2005)
- Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (2005)
- Kingdom Hearts II (2005)
- Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner (2006)
- Heroes of Mana (2007)
- Luminous Arc 2 (2008)
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (2009)
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (2009)
- Pop’n Music 17 The Movie (2009)
- Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (2010)
- Kingdom Hearts coded (2010)
- Xenoblade Chronicles (2010)
- Last Ranker (2010)
- Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (2010)
- Radiant Historia (2010)
- The 3rd Birthday (2010)
- Half-Minute Hero: The Second Coming (2011)
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (2012)
- Demons’ Score (2012)
- Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (2013)
- Kingdom Hearts χ (2013)
- Exstetra (2013)
- Rise of Mana (2014)
- Terra Battle (2014)
- V.D. -Vanishment Day- (2014)
- Chronos Ring (2015)
- Chunithm: Seelisch Tact (2015)
- Kakuriyo no Mon (2015)
- Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (2015)
- Final Fantasy XV (2016)
- Kingdom Hearts III (TBA)
- F-1 Dream (PC Engine) (1989)
- G.S.M. 1500 series ~ Sweet Home (1989)
- Buster Bros. (PC Engine) (1991)
- Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II Premium Arrange (2004)
- Dark Chronicle Premium Arrange (2004)
- Rogue Galaxy Premium Arrange (2006)
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
- Little King’s Story (2009)
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U (2014)
- Captain Commando -G.S.M. Capcom 5- (1992)
- Game Music Festival ~Super Live ’92~ (1992)
- Street Fighter II Collector’s Box (1993)
- Parasite Eve Remixes (1998)
- Dan Doh!! (2004)
- Best Student Council (2005)
- Murmur (2007)
- Drammatica: The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura (2008)
- Mushihimesama Double Arrange Album (2009)
- GeOnDan Rare Tracks Ver. 2.0 (2010)
- GeOnDan Super Rare Trax: The LAND of RISING SUN (2011)
- GO! GO! Buriki Daioh!! (2012)
- X’mas Collections II (2013)
- memória! ~ The Very Best of Yoko Shimomura (2014)
- Game Music Prayer II (2014)