Yoko Shimomura: The Greatest Gaming Music Star You've Never Heard Of
In the zillion and one names listed in the credits that scroll for up what seems like an hour after you reach the end of a game, there’s one listing that definitely doesn’t get enough time on screen: the composer. These brilliant artists are a huge determining factor in whether a player has an immersive, engaging experience, or if the game feels like a total flop. There’s one video game composer whose music you’ve almost certainly heard if you’ve picked up a controller in the past 20 years, but might not recognize if you’re behind her ordering a latte.
Yoko Shimomura is one of the most prolific and important composers in gaming history; she entered the gaming composition scene in the late 80’s and never left. As a kid growing up in Osaka, she’d been a gamer for years, an early adopter of the world’s newest art form. After her parents sent her to the prestigious Osaka College of Music, they wanted her to accept a job teaching piano at a local music store. But Shimomura had bigger plans. She interviewed with Capcom and would go on to change the gaming music scene for good.
Her first major composition for a game was for the 1989 beat ‘em up classic Final Fight. If you’ve never heard the ultra catchy bops from that OST, go look them up immediately, they utterly slap. With her work on Street Fighter II she solidified her place with the gaming composition greats. But while the action packed brawlers she was composing for launched her career, she began to long for different artistic ventures. Shimomura became interested in composing a more classical sounding track for a genre then in its infancy: fantasy RPG’s.
She sought a place at one of the world’s best RPG studios Square Enix. There she would go on to work on the Legend of Mana soundtrack in 1999. The studio began work on a new, experimental title Kingdom Hearts. She was brought on as composer and contributed to the mega success of the fever dream blockbuster. She’s also worked on Final Fantasy XV and even Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but her best known track is still Kingdom Hearts’ devastatingly beautiful main theme Dearly Beloved. Her music is so hauntingly wonderful, you could put it on at a dinner party and never know that it was the backing music to Goofy beating the sh*t out of a heartless ghost.