Yoko Shimomura Nintendo Dream Interview

The original Japanese interview came from June 2009 issue of Nintendo Dream. Please do not repost without crediting to Heartstation.

The Untold Hardships and Joy at the Birth of a Musical Masterpiece

Ms. Shimomura, who handled all the musical pieces of the series. She told us of the days of trial and error in order to express the work which brings Disney and an original universe together, and the memories she holds of the series.

A composition with four hurdles!?

–To speak of Ms. Shimomura’s music, recently the music of ‘Super Mario RPG3!!!’ was said to be ‘really cool!’, and well received by the readers of Nindori!

Shimomura: Thank you very much. With ‘Mario & Luigi 3’, I challenged myself to do a kind of melody that I hadn’t done until now, but if it was well received, it’s opened up a new ‘can I go down this route too?’ genre, hasn’t it.

–The music of the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ series was an individual kind of work that brought Mr. Nomura’s worlds and Disney’s worlds together, and so, when you first took charge of that music, it too was surely a new genre that had opened up?

Shimomura: But in the beginning, when it was talked about. the truth is, I was really unwilling to do it!

–Huh!? Why was that?

Shimomura: Because the hurdles were high. I really like Disney works, I even have the soundtracks, but, those works have really high standard music, don’t they? To make music that flowed together with that. that was the first hurdle. Furthermore, the hurdle of having to make that music merge with Square (at the time) type music appeared, and the hurdle gets higher and higher, doesn’t it!

–That’s true, isn’t it.

Shimomura: Moreover, here. ‘Huh?! The director is Mr. Tetsu (Mr. Tetsuya Nomura’s pet name)?!’ was the third hurdle!

Everyone: (laughs)

Shimomura: With that sort of feeling, because there was three hurdles one after the other. I was kind of thinking, if it’s possible, I’d like them to ask someone else~ (laughs).

–What was it like working with Mr. Nomura on ‘Kingdom Hearts’?

Shimomura: For ‘Kingdom Hearts’, Mr. Tetsu and I didn’t stop fighting! Call it fighting, or call it conflict, I suppose. I remember him calling me on my mobile phone at 2AM and yelling ‘how is it coming along?!’. Because I go and forget inconvenient things, I don’t remember what it was about, though (laughs). Looking back now, we were in conflict time after time, weren’t we. It was because it was the first work in the series, of course. But, thanks to the trial and error resulting from the conflict, it felt like we came to see the direction of the huge theme, ‘Kingdom Hearts’ in itself, separate again to the Disney works.

‘Kingdom Hearts’ Series Sound Composer

Ms. Yōko Shimomura

A video game music composer who is currently in extensive activity, free at present, who has experienced Capcom and Square. ‘Super Mario RPG’ series, ‘Live A Live’, ‘Street Fighter II’; regardless of genre, countless musical masterpieces that make many fans love them.

The difficulty of reproducing the universe of Disney’s work

–Ms. Shimomura was also the one who made almost all of the field music that plays in the Disney worlds, right.

Shimomura: That’s right. That is field music, but, in the beginning it was an order for music for a reproduced Disney world. However, because there are wonderful musical masterpieces for Disney worlds, it’d be right to use them for the whole thing, wouldn’t it? I can’t do such a terribly rude thing, you know~.I said, desperately.

Everyone: (laughs)

Shimomura: Resistance was futile; the order was flatly refused with a ‘please do an X sort of piece’. Moreover, it was a troublesome order, to make the field music and the battle music like a set. This here meant an inconspicuous new hurdle appeared.

The Ms. Shimomura that Mr. Nomura Speaks of

‘Because she produces absolutely great music for me, trusting, I insist on better’

–In the beginning, was there an opportunity to ask Ms. Shimomura to do the music for ‘Kingdom Hearts’?

Nomura: There was a push from my sound team. When we were making the first game, we were talking about ‘who will we ask for the music?’, and ‘Shimomura is well suited for KH’s style, isn’t she?’ was the recommendation I received from the sound team. I had also worked with Shimomura on ‘Parasite Eve’, and so we said that we’d go with Shimomura.

–What do you think of the music that Ms. Shimomura has made for the three works in the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ series up until now?

Nomura: (Immediate reply) She takes a long time to finish music (laughs).

–That, rather than your impressions of the music? (Laughs)

Nomura: Although, because she produces absolutely great music for me, trusting, I insist she does better.

–So Ms. Shimomura properly responds to Mr. Nomura’s insisting she do better.

Nomura: Insist too many times, however, and she gets angry once in a while (laughs). But, for myself to insist on something better, it’s because I’m believing that good will definitely come out. Because if I don’t believe, it’ll become a ‘maybe it’s good enough already’ compromise. I believe that Shimomura will definitely respond to the order.

The new music plays in important scenes

–How many pieces of music did you offer Ms. Shimomura to do for ‘KH358/2Days’?

Nomura: She wrote many new pieces for me.

–Were there any important points for the music?

Nomura: Let me see. The new music plays in important scenes. She arranged music for use in ‘KH358/2Days’ for me like the music used in the series up until now. Because the sound source is different, the arrangement becomes important no matter what. While having new music is natural, I think because it is the first time it is heard, it has impact. Please enjoy the places where the new music plays.

The battle music for the ‘Nightmare’ world was a great deal of difficulty. It’s music so complicated that she doesn’t want to see it anymore, and such.

Was there anything but to continue to pitch for ‘KHII’?

–For ‘KHII’, because it was a sequel, did the hardships like those of the last game lessen?

Shimomura: I also said it just before, but, I had so many conflicts with Mr. Tetsu during ‘Kingdom Hearts’, and so I thought they definitely wouldn’t offer me ‘KHII’. But, the request came later, as if there had been nothing. Feeling really happy that despite conflicts he believed in my work, I was thinking that I had to respond to those expectations even a little in ‘KHII’, and that is the impression that remains. And so, I was thinking ‘I’m going to become a little more adult for the KHII job’, although, sure enough. when I’ve put out a lot of rejects, even now sometimes I go and say what I want to (laughs).

–There are many musical masterpieces in ‘KHII’ as well. You’ve come to use the piano a lot, haven’t you?

Shimomura: That’s true, isn’t it. Mr. Tetsu seems to like piano, so. it’s easy to get’s the OK, with music with a piano in it.

Everyone: (laughs).

Shimomura: That was a joke. But I knew he definitely liked it, so I thought to actively use it. After that, there was also an advance in technique; those who were making the sound for me had come to make piano sound of wonderful quality, and so the feeling that piano music would do well for this too was a large factor. I also love the piano myself, and so I wanted to use the piano. Now, I think that the battle music with a piano included could be one of ‘Kingdom Hearts’ strong points.

The Striking New Piano Music for ‘KH358/2Days’

–To speak of piano music, the first to come to mind is the title music ‘Dearly Beloved’*, and of course it is also being used at the title screen for ‘KH358/2Days’, isn’t it.

Shimomura: This time, a slightly arranged version plays. I used a recorded orchestra one for ‘KHII’, and I appealed directly to the programmer who was making the title screen to ‘please make the appearing letters fit with the music!’ Saying if he did that, there wouldn’t be a next time, he reluctantly did it for me. And so, from then on I’ve always borne a mild piano arrangement in mind (laughs). In the beginning, to speak of the piano and ‘KH358/2Days’, this time there are plenty of new pieces which use the piano, and so please enjoy the scenes in which the piano plays. That was a really hard piece of music, wasn’t it~. Rather than saying ‘plenty of’, maybe it feels more like ‘utter desperation’?

Everyone: (laughs).

–It sounds awesome, doesn’t it. its fun wondering what kind of scenes it plays in. Speaking of that, you made a new piece of music as the theme for the new character of ‘KH258/2Days’, didn’t you?

Shimomura: Um. The truth is, that sort of thing was one of the reasons for the really hard piece of music (laughs). When the request came, the illustration still wasn’t completed, and so I composed the theme of the new character based on the image I got from a paragraph of writing, but, of course only that it said ‘a person of Organisation XIII’, and ‘has a deep connection to a certain person’. excuse me, I can’t really say in detail any more than that (laughs).

–I’m incredibly interested (laughs).

Shimomura: In the beginning, Mr. Tetsu put out an absurd order for that really hard piece of music. And so, while I was also worrying, I told Noda**, who makes the sound for me, that ‘Mr. Tetsu is saying this kinda thing, but first of all I’ll just go and make it how I like it, and then can’t it just fall into place in the DS later ~’, speaking nonsense. Because Noda is a good one to work seriously and with all his might for me, he said ‘I will try something’. I was putting trouble on someone this nice, I also kind of felt a sense of guilt, but straight after that I kind of said ‘you said it, you said you’d try it, didn’t you~’ (laughs).

–I will take care to listen to the fruit of hardships, ‘KH358/2Days’ (laughs).

Series Especially Popular Music BEST 3

Kingdom Hearts

  1. Hikari
  2. Dearly Beloved
  3. Traverse Town

KHII

  1. Roxas
  2. Dearly Beloved
  3. PASSION~opening version~

KHCOM

  1. Lord of the Castle
  2. Dearly Beloved
  3. Naminé

Kingdom Hearts FINAL MIX

  1. Another Side
  2. One-Winged Angel (from FINAL FANTASY VII)
  3. Disappeared

KHII FINAL MIX

  1. The Other Promise
  2. Fate of the Unknown
  3. The 13th Reflection

The Feeling of Coming Home, ‘Dearly Beloved’ of ‘KHII’

–Lastly, as a piece of successive generations, please tell us Ms. Shimomura’s favourite piece of music.

Shimomura: (Very tormented) that’s a hard one. Hmm, but of course even I think various things about KHII’s Dearly Beloved.

–KHII’s Dearly Beloved gives a calm impression, doesn’t it.

Shimomura: At any rate, I wanted to make a graceful arrangement. But maybe I made it a little too quiet (laughs). As for me, I don’t really have one for the series. I take the sequels as separate parts, as a work completed at one. You see, at the time of KHII I had already resigned from Square and become free, and I was thinking I was fighting with Mr. Tetsu (laughs). When I thought only that the sequel probably wouldn’t be done by me, when I arranged the ‘Dearly Beloved’ of the music request I received, ahh, I felt so happy, that I’d come home to ‘Kingdom Hearts’, so. it comes back to me with full strength, maybe.

This is the title screen of ‘KHII’. We were surprised that Ms. Shimomura’s ideas were reflected in its direction.

*’Dearly Beloved’.a short, gentle 8 bar long piano piece. Used at the title screen, it’s a piece that can also be called the theme of the whole series, in reality it was a piece put in storage, but it attracted Mr. Nomura’s attention, and in haste singled it out as the title music.

**Mr. Noda. is in charge of sound programming. Other than Mr. Noda, the sound team put their heart and soul into creating beautiful tone, and the charm of the music of ‘Kingdom Hearts’.

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