In celebration of the release of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, series composer Yoko Shimomura has shared her thoughts on the memorable song, Dearly Beloved, and how she’s evolved it over the last 18 years.
In a blog entry highlighting a conversation between the publisher and Shimomura-san, we get an insight into the song and her thoughts. When first working on the series, she never understood why she was picked and attributed it to her schedule being open at the time. Regardless, this is when she came up with the Dearly Beloved song saying, ” “I was playing the beginning of the game, set in the Destiny Islands, and I was struck by a lot of imagery about the sea. Dearly Beloved just came to my mind one day, while I was thinking about that – picturing the sea and the waves.”
Still, it seems the PlayStation 2 hardware proved to be difficult to get the track to play properly, “In terms of technology, the sound came from hardware – tone generators, synths, samplers, and so on. We were only able to record two songs in the studio – the majority of the sound was generated internally by the PS2 and I really struggled to improve the sound quality of the instruments using the hardware.” She added.
The song was finished in six months, but Shimomura-san never thought the track would stand out so prominently in the adventure. As the series took to the Game Boy Adventure, Dearly Beloved evolved as well with the composer stating, “From the title of the game, I used the imagery of connected memories as inspiration to use a chorus and celesta. I wanted to create a hazy, somewhat ephemeral feeling in this track.”
When it came to Chain of Memories, the songs would link as Shimomura says: “It’s a theme that would run through later installments, but the story of Chain of Memoires was more about ‘time’ than the previous game. I included the melody from the ending and credits from Kingdom Hearts 1 as a nod to this idea of a mixed timeline.”
Kingdom Hearts II was Shimomura-san’s first realization that this was going to be a long-lasting series, “Until Kingdom Hearts II, I’d never really had the opportunity to work on the continuation of a series – that is to say, the next numbered installment,” she says. “I remember being thrilled about it!”
She added, “I was quite emotionally invested and put a lot of myself into it. I’ve mentioned this in interviews before, but I was so keen that for the title screen arrangement of Dearly Beloved, I went directly to the programmers to confirm the exact timing!”
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days featured some more unsettling themes as we learned more about Organization XIII, Shimomura-san says, “I wanted the track to have a kind of nostalgia, a longing for home, and a slightly anxious feel to it, that you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s quite difficult to put into words.” and adds, “I didn’t intentionally set out to make this version particularly emotional. But hearing this, I wonder if perhaps it’s because the arrangement reflects the characters themselves.”
I think most importantly, we get to see how she feel about the development and release of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory. She recalls when she first found out about the project saying, “Actually, I was, like, ‘Wait, really!? That’s great!!’,” she laughs. She was particularly pleased because it gave her an opportunity for something she’d wanted to do for years – approach Dearly Beloved from a whole new angle: I’d wanted to make a swing version of Dearly Beloved for a while,” she says. “I even made one for a previous installment, but at the time, it didn’t quite fit and we scrapped it.”
Adding, “A version was also performed for the encore of Kingdom Hearts Concert -First Breath- (a concert band performance), but until now, I’d never been able to use style officially in a game. So this time, I wanted to take another go at it and make something really fun!”
The blog post highlights the remaining entries, but interestingly, Shimomura-san doesn’t play favorites saying, “I’m just no good at choosing my number one!” she says. “What’s more, as a composer, I don’t think there are any tracks I would like to change. That would be like denying all the effort I put into making the song and how I felt at the time, as well as all the people who like the song as it is.” She adds, “Well, there were some tracks where I would have liked to improve the sound quality, but I’ve already had that opportunity with Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX.”
As a closing comment, she says, “I’m very happy that so many people love the music from Kingdom Hearts so much, including Dearly Beloved. From the very first time I set my hands on the keyboard to work on this series right up until today, I’ve been supported by so many people. That means each and every one of you. Everyone’s emotions, everyone’s hearts – they touched me, and in turn, became part of new Kingdom Hearts songs. Thank you all so much!”
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