Kingdom Hearts Yoko Shimomura Interview Discusses Series History & Composition for First Kingdom Hearts IV Song, “Reality in the Dark”

The primary composer for the Kingdom Hearts franchise, Yoko Shimomura, was recently interviewed by Square Enix following the launch of the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Vinyl LP Box.

This video interview was fully transcribed and translated by our team’s Ryuji, with the latter viewable below. Further, it’s worth noting that this translation was also used in an article for the Kingdom Hearts fansite KH13, a website that both Ryuji and I write for.

Question: What were your feelings leading up to the 20th anniversary of the Kingdom Hearts series?

Yoko Shimomura: When the first game was released, I had no idea the series would continue, so I was deeply moved to see the 20th anniversary. New Disney movies have been coming out, and there are so many new titles that I never thought I would be able to be a part of.

It’s like a dream.

I’m not sure if it’s right for me to be involved in such a famous work… I just feel very honored. I am truly blessed and happy to have been able to work on Kingdom Hearts, and my love for Disney’s work has deepened even more.

Q: What does Kingdom Hearts mean to you, Shimomura-san?

YS: I can’t really compare them all personally, and it’s hard to say which one I have a special attachment to, but I have been involved in all the Kingdom Hearts games from the first one to the present. So in that sense, I have been able to continue with the series and continue to play the games, making it a big part of my life.

[The Musical Composition of Kingdom Hearts]

Q: Looking back into “Dive into the Heart -Destati-,” how do you feel about it?

YS: When I was writing the song for “Destati,” I had a hard time connecting the world of Disney characters and the tragic chorus, so I had a hard time figuring out what to do! Once I found what kind of worldview Kingdom Hearts had, I didn’t have much trouble writing songs afterward.

Q: Do you have any particular thoughts that you continue to put into the music for the series?

YS: I knew that there was an existing worldview, so I knew that I must absolutely avoid destroying it. [In the first Kingdom Hearts game], you had iconic Disney characters such as Alice, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and so on…each with their own pre-established perspectives that would make you go, “This is how Disney’s Alice is like.”

But at the same time, we also had to make sure that I was creating the world inside of Kingdom Hearts, not just copying the same feel as Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan. I had to ensure it made you go, “So this is how they act inside Kingdom Hearts.” I was very particular about the balance between the two.

Q: What is something you consider very important when creating music?

YS: I think the basic premise is that the players should be able to play the game comfortably. For me personally, since it is called BGM, an acronym that means background* music, I want it to be a behind-the-scenes force.

So, when I listen to the soundtrack again, the melody will naturally return to my mind when I remember the song later. If you listen to the soundtrack again, you will think, “Oh, yes, that’s it! That’s the song! That’s a good song!” That’s the kind of point I’m aiming for, or at the very least, something I’m conscious of.

*TL Note: She emphasized the word “background.”

[The Series’ First Foray Into An Analog Format]

Q: How did you feel about the fact the series will be making its way into a vinyl record for the very first time?

YS: We’ve been pushing for vinyl records for a while now…so when I saw that they were going to do it, my initial reaction was that “Oh, finally, that series will be etched into vinyl!”

Q: What are your memories of analog vinyl records?

YS: Unlike CDs, vinyl records were widespread back when I was little, so in that sense, I feel very familiar with them as if they were everyday items as a kid. I’m very nostalgic that the vinyl from my childhood are still being produced and sold even today, even though CDs and MP3s, and other digital media formats are becoming more and more popular. I find that records are a fundamental part of music.

Q: How did you feel when you first put your hands on the LP BOX?

YS: In the past, people used to say, “Buy the jacket,” but records have significant artistic value, don’t they? CDs are small, so even if there is a booklet, it’s still relatively small, and I think the vinyl package is gorgeous. I think of it as something that can be displayed, so I really feel that a lot of effort was put into it. I find it to be smooth, shiny, and beautiful. I hope everyone will have one in their home just to feel how smooth it is!

Q: Do you think there is anything fascinating about vinyl records you rediscovered through their recent re-commercialization?

YS: In a vinyl record, it’s all analog, so you basically listen to the songs in the order they are included, and you can’t exactly skip to the song you want very easily, whereas nowadays, you just pick what you want to listen to, and make playlists and such.

But in the time of vinyl records, the order of the songs was very particular, taking into consideration even the time and effort of turning on what is known as the B-side. If you have the opportunity to try it out yourself, then you’ll be able to appreciate the qualities of the vinyl even more.

[Concerning the Music of the 20th Anniversary Reveal Trailer]

Q: Could you tell us more about the production of “Reality in the Dark” included in the Kingdom Hearts IV announcement trailer?

YS: The song is a little different from the previous ones in the series in the sense that it has a solid, stiffer feeling to it. I created it with the image that even with its newness, you can still feel a bit of the Kingdom Hearts charm.

When I write songs, I tend to use very little brass or other instruments, and I tend to write with restraint. However, for this song, I was thinking: “I definitely want to use [brass instruments] in a spectacular way here,” so I included a lot of brass in the demo version when I first made it. I hope it will be a song that gives you strength and a sense of foreboding.

Q: Finally, a message to the fans of the Kingdom Hearts series.

YS: I really like the packaging, and the vinyl record format is a bit nostalgic for me. I am sure many young people today might have never had the opportunity to pick up a vinyl record. That is why I think this is a memorable and commemorative work, so please pick it up and enjoy the music contained in these analog sounds and the visuals of the package. I hope it will become one of your treasures!

kingdom hearts

Check out our review of Kingdom Hearts Dark Road.

In Kingdom Hearts IV, Sora is in Quadratum with Strelitzia, a prominent character from Kingdom Hearts Union χ. This setting is an afterworld for the two characters following their tragic fates. Additionally, this new saga has been titled the Lost Master Arc. Further, some combat footage was showcased, with Sora performing Keyblade transformations against a giant entity that seems to be a Heartless? We don’t know for sure.

“The heart resides within the soul, which in turn is guided by fate to its rightful place” is a crucial phrase used at the start of this trailer for the upcoming mainline game.

Kingdom Hearts IV is in development with an unknown release date and unconfirmed platforms.

Kingdom Hearts Missing-Link will launch for mobile devices via iOS and Android at an unknown time.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.