March is Women's History Month, and I would like to share some of the amazing musical work women have contributed to the video gaming world. I've selected five songs from five women that I feel have made a huge impact, and I'll briefly detail their careers and other musical highlights for you to consider.
Kinuyo Yamashita (alias "James Banana") began her short career at Konami composing the tunes to Castlevania, including the iconic "Vampire Killer." While I personally am a bigger fan of "Wicked Child," it's difficult to argue against the incredible hooks and melody of the series's trademark song.
Yamashita did some other work for Konami in the 1980s, but the majority of her compositions were for Japan-only releases. She left Konami to do freelance work in the late 1980s, composing several titles for Natsume (including the sensational Power Blade/Blazer), doing the SNES soundtrack of Mega Man X3, and several other Japan-only titles.
Michiru Yamane is also tied to Castlevania, beginning with the Genesis's Bloodlines and composing many of the franchise's titles until her departure in 2008. Arguably the most notable tune she composed for the franchise was the stunning "Dracula's Castle" for Symphony of the Night, although I have a very big soft spot for Portrait of Ruin's "Jail of Jewel."
Beyond Castlevania, Yamane helped compose music for several other Konami franchises, including their Pro Evolution Soccer series, Rocket Knight, Contra, Suikoden, and Twinbee. After leaving Konami, she has been connected to the 2D fighter Skullgirls and arranged two tracks for Super Smash Bros. Wii U.
Shimomura is one of gaming's most talented and notable musicians, with an incredibly broad range of games to her credit. Kingdom Hearts and its subsequent sequels are probably her biggest claim to fame, but Shimomura has many other incredible credits to her name, including Street Fighter II, Super Mario RPG, Parasite Eve, Xenoblade Chronicles, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii U/3DS, Legend of Mana, and the upcoming Final Fantasy XV.
My personal favorite may be from Atlus' Radiant Historia, "Mechanical Kingdom."
Tsujiyoko is one of Intelligent Systems's key composers, and has worked on their most influencial franchise, Fire Emblem, from its inception to the present day (although she has taken breaks; Sacred Stones and Awakening were supervised by her instead of featuring her compositions). The video above shares the memorable main theme of the series as it has evolved throughout the years. My personal favorite comes from Fire Emblem for the GBA: "Wind Across the Plains."
Tsujiyoko has also worked on the Paper Mario series, the two Battleclash games for the SNES, and arranged remixes for Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii U/3DS. She has created one of Japan's most endearing anthems through the main theme of Fire Emblem and it's only fairly recently Western gamers have had the chance to discover her talents.
Naruke got her start composing for Telenet Japan, where she co-composed titles like Valis III and Legion. She joined a mass exodus of the company however and wound up at Media Factory, where she became one of Japan's more unique composers as she tackled the West West-esque RPG series Wild ARMs. She composed all of the songs for every single title in the franchise save Wild ARMs 4, where an illness kept her from being able to do it all herself, and some other musicians assisted her.
Beyond that series, Naruke's individual style can be heard in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii U/3DS ("Full Steam Ahead" is by far my favorite of hers), The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, and Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming.
Have a favorite I didn't mention here? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!