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The creator of Guile's theme, Yoko Shimomura, explains why she thinks the iconic background tune became so popular

Plus how she developed some of gaming's most recognizable music and more

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • December 31, 2019 at 10 a.m. PST • Comments: 22

There's a reason, outside of the general success and appeal of the game they're in, why so many of the tunes from Street Fighter 2 have become iconically ingrained into fighting game culture, and have even spilled out into the popular realm.

While you could argue that these 8 and 16-bit tunes are relatively simple, the intricate thought process that went into developing them not only as background themes but as contributors to character identities that gives them a deep-reaching foundation that has clearly kept them bolstered up for the past three decades. We have Yoko Shimomura to thank for that.

Why is it that these background tunes get stuck in our heads as easily as a Taylor Swift radio hit but, unlike said pop chart-toppers, aren't met with immediate hopes that something else will come in and take their place? (Sorry, MajinTenshinhan.)

In a recent interview with Otaquest, Shimomura opened up about the process of piecing together the music that so many would hear while memorably battling on Japanese rooftops, amid a busy Chinese marketplace, and deep within the Amazonian jungle.

With an overly broad explanation one could say it's the result of an efficient combination of head and heart. Shimomura used the more obvious facts, like a character's country and culture, to piece themes together, but reached deeper levels by exploring her interpretations of characters' psyches and trying to express her findings through her music.

"[I]t’s hard to immediately come up with a theme that matches a character," she starts. "I have to imagine more of the character’s psyche… Like, this person broods over a past event, or this person, in spite of their appearance, is an impulsive rascal… And so on. (laughs) That’s not to say I make up details about characters that aren’t true.

"People might ask you to write a theme symbolizing the class of 'warrior' for an RPG, but even in RPGs, there are all kinds of warriors. That’s why I have to imagine what a 'warrior' would be in its given game world or plot. A darker plot would call for a warrior theme with weight to it."

She gives us some particulars with Chun-Li's Marketplace stage noting that it'd have been easy to go with a more general approach for Chinese representation, but that wouldn't have necessarily captured as much of the character's personality.

"[S]he could have had an idol pop sort of tune. But by matching it to the stage, the theme took on a Chinese feeling," explains Shimomura. "However, I felt that by matching it more to the bustle of the marketplace rather than China’s grandeur, it took on a cute quality that matched Chun-Li. It’s like interaction."

It would be impossible to speak with this particular composer and not bring up what has easily become the most recognizable Street Fighter song in popular culture: Guile's theme. The BGM famously seems to go with any visuals and Otaquest was sure to ask Shimomura why she thinks it resonates with people so easily and took off the way it did.

"All I can say is that I’m terribly grateful. (laughs) I’m too scared to analyze my own music. But one thing I’m often told about Guile’s theme involves its intro, and how it’s six measures. Music is often made up of an even number of measures, and so long as there aren’t any breaks, they can often be broken down into four-measure segments," she says.

"But Guile’s theme repeats two measures plus one twice, so many find it striking, I think. Not that I had any intention of writing something unnatural. Those three measures were the first thing that came to me. Looking back on it, I do think the odd-numbered sequence is a rare thing. The inspiration of youth. (laughs)"

There's plenty to the full interview including which song the composer found hardest to come up with, how she got started with Capcom, how her process has changed, and more.

Banner image credit: Game Informer. Thanks to AriesWarlock and Xykes for sending this our way.

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