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Composer and director of Rakuen on crafting an evocative soundtrack

"Being both the composer and game developer helped a lot. Music wasn't an afterthought; I was able to take it into account from the very beginning of development.”

Rakuen tells an emotional story of a young boy staying in a hospital, who, despite his own illness, takes time to help his fellow patients. By the actions he takes in the real life, as well as those he takes through a magical fantasy world he enters via a beloved book, he’ll bring joy back to many that have fallen into illness and despair.

Rakuen is emotionally powerful, taking players through heart-rending highs and lows. That’s not only clear in the game’s story, but also its incredible music. “I think if someone were to listen to the soundtrack without playing the game, it would be clear that Rakuen is kind of an emotional roller coaster.” says Laura Shigihara, composer and director of Rakuen.

Shigihara explained to Gamasutra how she tried to make her compositions enhance gameplay moments, and the players' connection with her characters. 

Musical resonance

Shigihara’s work has been tugging at the heartstrings for some time, having composed the soundtrack for the emotionally evocative To The Moon. She was lead composer and sound designer on Plants vs Zombies, and contributed tracks to Minecraft and World of Warcraft

“Growing up, the music in my favorite video games left a lasting impression," says Shigihara. "Story games with moving scenes like Chrono Trigger or Suikoden stayed with me for years afterwards, as did the exciting boss battles in Mega Man and Secret of Mana, and the feeling of panic when your torch was about to go out in Shadowgate.”