As one of the pioneers in the video game music industry, Kinuyo Yamashita burst onto the scene by composing music and creating sound effects for the original Castlevania. With just a degree in electronic engineering and never having studied musical theory, she entered the industry without any previous background in music, aside from her piano lessons as a child. That's why it's so remarkable that her first contribution to music would go on to become legendary, remaining relevant and popular 25+ years later. Her music from Castlevania produced a powerful hard rock feel, with classic songs like "Wicked Child" and "Heart of Fire" accurately depicting the game's eerie environment. But she worked on a variety of games while employed at Konami that showed her ability to convey different emotions, like with the relatively unknown RPG Esper Dream, where the main theme danced in your head with a lighter pop feeling that could tell an epic journey with musical notes alone. One thing is for certain with Yamashita's music; she always produced very strong melodies regardless of the technological limitations. She would only stay with Konami a few years before deciding the physical toll taken on her body from the significant hours the job required was too much to endure, finally leaving in 1989.
Yamashita received offers of employment from other video game companies, but turned them down because she lived in Osaka, Japan at the time and didn't want to relocate to Tokyo. At that point in her career she naturally transitioned into a freelance composer by garnering contract opportunities from video game companies like Capcom, Natsume, and Taito. Throughout the 1990's, she worked on popular titles where she composed full soundtracks for games such as Power Blade and Mega Man X3, which featured stand out songs like "Blizzard Buffalo" pulsating back and forth melodically and "Zero's Theme" reinvigorating her penchant for hard driven sounds. She also formed a duo ensemble with her friend during this time called "Honey Honey". They performed live covers of American Pop and Jazz music in various halls and restaurants around the Osaka and Kobe areas of Japan. In the duo, she played the piano, alto saxophone, and sang background vocals.
A subarachnoid haemorrhage in 1998 would force Yamashita to stop composing music for some time, however, she made a full recovery and was able to continue her career. She would remain a freelance composer for the next several years, working on numerous video games such as the Medabot series and Croc 2. In 2006, she took a job with a video game sound company based in Osaka, Japan, mainly working on sound effects and compositions for lesser-known Japanese game titles before leaving two years later to become a freelance composer again.
After starting her career with Konami, Yamashita came back full circle to make music for the company again in 2008 when she composed two songs for the Wii console game Walk It Out. One song from the game is reminiscent of her original Castlevania work, as evidenced by the title "Belmont's Destiny". The song cuts through the sound waves with piercing electric guitars building up to a climax that will have you wanting to "whip" monsters rather than just walk somewhere. In 2009, she composed another full soundtrack for the PC game GunHound. Later that year she made an appearance on the Dodonpachi Dai-O-Jo remix CD released in Japan with her arrangement of the music for "Stage 4".
Yamashita linked up with Tommy Tallarico and made several guest appearances on stage with Video Games Live, including the first show in Japan, which featured many other famous Japanese video game music composers. She moved to the USA in 2010 and continued to make appearances with VGL where she performed "Castlevania Rock" with Tommy and the orchestras at a few different venues including NJPAC in New Jersey and the Tilles Center in New York. In 2011, she appeared with VGL again and performed at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles in conjunction with E3.
Kinuyo currently resides in New Jersey and continues to compose music independently.