[This post isn’t anything critical in nature. It’s intended to be an appreciation series where I talk about the video game music I enjoyed and still do. I’m hoping that with this feature today we could reminisce our first time the music found its way in our hearts, or if you’ve never listened to the music, to consider spending an afternoon with some headphones and Youtube to find some new music.]
If you read a list somewhere online, possibly finding it on Google after searching for “Best Video Game Soundtracks” or “Beep Boop Music” maybe; you might find several articles featuring one particular album: Katamari Damacy. I wouldn’t know, I never found such a list, nor have I ever searched for Beep Boop Music.
Still, ask people whether or not they’ve played the PS2 classic Katamari Damacy by Japanese director Keita Takahashi. Chances are- well I wouldn’t know the chances of your friends playing Katamari, they’re your friends, not mine. But ask them if they remember the soundtrack (if they played the game) and almost certainly they’ll say “yes.” Then ask them if they consider the soundtrack from composer Yu Miyake to be one of the most memorable game soundtracks in video gaming and I can also guarantee the answer would probably be “yes.”
How can it not? One listen to the opening moments with the memorable “Nana nananana na nana nananana~” opening to the fanfare with a chorus and the electronic beats to complete the intro track and I knew I was in love.
I’m not a music critic which is why I’m not reviewing the Katamari Damacy soundtrack. Any music review from me would would all probably read the same anyways. “Yeah, I really liked how they sang the lyric that made me feel really good inside, and then the guitarist did the thing…y’know, with the guitar?” It’s really kind of sad actually. I’m joking to an extent, but I’m just not trained in music critique so it’s usually either a “I enjoy listening to this,” or “I’m unhappy to be listening to this” sort of deal.
So back to the Katamari soundtrack. I believe the first time I played the game was 4 years ago actually. Fairly recently considering I didn’t have a Playstation 2 at the time of the game’s initial release. The music began, the King of All Cosmos instilled in me a great fear of this magnanimous being, I just used the word “magnanimous” like I recently reviewed my vocabulary flash cards, and I remember failing quite hard initially at the game.
But the music is what I wanted to talk about and it was always, always fantastic. The mix of lounge jazz from tracks like Que Sera Sera with electronic tracks like Wanda Wanda were instantly catchy. Even when I was trying to navigate out of the most difficult Katamari situations, I would still find myself humming, singing-a-long with, enjoying whatever track was playing at the time.
Of course I believe the hands-down favorite of the album has got to be Lonely Rolling Star. I can imagine it’s a pretty popular track with its catchy female Japanese singer, looping electronic beats that just bounced around your head, and I believe the level that accompanied the song was one of the best ones in the game too but maybe it was the best because of the music. I’m listening to it right now as I write this and I’m stopping periodically just to sing along to the chorus.
It’s an enjoyable album all-around. Nothing harsh or even remotely disheartening. There are melancholic tracks sure, but they’re never depressing. And I believe it’s that appreciation of happier days is what the Katamari Damacy soundtrack managed to capture so perfectly. In tracks like Cherry Blossom Color Season where a chorus of children sings about the joys of youth, there is something inherently happy about the song even if the lyrics aren’t decipherable immediately (to non-Japanese speakers).
Katamari Damacy became a sort of cult-hit because people found it for lack of a different word, weird. But really it was just a different game and more importantly something new and for the sheer joy its soundtrack brings, it deserves a place on the collective gaming playlist.