(Editor’s note: From Ace Combat to Tekken, everyone’s got at least one videogame tune stuck in their heads. Enter Liner Notes: a Pixelitis feature in which our writers discuss their favorite videogame music.)
For as much as we all make fun of Patrick Kulikowski for his eternal flame of love for all things Breath of Fire, I suppose I have to come clean myself.
I have a ridiculous borderline obsession with Katamari Damacy. I mention it at least once a day, probably at least once every other podcast and I rarely go a day without listening to the music. While the first game’s music holds a soft spot in my heart, We Love Katamari or in Japanese, Minna Daisuki Katamari, is unparalleled musical genius.
If you don’t agree, you can stop right here.
If you don’t feel the sheer joy and excitement that this music brings, you’re already dead on the inside. From the opening swing dance swoops of “Katamari on the Swing” by Shigeru Matsuzaki to the laidback bossa nova beats of “Houston” by Katamari Robo (a Namco composition), there’s always a song to put you in the right mood to roll up unsuspecting animals, people and huge buildings. It’s an auditory indulgence that soothes any fears you have about bringing unprecedented destruction to the people in the galaxy.
And you know what? The people in this sequel want you to roll them up, therefore the royal “we” are absolved from any guilt tied to this mass of humanity that is a Katamari.
So get comfy, grab a drink and dive into the feel good vibes in my list of favorite jams from We Love Katamari.
“Katamari on the Swing” by Shigeru Matsuzaki
Matsuzaki yells “Come on Everybody!” in that gritty voice, followed by some great brass. There’s no better way to receive the Prince and the King of All Cosmos, riding on their royal rainbows with red pandas in stride. The first time I witnessed that spectacle after popping that disc into my PlayStation 2, a giant smile instantly appeared. A giant, stupid-up-to-your-cheekbones-hurt smile. This is the key to Katamari Damacy.
It’s an unusual mix of music to open up, a big band number with some great brass notes and sweet percussion that rhythmically sets you for the ride in to crazy town. The screen just swirls with a bunch of colors with lions and pandas, but the big band number compliments the almost psychedelic imagery that swims across the screen.
Plus, Shigeru Matsuzaki just sounds like a big band Japanese James Brown, so… how can one not love that? Gems like “Sailing Love” have only confirmed this sentiment.
“Bluffing Spirit” by Kirinji
Once you’re fully immersed into the world of the Cosmos, fans start coming out of the woodwork with some odd requests. You’ve got a mom yelling “Highness! Highness!” and dogs woofing at you. The cacophony settles down once you meet this young Swedish fan who just wants to roll up a giant campfire for all the campers to enjoy. And who doesn’t love fire?
Thus “Bluffing Spirit” by Kirinji was introduced to my young ears. The song also has an established flow that helps you to keep the kindling alive in your tiny Katamari. Rolling up pots and pans and avoiding lighting people’s butts on fire was far more pleasant alongside this song. Kirinji, the brotherly duo of Takaki and Yasuyuki Horigome, remind me of a polished and produced “Happy End.” The laid-back joy in the harmonized vocals and groovy distorted electronic guitar is inescapable.
It’s like a layered cake of eclectic for your ears to munch on.
“Houston” by Katamari Robo
Thinly veiled samba warms my heart to the consistency of soft butter. Which makes the rest of me sound like mushy pancakes, but whatever. This is what “Houston” by Katamari Robo (a Namco composition) does to me. I recently replayed this level at a staffer’s apartment and shrieks of unadulterated joy escaped my mouth at every twist and turn. The Green Princeling must roll up as many underwater creatures and discarded treasures as he can muster–all while listening to this hip-shaking smooth samba with some robotic vocals. Maracas and guitars fill up the rhythmic background as you undulate your katamari through the waves of this little pond.
And indeed, you “look for your dreams,” as the lyrics go. Cats with snorkeling masks, coins, mermaids, astronauts, every single strange thing you could think of finding underwater is ready to get rolled up while you swish with the Prince.
“Angel’s Rain” by YOU
Fireflies, while romantic, tend to be pesky critters in my book. But they redeemed themselves in an awesome level that showcased the creative mastery of Keita Takahashi, the creator behind the Katamari games. “Angel’s Rain,” is the lovely accordion medley to accompany your gentle magnetic rolling of fireflies in the moonlight as well as the artistic collection of an Ikebana Katamari.
If I am over-romanticizing this song, it’s because it’s worth the gesture. This song has nearly every instrument designed to make my inner Japanese school girl’s heart aflutter. It’s lounge music with a twist of cheese. Violins, accordions and the soft shake of maracas support the vocals of Japanese singer Yukiko Ehara, whose high octave voice glides over this composition.
And yet, oddly enough, I wasn’t the one who picked up on the unique nature of the lyrics. A few years ago, my brother sang them melodramatically while I was driving and I could never listen to the song the same way again. It’s that weird mixture of lounge and cheese.
“Every day with rain, futari de…”
“DISCO★PRINCE” by Kenji Ninuma
Aaaand here we go. The final song, which should be of no surprise to anyone. This upbeat disco electric jamfest is exactly what the doctor ordered. Distorted guitar sounds and some synthesizer with a Japanese Enka singer rapping. I really wish I was kidding, but Kenji Ninuma is the singer who donates his wicked vocals to this slice of fried gold.
This concoction of musical joy is for the most obvious level. The King and Prince must help this amateur Sumo wrestler eat his way to the top, quite literally by eating everything in his path. Gobbling up giant pieces of sushi, catching pizza with his rotund Katamari self – this sumo wrestler will stop at nothing to make sure he can overcome his opponent by rolling him up into his Katamari.
I’m venturing into the danger zone here, but screw it. This song rules. The dated disco feel with old record scratches is like chicken soup for my cold dead clump soul (spirit). If I ever need a pick me up, this the first thing I listen to.
All of the songs I mentioned above vary from whimsical to just outright ridiculous, but that’s what We Love Katamari is about. Accepting and enjoying the premise that destruction can bring about happiness in the form of wacky Japanese music and a narcissistic King who just wants to be loved by his adoring fans. The songs are half of the equation.
Now, this list wouldn’t be complete without a few honorable mentions, so here’s a few tracks to get an extra fix of the crazy that is We Love Katamari.
- “Baby Universe” by Maki Nomiya in the Snowball Level
- “Everlasting Love” by ALISA in the Racetrack Level
- “Kuru Kuru Rock” by Illreme in the School Level
- “Katamari Holiday” by Yuusama in the Candy/Hansel and Gretel Level