Japanese games can be incredibly weird sometimes. Of course, more often than not, that fact is not to the detriment of the games in question. If anything, it often adds to that odd charm inherent to so many of the stranger Japanese games out there, and there are few candidates that can more readily demonstrate that point than Katamari Damacy. The game is an amalgamation of Japanese weirdness; so much so, that it pervades every aspect of the game’s design. The soundtrack is, naturally, no exception to that rule, and yet the end result produced one of the most enjoyably eccentric and eclectic soundtracks in the entire medium.
Even from just the main theme, “Katamari on the Rocks,” it’s immediately clear that the music for Katamari Damacy will be anything but normal. With a significant portion of the theme consisting of “ch-ch” sounds made by background singers and the main part of the song performed by the singer stringing together “la-la-la” and “na-na-na” throughout, it’s difficult to think of another song that evokes the same feeling unless it also has a place in a Katamari Damacy game. However separated it may be from the norm though, there couldn’t be a better song to convey the overall tone for the soundtrack.
That’s not to say that every song on the soundtrack sounds similar though. Although most of the songs evoke similar feelings, the songs have a strong variance throughout. There are fast-paced beatbox songs such as “Gin & Tonic & Red Red Roses” that sit alongside slower-paced calming songs like “Katamari Stars.” No two songs can be confused for one another in any significant way, even if the same basic tune forms the basis for both songs, as is the case with “Katamari Nah-Nah” and “Overture.” While they both clearly use the same basic tune, they could not be more different from one another in both instrumentation and tone.
Even with the notable differences, there is one constant present in almost every song on the soundtrack, if not all of them: Japanese vocals. Be they traditionally sung Japanese songs, tracks that use vocals in place of instruments, or even the occasional song that uses Japanese vocalists singing English, Team Katamari got as much usage as possible out of the vocal talent they had.
It isn’t only one type of vocal talent either. There were clearly many different singers involved with the game, as the many different songs can attest to. While songs like the rap-heavy “The Moon and the Prince” feature male Japanese singers harmonizing their lyrics, other songs like “Katamaritaino” feature female singers instead. Most interesting of all to me is “Cherry Blossom Color Season,” which appears to be performed by an entire choir of children, with certain sections being sung by soloists from that same choir. The song carries the charm of the game very well while also featuring a significantly different sound than most songs that I’ve ever heard. Still, even with all these differences across the soundtrack, it still maintains the lighthearted mood appropriate for Katamari Damacy.
As usual, I need to bring up a couple of my favorite songs from the soundtrack to give them the recognition they deserve. “Que Sera Sera” is notable for featuring vocals almost entirely sung in English, as opposed to the smattering heard in some of the other tracks. With that aside, I can’t help but appreciate the quality of the singing in question and the incredibly calming nature of the instrumentation. “Wanda Wanda” is another song with very interesting vocal usage, altering them to make a very consistent, and different, backbeat. Those vocals alongside the almost trance-like instrumentation make for a song that is simply fun to listen to. Finally, my favorite on the entire soundtrack is the above-shown “Lonely Rolling Star.” Aside from having a very catchy refrain and very good usage of instrumental drops, there is a cheery quality to the song that I really like. Every time I listen to it, it just cheers me up, even if I wasn’t feeling bad.
In the end, that is a good description for the entire soundtrack of Katamari Damacy. Despite its very unconventional tone and instrumentation, I can’t help but feel good every time I listen to it. The vocal usage is some of the strongest I’ve seen in any games and the consistent quality of the songs truly impresses. Regardless of your opinion on music in general, I find it hard to believe that everyone can’t find something that makes them feel good on this soundtrack. Everyone who appreciates good music owes it to themselves to give this one a solid listen. I guarantee you won’t find anything quite like it.
Music Mondays is a weekly column by Austin Yorski and Robert Heck dedicated to discussing the most interesting audio experiences in electronic interactive media. Tune in every week for more original game soundtracks that you need to hear. Feel free to disagree with, add to, or question everything. I welcome your feedback.