Now, I'm no video games journalastic historianist, but I seem to remember that the very first Katamari Damacy game was something of a slow burn. In my own circle, it was the very definition of a word of mouth sensation. I had no idea what it was, but I had heard from a gradually growing number of people that it was awesome and amazing and weird and totally addictive and all those other things that it is. I think the thing that finally sold me was hearing about how "Japanese" it was. Well OK then, I guess I'll have to check it out, I said to my dog, who I don't think I had at the time and who I am now retconning into my narrative.
My dog and I found the game for a super low price and we instantly won over by the simple box art and design. Two seconds and it already looked like nothing we had seen before. A few minutes into playing it and we were both eternally lost to its bizarre charms. And by "we" and I mean me and my dog. Seriously, the thought of her playing a video game is so cute and is now distracting my thoughts.
I was personally drawn in more by the soundtrack than the game itself, and I don't think I'm alone there. To say it was a breath of fresh-air would be lazy and boring, so let's call it a bottle of absinthe to a chronic alcoholic with nothing left to live for. I couldn't get enough and I didn't want to hear about anything else until I had consumed it all. Every new installment of the series was a new fix. Sure, it may have never been quite as magical and deleterious as the first time, and I always needed a little more, and I went blind, but I still welcomed them all like an old friend returning with a new bottle of sweet, sweet poison.
Which brings us to the newest title, Katamari Forever, released in the west today/soon/recently, and its accompanying two disc soundtrack (available at CDJapan, Play-Asia, Amazon.jp etc). Since there are 36 tracks on the soundtrack, I'm just going to stick to the real stand outs. Also, since you're reading this, I'm assuming you're already at least passingly familiar with the previous soundtracks. If you're not, here's the short version: While you can't really stick a single genre description onto it, the music of Katamari is always playful, fun and poppy. Sure, some tracks are a bit more rock, some jazzy and swinging, some orchestrated and some purely electro. What they all have in common is a human quality. These aren't cold, factory generated sound-beds meant to melt into the background or give emo boys an adrenaline rush. These are proper songs that just happen to be in a video game. Which is why we are talking about it here in the first place.
Naturally, much of what fills up Forever's audio space are simply recontextualized versions of the old songs we know and love. The swinging jazz becomes an orchestra. The electro rock becomes acoustic folk. The big band mayhem becomes funky hip-hop or whatever. Pretty standard stuff. Newcomers won't know the difference and long time fans will find the reworking to be a welcome refresher. But none of them are earth-shattering, and in the worst cases they actually sap the original songs of their unique spirit. Let's not dwell on the missteps.
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