Welcome to another edition of “The Casual Gaymer!” This is a weekly column from AiPT! Gaming in which I’ll share my thoughts, questions, and concerns about video games and the gaming industry as a queer person with limited free time. Missed last week’s edition where I examined Blizzard and Respawn’s handling of queer representation and was reminded that corporations will never be our friend? Eat up! This week, I’m ill! So, we’re going keep it a lot lighter. We’re going to focus on something that’ll roll up all our stressors and oppressors into a nice clump of non-Euclidean color and sound, blast them into the sky and turn them into a star. Do you feel it? Do you feel the cosmos? That’s right friends, we’re talking Katamari Damacy. Specifically, it’s insanely good soundtrack.
You could call this the first edition of The Casual Gaymer’s soundtrack appreciation specials, and what a one to start with. We’re basically starting at the top. We’re starting with the soundtrack that set the bar too high for any other game soundtrack to even think about meeting, much less passing. The Katamari Soundtrack not only waters my crops and clears my skin, it makes me feel like humanity’s existence on the earth is justified for having created such beauty.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who don’t know, Katamari Damacy is Namco’s third-person fever dream in which the player controls the Prince of All Cosmos whose father, King of all Cosmos, had a night of being “very naughty” and destroyed all the stars in the galaxy. As the Prince, you are charged with going to Earth armed with your colorful sphere–the katamari–to roll up as many objects, organisms, and structures as you can to make new stars to dot the galaxy’s skies. Need a visual? Here’s the trailer released for the game’s port to Steam and Switch last year.
Katamari Damacy‘s soundtrack has kept the gaming soundtrack throne–and my heart–warm since its release on the Playstation 2 in 2004. The eclectic mix of genre, tempo, and mood found throughout its 21 tracks give you a little bit of anything you’d want and more you didn’t realize you needed. From the sultry, playful vocals from Nobue Matsubara on “Katamari Mambo” to the jazzy, Sinatra-esque voice of Charlie Kosei on “Que Sera Sera” that appropriately recalls “Fly Me to the Moon.” These are songs that don’t just get stuck in your head, but imbed themselves in your blood, keeping you warm and happy whenever you need a pick-me-up.
My fondest memories of the Katamari soundtrack actually have less to do with playing the game itself, but of mixing the songs into a playlist of other hits from future Katamari games and hitting “shuffle” as I grinded out my character in World of Warcraft. The tonal dissonance in bobbing my head along to the peppy, gentle notes of “Lonely Rolling Star,” while slaughtering gargoyles in the Scourge-infested Ghostlands of Quel’Thalas may have been lost on me at the time, but it sure made making mining runs or waiting for dungeon groups a lot more fun.
My favorite track in the series is actually on the soundtrack for the 2005 sequel We Love Katamari, called “Katamari on the Swing.” When making a playlist of my favorite songs of all time for a friend, I couldn’t resist slipping it in between bops like Utada Hikaru’s “Hikari” and Britney Spears’s “Lucky.” However, if I had to choose a favorite track from the soundtrack that started it all, it has to be the main theme, “Katamari on the Rocks.” I can’t imagine not knowing the iconic sound of those gentle “na-naaaa-na-na-na-na-na”s dancing around my brain and the buildup to the chorus where the game’s title is sung sends my proverbial wig zooming past Jupiter every time.
I fully endorse looking into this soundtrack as well as the soundtracks of the other games in the series. I also fully endorse taking advantage of the recent Switch and PC ports to give this delightful and upsetting art a spin–er…roll. I mean come on, you get to roll up entire cities in a merciless attempt at appeasing a cosmic daddy with a bulge that has to have its own gravitational pull. If that ain’t an uncanny representation of a queer experience…
That’s all from me this week! I think I might make these soundtrack-focused editions a regular thing and boy will it be hard to not just have three editions in a row dedicated to the last three Persona games. Atlus sure does show their behinds a lot when it comes to ugly, backwards, transphobic bullshit in their games, but at least we get bops to dance through the pain! Seriously though, look up the latest news about Catherine: Full Body. Better yet, don’t. I almost did a column about it, but at the end of the day, we should all just look into trans people’s excellent, better informed writing on the situation and pray Katsura Hashino never comes near a Persona or Catherine game again. Or any game for that matter!
Wow! Okay, that really is all from me this week. Put on a Katamari soundtrack to cleanse you from that ugly bit of current events.