Video game music is complicated because it needs to make a statement while comfortably existing in the background. The Katamari Damacy franchise has always understood this.
You’ll see a lot of memes here and there of people jokingly referencing back to any work done by Phil Collins on soundtracks such as Tarzan and Brother Bear. They claim that he “didn’t have to go this hard” and question “why he went this hard”. The Tarzan soundtrack has to be one of my favourite movie soundtracks for Phil Collins’ work on it. It’s hard to forget.
When thinking about the video game equivalent of this, there are plenty of options in terms of video game music that blows us away. Journey was even nominated for a Grammy for its soundtrack back in 2013, which it was honestly robbed of. However, when I think about video game music that exceeds expectations monumentally, the first game that comes to mind is We Love Katamari, and most notably the track Katamari On The Swing.
I tell no lie when I say that I think about this song, and the soundtrack as a whole, a lot. The game itself was nominated for best audio at the 2005 BAFTA’s and this song, in particular, won the award for Best Original Vocal/Pop Song at the 4th Annual Game Audio Network Guild awards in 2006. Shigeru Matsuzaki’s vocals on this track are balls-to-the-wall insane, just bursting at the seems with feeling. There is no way I can listen to this song without smiling. Composers Yuu Miyake and Yoshihito Yano literally did not have to go this hard.
While the whole soundtrack is great and an excellent foray into the experimental, Katamari On The Swing truly is video game music on a whole other level. While there are many songs from games that make me feel something, there are few that make me feel this good. When you consider that the game is ultimately about over-consumption and that you are rolling everything up only for everything you collected to be burned alive and turned into a star, having the music that comes with the game bop in the background makes for an easy distraction from your crimes against humanity.
What song from a video game do you think went hard, even when it didn’t need to?