Game Music, Reviews

Japan’s Hottest Idol Rolls Her Own Katamari On Katamari Forever Soundtrack (Review)

September 16, 2009 | | 5 Comments Share thison Facebook Japan’s Hottest Idol Rolls Her Own Katamari On Katamari Forever Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Leah Dizon is the absolute hottest. But I don’t want to give her all the attention. The Katamari Forever Original Soundtrack (or Katamari Damacy Tribute in Japan) features a wide variety of talent from Japan, including YMCK, arranger Kimitaka Matsumae, a high school marching band, and series staple Shigeru Matsuzaki (who sings the best song on the album, by the way). It’s really an impressive collection of music that lives up to the Katamari musical tradition in terms of both quality and weirdness.

What’s really interesting, however, is that this album is comprised mostly of remixes of older Katamari Damacy tunes. You’re either going to love them or hate them, but it’s definitely an interesting concept, and I found myself pretty satisfied with the album when all was said and done. I admit I’m pretty ticked that they left out “Katamari Holiday” from the gingerbread house level from We Love Katamari, but at least they got the rest of my favorites.

More about the game’s music in our review of the Katamari Damacy Trbiute Original Soundtrack after the jump.

As any album comprised mostly of remixes, you’re bound to find tracks that you like and others that don’t really fit in with your fond memories of the original source material. Almost all of the arrangements here do something drastically different, so don’t come in looking for something straightforward. In any case, it’s quite an adventure, spanning all kinds of different genres and styles, and is sure to leave you with some new memorable moments.

The opening track, “Katamari on the Rhodes” is a nice little prelude, coming in as a subdued solo piano arrangement of the classic Katamari theme. It’s mellow, and it gets your mind back into the Katamari universe with the insanely catchy melody that we all know and love. With that, the buildup in “Katamari on the Wings” lets you know you’re in for something special. When it finally bursts forth, Takuya Oohashi of Sukima Switch belts out an amazing upbeat (and classy) arrangement of the Katamari theme. Oohashi’s voice quickly dances around with the melody, and I love the rhythmic variation on the “Naaa, na-na-na-na-na-na-na!” It’s a whole lot of fun, and you can’t help but sing along.

“Katamaresort” features vocals from Saigenji, and is a nice bossa nova tune with some chippy accents in the background. “Houston” by KIRINJI also sports the same kind of sound with some light male vocals. Typical Katamari Damacy stuff, but it’s great. “Cherry Blossom Color Season (fanfare mix)” on the other hand, features acoustic guitars and triumphant brass, sounding as cheery as the original, but the super high-pitched female vocals by Beautiful Hummingbird… well, let’s say it’ll take awhile for them to grow on you. I loved the children’s voices in the original, but this one sounds like some kinda 1960s hippie version. I guess I’m not surprised; it’s Katamari Damacy after all.

From here, however, we enter the Twilight Zone. “Bluffing Damacy (Refreshed by GUIRO)” is a strangely out-of-tune arrangement of the We Love Katamari track. I dig the groovy bassline, driving percussion, and clean acoustic guitar, and while the vocals are painful at times, it’s kind of endearing in the same way that you might cheer on your buddy who’s absolutely terrible at karaoke. “Katamari on the Rock (5cm Prince Remix),” on the other hand, isn’t even recognizable as a Katamari track with its techno beat and Japanese rap until the familiar theme enters towards the end. I can’t even figure out what game “Galactic S-O-U-L” is from, but it’s remixed by Buffalo Daughter, and features some emo female vocals, some grungy rock percussion, and some spacey sound effects. The chorus section is cool, but the track is exceptionally dark for a Katamari tune. “You Are Smart (RAAGINA SOFT MIX)” is totally funkadelic with wah-wah guitar effects, hi-hats, and bongos. I was waiting to hear “You’re damn right!” It’s also close to 10 minutes in length for some reason, but it’s a good excuse to funk out.

One of the most interesting tracks on the album is “Scorching Savanna High School Performance,” which is actually a live performance by the Horikoshi High School Band. Who would have thought that you could orchestrate the music of Katamari Damacy? It’s a pretty stellar track that works its way through a number of themes including “Que Sera Sera,” and my favorite, “LONELY ROLLING STAR.” They seriously need to take these arrangements and put together an orchestral concert one of these days. I’d see it. On the topic of “LONELY ROLLING STAR,” the remix here is called “Lonely Rolling No More,” and is performed as a duet featuring Yuusama and Natsukohan. I love how they switch off between singing separately, then join to create some wonderful harmonies. The arrangement itself features some groovy Rhodes and pumping percussion that gives the track some kick. I simply love this track!

Now on to my favorite track of all, and it’s a new one! “Shadow and Light” by Shigeru Matsuzaki (who has been featured numerous times through the series) is simply stunning. It’s a simple ballad, but the combination of the sweet melody with Matsuzaki’s deep voice really hits the spot. The chorus sections blew me away with Matsuzaki’s amazing ability to hold a note. At one point, he holds a note for a whole 33 seconds, although in all seriousness, this is obviously done with some technical mixing magic. I also love the way he says “Shadow and Light” in English.

It’s then on to disc 2, which is arguably not as strong as the first. There’s crazy samba with “Katamari On The Funk (Senor Coconut’s “Katamambo!” remix),” and a surprising appearance by YMCK with “A Crimson Rose and a Gin Tonic (YMCK 8bit Mix).” Pretty awesome to find a chiptune on this album, and they really put the arpeggiator effects to use here, matching jazzy chip music to upbeat jazz vocals. There’s some more chippy stuff later with “Katamari Spirit,” a short 1-minute track that sounds like something out of an oldschool racing game, and “Katamari on the Swing (SEXY-SYNTHESIZER ALL ABOUT namco Mix)” which I’m certain makes use of Pac-Man sound effects. They also chip-ify the Katamari theme vocals, creating a really cool sound. This would have been a good one to end the album with…

Next up, lending even more star power, Leah Dizon tackles “Everlasting Love” in a remix titled “Everlasting Love + You.” I’ve always loved this track, and Dizon sings the entire thing in English. I would have preferred some Japanese, but it’s still cool to hear. The arrangement is a bit more stop-and-go, working in a 4/4 drumbeat and an octave-jumping bassline that makes the piece more punchy. Awesome that they got Leah Dizon on here… and damn she’s hot! There’s another version of “Everlasting Love” on the album, which is kind of redundant, and made even more pointless given that it’s basically the original with some gratuitous effects added to the vocals to make them sound more mechanical and an added drum beat. The next track is Kimitaka Matsumae’s remix of “The Royal Academy Of Katamari,” which is totally funky with some awesome synth work. It sounds like something out of a Mario RPG if that’s any indication. Super upbeat, and lots of fun.

“The Moon and The Prince (and LEOPALDON MIX)” is another great track if you’re willing to give it chance. Aside from the reused catch phrase from the original, nothing really carries over. Instead, this vocal phrase is worked into an entirely new song with an increased tempo and a much more electronic sound. There are two vocalists who take turns talking and rapping. Sounds annoying, but it’s actually really cool. There’s a dance breakdown towards the middle, and the chorus section, “everybody move your body, everybody needs somebody” is awesome.

Let me blaze through three more tracks, then I’ll talk about the disaster of an ending that this album has in store for you. “Katamari Dancing All Night” with vocals by King Robo is a funky electro track with more use of vocaloid in various forms. “Mushroom Parade” is a short original that sounds like the electric light parade at Disneyland with its upbeat, harpsichord-like synth lines. Finally, “Do Re Mi Katamari Do (-rh rehabilitation re-arrange-)” is a slow and dreamy take on the track, which provides a much welcomed break from the high energy of the rest of the album. It’s nice to just chill out.

So, about the ending. How about two back-to-back 8-minute long techno tunes that only reference the Katamari universe with a couple interludes of “humming” of the main theme? If that sounds awesome to you, you’re in luck. Granted, the tracks themselves aren’t bad, but 16 minutes of music that isn’t all that varied and doesn’t really reference the Katamari universe is a bit excessive. The final track, “Last Chaotic Ambience” would usually be right down my alley with its wacked out vocaloid sounds and wind effects, but it’s 4 minutes long, and it’s the last thing you’ll hear on the album. I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed… I wanted to go out with a bang!

Well, I apologize for going on for so long. It’s hard to talk about an album chocked full of remixes of some of our favorite Katamari themes as well as some awesome original tracks without going on at great length. While you’re certainly not going to love everything, there is definitely a lot of great music here. The high school band track, “Shadow and Light,” and the appearance of YMCK and Leah Dizon definitely earn the Namco team some kudos in my book. As for the packaging, there’s a nice fold-out insert that has all the lyrics and tons of art, and of course, as you’ve seen, the cover is totally messed up. That’s Katamari Damacy! The bottom line is that I recommend you check this out if you’re a fan of the series. The game’s out soon, and there’s a lot of great (and strange) stuff to look forward to.

Have you been looking forward to Katamari Forever? Have any thoughts regarding their decision to feature mainly remixes, and their ability to bring in some big names to record the tracks?

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