Soundtrack Saturdays: Katamari Damacy – Que Sera Sera

You may not have noticed, but my YouTube account was terminated a few days ago. I could talk about how annoying and frustrating it is to lose something that I’ve had for years, all due to the site’s inconsistent copyright notice system, but I’ll spare you. It’s fine, really. I’ve restarted from scratch and am currently getting my travel videos reuploaded. I didn’t lost anything important…aside from my favorites list.

Having to redo my favorites list has actually been a blessing in disguise; it’s made me revisit videos and songs that I haven’t heard in ages, like the Katamari Damacy soundtracks. If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you know why I love the Katamari series: A bizarre, hilarious premise involving physics and mythology, accompanied by an eclectic blend of rock, jazz, pop, electronica, mambo, gospel, and pretty much every other musical genre you could possibly think of. “Que Sera Sera” was one of those great standouts in the original game; no one expected chill English lounge music in such a wonderfully strange Japanese game.

If you want more Katamari Damacy, you can listen to the OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – Jazzy NYC ’99

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is a serious contender for my favorite game of all time. I could spend hours waxing poetic about its incredible design. How fun it was despite the relatively small roster. How unappreciated it was in its time, simply because of its ridiculously steep learning curve. How its intricate and technical combat mechanics set new standards for the fighting genre. How its complex parrying and combo systems unapologetically demanded memorization down to individual animation frames. How the graphics were some of the finest 2D sprites in the 90s. How high-level play is insanely difficult but extremely entertaining, even almost two decades later. How it’s one of the few games that I’m still willing to play anywhere, anytime.

Yeah, I love 3rd Strike.

What many folks remember it for most, however, is the soundtrack. The playlist borrowed from and blended several genres, most notably jazz, rap, techno, and instrumentals. It was a risky departure from the simpler, traditional game music themes (which Street Fighter II helped establish), but the decision paid off in spades. Jazzy NYC ’99 is arguably the most famous track, for obvious reasons. Its catchy beat goes perfectly with the bustling, gritty city subway in which its stage is located. Even after all these years, any old school fighting game fan will recognize it instantly. That’s a testament to this game’s quality.

If you want more 3rd Strike, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Kingdom Hearts – Simple And Clean

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned Kingdom Hearts before. It’s one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, and for good reason; it’s a huge, sprawling crossover that spans not only the Final Fantasy series, but also almost every major Disney movie. Yeah, it’s as epic as it sounds. The first game alone featured places from Alice In Wonderland, Hercules, Tarzan, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Peter Pan, and references to many others.

Shown above is the HD version of the original game’s intro, complete with its catchy trance remix of Hikari (Simple and Clean) by Utada Hikaru. The slower instrumental version is also an excellent, chill tune. With Kingdom Hearts III currently in development, who knows what the next soundtrack will be like. I’m betting on awesome.

In the meantime, you can find the full OST for the first Kingdom Hearts here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: SMT: Digital Devil Saga 2 – Divine Entity

Despite its popular original Japanese release in 1987, the Megami Tensei series has only become mainstream in the West within the last decade. And man, were we missing out. The games are all about following your beliefs; do you prefer order, chaos, or something in between? The future of humanity itself hangs in the balance. Your ability to recruit, summon, and control demons and other mythological beings figure largely in your strategy…as well as whatever overarching cosmic plan the gods have in store. Most of the games are notorious for their difficulty in comparison to others in the same genre. The steep learning curve, unforgiving complexity, and sheer length aren’t for everyone. But if you enjoy well-written stories with ambiguous moralities, challenging gameplay, and tons of mythological references, be sure to give it a look. You might want to start where the majority of gamers did: Persona 3 and Persona 4. These spin-offs are not as brutal as the main series, but have wonderful writing, excellent characters, and are themed around Jungian and Nietzschean concepts. Or if you want to wait until later this year, Persona 5 will be coming stateside.

In the meantime, you can listen to more of the DDS2 soundtrack here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Silent Hill 2 – Theme Of Laura

Trying to explain Silent Hill 2 is tricky business. It’s not because it’s difficult to understand from a narrative perspective, but because I really don’t want to spoil anything. It’s about a man named James Sunderland who comes to the titular town after receiving a letter from his wife…who died three years ago. What starts as a forlorn trip down memory lane quickly develops into one of the best psychological horror stories and character studies in gaming history. I could spend hours analyzing Silent Hill 2’s storytelling – particularly how Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment influenced it – but I don’t want to ruin it for those who haven’t played yet. After all these years, Laura’s Theme is still one of the most emotional songs in an already memorable game.

If you want more Silent Hill 2, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Sonic Unleashed – Spagonia Rooftop Run Night

The Sonic the Hedgehog series has seen better times. In the 90s, it was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario. These days, it’s become the punching bag the video game industry, and many of the complaints are completely justified. The last few titles were riddled with glitches – including the infamous infinite jump trick – which diminished the already lackluster gameplay. Sonic games have always been about speed and momentum; it worked in 2D because the character operated on a side-scrolling screen. As the series has repeatedly demonstrated over the last decade, such speed does not translate well into 3D environments.

Despite all its missteps, the Sonic series has never faltered in one aspect: its music. Fans are still remixing tracks from Sonic 2, and a lot of older gamers know the lyrics “Escape From The City” and “Live And Learn” by heart. Even Sonic Unleashed, a game often ridiculed for its premise and characters, has some great instrumental tracks. This Spagonia Night theme is just one of several examples of its surprisingly catchy soundtrack.

If you want more Sonic Unleashed, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Gran Turismo 3 – Light Velocity

When talking about racing video games, most people immediately mention theĀ  Mario Kart series. It was fun, memorable, and a huge part of 90s American childhood. While it certainly deserves the nostalgia, it was only one of many amazing franchises out there. When it debuted on the Playstation in 1997, Gran Turismo stood out for its accuracy to real-life racing and selection of cars. However, the series didn’t really hit its stride until Gran Turismo 3 on the PS2. It was 2001 and very early in the console’s life cycle, but it was one of the first games to demonstrate what the new hardware was capable of. There weren’t as many cars due to the focus on graphical detail, but those cars were realistic and (for their time) utterly gorgeous. Having entries from Formula One, Lamborghini, and Porsche was a car enthusiast’s dream. Combined with the superb jazz and rock soundtrack, Gran Turismo 3 quickly became a modern classic, and one of the highest-selling games of all time.

If you want more Gran Turismo 3, you can find most of the OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Guilty Gear Xrd – Lily

Fun fact: Street Fighter II Turbo was the only fighting game I played as a kid. No, seriously. I didn’t know about King of Fighters, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, or any of the other iconic brawlers of the old school gaming generation. So imagine my shock when I first played Guilty Gear X2, one of the greatest fighting games on the PS2. It had incredibly detailed sprites, edgy and stylish characters, fantastic settings, stunning special effects, and an absolutely killer soundtrack. My world was rocked; for that time onward, I made a point of playing every Guilty Gear game I could get my hands on.

I wasn’t the only one, either. After years of re-releases, the fans finally got the next-gen sequel they’d demanded. Guilty Gear Xrd was recently released for the PS3 and PS4, just in time for the holiday season. And from what I’ve played so far, it’s exactly what everyone wanted: several badass characters, stellar voice acting, blisteringly fast-paced combat, incredibly technical gameplay, and graphics that utterly trounce any 2D fighter before it. Of course, it has a ridiculously awesome OST. There’s the usual blends of rock and metal, though there are a few more lighthearted tracks scattered throughout. Daisuke Ishiwatari, the legendary director, artist, writer, and composer behind the Guilty Gear series, happens to be a huge Queen fan. Tracks like “Lily” are fine examples of the work he does.

If you want more Guilty Gear Xrd, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: We Love Katamari – Katamari On The Swing

Last week, I posted one of my favorite songs from the We Love Katamari soundtrack. Upon further listening, I realized that I’d completely overlooked “Katamari On The Swing.” Pretty sure no one was expecting swing music in a Japanese niche game. As the replacement for “Katamari On The Rocks” as the game’s main theme, it set the tone of the sequel perfectly: it was bigger, grander, and flashier in every way. Compare the original intro to the one in the sequel, for example. This track was so popular, it got its own synthesized remix in subsequent titles.

If you want more We Love Katamari, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: We Love Katamari – Heaven’s Rain

When Katamari Damacy became a sleeper hit in 2004, Namco decided to take the popularity and run with it. A year after the original game, We Love Katamari was released on the PS2. It’s one of the rare examples of a sequel improving on every aspect of its predecessor. The already bizarre narrative was made even more meta, stages were scaled up, there were hundreds of more interactive objects, challenges were more difficult to complete, and there was far more variety in terms of settings and visuals. You want to build a snowman? Try making one with a head the size of a house. On the game’s final stage, your katamari gradually grew from the size of a small animal to rolling up entire countries in the span of a few minutes. Seriously, check it out.

The soundtrack was greatly expanded as well. While the first game utilized mostly rock and jazz, We Love Katamari delved more into instrumentals, beatboxing, and techno tracks. “Heaven’s Rain” is one of the more relaxing songs in the game. The soothing vocals, accordion, and strings always made me want to just kick back and finish the stage at a slow pace…then the beats kicked in.

If you want more We Love Katamari, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.