Listen Hear: Animal Crossing

Video games have tons of working parts that go into making them all so amazing.  The story, the characters, the world, the graphics, the controls.  But there is often an element that a lot of people overlook.  An element that truly does bring to life a lot of the aforementioned list.

The music.

Music is an integral part of my life.  Just as in films, the soundtrack can lift whatever game it’s in to an entirely new level.  In this series, Listen Hear, I’m going to highlight some of video games’ finest musical pieces and explain why they mean so much to me.  Hopefully you’ll find something here you enjoy and perhaps themes you never even noticed.  Strap yourself in, we have a few decades to get through.

Animal Crossing Logo 515x300

After listening to the Animal Crossing Google Chrome extension for the last few weeks, I thought it would be appropriate to go with Animal Crossing for the GameCube as the next installment.  Released in America in 2002 (2001 on the Nintendo 64 and later GameCube in Japan, known there as Animal Forest), the incredibly weird life simulation game has a plethora of songs throughout for almost every moment you can imagine.  The soundtrack is over seven goddamn hours of music.  Seven hours.  There are songs for every building you enter, taking a train, getting stung by a bee, and even New Year’s Eve!  There are so many songs for NYE alone it’s astounding, and it’s a once a year event!  There’s one for the countdown to the new year at intervals of one hour till, thirty minutes till, ten till, five till, AND the new year itself.  Needless to say, the music here is extremely expansive.

What I like the most is there are songs for every hour of the day.  One of my personal favorites is “1 PM”.

There are cat meowing noises throughout the entire beautiful piece and it could not make me any happier.  A slow, relaxing song which fits perfectly for a lazy afternoon of lounging after you’ve stuffed your face with a big lunch.  It makes me think of rocking back and forth in a hammock and reading a book or exploring the beach for fossils, only to be interrupted by a literal talking cat who would ask me if I wanted a new carpet for my house.  Which I would of course say yes, duh, give me the new carpet talking cat.

What I find really interesting is there are songs for times you’ve probably never even heard.  When the hell would you be playing Animal Crossing between 2 and 8 AM?  Rarely, as much as I wish it were the opposite.  But listen to this “2 AM” jam!

Holy shiiiiiiiit.  Dat sweet, sweet digital brass.  I want to be at that party!  It’s a funky little groove that’s akin to you stumbling out of the Roost Café or a social gathering, somewhat inebriated, and feeling really, really good.  You walk through the forest at night, taking in the sights and enjoying everything around you.  Hilariously, “3 AM” sounds like you’ve staggered back into your tiny and horribly decorated house, tremendously tired, thrown your keys wherever, flipped off the lights, and plopped into bed.

It’s pretty amazing how well done these tracks are, especially with the knowledge that a large portion of players will never, ever hear them.  “8 AM”, another of my favorites, was a song I was unaware of its greatness until I listened to the soundtrack by itself years later.  Look what I missed out on!

It has a “you can do it!” feel to the entire tune, like it’s telling me to get up and seize the day.  An exceeding jovial little melody to start your morning off right, the harmonica that comes in around the 0:52 second mark adds the perfect bit of the outdoorsy feeling that the Animal Crossing series has.  I hate that I never heard this song during my original playthrough, but I’m sure as hell glad it exists.

Kazumi Totaka, the game’s sound director, has a real flare for bringing each musical section an entirely unique life, completely in sync with whatever moment it’s interacting with.  Not only that, but his own famous 19 note song finds its way into the game as well, sung by none other than K.K. Slider himself, a character modeled after the musician.  Totaka has a habit of sliding this particular song into many of the games he has worked on, this one just happens to have a badass dog singing along.  He even howls at the 1:20 mark.

Most recently, his song has been found in Mario Kart 8, sung by a Yoshi on the sidelines.  Making this even more meta, Totaka is the voice actor for Yoshi.  Lastly, think about this: Every Animal Crossing game has this many songs in it.  What a ridiculous amount of work!  But Totaka delivers every single time.  I’ll leave you with K.K. Slider in full form singing “Western.”  Pull me into your world, Villager.

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