A good soundtrack, many would argue, is essential for a good video game, and can immerse the player into the game even further. The distinct, soft melody of the Animal Crossing soundtrack has become a fan favourite and has provided a sense of comfort and stability to many players over the years. But what exactly makes the soundtrack so popular?
Animal Crossing, a slow-paced life simulation game that allows the player to decorate their home, interact with anthropomorphic animals, and complete tasks such as fishing and finding fossils in real-time, is complemented perfectly by the relaxed, gentle melodies that ever so slightly alter with every passing hour, or with changes in the weather. Every holiday and season has its own thoughtfully handcrafted accompaniment and helps to create a peaceful atmosphere that keeps players coming back, year after year.
KK Slider, a guitar-playing dog that appears in various locations around the game depending on which version you play, brings music to the forefront of gameplay and delights players with his performances of various upbeat tunes. Indeed, a search of KK Slider into YouTube brings up countless parodies of chart-topping hits in his distinctive style, demonstrating how the soundtrack has spilt into popular culture. The game also spices up the soundtrack with the introduction of Gyroids, collectable singing ornaments that can be dug up and placed in your house, giving the player a chance to create a soundtrack by placing different Gyroids in a range of formations. This creates almost an interactive soundtrack, with many players enjoying the element of collecting all the Gyroids, and making their own music – something that can also be done at the Town Hall, with the ability to compose a unique town tune.
The whimsical soundtrack is infused with sounds of nature, such as the calm waves and the rustling campfires in New Horizons. The music enhances the ordinary, and for many players, evokes a strong sense of nostalgia – a reminder of a simpler time, of childhood. The delightful and carefully placed sprinkling of glockenspiels and bells over a looping piano track or an upbeat ukulele piece allows us to escape our responsibilities, and embrace a sense of mellow monotony, where our biggest worries are which flowers to plant, and what wallpaper to use in our virtual home. A YouTube search of the soundtrack shows videos with the music lasting for hours, designed for people to use as they study and relax, illustrating that the soundtrack is not exclusively used for gameplay, but as an accompaniment to the everyday, a slice of harmony in the background that provides a sense of stability in an uncertain time.
Personally, Animal Crossing holds a lot of fond memories. Highlights of the soundtrack for me include ‘8am’ from the City Folk version of the game, which perfectly encapsulates the delicate lull of a rainy morning, the plodding baseline evoking images of a drizzly walk to school. Another memorable track includes the ‘Main Theme’ of ‘City Folk’ heard during the loading screen, with the perfectly placed plucking of guitar strings transporting me back to long summer nights spent tucked up in bed with DS in hand, losing track of time, and the tranquillity of ‘10pm’ and ‘11pm’ conjure memories of road trips, journeys to the airport, and long drives home. A final favourite is the ‘Birthday’ theme song, bringing me back to waking up early before opening presents to log on and celebrate virtually, with letters from the eclectic mix of villagers, birthday cake, and the ever-familiar soundtrack I love so much.
For many, soundtracks are sentimental and create a long-lasting appreciation for a game. It will be exciting to see how the wonderful soundtrack of Animal Crossing matures and develops further as new versions of the game continue to be released, and watch a new generation of players fall in love with the melodies.
Image: Tiên Nguyên on Flickr.