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Profile: Kazumi Totaka - The Man Behind Animal Crossing's K.K. Slider

Posted by Kai Jackson

Jazz Hounds

It's barely more than a month before Animal Crossing: New Leaf finally hits western shores, and whilst we impatiently wait to get our paws on it we thought we'd take a look at the history behind one of the village's favourite regulars: K.K. Slider.

With his country guitar and unique vocal style (who could forget such hit lyrics as “bwoo whaa ne ne bwoo aayyy”?), K.K. has been performing to players every Saturday night since Animal Forest was released back in 2001. He's based on music composer Kazumi Totaka – K.K's Japanese name Totakeke is a contraction of Totaka K. – who has a long and unique history with Nintendo.

Totaka began life at Nintendo in 1991, aged just 24, and has composed the memorable soundtracks to a wide array of titles – Mario Paint, Wario Land, The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening and Pikmin all appearing on a noteworthy resume of over fifty titles. In 2008 he turned game director for the first time with Wii Music, drafted in to turn the ailing project around.

What began life as a fairly traditional rhythm-action title turned into the much more free-flowing music mixer (or mangler, depending on your talent) we know today. Whilst it was certainly one of Wii's more interesting titles – we liked it — unfortunately it never found wide acceptance and received a critically and commercially mediocre reception. It perhaps wasn't helped by an entirely baffling demonstration during Nintendo's much-maligned 2008 E3 presentation, and became the unfortunate poster child for company's perceived loss of touch with the 'hardcore' fans in favour of a blue-ocean casual strategy.

Totaka has more roles at Nintendo than just composer and game director, though. He also turned voice actor for the roles of lovable dino Yoshi and nutty professor E. Gadd of Luigi's Mansion fame. Legend says he landed the role of Yoshi after making up some sound effects in a meeting during the development of Yoshi's Story to demonstrate the character hopping through the game world, and the voice stuck. We're not sure how he came by the role of E. Gadd, but it's hard to imagine Luigi's misadventures without the Prof's 'yabbo-yabbo' and cheerful chuckling spurring him along.

What Totaka is probably best known and loved for though is a simple 19-note melody known as Totaka's Song. This little ditty has been sneaked into many — perhaps all — titles that Totaka has worked on, and has grown quite a cult following from fans attempting to track it down. It was first discovered in Mario Paint, where tapping the 'O' on the title screen would turn it into a bomb and shortly after begin playing the song. For a time, then, it was simply known as the Mario Paint Song.

Whilst it was easy to find in Mario Paint, it has remained elusive in other titles for much longer. It wasn't discovered in Game Boy title X – Totaka's first project with Nintendo – until over 15 years after its release. It has also turned up in Luigi's Mansion, Pikmin 2, Yoshi's Story, and no less than three times in Link's Awakening — and of course can be performed by K.K. Slider in every Animal Crossing game by asking for 'K.K. Song.'

Plenty of fans are still trying to track it down in other titles Totaka has worked on – it was thought to have been discovered last year in Wii launch title Wii Sports, encoded into the racket swings during a long tennis rally. However, it was ultimately debunked by GameTrailers on closer analysis.

Despite not occupying the same limelight of his peers at Nintendo, Kazumi Totaka has formed an important part of Nintendo's history and pop culture. The hunt is still on to find Totaka's Song in several titles if you're up to the challenge of finding it. Next time we see K.K., we might have to ask him what inside information he possesses.

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User Comments (26)

mystman12

#2

mystman12 said:

This is pretty weird timing, I just learned about Totaka's Song a few days ago! Now, I really want to try and find it in WaveRace 64 and Wii Sports.

Shiryu

#5

Shiryu said:

"Wii Music" is a directly responsible for my video game arrangement/remix part of my music hobby. It was from playing "Wii Music" I got the idea for my first arrangement/remix project back in 200: the music of "F-Zero" using a NES soundfont I had laying around. I haven't stopped since!

SunnyShores

#10

SunnyShores said:

KK slider was one of my favorite features in every animal crossing. i love going to see him every sat. night. can't wait to go see him again.

Capt_N

#12

Capt_N said:

@Raylax: Congrats for your first article! :)

@Shiryu: Sounds like ear candy to me.

Nintendo always has good music. It's one of their really good traits.

Off-topic note: Mario Paint should be on the Wii/WU VCs.

Private991

#13

Private991 said:

Yes... Totakas Song... The secret Nintendo has hidden in games... but it takes
So long to find!!!!!!

Maskeraid

#15

Maskeraid said:

Hopefully we'll see more of these from you in the future Raylax. :)

But Jeez, Totaka is one sneaky composer! I've always found his song to be so neat~ :*

Gioku

#16

Gioku said:

Ha! I would never have thought that the same guy did the voice of Yoshi and E. Gadd!

sinalefa

#17

sinalefa said:

Wii Music comercially mediocre reception? Didn't it sell like more than two million copies? Most games dream of selling so many.

And I dig the name Totakeke a dozen times more than K.K. Slider.

sweetiepiejonus

#18

sweetiepiejonus said:

Totaka has to be the coolest dude that people don't know about. So glad to see this article and it's a shame he isn't talked about more.

Emaan

#19

Emaan said:

I've always loved every soundtrack Kazumi Totaka has produced, they're all excellent <3

MadAdam81

#21

MadAdam81 said:

If Wii Music had more songs and 100s of instruments then it would have been better.
Imagine being able to do classical music with power guitars...

Kage_88

#22

Kage_88 said:

@bezerker99 - What an insightful and witty comment.

I always thought Wii Music was a misunderstood gem. People went into the game thinking it should've been like Guitar Hero or Rock Band; when in reality it was meant to be an interactive toy - Miyamoto did not want it to be a 'conventional' videogame.

I hope they release a sequel. Yeah, I said it.

Oh, and Totaka's a legend.

"Yabbo-Yabbo! Hoo-Hoo! Ohhohohohoho!"

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