Profile: Kazumi Totaka - The Man Behind Animal Crossing's K.K. Slider
Posted by Kai Jackson
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.