I mentioned in my last Animal Crossing post that the games have really effective sound work. The excited Animalese language of the villagers, which is a pitched voice reading the letters of the text box aloud, miiiight just be the series’ most recognizable audio element. What I really like about its presentation is that every character’s vocals are scaled to their size and personality. For example, a large lazy character will sound sloooow and low, but a tiny mouse might be rapid and chirpy. Compare it to other games that use a more neutral beep-boop cue for text boxes, which Animal Crossing refers to as Bebebese; Flowerese is silence. This persistent idiosyncrasy goes a long way in making the world feel as colorful as it is (I’d say Simlish is similarly distinct).
I can’t really talk about what makes KK Slider fun without bringing all of this up because his vocals take Animalese from their context and repurpose them as a musical element. Instead of just a piano player or something being used as a vehicle to recite music (i.e. Chrono Trigger uses this as a familiar contextual icon but the results are jukebox-like), KK Slider is quite genuinely playing for you using the established rules of the Animal Crossing universe.
He has a guitar, he has a voice, he’s going to sing for you, and he really does. Because it would be difficult to time proper lyrics using Animalese’s format, Totaka seems to have found it easier to use a small sampling of vocal sounds (like “mee”, “oh”, “kweh”) which make up the singing. There are even little design influenced accents like barking and howling that make me believe the music come straight from his doggy heart. KK Slider’s existence is so welcome and the extensive collection of music he brings with him is pretty generous. Like a lot of Animal Crossing, there isn’t a lot of tangible reward for seeing him, but these games are never about that. The leisurely concerts every Saturday are for their own sake and the clear care put into this guy really shows.
An interesting thing to note with the Aircheck/Bootleg versions of KK Slider’s music is that his voice is absent entirely and usually so is his guitar. The main melody is replaced with the contextually proper leading instrument for whatever stylistic direction it draws from. We’re talking 100% “studio” quality renditions. While these versions sound more developed and maybe canonical to some ears, by removing the “kweh” of the real KK Slider, there’s a lot less character. Considering the pup’s rebellious personality, wouldn’t you say this is fitting?