Review by Mechakucha

Reviewed: 01/03/05

"I'm so in love with you, I wanna wad you up into my life"

This game has come out of nowhere for many people. I heard about it in my Japanese class, saw it in the store and thought ‘what the hell, it’s only $20 bucks.’ Little did I know what I was getting myself into. This is quite possibly one of the most original and FUN game of this-- no scratch that-- ALL generations. That is a very big statement, I know, but this is supposed to be my opinion, and that’s what it is. Katamari Damacy is pure, addictive fun.

Story – 8/10

It doesn’t get much stranger than this. Your dad, the King of All Cosmos, does his favorite thing one night, which is to get drunk. Only this time he goes a little overboard, and breaks all the stars in the sky. Since he is the king, however, he cannot be seen replacing them, and thus hands the job to you, his son the Prince. You are to take a katamari (clump) to earth and make new stars.

The story itself is very simple, yet different than anything else out there. That counts a lot today when it is hard to tell which story goes with which game just a few weeks after beating them. The story is elaborated on little throughout the game, and is really just an excuse to get you to earth with a katamari. Even though it is not the masterpiece of modern storytelling, the story is completely original, and in my book that’s almost as good.

Gameplay – 10/10

This is where the game’s originality really stands out. You have a katamari that you roll around a random environment. Anything smaller than the katamari will get stuck on it, increasing the size and allowing you to pick up bigger and bigger things. Most levels give you a set amount of time to get your katamari to a certain size. Some levels have you pick up a certain number of items such as crabs, crowns, etc. And some levels have you pick up only one type of item, but you must be careful to pick up that one item only. The neat thing is how perspective changes the bigger your katamari gets. Things that once towered over you can now be sucked up easily. For example, you can start in a kitchen of a small house. You get bigger and bigger, and eventually get big enough to roll out the front door and terrorize the city, sucking up people, cars, even buildings. But you started out only a couple centimeters tall, not able to even suck up a battery. The gameplay may be a tad repetitive, but in this case, that’s good.

What makes this game really fun is how it controls. It uses no buttons, only the two analogue sticks. It controls like a tank. If you want to go forward, you press both sticks forward. If you want to turn right, push the left stick forward and pull the right stick back, etc. It is a tad awkward at first, and takes about thirty minutes to really get the hang of, but then it is just so perfect. I can’t imagine this game working any other way.

Presentation – 11/10

I just gotta give the Namco guys props for how this game is presented, for it is truly original, fun, and well thought out. Even loading data is a mini-game in itself, requiring you to roll up the save game you wish to load. From there you get a great introduction video that includes everything from singing ducks to magical pandas flying over a rainbow while glittering star dust falls to the ground to create multi-colored mushrooms.

Once the game is loaded, you can choose what you want to do by way of three different planets. Each planet is completely free roaming, and much like the world maps of PSX RPGs. You fly between planets by pressing L1 or R1. The Home Planet is where you can save/load, control game settings, and view your progress so far. Earth of course is where the main game takes place, allowing you to roam around to different parts and chose the star you wish to create. The final planet is for Multiplayer and is a giant mushroom with a couple dozen different characters roaming around it. You and a friend use the analogue sticks to select a character to play as in 2-Player mode.

Sound – 10/10

The soundtrack alone is worth $20. Featuring about an hour of different songs, from hip-hop to jazz to J-pop, each seems to fit in perfectly into the game while you roll stuff up. A warning though: almost every song is in Japanese. Some people may be turned off by that, but I found that not knowing what they’re singing about makes it all the more interesting and entertaining.

The sound effects are okay, neither good nor bad. Each item has a somewhat sensible sound when your roll it up. For example telephones usually ring, carrots make a ‘plap!’ sound as they’re yanked out of the ground, and people just scream. Each sound effect is clear and fits, and I guess that’s all you can really ask for. After being so surprised in other areas of the game, I was hoping the sound effects would do it as well. Unfortunately, they’re just average.

Graphics – 9/10

The thing that strikes me most about the graphics is that they’re so good at looking bad without actually being bad. At first glance, this game looks like a PSone title, but then you notice the blown up textures aren’t blocky due to poor programming, they’re designed that way. Everything is simple. There are no fancy water effects – just simply a flat blue texture that has flat white rings when you disturb it. The best way I can describe it is kinda like that Zelda game, the Wind Waker, except it isn’t cel-shaded and way simpler. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of stuff can be shown on screen, and the 3D models are great, but they’re textured usually in one flat color, with no lighting, no bump mapping, or filtering. Just… flat. As boring as that sounds it works incredibly well to creating a feeling of immersion. If each object was fully textured, lit, and all that stuff, it would be really distracting, keeping you from focusing on the gameplay itself. To put it bluntly – it seems anyone can program a pretty looking game nowadays, but it takes real skill to be simple without being bad or plain boring, and that’s just what this game accomplishes.

Overall – 9/10

Katamari Damacy is really something special, because games like it are few and far apart. Think of almost all the AAA games that have come out lately. They either have a 2, 3, or 4 at the end of their name. Originality has become scarce this generation. Most games come out on all platforms and are built for the lowest common denominator, both in the hardware and player sense. This game, however, is a breath of fresh air. It is completely original, and as an added bonus, loads of fun too. Katamari Damacy is one of those games that people will remember for at least a dozen years into the future. In the days of Metal Gear Solid 3s and San Adreases, that ain’t half bad.

Rent or Buy?

Buy, of course! It’s only $20, and is more than worth every penny! Games like this tend to disappear after a while, so scoop it up now while there’s still time.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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