Review by Galactus21

Reviewed: 03/17/05

Innovative in its own right

When I first heard of Katamari Damacy, the first thing that came to my mind was the apparent Japanese nature of the game. I did some research and read a few reviews about the game. From what I read the game sounded like a very quirky and unique game. The game’s style is very Japanese oriented and takes a heavy influence off of Japanese pop culture. The prince, who is the featured star in this game, has a very unique Japanese style look to it. The prince looks like an anime character straight out of Pokemon. The young prince emanates a suave and dashing outlook. This unique and stylish look is definitely a big plus in my books, but Katamari Damacy ultimately fails in execution. That and the relatively short quest really diminishes the game for me.

Hey what happen to the stars?

The King of the Cosmos has accidentally destroyed all the stars in the universe and as his son the Prince, you must restore the stars. Being this omnipotent deity that he is, the King of the Cosmos comes off as a frivolous character. Normally one would think of a deity as someone that has nobility and benign characteristics, but the King of Cosmos is quite the opposite. In fact he comes off as flamboyant, much on the lines of Dante from the Devil May Cry series. His character demonstrates Japanese pop culture and its unique flavour. While many people in the Western part of the world might see this as a wacky and abnormal game, I see it as an extraordinary attempt at giving us something different and unique. Rarely does a developer go out of its way to develop a niche title. A majority of developers will stick to what society deems as cool. In many instances, innovation is ignored and repetition of gore and endless violence are seen in many of today’s games. While these standards should be apart of some games, I believe people should open their minds and see that something out of the ordinary can be equally as satisfying. However, one must also keep in mind that innovation does not automatically make a game good. While I do applaud Namco for their innovative effort, it is quite unfortunate that they fall short of other deeming qualities that make a game exceptional.

In order to restore the stars, the Prince must use his Katamari and collect items by rolling them up. In any case the Prince controls this round ball called the Katamari and the Katamari can be used to collect most of the objects in a given place. This Katamari will get bigger as more tangible goods are collected. Many of the items are impossible to collect without collecting smaller ones first. As one goes through the smaller items, the Katamari gets bigger and as it gets larger, more items will be open to collection. Each level will feature a goal for one to complete. The King of the Cosmos will lay out a goal for you to complete and each one will be a specific size or specific item that you must complete in order to fulfil your objective.

The control scheme in this game is quite possibly the most simplistic control scheme I have ever played. The control scheme mostly requires one to use the two analog sticks to move the Katamari. The controls for the most part are adequate, but when coming to a complete stop the controls are not quite as responsive. Also turning corners become problematic at times because the controls feel tank like. I can see how Namco decided to use this unique scheme, but I would have preferred a more traditional interface. There are a majority of objects that cannot be picked up right away and when this happens these objects sort of blocks the movement of the Katamari. When this happens the controls become problematic because of the stiffness of the scheme.

Even with that said, Katamari Damacy really offers a unique way to play games. While simplistic in nature, it is the simplicity that makes this game so unique. I have never seen a game that mostly only utilizes the analog sticks. While at times this becomes problematic, I applaud Namco for their innovation and I hope through sequels they can improve the control scheme. The simplicity part of the scheme is perhaps due to the game’s apparent Japanese style. Japanese art for many centuries have been nature oriented, which intertwines simplicity and its brushstrokes in their art. This is a reflection of their unique culture and it also shows in other parts of their work. This includes their games, while I love Western developed games; Eastern style games have always had a place in my heart. Once again their ability to innovate never ceases to amaze me. While Katamari Damacy fails to impress me mechanically, the innovation behind it leaves me quite impressed with Namco.

Perhaps the biggest fault of Katamari Damacy is the boundless repetition of the mechanics. For the first ten or twenty minutes it is quite fun to roll up these tangible items, but after a while it becomes quite repetitive. The thing that makes this all so repetitive is the fact that it lacks any variety to break things up. Sure one can find enjoyment in trying to accomplish a larger Katamari, but the process of achieving this goal requires patience. However to witness such a marvel feat, especially after all the work put in to get your Katamari ball that big, it definitely feels good to see what you have accomplished.

Let there be STARS!

For each goal that is completed, the King of the Cosmos will release the Katamari into the sky and put a star into the universe. The larger the goal that the King of the Cosmos presents, the larger the prize will be when one finishes the goal. What I mean by that is the more that is collected the larger the star will be. For example one’s objectives will begin and one will have to get their Katamari to be a certain size, then for one’s next objective the size will increase accordingly.

The way the story progresses definitely gives off a sense of Japanese pop culture. The King of the Cosmos who is overwhelmingly huge compared to his microscopic son the Prince. Over the course of the short story, the King of the Cosmos will show off his flamboyant nature. While this does add to the flavour of the game, at times he becomes a rather annoying character. There are also in game cut scenes that add to this stylish game. While there are breaks in between the gameplay, there isn’t enough of either to really give one a strong sense of the game. This and in no way will you ever feel attached to the characters. Now I understand that this is not an rpg, but I would hope that characters in a game would give the player a sense of attachment at some point in the game.

Going back to my statement where I said that there isn’t enough of either the gameplay or cut scenes. Katamari Damacy’s biggest flaws are that the control scheme feels a bit broken and that there isn’t enough of it for a player to adapt to it. This is so because the game is relatively short. The game can be beaten in a mere five to six hour span. No matter what type of game it is, five to six hours is relatively short. This and the seemingly unpolished control scheme will make it difficult for one to pick this game up again. So not only is the quest short, but the game lacks any value for me to go back to it.

From a graphical standpoint, Katamari Damacy holds its own. It has a strong graphical style that separates it from other games. I have grown a liking towards games that are out of the norm in terms of its graphical style. I really loved the style in games like Viewtiful Joe and Zelda Wind Waker. However unlike those two games, Katamari Damacy lacks the details that those two games possess. Now do not get me wrong, Katamari Damacy definitely looks good and unique in its own way, but at times the character models are rather bland and the levels are noticeably small. Levels can set an atmosphere for a game and it is no different here. At times Katamari Damacy does a great job at producing a set atmosphere, but at times it becomes chaotic in a sense that I did not know what the developers where trying to convey.

Sing Along!

Japanese pop music for the most part has always had a very catchy tune. Katamari Damacy follows the same path and for the most part has a soundtrack that is quite fitting of the mood. However one downside to this is the type of music that the game uses. While I certainly liked it and though it was great that a developer strayed from the norm, people that do not have such an open mind will definitely shun it. This does not only apply for the soundtrack. There are many factors that will turn gamers off from this game.

Katamari Damacy offers a rare and unique presentation that is rarely seen in the gaming industry. That is why I regret that I could not enjoy the gameplay mechanics like I did with the style. This game definitely has a strong intrinsic value. If one is willing to look past the extrinsic values, then one can see that there is more to this game then at first glance. It offers a new perspective to gaming and while it did not provide the gaming experience that I had hoped for, I do hope that Namco will make further games and continue to improve what they started.

Roll in Repetition

The concept is ingenious, the style is second to none, and it is definitely innovative, but Katamari Damacy ultimately fails in execution. The control scheme while innovative in its own rights does have a major flaw. This flaw is the clunky controls and how it limits the game. This is definitely a niche title, it probably only appeals to a minority of gamers. The way the game plays, the way it looks, and the way it sounds will turn a majority of gamers away. However if you are looking for a game that has a unique style and can overlook some of its flaws then Katamari Damacy can provide that. While I cannot recommend Katamari Damacy to everyone simply because I thought it had some huge issues that the developers failed to address, but if your looking for a game that strays from the norm, then Katamari Damacy is definitely it. PS2 owners that have been waiting for their very own niche title will find it in this game. However since there are so many games on the PS2, this game might get overlooked for more popular titles. So I do encourage others to give this game a try simply because we should reward Namco for trying something different.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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