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[07/12/2008] We Love Katamari


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Title: We Love Katamari / Minna Daisuki Katamari (Everybody Loves Katamari)

System: PlayStation 2 (PAL)

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Date: February 3, 2006

60Hz Mode: No

 

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Released in 2001, Katamari Damacy was very likely responsible for creating a new gaming genre, one that I can't quite name myself. The game received critical acclaim for ingenious game and art design, and for its strange off-beat humor. Katamari Damacy told a story of the King of All Cosmos and how he managed to destroy the stars and planets in the Cosmos during a wild night of partying. The King then sends the microscopic prince to clean up after him, by rolling the titular Katamari that collects all sorts of things, and ultimately reconstruct the destroyed Cosmos. Of course, due to someone declaring that Katamari Damacy was too strange for the European market, PAL gamers never got the chance to play the game, and were left gritting their teeth and cursing the PAL publishers, their lack of balls to take chances with certain types of games, and decisions in general.

 

Someone with apparently less mental retardation realized that Katamari was made of awesome and win, and PAL gamers along with the rest of the gaming world got their hands on the de facto sequel, We Love Katamari, now with more rolling goodness.

 

Story

Well, the Cosmos was rebuilt thanks to the efforts of the Prince to cover up his father's actions while binge drinking. The King of All Cosmos then realizes that the world is filled with fans of Katamari Damacy and they simply can't get enough of the prince and the Katamari. Everybody just loves rolling the Katamari. So then the King once again sends the Prince to simply fulfill the wishes of the fans. Wishes that consist of, you guessed it, rolling the Katamari around and gathering stuff, including people and uh, lightning, for example.

 

And this is what We Love Katamari is ultimately all about; How great the original Katamari Damacy was. It's that simple. There is no branching plotline, no ominous antagonists, no bosses. Just the Prince, the Katamari, The King of All Cosmos in his ever-expanding narcissism, the fans, and literally tons of stuff to roll up. The game has a "side-story" that details the King's history and his difficult relationship with his father. This side story is about as hilarious as the rest of the game, so no worries there.

 

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Gameplay

For those that have played the original Katamari Damacy know what to expect, but for those who's first venture into Katamari-rolling is this game, let's reiterate briefly.

 

You control the tiny Prince, who rolls the Katamari, a ball that literally everything sticks to. You usually start small, rolling up things like matches and pins. As you roll more stuff, the Katamari grows, allowing you to roll bigger things, like people, hippos, chairs, mountains, you name it. This is the essence of Katamari Damacy:

 

Roll it --> Gather stuff by rolling --> Roll some more. Repeat.

 

The utter simplicity of the gameplay and the concept of literally rolling up anything and everything was what made the original game so strangely captivating. However, there were some dissenting voices that criticized the way the game had really nothing more than just rolling stuff (Duh!) with no other goals than to just roll the Katamari to a specific size in a certain amount of time. So Namco took this to heart and reinvented the concept somewhat, for the better of course.

 

The biggest change in We Love Katamari are the featured levels. For example, you are given a task from a sumo wrestler to roll him over food items so can get bigger, gain more mass, and to face his opponent in the sumo ring for the final showdown. Winning in this case means, of course, rolling said opponent. Equally strange and funny is the request from none other than Hansel and Gretel, asking the Prince to roll tons of candy, and eventually roll up Hansel and Gretel as well, just because they love Katamari and candy so much. As it is to be expected, as you roll candy for them, you also roll up the gingerbread house and the rather pissed-off evil witch within.

 

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We Love Katamari has dozens of these themed levels, with each level being exponentially stranger than the former, complemented by the regular levels. Namco really outid themselves when refining the level concept here, so my hat off to the developers. Each Katamari is then (like before) transformed into planets and satellites, to make up yet another Cosmos. Aside from rolling, you can unlock different items that can be equipped (like a miniature Mt. Fuji) and many of the Prince's cousins (uh, by rolling).

 

Graphics

Katamari Damacy had a very distinct and in some ways, minimalistic approach to graphics, and We Love Katamari doesn't even try to break away from the old formula. The graphics are blocky and crude by design, mandated by the staggering amount of objects that can be rolled up. The amount of items have gone up considerably in We Love Katamari, and each individual object can be seen on the Katamari. The size of the levels have also been expanded, and many huge levels have been broken into several parts, with part after another being opened up after the Katamari has grown to a specific size.

 

Sound, Music and controls

A good portion of Katamari Damacy's favorable reviews mentioned the music as one of the definite high points of the game, combining different styles of music in a way that is natural only (!) to Katamari Damacy. We Love Katamari delivers more of the same, and that's certainly not a bad thing. The music is so unique that you just need to hear it to appreciate it. The first time you hear a japanese Tom Jones performing a few tracks, the initial response will be along the lines of "WTF!?", but after a while, you just can't help but to love it.

 

The sound effects and voices are equally quirky, most notable being the DJ scratching used for the voices of the King and the fans. School children screaming with excitement (horror?) as they become a part of the Katamari is endearing and creepy at the same time. Each object makes a sound as it is rolled by the Katamari, creating a delightful cacophony of sounds.

 

The controls are exactly the same as they were in the previous game, by controlling the Prince's rolling with the dual analog sticks. Might need a bit of getting used to, especially when certain objects make the Katamari lopsided. Still, I wouldn't want to play this game any other way.

 

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Summary

We Love Katamari is a sequel that originally was not meant to exist, but Katamari Damacy created such a strong following that Namco decided to create the game around this very concept. And it turned out great. The King of all Cosmos is such an off-the-wall character, always speaking using "We" as well as being seemingly fluent in Esperanto. The usually composed albeit nutty King completely flies off the handle when you screw up, and punishes you by shooting lasers from his eyes. After this unbeatable minigame of trying to dodge eye lasers, you are most motivated to try again. You can't hate a game that has a narcissistic King shooting lasers from his eyes, and/or succumbing to some arbitrary rant about flowers in Esperanto. You just can't. The themed levels are nice, the music is brilliant and the humor works. There are new multiplayer modes like Cooperation and the olde Battle, and they work well, although they just don't have the same feeling as the single player game.

 

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you don't know what to do, roll a Katamari for a while. If you get tired, take a break and then roll some more, as there is no "true" ending. We Love Katamari is a fitting title for this game. Many people love it, myself included. For people that own either a PSP or the X360 can also roll the Katamari in "Me & My Katamari" and "Beautiful Katamari" respectively.

 

Story: 10

Graphics: 10

Sound, music, controls: 10

Gameplay: 10

Feel: 10

 

Total: 10 (A+) Nuff' said.

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Wow naisu review, specially l like how you gave it a perfect score. IMHO, this genius concept of Katamari Damashii is phenomenal and yes, it does deserve a perfect score. The originality is just too good, the gameplay: epic, music: too good, controls: intuitive, and it has good replay value aside from the Multi-player.

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