|We really do heart Katamari.|
We Love Katamari, like the original, was developed by Namco. It was released in 2005 in both Japan and America. It was also the first Katamari game to be released in PAL territories (most of Europe). This game is equally as insane as the first one, but better in almost every single way. The gameplay is infinitely superior, the graphics have been given a shot of awesome directly to the veins, and even the story is more entertaining. Let's dive in, rainbow first, and see why it's so much better.
The story in this game is even more bizarre than the first. This game takes place almost immediately after the conclusion of the first game. The King of All Cosmos has just finished fixing the heavens (which he destroyed during a drinking/drug binge) by throwing all of the katamaris that you have rolled up for him into the sky. He's ready to lay back and get some rest. However, he hears a voice calling out to him. It's a fan of the first game! Of course, for someone as vain as the King, there's no time to rest when there are fans to please. He quickly sends his son, the Prince, back down to Earth to talk to the fans and fulfill their katamari requests.
We Love Katamari is obviously very self-referential. The whole thing is set up around the idea of fans of the actual first game, Katamari Damacy, asking the King/Prince to roll up certain things or huge katamaris or roll under strange circumstances, all the while praising how awesome it is to roll. I really love this idea of breaking the 4th wall.
There's also a very cool side story that runs through the whole game. Every couple of levels, a cutscene plays explaining the King's origins; going from a little boy who wants nothing more than his father's approval to an angry rebellious teenager who moves out of his house (castle?) to the man that he is when we first met him in Katamari Damacy. This gives some great insight into why the King is who he is. No longer is he just an insane, fucked up, conceited, vain, weird-as-shit dude...he's an insane, fucked up, conceited, vain, weird-as-shit dude that we can all empathize with.
I gave the last Katamari game a pretty mediocre score for graphics. This game is why. They took the same idea for the first one but really put a lot more money and time into making it look absolutely beautiful. The environments are fully fleshed out, the katamari rolls seamlessly from 1 centimeter to 3000 meters, the colors are bright and vivid, and no detail that the PS2 can handle is spared. They really pushed this game hard graphically, and it just looks wonderful. I can't say enough how big the change is. I never noticed it at first, but after playing through both games at least twice, this one clearly had the budget and skill to fully take advantage of the PS2's hardware.
|Compare this to the image from the previous review...a huge improvement.|
From the image, you can see the difference in detail between this game and the one before it. The most amazing part is that this game only came out a year after its predecessor.
This game takes the general idea from the last game and takes it 10 steps further. Instead of the Make a Star mode being the primary gameplay mode, you wander around on (a tiny portion of/version of) Earth, finding people who are shouting out for your help. Every single person has something different that they request of you. Some are like the original Make a Star mode where they want you to just build a certain sized katamari as fast as possible within the time limit. Some, though, are incredibly cool variations on the idea. One of my absolute favorites is a level where your katamari always has forward momentum, just like a racecar with the gas pedal held down. Another is a level that takes place entirely underwater. Another is one where you roll around in the dark, collecting only fireflies to make a katamari as bright as possible. There's one where you roll around a sumo, making him eat as much as possible to get him fat for the big fight. Another favorite of mine has you rolling up as many flowers as possible. Yet another great one sets you in a Hansel and Gretel-themed map, rolling up a house made of candy and then rolling up the children at the end. The diversity of the levels is mindblowing. Here's a video sample of a bunch of the different levels.
Most of these levels offer at least two modes, too. Usually, if it's a Make a Star-type level, you can do As Large As Possible or As Fast As Possible. Other levels have variations on the first mode, like in the sumo level, you have to reach larger sizes for each of three modes, rolling up a heavier sumo at the end each time. Another has you roll up things that are flammable to start a campfire, only the pile of wood you need to light is larger every time.
Making things much easier, the control scheme hasn't changed at all in this game. Other things, like the cousin and present system, both make a return, but in a much more awesome way. There's now an ASSLOAD more presents that you can find hidden amongst the levels, and you can also wear two of them at a time (3 if you can manage to find the bikini). With cousins, instead of them only being usable in multiplayer mode, you can select amongst all that you've found to use as your character for any given level. There's also a lot more of them, and trust me, some look too hilarious for words.
|The one on the top right is actually named Johnson, I shit you not.|
Multiplayer mode has also gotten a HUGE overhaul. Instead of the crappy little versus-type mode from the previous game, there's now a cooperative roll mode for every level. It's a bit tricky to get the hang of: each player controls one side of the katamari rather than each getting their own (except in the snowman level). Usually, the game will give you more time to complete a level due to the difficulty in coordinating movements. It is pretty hard to get used to, but once you do get used to it, it's an absolute blast.
I almost feel like giving this game's soundtrack a higher score than 10. The soundtrack is absolutely perfect. It takes the range of genres from the first game and widens it and increases the quality of the songs in those diverse genres. I won't even bother writing any more on the soundtrack, as it will do them much more justice to be heard rather than described.
Replay Value: 10/10
Holy shit, this game will make a completionist wet his pants. There's still a collection just like in Katamary Damacy, only there's a shitload more items to collect. There's trying to get a shooting star for every level (doing it in under a certain very quick time), there's collecting all of the cousins and presents, and there's finishing the extra levels that open once you finally do get all the cousins.
There's also the rose level. Holy shit...I don't know if this raises the replay value or lowers it, honestly. Basically, when you've done everything else you can possibly do, a rose shows up along with all of the other fans. It asks you to do it a favor...roll up 1,000,000 roses. This is an INSANELY LONG task to complete. Your katamari never gets larger in this level. You can pick up a single rose or a bouquet of 10 roses. The roses constantly replenish, but seriously, this is a several months-kind of task. Your progress saves every time you quit, so you can do something like get 1,000 roses a day, but wow...it's a helluva task. I've completed every aspect of this game several times, but I will never ever get all 1,000,000 roses.
All things considered, We Love Katamari is vastly superior to its predecessor in every way. Katamari Damacy was onto something amazing, and We Love Katamari fully realized the developers' lofty ideals. I've yet to play any of the newer games, so I can only hope they've continued this theme of getting better and better. However, the creator left the series after the second game, making me a little reticent to play on. Perhaps it's best to keep the memories we have rather than risk tarnishing them.
Normally, I wouldn't do this, but the quote from the King of All Cosmos that I used as my title strikes me as being so profound that I have to end with it. Think about this quote in relation to almost every game you've played, video or otherwise; even in relation to most other hobbies, I think there truly is some weight to this idea.
"Is it that it's fun, or that it lets you forget yourself?"