|Those cows are unaware of their impending doom.|
The story in this one is just the beginning of how truly insane and unique it really is. It opens with the King of All Cosmos flying through space after an epic drinking (and presumably drug) binge, destroying every star and planet he flies by. The King of All Cosmos is an amazingly large humanoid who always insists on speaking about himself in the royal tense ("We are very displeased with you") and who is consistently disappointed with everything his son does.
|A staple of the series is the King's tights, which are way too tight for comfort, both his and mine.|
You play as the Prince, the king's incredibly tiny son. You're given the task of cleaning up the king's mess by going to Earth and rolling up a series of katamaris, gigantic sticky balls that pick up anything smaller than themselves. By rolling up a large enough katamari, the King will throw it into the sky, turning it into various stars and constellations, basically rebuilding the universe.
My opinions on the graphics have changed a lot since first playing it. The very first time I saw it, I was just so blown away by how insane and fun the game was, I took it for granted that the graphics were amazing, too. It was only after playing the sequel (We Love Katamari) and then replaying the original that I realized that the graphics in the original were really not very great.
|See? Not terrible...just a little...umm...'blocky'.|
Don't get me wrong, they're not terrible by any means, especially for being done so cheaply, but they're just nowhere near as good as the graphics in the sequel that was also released on the PS2. It's a little blocky and largely devoid of any real detail.
First things first, let me just say that this game is fucking FUN. Using the two analog sticks, you act like a snowball, rolling up everything smaller than you. The goal is to roll up to a set size (measured in centimeters and meters) before the allotted time runs out. The amount of time and size necessary increase as you move through the main mode, a series of 'Make a Star' levels. As you play, you also unlock bonus levels where you attempt to make a constellation by rolling up as many of a certain object as you can, like rolling up as many crabs as you can for Cancer, and as many pairs of objects as you can for Gemini. There are other bonus-type stages like rolling up the largest bear possible, but you can only roll up one bear, and a similar stage with cows. Certain Make a Star levels also allow you to unlock an endless mode for that level by rolling your katamari up to an excessively large size. To demonstrate the gameplay rather than just describing it, here's a video showing the entire intro and then the first level. Seriously, just watch how completely insane the intro is. How can you NOT want to play this game?
The controls work spectacularly well for being so simple. Holding both analog sticks forward, you go straight...tilting the right one forward and left one back will make you turn left and vice versa...holding both backward, you move slowly in reverse. Moving both back and forth quickly will give you a huge speed boost for a short time (very helpful when the time is running out and you're not quite to size yet). Hitting R3 and L3 at the same time makes you flip to the other side of your katamari quickly. L1 brings you to a first-person viewpoint, and R1 sends you high in the sky quickly so you can see your surroundings but not move.
This game's a blast for a completionist, too. There's a collection that's viewable from the main map that shows every type of item you've collected. It can be very difficult to collect 1 of every item, but also super rewarding. Also, hidden in every level is both a present and a Royal Cousin. The presents are all mostly useless, but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless. They're all wearable, and there's items like a wig, a guitar, a scarf, and a mini royal crown. The cousins are little dudes similar to the prince, but usually a lot stranger looking. The cousins can be used as playable characters in multiplayer mode.
Speaking of multiplayer mode, that's one of the reasons Katamari Damacy doesn't get a perfect score for gameplay. It's entertaining enough for a short period; you and another player roll around in a small arena, picking up items that constantly respawn, seeing who can get the largest. If you get big enough, you can roll up your opponent. This tends to get very boring very quickly, though.
The other reason Katamari Damacy doesn't get a perfect score is because it's just too damned short! The game really is amazingly fun for how simple it is, but you can finish the main story easily within 10 hours. The sequel really remedied this issue, but this one could have definitely had 10-15 more levels.
This game has an absolutely amazing soundtrack. Most of it is Japanese or Engrish styled music, but you don't have to be a fan of Japanese lyricism to enjoy it. The genres range from jazz to swing to samba to J-pop to electronic and everything in between. Seriously, nothing I could possibly say will do justice to how amazing it actually is, so I'll just post a song or three here so you can check it out yourself.
I'm a huge fan in particular of the last two songs there. They tend to get stuck in my head for days at a time.
Replay Value: 10/10
I guarantee you, if you give this game a try one time, you will play it many multiple times. It's so much fun to jump in and play through a level that you almost can't resist coming back to it. You'll find yourself trying to just make the largest katamari possible, rolling up every single object in a level. Present and cousin hunting, completing the collection, getting 100% on the constellations, making a perfect North Star...this game may be short, but there's an assload of bonus things to keep it fresh.
Go out, get this game whatever way you can, and play it. If you've already played it, replay through it. It's the start of a phenomenal series of games, and they only get better as they go along. It's quirky, it's weird, it's 110% Japanese insanity...and it's one of the best games you'll ever play.
Time to catch a ride out of here on the Royal Rainbow.