Malik (8/1/05)

Minna Daisuki Katamari Damacy (AKA Japanese Version of We Love Katamari) (PS2)

From Namco

Last year, we got the biggest and best in surprise games. Katamari Damacy was a game that came in below the radar, came in with a bargain price, and came in with such a unique game play style that no one knew what was upon us. However, that all changed when this unique title started to get some surprisingly intense coverage from the media. 

Katamari Damacy had such an amazingly simple, yet deep, style of play that it soon became a favorite with almost all styles of game players. It was simple enough with it's controls (that required, for the most part, only the use of the 2 analogue sticks) that newbish players could get into it. Yet the game play was so different that even the more jaded veteran geeks could get into something that didn't just feel like "more of the same". 

So, I was left, after playing KD, with a simple decision of saying that not only is KD the best game of 2004, it was one of the best games ever released. With a new Katamari game on the horizon for us in the American market, I decided to fulfill my need for more of this game that I had to pick up the Japanese version. So, without having any ability to read Japanese (beyond the words "yes", "no", "save", and "load"), how did I feel about We Love Katamari? 


Most of the plot escapes me. As I said, Japanese is not a language I can read. However, from what I can understand, and from what I've read on the net, WLK is focused on being a true sequel to KD. The people of Earth (who are somehow still living in a normal world, even after the entire world was devoured to make the moon in the original) have become, like us geeks, enamored with the Prince of All Cosmos. That would be who you are in both this game and the original. Once again, you are going to have to take up using your Katamari (a big sticky ball that can pick up any object that is smaller in size than it). However, instead of fixing the constellations and stars (like you did in the first game after your bumbling father, the King of All Cosmos, destroyed the night sky after a wild night), you are now taking requests. 

The fans you've made after your first adventure are now asking to see the Prince make all sorts of unique things from his Katamari. Some of them are still asking for the Prince to just make his standard big ball of stuff, but some are being more unique in their requests. There are Sumo asking for the Prince to roll a Sumo into enough food to make him big enough to take out an opponent, there are people who want to see how quickly the Prince can meet certain requirements (like picking up a set number of a certain class of items), and there are some who just want to see the Prince roll up a big Katamari full of sweets and to deliver it for their snacking pleasure. 

Meanwhile, as you complete the requests of your fans, you will be treated to some cut scenes of how your father became the King of All Cosmos, and how we went on to find his wife and eventually father you. Best of all, these special movies don't have any dialogue or writing, so those of us who are illiterate to the Japanese language can still get the full effect. 

While the plot doesn't make nearly as much sense with no understanding of Japanese, enough of the insanity can still be understood to see that the plot is once again insane and entertaining. 

Game Play 

The game play mechanics are mostly untouched from the original KD. You still have quick and intuitive controls that require mostly just using the two analogue sticks. For those who skipped out on KD (for shame...), the controls come down to using the two sticks like one would control a bulldozer or tank. If you move both in a single direction, you will move that way. However, if you want to turn, then you will press one stick up (you will rotate in that direction) and either leave the other stick alone or more it down (to make either shallow or sharp rotations). Beyond that, you can still make a quick 180 degree turn by pressing both sticks in (L3 and R3), you can make a mad dash forward by alternating up on one stick while you hit down on the other, you can still get a bird's eye view with a shoulder button (you will probably never use this ability), and that's about it. You may hit circle a few times to make selections and to advance text, and start to pause, but in the actual game it all comes down to analogue sticks. The controls are as simple as possible, and this is nothing short of wonderful for a game that can appeal to both old-school gamers and newbs alike. 

The meat of the game is still based on the same concept as Katamari Damacy. It begins with the premise that your Katamari is sticky and that you're always bigger than certain objects. So, if you roll over a smaller object, you will take it into your Katamari. Keep doing this and your Katamari will keep increasing in size. Eventually, those objects that once towered over you will be smaller and you can pick them up. However, at the same time you can end up seeing your Katamari shrink if you collide too hard with a larger object. The force of a collision could knock off some already collected items (which you could ignore, or pick up again from where they land). You also have to be cautious of larger creatures and mobile objects (cars, jets, etc) that may (intentionally, or not) strike you and knock off some of your collection. That's it. It's that simple to play. 

However, the object of the game is not always as simple as the mechanisms that drive your character. This isn't a bad thing, however. Your goals will usually be based around two concepts; picking up as much crap as possible, and doing it as quick as possible. Most levels will either involve you just increasing your size as much as possible (with a specified minimum) in a set time limit, or you reaching a set size in as little time as possible. Beyond these main goals, there are some levels with more specific of goals in them. On some you may have to collect a certain type of object in a set time (and you'll be graded on the percentage of the total on the level that you collect), or you may have to reach a certain size and deliver the Katamari to a given location before time expires. Mainly the game plays off of the uses you can have for size and time. This is not to say surprise goals don't exist (like reaching a certain size, without any indication of your actual size, with no time have to quit the level when you think you're the right size). There are enough interesting takes on the game ideals that you'll always have something different to try, despite how you'll usually find yourself going back to the standard "get big before time expires" level (it's just that fun and addictive). 

Also, as you play, you'll still find the same hidden bonus objects as you had in the original KD. You will find cousins (of the Prince, our hero) that can be found in each level. They are used in multiplayer, like with the original, or they can now be used as your avatar in single player. They don't do anything besides change how you look, but with a game this silly, do you need anything deeper? Also, you can find presents, which will give new pieces of clothing to accessorize your avatar with. Like in KD, they are made of either head or body accessories. However, in WLK, you can have two objects equipped at once (body and head). They serve almost no purpose, except for the camera (which can save screen shots during normal levels). 

The only remaining part of WLK's game play is the multiplayer. These are still limited mainly to a short versus arena. In this mode you both start in the same area, at the same size, and compete to be the biggest Katamari pusher at the end of a short few minutes. If you outsize your opponent by enough size, you can even pick them up (for a short time) to hinder them further. It's a nice little diversion, but it's not anything that will take you away from single player play. 

There is also the new co-op mode. You don't control two different Katamaris, but rather you both share control of a single Katamari. One player controls one stick on a controler, while the other get (surprise...) the second stick on a second controller. It's nothing to special, but it does give some added game play value. 

So, in the end, it is all really this simple. You push your analogue sticks, and you feel the addiction spread. That's it...but you won't need anything else. Best of all, it's simple enough that importers will feel no fear from not knowing the Japanese that this game first appeared in. 


If you played KD, then you've seen it all before. The visuals are a little more refined, but they still use the same simplistic approach that made KD stand out as such a unique game. It's all cartoonish enough that you will never have to worry about being reminded of reality while rolling your Katamari around the world. In fact, the simple visuals of Katamari help to prove, without a doubt, that more realistic visuals are not always the solution to making a better game. 

You are also treated to a few movies as you play the game. These movies focus on the King of All Cosmos, and his life up until the first KD game. The visual style on these silent movies help to further the cause of simple visuals. They are about as simple as something you'd expect to see on a GBA, but sharper in resolution. There is no fancy animation, just simple still objects moving on a mainly still background. In other words, more of the outstandingly absurd movies that were on KD. the game play, the visuals are nothing complicated. However, this will only sound bad in writing. When you witness the visuals firsthand, you will forget anything that Square ever tried to teach you with FFX about how to properly watch a video game in action. 


This subject, like the game play and visuals, is a lot like it was in KD. In fact, it's the same general experience, but with a slightly reworked flavor. The sound effects, which are only a secondary experience to the music, are still based on your Katamari making the same simple noises it made in KD. It will make almost no noise unless it is preparing for a speed burst, which causing a sound like a hybrid car revving it's engine (electronic and mechanical whirring noise). You also have some noise when you hit in both analogue sticks to do a 180 (a squeak of a noise). Otherwise, the noises are all belonging to the objects you pick up. If you pick up a person, you can expect to hear that person say something unique to his/her character model (in Japanese...but probably along the lines of "WTF?!"). An animal will make it's Speak-And-Say type of noise (the cow goes "mooo!"). Other objects will make noises that make you think of those objects, like money will cause a cash register like "cha-ching", cars will honk their horns, etc. The only exception are the completely noiseless objects, which will usually make a squeaking noise when obtained. That's about it for sound effects. 

Voice acting is also of a limited level. Beyond people making noises when picked up, they will also try to get your attention so you'll do their task on the level select map. That's almost it. The only other voice work is during the final movie of the game when you hear the King give a short speech (in a deep Japanese voice). I don't know if the acting is good, since my limit of spoken Japanese is "yes", "thank you", "you're welcome", "octopus", and a few other things related to a fine night of sushi. However, it all sounded good to me.

The real meat of the audio is in the music, just like it was with KD. The music is a nice blend of English and Japanese (think of an anime sound track). You'll never fully know what the songs are about, but they will make you feel really good when you listen to them. You've heard of eye-candy...well, think of these as "ear-drugs". You can't help but enjoy the catchy and silly songs that only make enough sense in English for you to know that they probably don't make any sense. However, with a game that makes so little sense, and is all the more enjoyable for it, this is a great thing.


So, in the end, WLK is a fitting sequel to KD. The game is still the same simple game play experience that surprised both American and Japanese gamers last year. The basic rules are untouched, the visuals have only been slightly tweaked, and the audio is still insanely unique and addictive. The only difference comes down to a new set of maps, some new level varieties (wait until you play the race track...your Katamari is always speeding along, and you must simply grab the items you can while you speed along with a few dozen other racers), and a new goal of fulfilling your fans' desires.

So, to put it simply; if you enjoyed KD, then this game will only further the experience. If you didn't care for KD, then you'll be best to avoid WLK. So, while I usually like to see some new changes in a sequel, I'm left enjoying more of the same in a way that no game has done before. So, I have the great pleasure of giving We Love Katamari a perfect 10/10. It's the perfect sequel to the perfect solution to the usual set of clones that haunt the game industry.


Let the insanity begin!

The level select map

You still get assignments via your father, The King of All Cosmos!

Even if you don't know Japanese, the tutorial will get you up and running with no hassle.

Yes, our hero is rolling a sumo.  Welcome to the variety of WLK.

There's also cloud collecting levels...

...crazy load screens...


...flaming Katamaris...

...chances to make your father happy...

...angry... and water...

...race tracks to destroy...

...ships to sink...

...and the same silly and simple style of movies, focusing on how The King...

...and his father...



You even can see the original KD movies, uncut, and in either Japanese or English.