Daisuki Katamari Damacy (AKA Japanese Version of We Love
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 limit...you 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
the perfect sequel to the perfect solution to the usual set of
clones that haunt the game industry.
the insanity begin!
level select map
still get assignments via your father, The King of All Cosmos!
if you don't know Japanese, the tutorial will get you up and
running with no hassle.
our hero is rolling a sumo. Welcome to the variety of
also cloud collecting levels...
to make your father happy...
tracks to destroy...
the same silly and simple style of movies, focusing on how The
even can see the original KD movies, uncut, and in either
Japanese or English.