Monday, November 14, 2011

The Great Gaymathon Review #44: Katamari Damacy (PlayStation 2)

Game: Katamari Damacy
Genre: Arcade-Action
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
System: PlayStation 2
Release date: 2004

I'm sure this has been said many times before, and by better writers than myself, but I think it's quite possible that Katamari Damacy's backstory--which involves the colossal King of All Cosmos getting plastered, destroying the solar system and then asking his diminutive son to rebuild it--is the best to ever appear in a video game. At the very least, it's one of the wackiest. It's only a smidge wackier than Katamari Damacy's gameplay, though, which puts players in the role of the aforementioned pint-sized prince and tasks them with rolling the titular katamari (Japanese for "clump" or "clod") over anything and everything in sight in order to make it grow as large as possible. (Most of the objects in each stage stick to said katamari if they touch it and if they're smaller than it. All of that junk is then somehow used to recreate the stars and other celestial bodies that were obliterated by the king.) Unsurprisingly, this Keita Takahashi-designed title's graphics and soundtrack are pretty wacky, too--the latter, the bulk of which was composed by Yū Miyake, especially. Don't take that to mean this is one of those games that is so weird it's no fun; Katamari Damacy has fun in droves. In fact, I'd say it's one of my all-time favorite titles. The only possibly negative thing I can say about it is that I wish every stage had an "eternal mode" and that said mode was unlocked from the start (as it is, each level begins with a strict time limit), as exploring the game's beautifully realized set pieces at will--with Miyake's energetic tunes blaring in the background--is an absolute blast.

See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts


Unknown said...

Fabulous post all around! Katamari Damacy is one of my favorite games, as well. Have you played We Heart Katamari or any of the other sequels? My husband got me Katamari Forever for the PS3 last Christmas, but admittedly the controls are starting to feel a tad clunky to me (not that it isn't still a blast). The PS Vita one looks awesome, too! All they needed to do was utter "katamari" to get me totally on board.

For a little Japanese insight on the game's title, "Damacy" is actually a play on the Japanese word for soul, "tamashii." So I suppose you could say the literal translation of the title would be "A Lump of Soul"! Love it!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Anne! Glad you liked this mini-review :)

You know what's sad? I own We Heart Katamari but I've never played it! Ack! Thankfully, this 'Great Gaymathon' of mine will force me to get off my butt and play it eventually -- since the whole point of the series is to play and review every game in my collection.

Have you played We Heart Katamari? If so, what do you think of it?

I hadn't heard that Katamari Forever's controls were clunky. That's too bad. I have heard, though, that Takahashi only worked on the first two, though, so maybe that explains things?

Finally, thank you for the insight into the game's title. I love "A Lump of Soul" :)

Darwin said...

I love Katamari! I agree about the infinite mode. Just want to roll forever! I do wish the game had less dialogue sometimes - probably my only complaint.

BTW, if you're interested in some official cool and bizarre Katamari art:

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, I'm glad to hear you're a fan of this game, too, Darwin :) And, yes, rolling forever -- or at least a long time -- is wonderful. I can kind of understand why it's not unlocked from the start, as without any sort of time limit the game likely would feel a bit too open-ended for most people, but I've actually had a hard time unlocking the eternal mode on some levels :|

Also, thank you for the link to the Katamari art/wallpapers! Some of them are wonderful -- and will be appearing on my Macbook's desktop shortly :)

Unknown said...

Oh man, thanks Darwin! I have a few of those walls but some of them I hadn't seen before! They're great!

As for We Heart Katamari, Bryan, I did play it to completion back in the day, but I haven't played it in quite a long time... I honestly can't remember much about it, since all the levels from the games start to blend together (and they bring back "retro" levels from both titles in Forever).

Was there a 2 player mode in the first? They have that in We Heart, but I can't remember if that was a new addition or not. I did appreciate the new themed levels, though... I'd go into more detail but I don't want to embarrass myself by citing levels that were actually in Damacy and not We Heart. Hah! Needless to say, it's more great Katamari fun

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hello again, Anne :)

Oh, I understand not remembering a lot about We Heart Katamari, especially if you haven't played it in a while. I just thought I'd ask.

Maybe I'll finally get around to playing it myself this Thanksgiving break. Otherwise, it may sit on the back burner awhile -- especially after I finally get a 3DS later in the year :)

As for Katamari having a two-player mode: Yes, it does, although I've never experienced it :(

Viewtiful_Justin said...

I still remember reading about this when it came out in Japan, and I knew it would never come stateside. Then one day in college, my friend Jeff came home with a copy and I literally screamed with joy! We played it until it was finished...pretty much without stopping.

It's the first game I bought when I got a PS2. I own the soundtrack, which is brilliant, and I even had my Japanese dorm mate try to translate the lyrics...he was very confused, since he hadn't played the game.

He told me that Katamari had no English translation. Where did you get yours?

Unknown said...

Hi Justin! I know you're probably directing your question to Bryan, but I just wanted to chime in since I speak Japanese...

Katamari definitely does have an English translation, as it is a very common word used, as Bryan mention, to describe a lump or ball of something. I also have a Japanese – English electronic dictionary, and looking up "katamari" brings up an entry with the same translation.

Perhaps your Japanese friend was saying that Damacy doesn't have a translation? That's because that isn't actually a Japanese word, but as I mentioned before, a play on the word "tamashii," meaning soul, and perhaps the English "dynasty."

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, I like your memory of this game, Justin. I don't have such memories myself. I remember reading about it before it was released, but that's about it. At some point, it just became a PS2 game I had to buy once I finally bought a PS2 (which didn't happen until pretty late in the generation).

Anyway, as for my English translation of katamari: I have to admit I got it from Wikipedia. Sounds like Anne (apricotsushi, below) is confirming that's right, though!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Thanks for the help, Anne! I'm glad to know Wikipedia didn't do me wrong with its translation of 'katamari' :)

I wonder why they used 'damacy' versus 'tamashii,' by the way. I'm guessing it's supposed to be a portmanteau?

Angela7F said...

First timer here, and wanted to chime in since I am bilingual (English/Japanese).

"Tamashii" becomes "Damashii" when it has another noun in front of it. It is a grammatical rule, and it is said this is done to make it easier to pronounce the sound.
(Try saying it real fast ten times and you may feel the difference between
"katamaritamashii" vs "katamaridamashii".)

Anyhow, love your review.
Do you play Android games or just consoles?

Retr0gamer said...

Absolutely love this game and it holds a special place in my heart because my girlfriend told me that when I played it with her was the moment she fell in love with me :)

Viewtiful_Justin said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Anne!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Angela7F: Thanks for the additional clarification! I seem to remember grammatical rules like this one when I took French in high school, so it makes sense to me :)

As for whether or not I play Android games: Well, I *would* play them if I owned an Android phone. As it is, I play console/handheld games as well as Mac and PC.

Thanks for visiting and commenting. Hope to see you around here again soon!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Retr0gamer: Wow, that's quite a story! Hopefully you still play it with her once in a while?

Lewis said...

Love this game! I was living in Japan when it came out, and it quickly became my favourite PS2 title (and obviously a shoe-in for my list of 101 games:

It's one of the few games where absolutely everyone I showed it to - boys and girls alike - fell in love with it instantly. Fantastic music too!

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Lewis! Ah, yes, this definitely is a game that can be enjoyed by everyone. It's kind of like the accessible games Namco used to make -- like Pac-Man and Mappy and Dig Dug -- in that regard.

Bryan Ochalla said...

By the way, Lewis, I absolutely love your new blog. Will mention it in a post soon... :)

Retr0gamer said...

It's one of her favourites. I hacked her PS2 recently with a hard drive so she can play it and she's always putting the soundtrack on when we are in the car :)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, that's great to hear, Retr0gamer :) And the soundtrack's certainly worth listening to outside of the game!