When The King of All Cosmos goes out for a night of debauchery and in the process accidentally destroys all of the stars in the sky, you can imagine people would get a little pissed off. Fortunately, he has an obedient Prince to take on the task of rolling up a bunch of new celestial objects to fill the void.
It’s hard for me to believe that Katamari Damacy came out over a decade ago on the PS2. I remember being baffled by the design and the friendly, fun, and focused nature of the game when it first released. Between the comically condescending King of All Cosmos and the hilarious detail of the objects that you roll up, I was hooked from the get-go.
The King sends you to Earth, because we have a seemingly endless supply of stuff. Your character is given a Katamari, a colorful ball with the ability to collect objects. The goal is to gather earthly objects so they may be released into the sky to become the new stars, constellations, and even the moon. The beginning size of your katamari depends on the goal of each level, which becomes increasingly higher as the game progresses, with a few exceptions. The first level starts you off at a measly 5cm. Luckily, a tiny katamari doesn’t stay that way for long. As you begin to accumulate objects, the size of the “stuff” that will stick to the ball also begins to grow. You cannot roll up objects larger than your katamari, but stay patient. When it reaches a large enough size, the screen will transition and can oftentimes surprise you with an entirely new perspective on an area you were just exploring. This is one of the more charming aspects of the game, as it rewards you with new lands in which to roll about.
The game beautifully handles these changes in perspective, which have the ability to leave the game player awestruck when unveiled.
Part of the joy I find when playing this game is the simplicity of the controls. The character and his actions are controlled completely by the thumbsticks. This feels pretty natural from the beginning and means that the learning curve is quite small, allowing the player to just sit back and roll. The commercial success of the Katamari series owes a lot to this decision, as not bogging down a game with complex controls allows for a wider range of acceptance among casual players.
Of course for those players searching for more, Royal Presents are scattered down onto earth for you to find and roll up. These presents are cool accessories ranging from a guitar to funny hats, all cosmetic bonuses to help your Prince become a little more unique. As much as it may feel like one at times, the game is more than just a casual romp. Some levels will need to be strategically planned to allow your katamari maximum growth within the allotted time. I mean, you don’t want to piss off The King of All Cosmos do you?
I played the hell out of this game when it was released and am glad to see it still holds up today. Yuu Miyake and his fellow composers filled the soundtrack with a catchy blend inspired by J-Pop, jazz, and almost everything in between. Once you start rolling up some really big ones, you may find yourself lost in the rhythm with time slipping away. The music is a joy and it shows the true heart of this game. Have fun.
Here are a few tracks straight from in-game play. The soundtrack for the game was so well received it was actually released as an album, Katamari Fortissimo Damacy.