We Love Katamari (or We ♥ Katamari) is a video game published by Namco for the PlayStation 2. It was released in Japan on July 6, 2005, in South Korea on July 28, 2005, in North America on September 20, 2005, and in Europe on February 2, 2006. It is the sequel to the previous year’s sleeper hit, Katamari Damacy. This is the last game in the series that had involvement by the series creator Keita Takahashi.
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(This review was originally written for my Retrorendum blog, so it is a bit dated in some areas but the review still stands true)
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I started this blog, or at least the idea of a game review blog, as a school project about two years ago. The very first game I reviewed was a wacky PS2 game called Katamari Damacy that I’d found by the happy accident of my friend owning an old disc, and I quickly grew to love it, completing the game in under a week by playing a few hours each day. That love never died, and over the last few years I’d find myself pulling up the Katamari soundtrack on YouTube or popping in the disc to roll up a few towns and relax. Enter the Nintendo Direct that happened on September 3rd of last year. We got the announcement of Luigi’s Mansion 3, Town, Animal Crossing Switch and more, but to me the biggest moment of the show was the reveal of Katamari Damacy Reroll, an announcement that literally had me standing on my chair and yelling in excitement as my friends watched me with growing concern. I got the game for Christmas this past year courtesy of my brother, and I played it non-stop for days until I once again rolled up the moon and the credits rolled. The next day, once again consumed by Katamari fever, I ordered a copy of the original game’s PS2 sequel, We <3(Love) Katamari. This is the game I’ll be reviewing today, as I completed it this morning.
Title: We <3 Katamari
Available and Reviewed On: PlayStation 2
Info: Namco, 2005
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINIMAL SPOILERS FOR CONTENT IN WE LOVE KATAMARI
Story: The King of All Cosmos may have royally screwed the planet and all its people a few years ago, but after they played the game Katamari Damacy, they can’t help but crave more of it’s addicting gameplay, unique style and ear-worming tunes. It’s your job, as the King’s son, Prince, to return to the surface of the earth and aid any Katamari fan with what ails them- by rolling up anything and everything in your path. Each level you select from the newly renovated hub map is a different task from a different fan, each with their own small tale to tell that ties in to what you’ll be doing in the following level. There’s also a subplot that is told through a cutscene every few levels that depicts the life of the King, through all his successes and hardships. This plot provides much more character to the quirky characters in the royal cosmic family, and also introduces you to the King’s father, who has his own small character arc as well. This story is told without any dialogue or text, and while that does miss the greatness that is Katamari’s charming writing, it makes sense in the context of a flashback over a cosmic being’s lifetime. Combined, these two tales make We <3 Katamari a much more engaging game since it provides small goals in the form of the cutscenes as well as giving the characters more depth and development. It’s wacky, fourth wall breaking, and just so Katamari. 9/10
Visuals: This is a department where We <3 Katamari isn’t too far from it’s predecessor, but the minor changes that are provided make the visual treat that the game does provide much more satisfying. The visuals are virtually identical, although this game has a much wider variety of creative items and diverse locales that make the best of the simplistic art direction and flesh out the world that you’re plodding through. This change in world design is most apparent in the game’s new types of levels, such as the firefly level (see picture below), where the entire level takes place at night, with peaceful french-inspired music playing in the background and a thick layer of gently swaying fireflies that glow softly as you roll them onto your sticky ball. Another fantastic level is the under water one, where schools of fish of all shapes and sizes zip by and you collect colorful stones and other aquatic goodies. It’s levels like these that make We <3 Katamari into a much different beast than Katamari Damacy, since it provides you with a more intimate sense of scale in the world, as well as showing you just how much beauty and creativity you weren’t shown during the relatively catastrophic events that took place after the King’s drunken rampage. Overall the visuals aren’t actually improved over the first game, but much more creative usage of Katamari’s art style lends itself to a more coherent and satisfying experience. 9/10
Music: Katamari music is an acquired taste. It’s all over the place -drawing inspiration from tons of genres and creating its own style with multiple recurring themes- all the while attempting to be drilled into your skull as some of the most memorable and uplifting tunes that any video game has provided. I think the reason the music in We <3 Katamari stuck with me as much as it did is because of how much I’d enjoyed the soundtrack of the first game. This soundtrack is heavily influenced by that one, taking the main theme in many different directions including but not limited to awkward acapella, softcore rock, and animal noises (yes that is real). Once again however, it’s diversity where this game truly shines. The tunes playing in each level are wildly different, matching the aforementioned variety of unique stages. Guitar melodies may be followed by a soothing chorus in a vast field of flowers, or a sound-effect filled chaotic tune may play while you race across an island at 5 times the normal speed. One other thing this game does allow is the ability to choose which song you want to play during each level before you play it, although I personally stuck to whatever the game had preset. I greatly enjoyed the music of We <3 Katamari, and I look forward to creating a playlist that incorporates the best of from both games. 10/10
Gameplay: Here’s the big ‘un. The most important aspect of any video game, especially one so based around the uniqueness of video games as a medium- gameplay. This is where We <3 Katamari differs most from Katamari Damacy, although it may not be apparent at first. The controls (unsurprisingly) are unchanged, and you have no new abilities or upgrades to your ball- but the important part is everything surrounding the actual Katamari mechanics. The level design and pacing and progression have all been majorly overhauled between entries, and I’ll devote time to the changes on each aspect. First with the level design. As I’ve mentioned in the previous sections, this is the way We <3 Katamari stands furthest apart from the original. Every level is much smaller in scale, taking place in one type of location, such as a campground or a zoo, in one building, such as a single school, or even just one kid’s room. Tied into these more focused stages are many unique mechanics, which vary wildly from level mechanics. In one level you’re be tasked with keeping a ball aflame to grow big enough to light a bonfire, making it necessary to manage your fuel levels by focusing on collecting burnable objects, as well as avoid water to make sure your Katamari doesn’t instantly go out- which would force you to restart the stage. Another level has you rolling a skinny sumo wrestler around a town, picking up food and allowing him to grow in size so he can fulfill his dream of winning a sumo tournament. Next is pacing and progression, which is the part of this game I had the biggest issue with- and unfortunately is the main reason this doesn’t get a perfect score (spoilers). The problem originates from the exact thing the level design does so well, which is smaller scale missions and more consistent size. This means the game as a whole doesn’t have the same sense of progression that made the first game so addictive. You no longer start out small then consistently grow until you’re absorbing literal continents, but instead stay approximately the same size, except for one level in the middle where you’re able to reach over 1000m. This means that the final level, which I won’t spoil, is oddly anticlimactic since its scale feels completely out of place. This same final level has another side though, because it’s actually given to you early- but you aren’t able to finish it quite yet. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, since I think the game would have been fine without this change, but it’s still an interesting way to show progression. Gameplay gets a 9/10.
Verdict: We <3 Katamari is a fantastic game. It’s lightyears ahead of the original in some ways, that lead to a much more diverse experience, but also takes a step back from one of the main aspects that made the first game so addictive. It’s quirky, unique, and most of all a ton of fun. It’s a game I’d recommend to anyone who enjoyed the original game, and even to those who just want something new. In my opinion these two games, We <3 Katamari and Katamari Damacy, are two different beasts that work best in a pair. One gives you a more grand and god-like story with an incredible sense of progression, while the other shows you the intimate side of the world and its people, along with a hearty dose of well… heart. We Love Katamari is a must play, and gets a 9/10 from me.
(Reviewed on January 4th, 2019)
Basically a perfect sequel to the original. I loved the concept of rolling things into the ball and as it grows you rethink the level as you scale and the laid back vibe is something I wish to inject into my veins and this fixes the few issues I had with the original. The camera has improved, levels have more variety to them and better layouts, collision was drastically improved so you are less likely to get stuck on geometry, feels a bit smoother to control, has more unique objectives to levels and a better sense of urgency to them yet still having the laid back feel that I love. Some of the more unique challenges given are score by the cash value of the objects collected, a katamari that is always pushing forwards quickly, making a lamp by rolling up fireflies, etc. The soundtrack is just as amazing as the original and the writing is even more hilarious here. An incredible experience that I thoroughly love.
Quite possibly the greatest game of all time. Does nothing but perfect everything about the original even further. Nothing else comes close to the absolute kinography that is The King of Cosmos's backstory, the mind bending shibuya-kei OST, the incredible realistic graphics Crysis can't even dream of replicating, and of course, the level where you roll a sumo guy so that he can eat enough food to get big enough to knock the other guy out. Not even the notorious cowbear level is enough to knock anything off of this literal perfect game.
All in all yea its alright i guess