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Katamari Forever (PlayStation 3) artwork

Katamari Forever (PlayStation 3) review

"The King of All Cosmos has amnesia. Despite all his power, getting hit by a passing meteor was enough to take him down. Now that heís out of the picture, thereís no one left to manage the Cosmos. Youíd think the Prince and the rest of the royal family would be able to step up, but itís kind of hard to replace one of the most flamboyant and over-the-top characters in recent memory. Instead, they create the RoboKing, a giant mecha capable of doing everything the King could doÖwithout the style, of..."

The King of All Cosmos has amnesia. Despite all his power, getting hit by a passing meteor was enough to take him down. Now that heís out of the picture, thereís no one left to manage the Cosmos. Youíd think the Prince and the rest of the royal family would be able to step up, but itís kind of hard to replace one of the most flamboyant and over-the-top characters in recent memory. Instead, they create the RoboKing, a giant mecha capable of doing everything the King could doÖwithout the style, of course. The Prince must really hate his father if he thinks some hunk of metal could take his place. The RoboKing lives up to its predecessorís legacy in only one way: destruction. His first act as the new ruler was to go berserk and wipe out the entire Cosmos. Planets, stars, constellations, everything. Not only is the true leader gone, but now his kingdom has been torn apart. All because the Prince thought he could replace the ruler of the universe with a robot.

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Regardless, youíve got to help the Prince restore the Cosmos to its former glory. A daunting task, but heís got a tried and true approach: the katamari. Itís a ball capable of sticking to and picking up any object smaller than itself. While it may be only able to nab little stuff like coins and thumbtacks initially, all of the nabbed objects add to the katamariís size and weight. What begins as a small collection of trinkets will lead you to batteries, food, shoes, books, plants, small animals, furniture, people, and beyond. Eventually, the katamari will grow so big that youíll start accidentally uproot trees, buildings, cities, mountains, countries, continent, even planets. Nothing is safe from your katamariís firm grasp. But if you accidentally crash into too large of an obstacle, pieces of your makeshift structure will go flying and reduce the katamariís size. Since the shape and size of the objects also alter the ballís rolling physics, youíre going to have to spend as much time carefully guiding the katamari as you will picking stuff up. Roll up enough stuff in a given time limit, and the ball will be converted into a star to decorate the new Cosmos.

Itís a simple concept, but itís a lot harder than it sounds. Especially given the kinds of levels youíve got deal with. Katamari Forever is a collection of the best stages from previous titles, with only a few brand new challenges thrown in for good measure. Some are straightforward, like getting the katamari to a certain size. The majority, however, are unique tests of your understanding of the mechanics and skills with the controls. Diehard fans will notice that nearly every unusual level from We Love Katamari - the bonfire, collecting fireflies, racing, and building snowman stages come to mind - are back in all their glory. The same goes for Beautiful Katamari; many of the areas will seem familiar, but with different layouts and items. Some levels might have you pick up items based on their monetary values, while another might force you to only nab hot items to increase the heat of your katamari. Ironically, itís the revamped levels from the original Katamari Damacy that pose the most threat; with so few items and a relatively short time limit, you might have more trouble with them than with newer levels. It doesnít really matter, though; even if you fail, thereís no penalty (aside from a morbid but entertaining mini-game) for retrying.

If youíre a seasoned Katamari veteran, the lack of new levels probably sounds disappointing. Rather than giving the fans anything really new, the game designers tried to make up for it by letting you play through the stages with improved controls and new features. While the analog stick controls have remained unchanged since the first title, Katamari Forever introduces the Prince Hop, which lets your katamari make small jumps. It can be useful when youíre trying to climb stairs or obstacles, but it seems pretty gimmicky at first glance; you have to thrust your controller downward, and the game doesnít always register the command. Instead, youíll end up just using one of the shoulder buttons to pull it off. If youíre struggling to get to a bigger size range, the new Kingís Heart item speeds up the process; if you roll up the heart, itíll suck in the rest of the nearby objects in the blink of an eye. But if your prefer something a little less broken, subsequent playthroughs will unlock gameplay modes with faster speeds, no time limits, or challenges without the new features. Itís a great way to keep people playing; not only do these unlockables give you the incentive to keep playing over and over, but it allows the fans to experience levels in new ways.

Even if the levels arenít exactly original, thereís still plenty of stuff to do on the side. Multiplayer and co-op challenges are always available, but not for online gameplay; thatís limited to just uploading high scores. Besides, youíll have your hands full trying to complete the single-player mode. The obligatory game trophies are one thing, but the sheer amount of collectibles is mind-boggling. But youíre also rolling up a whole planet full of stuff, and the game catalogues every last one of them. Youíll be able to keep track of everything from the differently-colored chalk to the minor gods youíve rolled up during your crusade. There are also a wide variety of presents you can collect; aside from a camera that lets you take in-game screenshots, these little pickups let you dress the Prince up with different outfits and accessories. But if you get sick of playing as the royal son, you can roll up one of his many cousins and switch avatars. Thatís on top of the mini-games, cutscenes, and everything else this impressive array of features has to offer.

But if youíve played any of the previous titles, chances are youíll head straight for the soundtrack. The series is known for its music, and Katamari Forever goes out of its way to celebrate the most memorable tunes. Some of these remixes are really good; the English version of Everlasting Love, techno-style Sayonara Rolling Star, and revamped Houston tracks steal the show. Others are a bit more questionable, though. Katamari on the Swing has been redone a few times, and the fully-synthesized remix will garner as much hate as it will love. Itís a shame that the original versions of the songs werenít included, though. As much of a nostalgia trip this game is, having the actual tracks would have made the experience perfect. Even if you havenít played any of the previous games, itís worth going through the entire playlist at least once; the soundtrack has a such a diverse lineup that youíre bound to find something you like.

The same can be said for the style. The game boasts different graphical filters that let you alter the colors and textures of the levels. Tired of the normal, bland visuals? Switch it to Comic Book Mode to brighten things up. Or to Wood, to give it some artistic flair. Itís also worth noting that the game can run with high definition displays, even if the series has never been known for graphical details. Besides, nothing seems to save the gameplay from the occasional animation slowdown. Youíll probably be too stunned by the sheer size of the levels and the amount of pickups to notice, anyway. Every building, sidewalk, and landscape is littered with stuff. Thereís nothing quite as funny as watching people try to escape and hearing them shriek in terror after youíve captured them. Itís the sense of scale that makes the difference, though. You might start off on some seemingly endless field of color, only to realize that youíve been rolling around on a table, which ends up being inside of a house thatís located in a bustling town, which leads to a larger city, the countryside, the world, and Cosmos beyond. By the time youíve reached the final areas of the game, your katamari will have grown far beyond anything the previous games could muster.

Thatís the point of Katamari Forever: revisiting what made the series awesome, and making it even better. Itís a combination of all the greatest and most challenging stages, spanning across all of the major titles. While there should have been more new content added, there are enough tweaks and new features to make older stages interesting. The inclusion of the Prince Hop and heart pickups add a bit of spice to the established gameplay formula, the additional modes add plenty of replay value. Same goes for all the collectibles, movies, mini-games, and other unlockables. The music is a mixed bag, though; they should have included the original tracks alongside the remixes, which would have offered a serious amount of nostalgia. At least the graphic filters make the game look cool, even if there are times when the animation slows to a crawl. But hey, donít let that stop you. Katamari Forever has some of the best gameplay youíll ever find in the series. So if youíve never played any of the other games, give this a go. Katamari is on the roll again.


disco's avatar
Featured community review by disco (October 03, 2009)

Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.

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zippdementia posted October 03, 2009:

I was with most of the review, but I lost interest in the last three paragraphs. Maybe that's just me, I'm beginning to wonder about my attention span these days, grad school is definitely challenging it with some of the dryer readings... but I digress.

I feel this reviews makes some very strong points and gave me a really good sense of what the game would be like... but I didn't walk away feeling the same way you did. As a Katamari fan, the thought that all the levels were rehashes seemed really sketchy to me from a developer's standpoint. Certainly it's hard to justify a $60 price tag with rehashed levels. I know you try to sell us on the game in the last paragraph but it's not working for me. Every point you make you challenge with another point.

You say the game is all about nostalgia... but then you point out they didn't include the original music. You say there's a lot of stuff to do on the side, but then you say there isn't any online multiplayer or really much content outside of what we've already seen.

Perhaps most confusingly, though, you say that the game is nothing new but then say you can roll around the cosmos picking up planets. That is distinctly new. I feel like you should've cut this review down a lot and talked more about that. You get it right at the beginning: what anyone wants out of a Katamari game is the ability to get huge and pick up crazy shit. So why don't you talk more about how huge you can get? Just a brief mention doesn't seem to cut it. Similarly, what are these new levels you mention? What are they like?

These are the questions I come away from the review with. The writing is pretty solid, you've improved a lot in that regard. Now you just need some focus.
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fleinn posted October 04, 2009:

"Katamari is on the roll again." Bleeeehaah :D lol

I agree with zipp. It's a good and thorough review. And it only makes you stop a little bit once in a while because you're looking for something wrong - in a sense I'm expecting a review that picks up on the low hum of craziness in the game. But apart from the way it comes off as if you start to explain how it's only a few new things - and then end up saying it's actually quite a lot of the new things with this game. Apart from that - the "only a few challenges" sentence - there's not much to complain about.

If I had one criticism, it's that you seem to tone down the actually funny and genuine things in the review - and end the paragraphs on sentences like the one on the top. In my very subjective opinion, I think you should do this the other way around. Not just because it's generic, but because it gives you artificial separators in the review.

This is a brilliant break.
"...the ball will be converted into a star to decorate the new Cosmos.

Itís a simple concept, but itís a lot harder than it sounds. "

And, imo, if you eased the reader into some description that focuses on the types of challenges, and the merciless rating system after this - while avoiding some of the threadbare phrases.. I think you could even win over zipp.
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zippdementia posted October 04, 2009:

... could even win over zipp.

I like that.
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disco posted October 07, 2009:

Yeah, I know. I kind of got burned out halfway through and basically phoned in the rest of it. I'll do better next time...

By the way, the Prince has been able to roll up planets since We Love Katamari. The Roll Up the Sun level, remember?
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zippdementia posted October 07, 2009:

Actually, I only played the first Katamari (I LOVED it), and watched a portion of the second game. There's been one on the PSP since then, right? Or the DS or Wii or something.

So man... there really ISN'T anything new. Fuckin' bummer.
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disco posted October 07, 2009:

Yeah, there have been games for the PSP, 360, and iPhone. The few new levels are incredibly brief and bland compared to the rest of them. But if you're only played and loved the first game, I'd definitely recommend giving this a try (though probably not for full price). It might be a lot of recycled content, but it beats the hell out of anything the original KD had. The biggest you can roll up in KD is what? 800ish meters? This game can rack up sizes past 2 million kilometers.

Just sayin'. >.>

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