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Katamari Forever - This Schtick's Getting Old

Something about Katamari Forever feels disingenuous. The title endeavors diligently to appear carefree, wacky, and strange. It confronts you at every turn with craziness. The whole affair is supposed to feel simple and lighthearted.

Instead, something about it just feels off.

The first Katamari was genuinely clever and original. Enough time has passed since then, with enough derivative sequels passing through Namco’s pipeline, that it has become impossible to ignore the fact that the foundations of Katamari have not changed in six years.  

This isn’t the good kind of stagnation that Nintendo has down to an art form. This isn’t a case of preserving the essence of what made the original fun and simply delivering more of that with a few tweaks to keep it fresh. 

Katamari Forever is a clear demonstration of how delicate Nintendo’s rehashing really is. Too few new features, too many sequels, too little time between games, and countless other factors threaten to spoil the experience. To get away with making the same game over and over again, developers must tread carefully. Namco has eschewed their responsibility as caretaker of the Katamari franchise’s good name. I am of course not entirely serious when I say Nintendo is “making the same game over and over again”, but Namco is coming frighteningly close. 

The Katamari franchise’s roughly six entries (depending on how many of the mobile versions you count) are all the same experience. Not “nearly” the same experience, the same experience. 

One need only examine the mechanics for a moment before it becomes clear how little effort has been put into moving the series forward. Katamari Forever still has the exact same control and camera issues that plagued the first PS2 title. There is no word for this other than inexcusable. Back when the idea was new, a few kinks in the armor were acceptable, but the idea is a known quantity now. The creative spark that started it all is now quite definitively a predictable formula, and as such there is no excuse for not ironing out the wrinkles in the gameplay. 

Even the wacky trappings of the presentation, that vital charm that held the first game together, is wearing thin. What was once quirky and surprising now just feels like it’s trying too hard. The frankly insane opening animated movie of the original Katamari Damacy is one of my favorite game openers. Five or six games later, the series is still using all of the same tricks, only now they’re far less amusing. Yes the King of All Cosmos still speaks with a record scratching noise. Yes he’s still condescending. Yes there are inexplicable rainbows and pandas in the opening scene. Yes there are still bizarre non-sequiturs between certain missions that act as a “story” of sorts. 

But the King is no longer as amusing as he once was. His banter seems stale and predictable. The random “story” cutscenes feel forced and aren’t even remotely as amusing as those from the first game. Everything feels somehow stretched thin and overused.

Even the presentation itself is lackluster. Nobody is going to criticize the game for looking outdated, as the low-res, blocky graphics are part of the charm and it looks better here than it ever has. But a PlayStation 3 game that looks like a PlayStation 2 game should not be peppered with slowdown like Katamari Forever is.

Much like an aging band that has run out of ideas but still feels the need to release another tired, uninspired album to keep the cash flowing in, Katamari Forever just feels lifeless and tired. Where the original had energy and spark, the latest sequel has nothing but rehashed ideas and a distinct lack of ambition. 

The attempts to change things up a bit and add a hint of variety almost universally fall flat. A select few of the new mission types are genuinely fun, such as collecting as many items as possible within a certain budget, but most just feel tedious or frustrating. The game is still at its best when it just gets out of the way and lets you focus on rolling up as much shit as possible within a certain amount of time.

The game splits missions between two Kings, one real and one robot. I quickly came to dread playing the real King’s levels. Most are pulled from previous Katamari games, but all have some sort of needless twist placed on the collection mechanic and few are actually fun. I thought having a Katamari game that was a “best of” of sorts would be appealing, as I haven’t really played any Katamari since the first. I was disappointed to find out that all the returning levels have some sort of needless mission tacked onto them, which soured the pure Katamari experience I was looking for.

I didn’t intend for the tone of this review to come off as quite this harsh, but it’s hard to hide my disappointment. A once brilliant font of innovation and quirkiness has been reduced to just another bland sequel, making cash for the publisher by relentlessly copying itself.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course. To be clear, the game still remains fun more often than not. That old thrill of rolling up the world is still present and just as intoxicating as ever, at least when the missions get out of the way and just let you have at it. I just find it hard to enjoy that old thrill when I’m being frustrated by unnecessary missions, wrestling with clunky controls that should have been fixed, or distracted by slowdown that shouldn’t be there.

Katamari Forever isn’t abysmal, far from it in fact. It’s just disappointing. There’s certainly fun to be had here and, though I would recommend against a purchase, it’s worth playing if the Katamari experience has appealed to you in the past. Just be prepared for a little bit of frustration and blandness to mar that wonderful Katamari Damacy experience you may be looking for.

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  • Response
    Strange this post is totaly irrelevant to the search query I entered in google but it was listed on the first page. - I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. - Woody Allen Born 1935
  • Response
    i thought this was a really great post to read. ill check back for new posts by you!
  • Response
    Response: HfZEOjwN
    Zestful Contemplation - Blog - Katamari Forever - This Schtick's GettingĀ Old

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