Roll On: Why Katamari Speaks To Me
I want more games like Katamari Forever.
That sentence may not be too strange for you to read, but for me, coming from myself, reading my own words, it sounds odd. I never thought I would like a game like Katamari Damacy. It wasn’t anything that interested me, on my radar, it wasn’t really anything at all. It was a weird Japanese game, amid all the other weird Japanese games that clogged up the atmosphere, and while I had heard my friends laud its many eccentricities I simply steered away from it. “Giant, rolling ball,” I would say, snickering to myself. “Where’s the fun in that?”
The fun is all over that, in fact. After buying Katamari Forever on a whim with some trade-in credit I got from returning The Walking Dead Season One (that’s right, I bought the disc version), I went home, took my brand new game out of the GameStop bag, set it on my shelf, and proceeded to forget about it for about a week and a half. During this time I perfected downhill snowboarding ala SSX, but that’s a story for a different day.
When I finally got around to putting in the game, I thought a unicorn had thrown up rainbows all over my television. Lights and colors and little pill-headed cardboard cutouts danced all around my screen, and I was fifty percent sure that I was tripping on acid. Through all of this jumbled mess of colors and poorly (on purpose, from what I understand) translated Japanese text, I was able to determine that a giant King had fallen asleep and/or lost his memory, and so instead of taking him to the doctor, his son/cousin/daughter/minion built a King Robot to replace his father/leader. This proves to be a bad idea, as the Robot King goes crazy and destroys all the stars in the Cosmos. Instead of falling into the billions of black holes that, theoretically, should exist after such a stellar destruction, the Robot King tasks you, the player (acting as either a prince or one of the prince’s many cousins) with using a sticky ball to roll stuff together to make stars and planets.
If that’s confusing, it’s because it is.
The first half hour or so, I struggled greatly with the mechanics. I’m still not great at it. You have to use both sticks at the same time, and one is throttle and one is direction, except when it’s turn and the other stick is throttle, and no matter how many times I play the tutorial mode and look at the little arrows telling me which way I’m supposed to roll the ball (called a Katamari, hence the name of the series) I can’t figure out how to make it work well. I can make it work, don’t get me wrong, I just can’t make it work well. Finally, however, I reached a point of kind of half-assed understanding of what exactly they were asking me to do, and I began rolling up things like pencils, doughnuts, and structurally unsound houses made of toast. How the people lived in these, I haven’t a clue.
Ah, the people of Katamari. Near the beginning of the game they seem like towering giants, square and angry-looking, always ready to bump you out of their way as they go on with their busy lives. As you roll on, however, you get bigger and bigger, and the people, well, they just stay the same size. The satisfaction of finally rolling them over is an odd one, as you feel relief that you finally are the one who has the right-of-way on the road but at the same time, as you watch their tiny arms flail back and forth wildly as you roll over them time and time again, it’s a little sick, a little disturbed. The wiggling arms of the giant squids, however, are downright hilarious.
The idea of scale is absolutely ridiculous. When you start out not much bigger than a sushi piece and end with rolling up mountains, clouds, and entire continents, it can be slightly mind jarring. Like the way that this review is written, which isn’t a review really but a statement, just like the game wasn’t really a game but was. It’s good because it’s better than the explanation that it seems to require. On an average of six times per hour, and I’m just throwing numbers up in the air here, I was surprised by Katamari Forever. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing, it’s not really for me to say. It’s not really for any of us to say, to tell you, the reader, what you will like. What you won’t like. We don’t know, we don’t know you, your thoughts, your dreams, your fears. We can only guess.
You may hate this game. You may not see the need in it. You may feel that way right now, reading this, and if you do I’m sorry for you. It’s so easy to pigeonhole yourself into a certain type of game, an Open-World’er or an RPG’er or a FPS’er, but what those acronyms can’t hide is that you’re doing the same thing over and over. I loved Sleeping Dogs, loved, LOVED Sleeping Dogs, but it’s nothing new. It’s just True Crime, and True Crime’s just Grand Theft Auto, like Saint’s Row and Driver and I could go on and on and on. I already have.
My message today is simple: Try something new. Maybe Katamari Forever isn’t the right choice for you. Maybe you should go buy Rapala’s Pro Fishing. El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. Something you’ve never played before. Do you really just want to play first-person shooters for the rest of your life? Whether you can see your legs or not, whether mirrors reflect you, none of that really matters. It’s not a change, it’s not different, and the one thing you should know about Katamari Forever, it’s as different as they come.