Katamari Damacy

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Katamari Damacy
US box art for Katamari Damacy
Developer(s) Namco, NOW Production [1]
Publisher(s) Namco
Designer(s) Keita Takahashi
Aspect ratio 480i (SDTV)
Platform(s) PlayStation 2
Release date(s) JP March 18, 2004[2]
NA September 22, 2004[2]
Genre(s) Third-person puzzle-action
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer
Rating(s) CERO: All Ages
KMRB: All Ages
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Media DVD (1)
Input methods DualShock

Katamari Damacy (塊魂 Katamari Damashii?, lit. "Clump Spirit") is a third-person puzzle-action video game that is published and developed by Namco for the PlayStation 2 video game console. It was first released in Japan, and then later in South Korea and North America. The game resulted from a school project from the Namco Digital Hollywood Game Laboratory, and was developed for less than $1 million. In designing Katamari Damacy, the development team aimed to maintain four key points: novelty, ease of understanding, enjoyment, and humor.

The game's plot concerns a diminutive prince on a mission to rebuild the stars, constellations and Moon, which were accidentally destroyed by his father, the King of All Cosmos. This is achieved by rolling a magical, highly adhesive ball called a katamari around various locations, collecting increasingly larger objects, ranging from thumbtacks to people to mountains, until the ball has grown large enough to become a star. Katamari Damacy's story, characters, and settings are bizarre and heavily stylized, rarely attempting any semblance of realism, though the brands and items used are based on those current in Japan during the game's production.

Overall, Katamari Damacy was well received in Japan and North America. Though the game sold well, it received mixed comments about its gameplay. The game was dubbed a sleeper hit, and won several awards. Katamari Damacy inspired the development of other video games, and led to the release of four sequels in Japan and other territories: We Love Katamari, Me & My Katamari, Beautiful Katamari, and I Love Katamari, and to a fifth sequel, Katamari Tribute, to be released late 2009.


[edit] Story

The primary story in Katamari Damacy deals with the aftereffects of the planet-sized King of All Cosmos' binge drinking spree that wiped out all the stars and other celestial bodies from the sky. The King charges his 10-cm-tall son, the Prince, to go to Earth with a "katamari"—a magical ball that allows anything smaller than it to stick to it and make it grow—and collect enough material for him to recreate the stars and constellations. The Prince is successful, and the sky is returned to normal.[3]

A side story follows the Hoshino family as the Prince works at his tasks. The father, an astronaut, is unable to go to the moon after it is wiped out by the King, and the daughter 'senses' the Prince's work - she can feel when each constellation returns to the sky. Ultimately, the family, along with their house and town, are rolled up in the katamari that is used to remake the moon.[4]

[edit] Gameplay

The player controls the Prince as he rolls the katamari around various areas in order to meet certain parameters set by the King of All Cosmos. The player uses the two analog sticks on the DualShock controller in a manner similar to the classic arcade game Battlezone to control the direction the katamari rolls. Other controls can be triggered by the player to gain a quick burst of speed, flip the Prince to the other side of the katamari, and more.[3]

Objects that are smaller than the katamari will stick to it when the player comes into contact with them, while larger objects can be obstacles; colliding at high speed with a larger object may cause objects to fall off the katamari, slowing down the player's progress. The game uses both size and weight to determine if an object will stick to the katamari. This allows long, thin objects, such as pencils, that are larger than the katamari, to be picked up, and these will alter how the katamari rolls until more objects are picked up.[3] Large animals, such as cats, will chase the katamari, knocking things from it, but once the katamari is large enough, it will scare the animals away, and they can be rolled up once they are chased down. As objects stick to the katamari, the katamari will grow, eventually allowing objects that were once obstacles to be picked up, and creating access to areas that were previously blocked. In this manner, the player might start the game by picking up thumbtacks and ants, and slowly work his way up to the point where he is picking up buildings, mountains and clouds. [3]

The "Make A Star" mode in Katamari Damacy is the primary mode, where the player must grow the katamari to a specific size in a limited amount of time.

The typical mission given by the King of All Cosmos is the "Make a Star" mode, where the player needs to grow the katamari to a specific size within a given amount of time. Other missions have more specific collecting rules, such as collecting as many girls (interpreted liberally, thus including objects such as dolls or female animals) within a given time period, or collecting the largest cow or cow-like object before touching any other similar cow-like object.[4] The player can attempt a score attack mode for any level, in which they would try to make the largest katamari possible in the time allotted. Certain levels can unlock an "eternal mode" by meeting the size requirement within a shorter amount of time. In eternal modes, the player can explore the level as much as he likes with no time limit.[5]

Levels feature two secret items that can be found. The first item is a 'royal present' that contains an object that the Prince can wear. Most gifts are non-functional, but one includes a camera that can be used to take in-game screenshots.[5] The other secret item is a cousin of the Prince, which, once rolled up in main gameplay, can be used as a character in the various multiplayer modes. The game also tracks which objects the player has collected at any time, allowing them to review all the various objects within the game.

Multiplayer mode in Katamari Damacy.

In the two-player mode, a player can choose to play as either the Prince or one of his numerous Cousins. The screen is split vertically; player one is on the left, and player two is on the right. Players compete simultaneously in a small arena to collect the most objects within three minutes. The playfield is replenished with new objects periodically. Players can ram into each other, knocking items from their opponents' katamaris, and if one player leads by a fair amount, he can even roll up his opponent and his opponent's katamari.[5]

[edit] Development

Toru Iwatani, head of research and development for Namco, stated that the idea for Katamari Damacy resulted from Keita Takahashi's[6] school project from the Namco Digital Hollywood Game Laboratory, a sponsored institute for game development education similar to Nintendo sponsored DigiPen.[7] Keita Takahashi's final thesis bore out the core gameplay ideas, while a team of ten (including the student) developed the final product. The game was developed for less than US$1 million, a tenth of the cost of Namco blockbuster titles such as Ridge Racer or Soulcalibur.[7] The game took a year and a half to develop, with eight months of prototyping.[8]

Lead developer Keita Takahashi said that the team was aiming for four key points in developing the game: novelty, ease of understanding, enjoyment, and humor.[9] Iwatani compared the game to Namco's Pac-Man, which focused on simplicity and innovation, and served as a template for future games from the company.[7] At one point during development, Takahashi "proactively ignored" advice from Namco to increase the complexity of the game.[9]

The game was not originally planned to be The Prince's first appearance; Takahashi had designed a racing game where the Prince would control a boy steering a go-cart, running over buildings across the world; the game was dropped by Namco.[9]

Katamari Damacy was first revealed at the 2003 Tokyo Game Show, at which the press dubbed it a "snowball simulator".[10] The image featured on the cover of the pre-release demo showed a "Tamakorogashi", a large ball used in "undoukai", a game played by Japanese schoolchildren that was an influence for the game.[8] Plans for releasing the game in Western countries were tied to its performance in Japan.[11] Katamari Damacy was first shown in the United States at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop during the March 2004 Game Developers Conference. Due to its popularity at trade shows and a write-in campaign, Namco decided to release the game in the United States.[12] Katamari Damacy was released in Japan at about two-thirds of the cost as a new title,[13] while the cost was less than half the cost of a new game for its United States release.

[edit] Name

In Japanese, Katamari ( ?) means "clump" or "clod" and Damashii is the rendaku form of tamashii ( ?) which means "soul" or "spirit". Therefore, the phrase approximates to "clump spirit" (in the same sense as "team spirit" or "school spirit", meaning "enthusiasm"; cf. the use of "damashii" in Yamato-damashii). The two kanji that form the name look nearly identical (sharing the same right-side radical) in a kind of visual alliteration. The name is officially transliterated as Katamari Damacy in most releases. In an interview with Dengeki Online, producer Keita Takahashi said that when asked about the title, "It just popped into my head suddenly, and this is what it has been from the beginning."[14]

[edit] Soundtrack

The music in Katamari Damacy was widely hailed as imaginative and original (winning both IGN's[15] and GameSpot's[16] "Soundtrack of the Year 2004" awards), and was considered one of the game's best features. The soundtrack was released in Japan as Katamari Fortissimo Damashii. Its eclectic composition featured elements of traditional electronic video game music, as well as heavy jazz and samba influences (Shibuya-kei). Most of the tracks were composed by Yu Miyake, and many feature vocals from popular J-pop singers, such as Yui Asaka from the Sukeban Deka 3 TV series, and anime voice actors, including Nobue Matsubara and Ado Mizumori. One track is sung and written by Charlie Kosei, composer of the Lupin III soundtrack.

[edit] Reception

Katamari Damacy enjoyed moderate success in Japan. The game was sold at about two-thirds of the price of a new game at the time. It was the top selling game the week of its release with 32,000 units sold.[7] Nearly 156,000 units were sold in 2004.[13] However, Namco originally estimated that over 500,000 units would be sold in Japan.[11] Katamari Damacy was one of the recipients of the 2004 Good Design Award in Japan, the first time a video game has won this award.[17] The game was not released in PAL territories such as Europe and Australia, since publishers thought it was too "quirky" for these markets; however, Electronic Arts picked up both sequels, We Love Katamari[18] and Me & My Katamari,[19] for release in Europe.

The North American release of the game was very well-received by professional reviewers, was mentioned and praised on TechTV, and was a featured sidebar in the May 23, 2004 edition of Time magazine. Time continued to praise the game in its November 22, 2004 "Best games of the year" special, calling it "the most unusual and original game to hit PlayStation2".[20] Most retailers underestimated the demand for such a quirky game, and only purchased a few copies of this sleeper hit; it rapidly sold out nationwide, with sales passing the 120,000 units mark in North America.[21] It also won the U.S. award for "Excellence in Game Design" at the 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards,[22] and G4techTV awarded Katamari Damacy its "Best Innovation" prize in its G-Phoria of that year.[23]

Although the game has rapidly achieved a cult following and has been praised by many reviewers, it also has its share of criticism. A common complaint is that the game is relatively short and repetitive—it can be completed in under ten hours, and the gameplay stays virtually the same all the way through. However, others, such as Electronic Gaming Monthly reviewer Mark McDonald, argue that the game's limitations are made up for by its strengths: "Sure, you're basically doing the same thing each mission, but Katamari's elegant controls, killer soundtrack, and wicked humor make it perfectly suited for replay."[24] As a well-executed, non-traditional game, Katamari Damacy has been influential in the game development community. Now, more than three years after its release, a number of designers have developed works inspired by Katamari: among them Isostar, The Wonderful End of the World, and Cloud.

[edit] Sequels

The first sequel to Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari (みんな大好き塊魂 Minna Daisuki Katamari Damashii?, literally Everyone Loves Katamari Damacy), was released in Japan on July 5, 2005, North America on September 20, 2005 (some retailers, such as Target, released it early) and Europe in February 2006. We Love Katamari is essentially the same as Katamari Damacy in its gameplay, controls and graphics, but adds several new options, such as co-operative play and new scoring system in different levels; monetary value of the objects picked up, the weight of a sumo wrestler depending on the food he has eaten, etc. The sequel is substantially longer, and its plot is very self-referential—it deals with the fans the King of All Cosmos and his son have attracted since the first Katamari game.

Namco has also brought the Katamari franchise to the PlayStation Portable in the form of Me & My Katamari (僕の私の塊魂 Boku no Watashi no Katamari Damashii?, literally My My Katamari Damacy using the two words in Japanese for "I" which connote a masculine ('boku') or neutral ('watashi') speaker). This sequel is set on an island ravaged by a tsunami (brought upon by the Royal Family's vacation, where they were splashing around in the ocean), and features a day and night system, as well as different seasons. WindySoft, a South Korean developer, has announced plans for a Katamari Damacy Online game, which was due to be released later in 2007, but never made it to the US.[25][26] Beautiful Katamari was released for the Xbox 360 in October 2007.[27] A PlayStation 3 version was announced but was cancelled shortly after.[28] Director Jun Morikawa stated, however, that a PS3-version, as well as a Wii-version, will make it to the consoles soon.[28]

There was also a mobile version released called Katamari Damacy Mobile., which was actually a sequel to Katamari Damacy-kun,[29][30] which was a 2D side scrolling mobile version of Katamari, and was later used in the closing credit mini-game of Me & My Katamari.

In November 2008, Namco released a cellphone version of the game titled "Rolling With Katamari"[31]

In December 2008, Namco also released an iPhone and iPod Touch sequel called I Love Katamari, available at the Apple App Store.[32]

In February 2009, the Official Japanese Katamari Website, posted news about an upcoming Nintendo DSi download game via DSi Ware, based on the Katamari world. No info as of yet, if this will be available outside of Japan.[33]

In March 2009, Famitsu revealed that a new game, Katamari Tribute would be coming out to the PS3 later in the year in Japan. The article also mentioned that this would be the first game in the series to be rendered in full 1080p HD. [34][35]

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Activision/NOW: Little League World Series Baseball 2009". http://elmundotech.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/actv-now-llws-baseball-09/. 
  2. ^ a b "Katamari Damacy for PS2". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/katamaridamashii/similar.html?mode=versions. Retrieved on 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ a b c d Sulik, Ivan (2004-09-12). "Katamari Damacy". IGN. http://ps2.ign.com/articles/548/548201p1.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ a b Davis, Ryan (2004-09-20). "Katamari Damacy Review". Gamespot. http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/puzzle/katamaridamashii/review.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ a b c Parish, Jeremy (2004-09-20). "Katamari Damacy (PS2)". 1UP. http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3134713&p=2. Retrieved on 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~hunicke/blog/content/kdpostmort.htm
  7. ^ a b c d Kent, Steven (2004-04-08). "Katamari Damashii: The Snowball Effect (PS2)". GameSpy. http://ps2.gamespy.com/playstation-2/katamari-damashii/504503p1.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-13. 
  8. ^ a b Sheffield, Brandon (2005-03-11). "Rolling the Dice: The Risks and Rewards of Developing Katamari Damacy". Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/gdc2005/features/20050311/postcard-sheffield.htm. Retrieved on 2008-08-13. 
  9. ^ a b c Theobald, Phil (2005-03-10). "Keita Takahashi talks Katamari Damacy". Gamespy. http://www.gamespy.com/articles/595/595110p1.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-13. 
  10. ^ Gerstmann, Jeff (2003-09-26). "TGS 2003: Katamari Damacy Impressions". Gamespot. http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/katamaridamashii/news.html?sid=6075943&mode=all. Retrieved on 2008-08-13. 
  11. ^ a b Gantayat, Anoop (2004-03-09). "Namco Plans Big". IGN. http://ps2.ign.com/articles/497/497400p1.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-13. 
  12. ^ Durham, Jeremy (2004-07-19). "Katamari Damacy Official in U.S.". IGN. http://ps2.ign.com/articles/531/531682p1.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-13. 
  13. ^ a b Famitsu. "Famitsu 2004 Top 100". Game Science. Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. http://web.archive.org/web/20060831142645/http://game-science.com/news/000972.html. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  14. ^ "電撃オンライン『塊魂』インタビュー" (in Japanese). Dengeki Online. http://www.dengekionline.com/soft/recommend/katamari/. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  15. ^ "The Best of 2004: Best Soundtrack". IGN. http://bestof.ign.com/2004/overall/14.html. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  16. ^ "Best and Worst of 2004: Winner - Best Original Music". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/all/bestof2004/day2w_2.html. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  17. ^ Smith, David (2004-10-01). "Katamari Damacy Wins Design Award". 1UP.com. http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3135113&did=1. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  18. ^ Electronic Arts (August 11, 2005-08-11). EA declares: We Love Katamari. Press release. http://ea.gamespress.com/release.asp?i=565. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  19. ^ Electronic Arts (2005-11-17). Namco Ltd. announces Me & My Katamari (working title) for PAL territories, EA to co-publish. Press release. http://ea.gamespress.com/release.asp?i=611. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  20. ^ Time (2004-11-21). TIME magazine names "The Sims 2" the best video game of the year. Press release. http://www.time.com/time/press_releases/article/0,8599,785333,00.html. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  21. ^ Lowenstein, Doug (May 2005). "State of the Industry Address". Entertainment Software Association. Archived from the original on 2007-04-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20070401230452/http://www.theesa.com/archives/2005/05/e3_2005_state_o_1.php. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  22. ^ International Game Developers Association (March 10, 2005). IGDA Names Recipients of the 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards. Press release. http://www.gamechoiceawards.com/pr/pr_2005_0310.htm. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  23. ^ Sheffield, Brandon (2005-07-28). "Wrap-Up: G4's G-Phoria Video Game Awards". Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=6063. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  24. ^ McDonald, Mark (2004-10-25). "Katamari Damacy PS2 Review from Electronic Gaming Monthly". 1UP.com. http://egm.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=2019527&did=2. Retrieved on 2006-05-18. 
  25. ^ "Katamari Damacy Online Coming (To Korea)". Kotaku. 2007-01-29. http://kotaku.com/gaming/katamari-damacy/katamari-damacy-online-coming-to-korea-232326.php. Retrieved on 2008-08-17. 
  26. ^ Klepek, Patrick (2007-01-30). "Katamari Damacy Online, Not As Exciting As You'd Think". 1up.com. http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3156800. Retrieved on 2008-08-17. 
  27. ^ "Beautiful Katamari on official Namco list for XBox360". http://namco-ch.net/list_game/list.php?hid=27. Retrieved on 2007-07-05. 
  28. ^ a b Kennedy, Sam (2007-09-21). "Tokyo Game Show 2007: New Katamari Game Coming to PS3". 1up.com. http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3163131. Retrieved on 2007-09-22. 
  29. ^ "塊魂オンザウェブ" (in Japanese). Katamaridamacy.jp. http://katamaridamacy.jp/mobile.html. Retrieved on 2009-03-03. 
  30. ^ Kumar, Mathew (2007-04-24). "Katamari Damacy Mobile Announced". GamesOnDeck.com. http://www.gamesondeck.com/news/893/katamari_damacy_mobile_announced.php. Retrieved on 2009-03-03. 
  31. ^ "Rolling with Katamari". Namco Games. http://www.namcogames.com/mobile/rolling-with-katamari_4945.html. Retrieved on 2009-03-03. 
  32. ^ "i Love Katamari for iPhone/iPod Touch". Namco. http://www.namcogames.com/ipod/i-love-katamari-for-iphone-ipod-touch_5821.html##. Retrieved on 2008-12-23. 
  33. ^ "Tenative Title for DSi via DSi Ware or Download Game". Namco. http://katamaridamacy.jp/puzzle/index.html. Retrieved on 2009-03-21. 
  34. ^ "PS3: Katamari Damacy In Glorious Full HD". Kotaku. http://kotaku.com/5183056/katamari-damacy-in-glorious-full-hd. Retrieved on 2009-03-25. 
  35. ^ Gifford, Ken (2009-03-25). "PS3 Struck By Giant Katamari". 1UP. http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3173445. Retrieved on 2009-03-25. 

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