Katamari Forever

Katamari is a pretty simple game. You roll up stuff, the Katamari gets larger, and The King of All Cosmos takes your ball of garbage (your Katamari), throws it in the sky and POOF! becomes a planet or a star or some other objects floating around in space. Usually it's replacing something in space that The King had accidentally destroyed in the prologue story sequence.

In Katamari Damacy, released in 2004, you did exactly that. There were 10 core levels to the game. At the end of each level, you ended up with a larger Katamari than the last. In the first levels, you were picking up dice, Mahjong pieces, maybe magazines. Throughout the game, you'd grow larger enough to pick up humans, cars, houses, buildings, mountains, and islands.. In the final level, you'd end up with a Katamari almost 900m in diameter.

It was a unique game that stood on its own as a single release. But with great popular, Namco demanded creator Keita Takahashi make a sequel. He thought about what he would do to further the brand, and in 2005, released We Love Katamari. The story of We Love Katamari centered on Takahashi's reaction to the outpouring support of Katamari Damacy. Each level in the game is a request by a fan of Katamari Damacy, and almost all the levels center on unique challenges or environments rather than rolling the large Katamari possible.

Keita Takahashi said that Katamari should end at We Love Katamari, and went off to do something else with Namco. Namco continued to milk this cash cow and put Jun Moriwaki as head Katamari game designer. They released Me and My Katamari on the PSP in 2005/2006, which was god awful. How can you have a Katamari game without analog sticks?

In 2007, Namco and Jun Moriwaki released Beautiful Katamari for Xbox 360, the true sequel to We Love Katamari. Unfortunately, Beautiful Katamari was uninspired and felt incredibly empty. It suffered from numerous principle problems (thoughts from Oct 23 2007), but in its core, it was Katamari (thoughts from Oct 24 2007). With the unoriginal story, horrible loading times, and $12 worth of DLC to make the game complete, Takahashi's original gameplay concept will always shine through.

Katamari Forever

2 weeks ago, on the 5 year Anniversary of Katamari Damacy (in the US), Namco released Katamari Forever, the newest Katamari game. Even though, it's a "new" game, Katamari Forever is a compilation of "greatest hits" of the Katamari franchise. It's chiefly comprised of levels from Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari and Beautiful Katamari. It has 3 new levels that are unique to Katamari Forever.

It's strange that they completely ignored levels from Me and My Katamari. Though, I never really played it because it was too difficult to control. Maybe all those levels were from We Love Katamari?

Even though, they're the same levels, Katamari Forever has given them a modern treatment:


  • All these levels have been upscaled to full 1080p. Once you complete the level, you have your choice of 4 separate graphical representations of the level: Cell-shaded, Wood-grain, Comic Book, and Classic. I like the new Cell-shaded approach. All the objects in the environment are clearly visible.

  • Loading each level is lightning fast and takes 5 seconds at the most. Unlike We Love Katamari and Beautiful Katamari, there is absolutely no loading at all during the level, which there shouldn't have been to begin with.

  • In previous games, when you grew to the next size, the smaller objects would "pop out" of the environment to keep a reasonable amount of objects on screen at once. With the optimized power of modern hardware, these smaller objects stick around for a little while longer.


Katamari Forever has also added 2 new elements of gameplay, which are rather helpful:

  • You can jump! Though, it's a real pain in the ass to use the Sixaxis controls to jump, you can just use the R2 button instead. It's really handy for getting to places you couldn't previously

  • Throughout the level, you might find a heart. There are broken hearts and full hearts. When you roll one up it will suck up surrounding objects into your Katamari. In practice, it's much less broken than that sounds.


If you don't like these new features, you can roll in "Classic" mode which removes all hearts from the level, and removes jumping.

Katamari Forever Levels

Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari, and Beautiful Katamari each have about 20 or so levels. Katamari Forever took its levels from that bank of 60, and has a total of 34 levels. Here's the list of levels you'll find in Katamari Forever

RoboKing's Cosmos
Tutorial (Katamari Forever)
Make a Star 1 - Playtime (Beautiful Katamari - Delightful Dirigible)
Make a Star 2 - Calories (Beautiful Katamari - Munchies Manor)
Make a Star 3 - Rich (Beautiful Katamari - Lady Luck Casino)
Make a Star 4 - Constellations (Beautiful Katamari - Hubble Horoscope)
Make a Star 5 - Underwater (We Love Katamari - Inner Tube Guy - Underwater Stage)
Make a Star 6 - Animals (We Love Katamari - Tan Dog - Friend Stage)
Make a Star 7 - As Large as Possible (Katamari Damacy - Make a Star 4)
Make a Star 8 - As Large as Possible (We Love Katamari - Old Guy - As Large As Possible 3)
Make a Star 9 - Energy (Beautiful Katamari - Dynaville)
Make a Star 10 - As Large as Possible (Katamari Damacy - Make a Star 8)
Make a Star 11 - As Large as Possible (We Love Katamari - Bird/Elephant As Large as Possible 5)
Make the Moon (Katamari Damacy - Make the Moon)
Katamari Sprinkler (Katamari Forever)
Make a Star - Race (We Love Katamari - Racecar Guy - Racetrack Stage)
Make a Star - Danger (Beautiful Katamari - Dangerous Colony)
Farewell! (Katamari Forever)

The King's Cosmos
Gingerbread House (We Love Katamari - Hansel & Gretel - Candy Stage)
Clean Up (We Love Katamari - Cleaning Lady - 100 Objects Stage)
Cows and Bears (We Love Katamari - Cow/Bear guy - Cow/Bear Stage)
Money (We Love Katamari - "Save the Pandas" Guy - Money Stage)
Fireflies (We Love Katamari - Studying Guy - Firefly Stage)
Sumo (We Love Katamari - Mini Sumo - Sumo Stage)
Shopping (Beautiful Katamari - Fancy & Schmancy)
School (We Love Katamari - Teacher - School Stage)
Camp (We Love Katamari - Campfire Guy - Fireball Stage)
Limited to 50 (We Love Katamari - Baby - 50 Item Limit Stage)
Snowman (We Love Katamari - Snow Guy - Snowman Stage)
Hot Stuff (Beautiful Katamari - Roller Roaster)
Small Just-right (We Love Katamari - Hola Girl - Small Just-right)
Medium Just-right (We Love Katamari - Hola Girl - Medium Just-right)
Large Just-right (We Love Katamari - Hola Girl - Large Just-right)
Wake up the King (Beautfiul Katamari - Schloss Kosmos)
The King's Dream (Katamari Forever)

Katamari Forever has the unique variety of challenges found in We Love Katamari and, to a lesser extent, Beautiful Katamari, along with the growing scale found throughout all the games in the series.

Unfortunately, the scale is very scattered. There's no sense of starting off small and eventually growing large from level to level. By the time you've gotten to "Make a Star 7", which is The House from Katamari Damacy, the first level where you're big enough to roll up humans, you've already rolled up cars in "Cows and Bears" and horses in "Constellations". Katamari Forever doesn't start building up scale a few levels after that.

I remember the first time in Katamari Damacy when I rolled up that little girl in The House. In each level before that, you could roll up small animals, but the game made a point of making humans just a little bit too large for you to capture. It wasn't until you completed The House, and rolled large enough afterward that you could envelope that girl. It really made you work for it. In the next level, you had to work at it again. This time you could roll up adults, if you made it well past the level's goal.

Besides being inconsistent, New-comers to the Katamari series will have no concept of this at all.

Overall

Though, this game is really made for the fans. Most of the best levels from the 3 core games of the franchise are in one spot. They play and look better than they ever have before, so I can't complain too much. I no longer have to wait through horrible load times in We Love Katamari or Beautiful Katamari... I can pop in Katamari Forever and roll away pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, after a week of playing, I've almost unlocked everything. Playing these level for a second time is pretty fun, but I've already played them to death in their original games...




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