PS2: A Retrospective, Part VIII

October 24th, 2010 Marc N. Kleinhenz

On October 26, 2000, the Sony PlayStation 2 was launched, delivering not only one of the single best software libraries to the world, but also cementing a slew of features as commonplace items in every system hence: backwards compatibility, online gaming, multimedia functionality. That none of these was originated by Sony itself is a testament to the console’s legacy.

To commemorate the occasion, TotalPlayStation has gathered some of the best and most influential journalists, from either in-house or outside publications, to discuss one of their most cherished games from the PS2’s long lifecycle.

Ten authors and ten years in ten days. Let the celebration begin.

Author: Carrie Butcher [TotalPlayStation Staff Writer]
Game: Katamari Damacy
Release date: September 22, 2004

I’m a sucker for atmosphere. I want to be drawn into these virtual worlds through emotion and kept there by mood. I want a fully fleshed-out, thought-out reality that isn’t going to disrupt my suspension of disbelief. Shadow of the Colossus is, of course, a prime example of what I’m talking about, but emotion doesn’t have to mean depressing, and mood doesn’t have to be melancholic. Something that is light-hearted and comedic can work just as well, which is why I absolutely love Katamari Damacy.

What first drew me in was the cover. The jumble of bright colors and simply shaped objects piqued my interest. I can still picture the juxtaposition of the cow, Ferris wheel, and rainbow. The world was full of crap, and I loved it. It was fun to roll around and suction random objects off the floor, and I would have been okay with just that, but I was utterly impressed and delighted when I realized that just about everything in view could be picked up. I was able to interact with objects that, in most games, merely act as part of the background. Because of this, I appreciated what I normally wouldn’t have even noticed. (How many games are there where you look forward to interacting with a fence?) The gameplay was, overall, a lot of fun, and although there were some definite problems with the camera and controls, the flaws were overshadowed by the newness and pure fun of the experience.

In any form of art, interest is created through detail. In Katamari, humor permeates everything – from the placement of objects to the noises they make, from the descriptions in the collection screens to the different things the player can do on the overworld map. Of course, Katamari wouldn’t be what it is without the royal family: the Prince, cousins, and King (especially the King). His use of the ubiquitous “We” and his odd prattling on about himself and the Prince’s inadequacies are hilarious. These cutscenes provide an interesting contrast to those with the people on Earth, who look like toys and talk like two-year-olds. In fact, humans are the most simplified part of the game, yet even this is done in a way that adds humor.

Finally, there’s the music. I don’t generally notice music in videogames (Zelda and LittleBigPlanet are a couple of exceptions), but the lounge music/dog chorus/J-popish songs set the tone perfectly. They seem to take themselves seriously yet be tongue-in-cheek at the same time, and I would often find myself humming them long after I was done playing.

So, although it never made me cry or feel sympathy for the characters, the interactivity, detailed humor, and music in Katamari Damacy all create a world that, though odd, is complete. This, in turn, creates a game that is believable and engulfing. I never found the task of completing my collection to be tedious – I wanted to explore every corner of the Katamari universe. I wanted to know all the quirky things said by the King, and to know every description of every object, and every word (or animal sound) to every song. Katamari is one of those few games whose replayability is extremely high – something only achieved by a fully realized world, atmosphere and all.

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