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WeKatamari (We (heart) Katamari , for those of you without proper Unicode support) was the sequel to the underground hit game, Katamari Damacy. It was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005 to Japan and the US and in 2006 to Europe.

For the uninitiated, the Katamari games star the Prince of All Cosmos, whose father, the King, makes him roll stuff on Earth into a giant ball, called a katamari (literally, clump of souls). Anything and everything can be rolled up, provided that the katamari is large enough to “grab” it. In early levels, this will be small objects like pushpins, candy, and playing cards, but by the end of the game, the player will be rolling up buildings, islands, clouds, and even demigods. A quirky but intuitive control scheme gives the player complete control over the ball of crap that they are building. At the end of levels, the King tosses the katamari into space, where it magically becomes a heavenly body.

In gameplay, WeKatamari is quite similar to its predecessor. The game is still focused on the manic stuff-rolling premise. Although the interface and physics have been altered (for example, the Dash and Roll is much easier to do), it’s still pretty much the same game, just improved. This is a good thing — why fix what wasn’t broken?

The game opens with two cutscenes: one in the same acid trip style that opened the first game, and the other a deliciously overwrought explanation of the plot thus far by an announcer with an unusually melodramatic delivery. Cutscenes between levels give the player a completely unnecessary (but fun) backstory: we learn about the King of All Cosmos’ childhood, his relationship with his father, and how he met the Queen of All Cosmos.

The premise of the game is that the original was such a huge success that its fans started clamoring for more, appealing to the King to help them. In a bizarre mix of real life and fantasy, all of the levels come in the form of actual fans — just like you! — making requests of the King of All Cosmos, who graciously agrees to help, sending his only begotten son the Prince to help out. And it’s a good thing that so many people have problems, because it turns out that all of your hard work in the original only resulted in a couple of stars in a small cluster around the Earth. Completed katamaris in this game are launched into space to become planets.

In between levels, you hang out in the Level Select Meadow. This area is split into multiple screens — walk out one side, and the game will quickly scroll to the next section in that direction. All of the people who need help, your cousins, and various other objects (to give you access to settings and extras) are found in this area. At first, there will be almost none, but by completing levels and finding cousins, the Meadow will become populated. The people will yell to you if they have some level that you haven’t fully beaten yet, but because they each repeat their simple phrase over and over again in a nasal accent, this feature quickly becomes tired.

If you walk up to a person, they will give you a brief (one sentence) rundown of their problem. Pushing the X button will make you fly up into the sky, where the King will decide whether or not it’s worth your time to help out (it always is), and deliver more of his bizarre dialogue. By “talking” to a cousin instead of one of the people, you can play as that cousin — almost completely unnecessary1, but fun.

Levels are much more objective-based than the original. Whereas the original had you meeting specific goals (rather than simply making the katamari huge) only for constellation levels, WeKatamari has only six stages where the player is trying to make their katamari as large as possible; all of the rest require you to, say, build a huge snowman, or collect the most valuable things possible rather than the largest. The game even brings back the obnoxious cow/bear and country collecting levels from the original.

The replay value is immensely higher than the original’s. After beating the game, levels can be replayed with different objectives. For most, this is a harder version of the original objective, although the secondary mode of the As Large As Possible stages is As Fast As Possible — trying to reach a certain size as quickly as the player can. For some stages, there are as many as three different versions. In addition, levels can feature multiple presents and cousins, some of which are very difficult to find. The game’s creators really got as much content as they could out of the game, giving players great reasons to go back and replay stages they’ve beaten

Multiplayer is also greatly improved over the original. In the original, players competed in a timed match in a small, circular arena, but WeKatamari allows players to go head-to-head in actual stages, or team up for two-person rolling in a Cooperative mode. Controlling a single katamari with two people is hard, but it’s possible.

There are plenty of other niceties to the game, such as a better interface tracking what you’ve collected, better feedback on how successful you were in a level (if you do well, the planet looks more interesting), the ability to import the stars from your Katamari Damacy save game, a varied, bouncy soundtrack, and the ability to roll up the King. I’ll leave most of these for you to find — there are a lot.

WeKatamari does what so few games, movies, and books can do: make a sequel that both improves on the original and complements it. You aren’t getting the full experience by just owning Katamari Damacy or WeKatamari ; it’s much more fun to own both. If you enjoyed the original, the odds are that you will enjoy this. If you never played the original, the odds are that you will enjoy this. It’s a fine addition to an already strong game series.

1. One cousin can only be unlocked by playing the tutorial stage as the right cousin.


Soundtrack

  1. IntroductionAkitaka Toyama
  2. Katamari on the RocksDokaka
  3. Overture IIAsuka Sakai & Yu Miyake
  4. Katamari on the SwingShigeru Matsuzaki
  5. Kuru Kuru RockIllreme
  6. Everlasting LoveAlisa
  7. Bluffing DamacyKirinji
  8. Beautiful StarYu Miyake
  9. Angel's RainYOU
  10. HoustonKatamari Robo
  11. Blue OrbKahimi Karie
  12. Katamari HolidayYuusama
  13. Baby UniverseMaki Nomiya
  14. DISCO*PRINCEKenji Ninuma
  15. Scorching SavannaJohn The Dog
  16. The Royal Academy of KatamariKatsuro Tajima
  17. King of King's SongTomu Miyazaki

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