Impressions: Katamari Forever

I’ve followed the Katamari franchise ever since its peculiar debut stateside. With its funky color scheme, acid-trippy soundtrack, and quirky Japanese charm, it’s never failed to captivate me. From the original Katamari Damacy, to the Xbox 360 revival Beautiful Katamari, and now the PlayStation 3 exclusive Katamari Forever, it’s clear to me that I will be a Katamari fan for life. The diminutive Prince has returned once again in a veritable smorgasboard of Katamari goodness in this high-definition, high-style release.
 
Usually, the King of All Cosmos is to blame for most of the chaos to be found within each game’s loosely tied together plot. Through a series of events he usually manages to destroy most of the planets or stars within the universe so that the Prince and us, loyal gamers, must roll up items, people, and even places on Earth in order to rebuild the entire cosmos. A daunting task, right? This time, the King has been injured by a falling comet — right on the head! Yes, he’s lost all of his memories, including the ones made with you in the previous games. In order to fill the void that he has left, the Prince and his numerous cousins have taken it upon themselves to create a robotic dupe. Unfortunately, it seems that this copy is just as scatterbrained as the original King, if not more! Just like the original King has done many times before, the Robo King ends up destroying the stars and planets of the universe. Good times. The Prince and his cousins are now tasked with both restoring the King’s memories as well as re-populating the universe.
 
Katamari Forever features a healthy mixture of remixed stages from previous games as well as a host of brand new locales to explore. You can access the King of All Cosmos’s memory as well as Robo King’s world via impressive pop-up book inspired menus, where you can choose where you feel like rolling. The dual nature of these menus means there’s double the amount of stages you would normally get in each installment, which was something I most certainly appreciated. However, the nature of both sets of stages are much different from each other.
 
While rolling in stages in the King’s memory, most locales are in stark black and white, representing the King’s forgotten memories — he no longer knows what sweets, household items, or even items like flowers are. As you start rolling through stages, color will gradually spread throughout until the entire area is illuminated with bright and vivid spashes of hues. In the Robo King stages you’ll find yourself exploring areas more typical to the style of the franchises, contending with the bumbling robot’s anxious and nervous personality — he DID screw up big time, after all.
 
The healthy assortment of stages was a welcome change from the simple one style that you would find in previous installments and something that I applaud Katamari Forever for introducing. A couple new gameplay changes were implemented as well, for instance the coveted Prince Hop, triggered by a simple flick of the Six Axis controller. This allows the Prince to hop up onto locations he would previously have needed to climb up to reach or grow large enough to travel to. This is an ingenious addition and one that I would have loved to have had in any of the other games. It makes navigating levels so much easier now, though there is an option to turn it off and enjoy Katamari in its “original” format. New powerups have been added as well, with the option to remove them from gameplay, though they do tend to make rolling up those hundreds of items much more interesting (if that is even possible.)
 
A handful of graphic filters have been added as well, so that you can enjoy this high-definition romp through the world of Katamari Damacy through the lenses of several different art styles. I found myself coming back to the comic book filter time and time again, as it lent a decidedly different, cel-shaded look to the blocky and sometimes awkward looks from the past games. Familiar songs from the series have been remixed with 8-bit sentiments as well to ensure that your experience with them is as fresh as ever but still manages to retain those nostalgic feelings from when you first began your Katamari journey.
 
Katamari Forever is a frenetic, sharp, and loving tribute to all things Katamari Damacy. Though core gameplay ideas and the plotline remains basically unchanged (as do several levels) there is an abundance of content here to keep you busy for at least a few hours jam-packed with rebuilding what’s up there in the sky. With multiplayer and co-op support, brand new presents, and gorgeous new high definition graphics, this has got to be one of the best additions to the series thus far, and you’re doing yourself a grave disservice if you decide to pass it up. All fans of the franchise should delight in picking up Katamari Forever, both to revel in nostalgia and to experience the glory that is the indomitable Katamari Damacy…in 1080p.

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