Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beautiful Katamari (360) Review

For the past two weeks, SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs have covered the Katamari Damacy franchise. Let's bring out a classic review featuring the Prince of All Cosmos in what he does best-- roll up stuff. It's Beautiful Katamari for the Xbox 360.

Roll Without the Changes

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When it was original released back in 2004, Katamari Damacy for the Playstation 2 rolled critics over with its fresh gameplay and quirky charm. Two sequels later and now we have Namco-Bandai offering up another game in the Katamari platter with a taste of Beautiful Katamari-- and on the 360 no less. Does this newest installment in the Katamari Damacy series still innovate, or is this a title that should roll up some new ideas?

Everything begins when the King of All Cosmos, his wife, and their pint-sized Prince are enjoying a vacation. The King of All Cosmos serves a wicked tennis shot that causes a black hole to instantly develop and begin sucking all of the universe into it. Now an entirely new universe must be created, and Prince and his katamari are the only ones who can help. Hm... This story sounds a little too familiar.

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"We think our tennis swing is very impressive.
You can clap for us anytime now."

Let's just toss the story aside as its only purpose is to give the player a reason to roll everything they possibly can, and that's essentially the gist of the Katamari Damacy series. You're placed into a level, and your goal is to make your katamari (the ball you roll things up with) as large as the King's standards in order for him to build a planet out of. Though you usually have a time limit, so dilly-dallying isn't the best option. You wouldn't like the King of All Cosmos when he's angry, now would you? Regardless, you can't just roll up anything and everything immediately. Your katamari will be a set size, and by rolling up smaller objects like matches and coins, your katamari will eventually grow to be able to grab even larger objects-- rats, chairs, people, boats, etc-- an eclectic mix. There's twelve levels in Beautiful Katamari, but most of them retread old territory or give you a grander perspective of Beautiful's gaming world.

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You start small when you're just beginning...

At the end of each session you're scored on how well you performed and how large you got your katamari. The higher, the better. Players will want to score 100 pts. or more in order to unlock Eternal mode which allows you to explore a level at your leisure, finding new objects and other items without the hassle of a time limit. Even after the levels have been finished, there's other cousins just like Prince and presents revealing accessories for Prince and his friends to dress themselves in to find-- and some of these are in pretty fiendish locations. There's also a time attack mode which gives you the chance to show off how quickly you can reach a target size and then post your score on the online leaderboard. Katamari fans will most likely dig this inclusion while others will probably pass on it.

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But now you're approaching the big time, baby!

That's not the conclusion of Beautiful Katamari's online options either. What do you expect-- it's not on Xbox 360 for nothin'! This game allows you to create or join a fully interactive lobby where you can mingle with up to three other players, draw colorful lines in the sand, roll balls around, and interact while you wait for a game to begin. There's five stages to choose from, and they all have the same goal-- collect the most of a certain item to win. The stages vary in size as well as the time allowed. The House is my favorite of the five stages as it's the smallest, and all the items needed are right in the center of the arena, so it's a mad dash to pick them all up. After all have been gathered, it's a battle to bash into the other players to nab their collection of goodies.

Beautiful Katamari's gameplay is solely revolved around the two analog sticks of the 360 controller. You use both at the same time to move around, roll left, roll right, back up, an so on. Click both sticks in for your character to jump over the katamari, performing a 180, giving you a helpful quick turn-- it's easy to do. What isn't really easy to do, however, is the dash. You have to jostle the left and right analog sticks alternately to boost. I found this hard to do, and I would be hitting the analog sticks correctly with no action on the screen. Thankfully though, there's not too much of a use for it even when being under the gun with time. Another troublesome part of the game is the camera. When you're behind a wall or something, the camera turns it invisible so you can see what you're doing. However, when you're a large katamari in a small space, it gets quite difficult to know what's going on. This doesn't help that you'll constantly bump into everything possible.

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Players are awarded cookies for participating.
These do nothing beside earn one an achievement.

Even though the game has some of the most simplistic graphics around on the 360-- I mean, the Wii could easily pull it off if you catch my drift. The game is available in HD, but the models, textures, and areas are so basic that there's really no point. At least audio-wise the title is pretty sharp. An important part in the fanbase's love of the franchise is not just its fun gameplay, but the music that accompanies it. Beautiful Katamari's soundtrack is no exception. While there are some annoying songs (DANKETSU, I am looking straight into your soul right now), most of it lends itself well to the quirkiness of Katamari.

Even with all its faults, it's still an incredibly addictive title with a lot of charm. You'll start the size of a paper clip, and before you know it, that same level you're rolling up entire continents. That was such a cool feeling the first time I experienced it, and what waited after that was just plain awesome. For Katamari veterans, you know you'll pick this title up. For everyone else, you may desire to try before you buy. There's a lot to do in this game, getting 100 points in all levels, gathering all of the cousins and presents, playing online with a few friends, completing your item collection (all 2000 plus items), and nailing some achievements, too. Beautiful Katamari may not bring a myriad of new things to the franchise, but it doesn't fail to please... at least not yet. Though another sequel that changes nothing would push it. *wink wink*

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.0/10]

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