Archive for October, 2010

Earth Defense Force 2017 Review (Xbox 360)

Posted in Hidden gems, Reviews, Xbox 360 on October 28, 2010 by satoshimatrix

An overlooked gem on the Xbox 360


Earth Defense Force 2017 is a peculiar game. It’s a budget title that shouldn’t be good, but is. It’s a buggy, repetitive mess, yet it’s one of the games I find myself returning to again and again over much more polished titles. It’s not online either, but it’s by far one of the best multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360.

If that’s not confusing enough, it’s also the third game in a whole series of Earth Defense Force games and the only one to be released in North America. While I recommend importing the previous two games, is 2017 worth a look? Read on to find out.

Story

The story is identical to that of Monster Attack. Have some delicious copy-pasta from my Monster Attack review.

In the year 2017, Earth is invaded by an alien force made up of almost every ’50s monster movie clechés you can think of. Giant ants, giant spiders, robots, UFOs and yes, even Godzilla. To combat these invaders, the nations of the world band together to form a united army called the Earth Defense Force. As the lone EDF Soldier “Storm One”, presumably the sole survivor of a platoon, you are tasked with defending Japanese soil from the alien threat.
It’s cheesy 50′s horror movie fare. If you like classics like THEM! then you’ll fall in love with this game.

Graphics

The jump fro the PS2 to the HD Xbox 360 is noticeable, but not really for the visuals themselves.  By and large the game looks the same, but enhanced. Textures are greatly improved, making buildings look much better than ever before. Windows now reflect light, they fall in a somewhat more believable manner, staircases can be climbed for sniper positions. It’s all rather cool. Nearly all the enemies have been redesigned and look less goofy than before, but I honestly prefer the PS2 designs to these new ones, not to mention that Global Defense Force has a much larger variety of enemies than are found here.

The biggest improvement is the framerate, which only drops during especially huge, screen filling explosions. It’s no where near as bad as what can be found in the later stages of Global Defense Force, but it’s still there. This is a budget game, after all.

Just like the PS2 games, character models in 2017 look very polished considering this is a budget title. By and large, the game’s graphics are decent to excellent.

Audio

Gone is the amazing menu menus from Monster Attack and Global Denfese Force, but the music in-game is largely lifted rigth out of Monster Attack. There are a few new arrangements this time around too, but nothing that stick outs quite as well as that PS2 menu music!

Unlike the PAL English versions of the PS2 games, Earth Defense Force 2017 actually has voice acting in English. The voice acting itself isn’t bad, but many lines are terrible, repeat often, and are fun to listen to since they are often absurd. The best voices are the female operations officer and your CO, both of whom have the most lines and are voiced by seemingly good actors.

Your buddies though? “Wait until they get closer! Don’t wanna waste your bullets!” – A line from a game with infinite ammo

Gameplay

Just like it’s predecessors, 2017 is a strictly third person action game that is a blast to play because it’s simple, functional, and fun. As before, you can carry two different weapons at a time ranging from automatic assault rifles to shotguns to missiles to special weapons like automatic gun turrets and Boundguns that shoot bullets that bound off walls.

You collect weapons by defeating enemies and then collecting WEAPON icons they randomly drop. There is no way of knowing what weapon you just collected until the mission is over, and no way of knowing if the weapon you just picked up is one you don’t already have. Duplicate weapons mean nothing, so there’s no point in collecting weapons already have. The game rewards new, better weapons for beating stages on higher difficulties, and even better rewards await players who can beat the last few missions on the hardest difficulty settings.

This system has a risk/reward factor as even if  you collect some weapons, if you are killed in combat, none of your upgrades will carry over to your inventory! With six difficulty settings, only the most hardcore of gamers will ever 100% Earth Defense Force 2017. I’ve been playing for at least three years and I still have yet to finish the last stages on Inferno difficulty.

Similarly, you gain HP by picking up armor units from fallen enemies that give your character a single HP gain per armor unit you collect. This adds up over time until you collect a maximum of 9,999 HP. If you want to take on Inferno, you’ll need all the HP you can get.

Best of all, the game can be played co-op splitscreen with a friend, greatly increasing your chances in some of the tougher missions as both characters have access to every weapon unlocked and share the same maximum health that the player has accumulated in single player. This is the best way to enjoy 2017.

Control

The controls for Earth Defense Force 2017 are pretty much exactly like they were on the PS2 games, and that’s a great thing.

Left Stick: Movement
Right Stick: Aim gun/Look
LT: Jump/Barrel Roll
RT: Fire
LB: Switch Weapon
RB: Secondary fire
A: Confirm menu choices, no usage in-game
B: Cancel menu choices, no usage in game
X: no usage
Y: no usage
Start: Pause
Back: no usage

Frustration

The game has six difficulty levels, and the latter Inferno difficulty can be extremely frustrating as the game becomes harder by decreasing the amount of damage your weapons do, increasing enemy strength, and in some cases, increasing the numbers of enemies. Another large source of frustration is the giant spiders that spew webs.

Due to the budget nature of the game, Spider webs can travel a small distance through solid walls. Spider webs stick to you and sap your health, and there is nothing you can do to escape the damage.

Audience

Earth Defense Force 2017 has been called the Serious Sam of third person shooters, and that’s pretty much accurate. If you like minimal plot and maximum shooting, Earth Defense Force 2017 is for you.

Availability and price

Earth Defense Force 2017 is region locked on the Xbox 360, but was released worldwide under the same title for the first time in the series. Expect to pay between $12-15 for a used copy. It shouldn’t be hard to find in used game shops.

History

Although most in the west have no idea, Earth Defense Force 2017 is actually the third game in the series, after Monster Attack and Global Defense Force, both only released outside of Japan in European countries. Those two games were originally part of D3 Publisher’s Simple 2000 Series in Japan, a hugely successful 2000 yen budget line of PS2 games. Shown to the left are the Japanese covers of the PS2 prequels.

In 2007, Sandlot made an odd choice for a Japanese developer and announced their next project would be remaking Monster Attack for the Xbox 360. Perhaps because it was now on an American made console, the third game was localized and  became a cult hit in North America. In the meantime, due to extremely low sales of the Xbox 360 in Japan, the game didn’t do nearly as well as either Simple 2000 Earth Defense Force PS2 titles, and any hope for a remake of the arguably superior Global Defense Force died with it. Maybe Someday Sandlot.

In late 2010, a long awaited sequel for the Earth Defense Force series was announced by the title Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon. Details were slow at first, but it soon came out that the game is not being developed by Sandlot, but instead Vicious Cycle software, an American deveoper now owned by D3 and best known for their previous Robotech games last gen and Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard on the PS3 and 360.

The change in developers is slightly alarming for me, but I will not pass judgment on Insect Armageddon until I’ve played it myself.

One final note I feel I should mention: there is also a Jaleco Super Nintendo game called Super Earth Defense Force. Although it shares the name, that shooter has nothing to do with this series. It’s fun though!

Overall

Good

-Simple controls, simple gameplay and simple fun

-Probably the best Co-op multiplayer game on the 360

-Lasting replay value

Bad

-No Pale Wing Soldiers 😦

-Spider web can travel through solid walls. It’s bullshit.

-Framerate still occasionally dips

-Occasionally, the game will take command of the camera to focus on an important major enemy while still allowing the player control over their character. This is momentary, but annoying if you need to attack surrounding enemies.

Conclusion

Earth Defense Force 2017 is not a flashy game, it doesn’t millions of dollars behind its budget and it’s not online. Instead, what you get here is a fun retreat back to the way gaming used to be; fun and challenging, great with a friend and one you can pick up and play over and over. If this sounds appealing, look no further than Earth Defense Force: 2017. If you haven’t played any of the games in the series, this one is probably the best place to start before you import the PS2 titles. Recommended.

Data

Platform: Xbox 360

Genre: Third Person Shooter

Release Date: 2007

Developer: Sandlot

Publisher: D3 Publisher

Also from the developer: Global Defense Force, Monster Attack

ESRB: Teen

Buy or skip: Buy

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Pocket Monsters Black Import Review (DS)

Posted in DS, From Japan, Imports, Reviews on October 19, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

The fifth generation of Pokémon arrives on the DS

 

Last year, I imported Pocket Monsters HeartGold and reviewed it far before it was localized. This year I continue the trend with the newly released Pocket Monsters Black version. Keep in mind I am not completely fluent in Japanese, so some errors may spring up. This is the impressions and opinions of a long time western fan of the series and nothing else. While I am covering the Black version, all that I state here should apply to the White version as well.

Fifteen years ago, the first pair of Pokémon games, Red and Green, were released in Japan and became massive hits. Since then, Pokemon had grown into a huge fad that has subsided somewhat since the turn of the millennium. Nevertheless, those who have stuck with the games for the long haul have continually found many reasons to return to the new titles again and again even though the fundamental basics of each new game remain untouched since the days of the black-and-white Gameboy.

Last year, Game Freak gave us fantastic remakes of the two best games in the series, Gold and Silver, with Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. These updates featured many incredible enhancements, most notably vastly superior audio and visuals to any game in the series before it.

This year, Game Freak gives us a brand new pair of Pokémon games, the first two in what is being called Generation 5, as it is the fifth time new, never before seen Pokemon had been added and await eager trainers worldwide.

By now, it’s an absolute foregone conclusion that these games will receive fantastic reviews and sell boatloads when they are localized. The question for the moment however, is if you should import one of these Japanese text-heavy RPGs or wait for the western release. Read on to find out.

Story

Black and White have just as much story (or lack thereof) as any previous games. You start out in your small village and receive a beginner Pokémon and set out on a journey to become a Pokémon Master by challenging and defeating other trainers, gym leaders and eventually the elite four and current champion.

Along the way, you will encounter yet another evil organization, Team Plasma, whose goals involve “freeing” Pokémon from their human trainers. Of course, you being a lone beginning trainer will eventually defeat and disband the evil PETA wannabes, but let’s pretend for now that they’re imposing and mysterious. Seriously. Their leader is a guy named “N”! I wonder what his name in the English version will be? Ah well. Did someone say smooth criminal?

Graphics

At first glance, the graphical upgrades for Black and White over those from previous games are minor. By and large, the game still basically looks the same it always has as far back as generation 1 on the original Gameboy.

The game is still has a square title based overworld where everyone moves like chess pieces and cannot travel on angles. Pokémon still face off in battle as they always have with yours in the lower left and the foe’s in the upper right.

That said, this is without a doubt the best looking set of Pokémon games ever. The overworld is now rendered completely in 3D, making every location look as the special 3D areas from Platinum and HeartGold/SoulSilver. On the overworld, there are many new effects, such as light shimmering on the surface of water, leaves flying through the air, water dripping from walls and ceilings of caves, and much more. In addition to those changes, many areas now feature fully three dimensional spaces and do some interesting camera angles as you twist up a large bridge, the interior of builds or climb a spiral staircase.

Pokémon are still sprite based, but are no longer static. In battle, all Pokemon now animate as they did in Pokemon Crystal, but to a much greater degree. Now, Pokemon has no idle sprites whatsoever. Even in battle, the screen will pan around when no input is made, making the battle seem much more alive and in tune with battle scenes in other modern RPGs.

Something else I feel I should point out is for the first time, the games now make full use of Japanese Kanji. In every previous game, Hiragana and Katakana were used exclusively, allowing Japanese children who had not learned many Kanji characters to easily play the game. As a student of the language myself, this change is very off-putting as the game doesn’t sublimate the Kanji with the Furigana aid. You can change this off in the options, but by default, expect to see many Kanji characters this time around in the import versions.

On a technical note, for those who were hoping it would be fixed from HeartGold/SoulSilver, I’m sorry to have to inform you Black and White operate in 30 frames per second as the previous Gen 4 games did. As such, expect occasional jerkiness and slowdown when accessing areas with high polygon counts.

Audio

For the most part, the audio this time around is quite strong. The bump in quality isn’t as pronounced as it was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, but I’m still really enjoying the score thus far. That said, many of the early tracks remind me of Diamond & Pearl’s somewhat forgettable tracks. Nothing is standing out overly bad, but as of the writing of this review, I have not encountered any tracks that have compelled me enough to wear headphones as HeartGold and SoulSilver’s tracks did.

Even with gen 5’s visual updates, the sound effects still seem primitive. As always, Pokémon shout their 8-bit cries rather than scream their names as in the anime. Considering what an amazing job GameFreak did arranging the music, it’s sad to hear the 8-bit screeches that play during it. I still hope that someday this changes. New cries sound just as primitive as those of the first 151. Ouch Game Freak!

Gameplay

The heart and soul of every Pokémon game is the gameplay, and Black & White are no different.

Part of what makes Pokemon so good is that there are layers and layers of depth if you choose to explore.

Among the new changes, you can now encounter two wild Pokemon at once. However, you still can’t catch a Pokémon until one of the two wild Pokemon have fainted. This works like any other double battle, but it’s a cool concept that shakes things up a bit. There’s even a three on three battle which is quite speedier than multiple one-on-one battles.

Unfortunately, there’s only a handful of triple battles in the entire game and double battles seem to be missing entirely. Expect to see the same ol’ one-on-one encounters as always.

The Battle Menu is arranged in the same manner HeartGold and SoulSilver’s was, with a large fight option up top with the items bag, run and switch Pokemon options below. Game Freak even went to the effort to label them in English. How swell.

Control

Very little has changed from the Gen 4 games:

D-pad: Movement

Touchscreen: c-gear menu, options

A: Confirm selections
B: Cancel selections
Y: Item shortcut
X: Menu
L: Cycle menus left
R: Cycle menus right
Start: No function
Select: Reorganize items

The only real difference from HeartGold and SoulSilver is this time around, the touch screen is used to run the c-gear, which, from what I can tell, is a mode that allow other players to be able to see you’re online and offer trades and battles at any time, no matter if  you’re in a Pokemon Center or not. Of course, having Wifi enabled all the time severely hampers battery life, so I play with c-gear off. In the top left corner, there is a digital 12-hour clock, even in battles!

Outside of battle, the  Y button can now be used to cycle through several shortcuts for everything from using items to checking the Pokedex. When deep in menus, the X button acts as a “cancel all” command, equivalent to pressing B several times.

Frustration

The game’s frustration depends largely on your proficiency with reading Japanese and ability to solve simple logic problems. I have read many comments for people getting stuck in the third town early on. The game tells you perfectly clearly where to proceed, but for those who cannot read Japanese, expect to get lost without the aid of a walkthrough. As you progress, you will find the gyms all have their leaders missing and you will have to go off and find them before you can even enter their gym!

Also point of frustration is that none of the previous Pokemon appear at all until you’ve beaten the elite four, meaning you will have to use new Pokemon and expose yourself to the risks involved of raising creates you don’t know.

Availability & Price

Pocket Monsters Black and White are only available in Japan right now. Import prices vary, but don’t expect to pay less than at least $50 USD for a copy. Pokemon games usually sell for more than other imports.

Keep in mind that the original DS and the DS Lite are region-free, but Black and White will only play on the Japanese DSi and DSi LL.

Import Friendliness

As the games are completely in Japanese, they are for the most part easy to figure out. Being able to read and understand basic Japanese kana definitely helps, but is not absolutely necessary to enjoy the game. Remember these are children’s games, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out even if you can’t read a word of Japanese.

History

As these games are brand new in Japan, there isn’t too much for me to put here. What I can say is that these games are evolutions of Diamond and Pearl – they look basically the same, but are greatly expanded. If Diamond & Pearl were remade with Black and White’s engine, you’d see some pretty crazy stuff. I can only hope Game Freak will use this engine for Gen III remakes of Ruby and Sapphire, but something tells me they won’t. Bastards.

Overall

Good

-It’s Pokemon!

-Highly impressive Visuals…in a Pokemon game!

-TMs can be used infinitely

-Incredibly lengthy game at around….500 hours? No joke.

Bad

-You will occasionally still need to carry around an HM slave. C’mon GameFreak, this this flaw already. HM use out of battle should be done with key items, not moves!

-You won’t see any of your favorites until after you beat the game for the first time.

Conclusion

The Legacy of Pokémon stretches back nearly two decades, back on the original Gameboy. Since then, the turn based strategy games with unbelievable personalization, hidden depth and replay value have continued to evolve, offering many slight changes to better the experience. The resulting games in Black and White are every bit as much finely crafted works of art as they are entertaining videogames. The legacy of Pokemon is grand indeed. I can’t recommend these games enough. They are easily better than even HeartGold and SoulSilver. If you had asked me last year, I wouldn’t have said such a thing was even possible. I’m still shocked, in fact. Black and White are just that incredible. Import one of these. Now.

Data

Platform: Nintendo DS, DSi

Genre: Turn Based RPG

Release Date: September 19, 2010

Developer: GameFreak

Publisher: Nintendo

Also from the developer: Pokémon HeartGold/Soul Silver, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum

Game Length: ~500 hours+

CERO Rating: A

Import or wait: Import

Fallout: New Vegas Review (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)

Posted in PS3, Reviews on October 18, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

Fall into the world of Fallout once again, this time in the American Southwest

 

In 2008,Bethesda Softworks revitalized the long dormant Fallout series with Fallout 3, a game so large in scope it left even The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion in the dust. Although hailed by the internet community as simply “Oblivion with guns”, Fallout 3 was so much more than that. The karma system added layers of depth, there was a long and complex narrative and as with Oblivion, players who couldn’t be bothered with structure could just as easily set out in any direction and do whatever they please. It was true gaming lighting in a bottle.

Now, Bethesda has once again captured that lighting with Fallout: New Vegas. Although the game technically takes place in 2080, three years after the events of Fallout 3, this is a completely separate story with no reoccurring Fallout 3 characters or plots. Are the wastelands of the American southwest worth prospecting or should you steer clear of the Deathclaw riddled desert?

Story

Unlike Fallout 3, you are not a Vault dweller, but someone who was born and lived on the surface all your life. A curious delivering a mysterious package, you are shot and buried alive by a notorious gang of outlaws and left for dead. Fortunately for you,  you are soon after dug up and rushed to a doctor by a patrolling security robot named Victor. Once you gain your bearings, you set out to unveil the failed plot to end your life. The wasteland beckons, and you feel the urge to answer the call. To give out more would be to spoil the plot. The one thing I can say about the plot? War never changes.

Graphics

Fallout: New Vegas apparently is using the same engine Fallout 3 did, so expect to see the same level of detail from Fallout 3. Character models still have cat-eyes when in dark areas, they animate with slightly jerky motions and rag-doll physics can sometimes be just as outrageous as in other Bethesda games like Oblivion. Even so, New Vagas looks damn excellent and should please anyone who was happy with the way Fallout 3 looked.

Audio

As with the graphics, the audio too seems heavily influenced by Fallout 3. The radio on your Pip-Boy 3000 still plays the 1940’s swing music we’ve all come to love from Fallout games. Voice acting is superb, sound effects carry a sufficient punch and environmental effects add to the immersion greatly. This is a great game to play with a surround sound system.

Gameplay

The gameplay from Fallout 3 returns with several new refinements and enhancements. New Vegas is an RPG-FPS, but you don’t have to use guns if you don’t want to. Instead, there are now many melee weapons that can be just as effective, if not more so. The Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, V.A.T.S., makes a return, now with greatly enhanced melee-specific commands, such as swinging a golf club as you would in the sport when attacking for a “fore!” strike.

Outside of combat, dialogue trees offer some great insight into various characters, and depending on  your attitude in such conversations, people were either grow to love or hate you, and treat you accordingly.

The Pip-boy 3000 interface is identical to Fallout 3’s. You can now create your own unique weapons, and ammo comes in four different verities. In addition to standard ammo as seen in Fallout 3, there is now cheap ammo, which costs less but damages your weapon, armor-piercing rounds which do more damage to armored enemies or animals with thick hides, and hollow, pointed rounds which do more damage to enemies without armor.

There’s probably a lot I’m forgetting at the moment, but rest assured, this is an extremely deep game.

Control

As with everything else, controls are mostly unchanged from Fallout 3. On the Xbox 360, the controls are broken down as such

Left Stick: Basic movement
Left Stick (Click): Crouch

Right Stick: Look
Right Stick (Click): Pick up object

A: Use
B: Display Pip-boy 3000 (menu)
X: Reload, X (hold): Arm weapon/disarm
Y: Jump
LB First/Third Person View toggle
RB: V.A.T.S
LT: Zoom Aim
RT: Fire/Attack
Back: Wait
Start: Pause

Frustration

Fallout: New Vegas is largely not too frustrating, but it can be if you get in over your head. Word of advice: Never start a fight you can’t hope to win. There are some enemies you cannot escape from if you attempt to run. Also, watch out for landmines and bear traps.

Availability & Price

Fallout New Vagas is released on October 19th for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows PC. Expect to pay the full retail price of around $60.

History

Fallout: New Vegas is not Fallout 4, but rather an independent story that takes place after Fallout 3. I will expand this section soon.

Overall

Good

-I’m only several hours in, but already the game seems to be every bit as long, if not longer than Fallout 3. Expect ~250+ hours of gameplay

-New places to explore

-Signature Fallout dry humor in horrific settings

-Basically everything that made Fallout 3 such an amazing experience returns

Bad

-Perks are earned every two levels instead of every one as before. I find this annoying, but only because I’m used to the way Fallout 3 was set up.

I’ve been playing for only a few days and have already run into a few random graphical glitches, just as Fallout 3 had. None of them are game-breaking, but don’t be surprised if an enemy doesn’t get stuck in a rock or the sky turns pure white every now and then.

-The basic graphics are unchanged from 2008’s Fallout 3. This is slightly disappointing, but it’s not like Fallout 3 was a bad looking game to begin with.

Conclusion

New Vegas might look or even play like another expansion pack for Fallout 3, but this game packs far more gameplay than could be found in any expansion and is as amazing as it seems, even better than Fallout 3. Pick it up for your system of choice. I’ve only had the chance to play the 360 version so far, but I will update once my PS3 version comes in the mail. Don’t miss out on New Vegas. It is an incredible experience and may just be my game of the year.

Data

Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Windows PC

Genre: First Person Shooter Role Playing Game

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Developer: Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher: Bethesda Gameworks

Also from the developer: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2, Alpha Protocol

Game Length: ~250+ hours

ESRB: M

Buy, rent or skip: Buy

Katamari Damacy Review (PS2)

Posted in PS2, Reviews on October 7, 2010 by satoshimatrix

 

A, bizarre, charming and unique game unlike any other

 

Like any entertainment medium, videogames can sometimes be considered more than just entertainment, but works of art.  Katamari Damacy is definitely among those.

Katamari Damacy is the main reason I bought a PS2. For me, this is the killer app for the system without a doubt. All you need to do is play it for five minutes to understand why this is a must-have title in your collection. The game isn’t for everyone, but if you’re open minded to the bizarre and imaginative, you won’t be disappointing with the offerings in this title.

Story

The ruler of the universe, The King of all Cosmos, has accidentally destroyed all the stars in the sky, and tasks his son to rebuild them out of things found on Earth…ah hell, just watch this video.

Graphics

Katamari Damacy has extremely primitive graphics, even for PS2 standards. Everything in the game is blocky with low polygon counts. However, the game makes up for this with cel shading and off-the-wall art direction where the characters are blocky on purpose. Every stage is populated with hundreds of items to roll up, so the low polygon count begins to make sense after you’ve rolled up a few hundred objects. Luckily, Katamari Damacy is able to maintain a rock steady framerate throughout the entire game. It might not be technologically pretty, but Katamari Damacy is one of the most artistic games out there that isn’t designed solely to be artistic.

Audio

The music in Katamari Damacy is unlike anything you’d expect.

copypasta from wikipedia:

“Its eclectic composition featured elements of traditional electronic video game music, as well as heavy jazz and samba influences. Most of the tracks were composed by Yu Miyake, and many feature vocals from popular J-pop singers and anime voice actors.”

Thankfully, Namco kept the entirely original oddball Japanese soundtrack completely intact for the US release where they could have easily replaced it with lifeless American dance, pop or rap music. Go Namco.

As I usually try to do, here is a sample of one of the songs from Katamary Damacy. Enjoy

Gameplay

Katamari Damacy revolves around rolling around a large highly adhesive ball called a Katamari. Any object that is smaller than the Katamari will stick to it, increasing its mass. The more objects stick to the Katamari, the larger it will grow, allowing you to pick up larger and larger objects in every stage. Don’t be surprised when at first you’ll be picking up thumbtacks and eventually you’ll pick up people, cars, buildings and beyond. Once your Katamari is sufficiently large enough, the King of all Cosmos will turn your hard work into a new star.It just doesn’t get any weirder than that.

The real charm of Katamari is the vast variety of objects you’ll be able to pick up. Some are  uniquely Japanese such as picking up Yen, Japanese candies, foods, household items and more, while other objects like random animals are just fun to pick up. The game even keeps a record of every object you’ve collected in the game, giving hardcore completionists reason to redo levels over and over to complete their index. Gotta roll ’em all?

Control

The controls of Katamari take a little getting used to at first. This is one of the few games out there that requires both analog sticks to be used at the same time that isn’t a first person shooter. Unlike any other game I can think of, the left analog stick alone doesn’t do much; you need to press both sticks to accomplish much of anything.

The basic concept is that each stick represents one hand of the prince as he rolls the Katamari; pressing both sticks forward is your best best to get it to move, while both sticks to the upper left or upper right will turn the Katamari in that direction. If you need to turn around, press both sticks in for the L3 and R3 buttons to do a 180 degree turn. Don’t worry if this sounds complicated; the game has a really wonderful tutorial stage that will teach you everything you need to know about the controls. Soon enough you’ll be rolling like a pro.

Frustration

As there is really no way to die, the only enemy you have is time itself. You’re clocked with a certian amount of time to complete your Katamari. If you don’t reach the size goal in time, you lose, and have to restart. This will happen to new players a lot, but once you get some experience in, this will rarely be an issue.

Availability and Price

Katamari Damacy was successful worldwide, but is somewhat difficult to find nowadays. If you spot it, you can usually pick it up for around $15 or so. It is only for the Playstation 2 and backwards compatible Playstation 3’s.

Audience

The people who will find the most enjoyment out of Katamari Damacy are those who love all things Japanese and quirky. On the other hand, Katamari Damacy is simple enough to be played by just about anyone. There’s also nothing objectionable in the game and no violence at all, making it suitable for young children as well as adults.

History

Katamari Damacy originally was a creative arts project created by Keita Takahashi, a student attending the game design school Namco Digital Hollywood Game Laboratory, similar to Nintendo’s Project DigiPen.

Seeing promise in the project, Namco gave the green light for Takahashi and an incredibly sparse team of only nine others to start work on a commercial version. Incidentally, Katamari Damacy was developed for around 85 million yen, or less than just $1 million US., several fold less than the cost of the average current videogame development.

Interestingly enough, Katamari Damacy was not originally intended to be the first game starring the Prince of all Cosmos. Keita Takahashi had also developed a racing game in which the Prince would control a boy in a go-cart that would have the ability to run over large objects and collect them to form new ones.

Although they liked the concept, Namco ultimately decided to cancel the project on accounts that it would be too similar to Katamari Damacy.

Overall
Good

-One of the most unique videogames in existance.

-Fast paced gameplay

-Exceptional Original Soundtrack (OST)

-Extremely amusing bizarre cutscenes

-Very high replay value

Bad

-Might be a little too Japanese for some

-Time based missions aren’t very newbie friendly as there is no adjustment for difficulty

-Not a technical visual masterpiece; it’s an artistic masterpiece

Conclusion

There’s a reason why after only playing this game once I had to go out and buy an entire system just to play it. This is one of the best games on the PS2 bar none. You owe it to yourself to play Katamari and fall in love with everything it has to offer. Highly recommended.

Data

Platform: PlayStation 2

Genre: Action Puzzle

Release Date: September 22, 2004

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Namco

Also from the developer: Noby Noby Boy, Soul Calibur 2, Pac-Man, etc

ERSB Rating: E

Buy or skip: Buy

Bonus Content

Katamari is fun to play, but can you imagine what the people in Katamari think about the Prince? Probably something like this. Art by Barry J. Kelly.

Enjoy the game while you can. When the stars suddenly grow dim, it’s only a matter of time until the Katamari is coming for you and everyone you know.