A little Clump of Soul
September 21, 2014 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Ten years ago today saw the English launch of a quirky Japanese puzzler, a sleeper hit that would go down as one of the most endearing, original, and gleefully weird gaming stories of the 2000s: Katamari Damacy. Its fever-dream plot has the record-scratching, Freddie Mercury-esque King of All Cosmos destroy the stars in a drunken fugue, and you, the diminutive Prince, must restore them with the Katamari -- a magical sticky ball that snowballs through cluttered environments, rolling up paperclips, flowerpots, cows, buses, houses, skyscrapers, and continents into new constellations. It also boasts one of the most infectiously joyous soundtracks of all time -- an eccentric, richly produced, and incredibly catchy blend of funk, salsa, bossa nova, experimental electronica, J-Pop, swing, lounge, bamboo flute, hair metal, buoyant parade music, soaring children's choirs, Macintalk fanfares, and the finest theme song this side of Super Mario Bros. Called a consumerist critique by sculptor-turned-developer Keita Takahashi (who after one sequel moved on to Glitch, the supremely odd Noby Noby Boy, and playground design), the series has inspired much celebration and thought [2, 3] on its way from budget bin to MoMA exhibit. Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things.

Interview: The Melancholy Of Keita Takahashi: "After the press conference, one of GameCity’s organizers drove Takahashi to the local art store where he filled his basket with crayons, stickers, pens, sheaths of paper and, of course, a coat hanger. Then they took a taxi to this room, and closed the door behind him. It’s hard to shake the feeling its precisely this sort of largely directionless creativity, free from the constraints of financial targets, demographics and brand-building that has brought Takahashi to this unlikely nook on the other side of his world."

Keita Takahashi at the GDC and a write-up of his lecture

Essays
  • my, earth really is full of things: "there is a sobering loneliness to this game. in the game's climactic scene, the player is asked to create the earth's moon. to create a large enough sphere, the player has to roll up everything on the earth's surface - cities, continents, clouds. eventually the player assembles a ball which contains everything that comprises the human sphere. that ball, essentially the player (the 1 cm-tall prince that has been marked as the protagonist has disappeared long ago), has literally become the earth, and the vast and featureless ocean that stretches around it is the enormous empty cosmos which for its hugeness has contains far less of interest to the human being than the smallest things on the earth's surface."
  • Chaos in the Cosmos: The Play of Contradictions in the Music of Katamari Damacy: "At first glance, Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004) is a simple and cheery video game. Yet the game is full of thematic complexities and complications, which raise a number of ethical and aesthetic problems, including the relationships between childhood and terror, father and son, and digital and analog; furthermore, the complexities governing each of these pairs are cleverly underscored by the game's music."
  • Notes On SuperFlat and Its Expression in Videogames and related PDF thesis Ota-Kings, Brat Princes and Copied Cousins: Katamari in Context: "Through a situated analysis of Katamari and its sequel We Love Katamari (Namco, 2005) I want to explore contemporary Japanese games design and its relationship to ‘SuperFlat’, the familiar ‘-ism’ encapsulating the art and culture of the Tokyo Pop contemporary art movement. While the convergence of art and gaming at work in my case study transcends a certain hierarchy of cultural value, critical opposition to Takashi Murakami and his peers in the contemporary art community echoes the more widespread opposition to videogames as a new artistic medium."
  • GAMER THEORY - Analog: On Katamari Damacy: "This is the reckless act of creation with which Katamari Damacy begins — the King’s destruction of the mythic heaven of the old Gods, and the project of replacing it by commanding the transformation of a human, analog movement into an airless matrix of machine code. This is the new labor of Sisyphus."
  • The Prince of Objects: Katamari and Ontology: "What’s interesting is that [Level of Detail] normally applies to things that are far away from the player or from the camera. In the case of Katamari, LOD applies to a case where an object is no longer on a scale you care about anymore. What we’re seeing here is a case of a Latourian black box appearing in a game. Yes, we can and do appreciate the individual elements of a park, but at some level we close that box and begin to refer to the park as an object in and of itself. What was inside the park no longer exists, and is subsumed by the “park” object."
  • Box Art Review: "Imagine being a kid seeing this for the first time on the shelf. The metropolis in the distance looking miniscule next to a giant ball made up of a baseball stadium, an octopus, a ferris wheel, an airplane, and—my personal favorite—a blue whale, all heading toward those cows, so utterly (sorry) helpless. What the box art does is convey what so many self-serious videogames forget to: a true feeling of awe and possibility. When was the last time box art—not a demo walkthrough, not an alt-rock laden YouTube trailer, but the actual box art—got you hyped to play a game?"
  • A Clump of Parody: "Even the art style of Katamarii is very reminiscent of the pop art of Takashi Murakami. Murakami, who was really frustrated with the art market in Japan, decided to create art in a way that was relevant to the pop culture of Japan. Anime and Manga have huge cult followings in Asia and in the West, although they are largely ignored by the art world because they are “low art.” What Murakami did was blur the line between high art and low art. He makes art in the style of Manga and Anime, but crosses into the threshold of the high art world. "
  • Metaphor: Katamari Damacy and Capitalism and Overconsumption: "Katamari Damacy, developed and published by Namco, is a sublime work of persuasion because it masquerades as a video game while sabotaging the mainstream; it is so effective that it's work as a metaphor goes undetected by the many who play it."
  • Katamari Damacy as Artwork: "Cleaning the scene up by rolling the katamari over can be seen as an act of subvert to “the culture of consumption and even the value of other video games” (Sino). It is because most of the video games nowadays, as a culture interface, reflected the real world’s favor of capitalism and/or consumerism. Classical examples are SimCity, Age of Empires, and their inspired variants, where player starts with a small plain area, develops into a large place that contains a large amount of artifacts. The “more to less” direction of Katamari Damacy is the opposite of the mainstream “less to more” progress. On the other hand, picking up objects by the katamari is also a metaphor of consuming the materials around us."
Music
Wikipedia: Music of the Katamari Damacy series

A quick guide to the tracks of the first soundtrack

Complete soundtracks: Katamari Damacy - We Love Katamari - Me and My Katamari (Disc 2) - Beautiful Katamari - Katamari Forever - Touch My Katamari

English song lyrics

The Katamari Fan Album, including remixes and instrumental tracks from the original game

The recent rap remix project Katamari Da-Emcee on Soundcloud (previously)

Ask MetaFilter: I want more music in Katamari Damacy's groove...
Odds 'n' Ends
TVTROPES

All the whimsical item descriptions from the first game and a complete dialogue transcript

The official Katamari webcomic, from Buttersafe creators Ray Castro and Alex Culang, will be available online through this October with a December print run; there's also a TVTropes page.

An adorable Katamari wedding

2D Flash Katamari (previously), plus a Javascript code for playing the game with any website (previously; generally only works as a clickable bookmarklet, not pasted in the URL bar)

Gameplay footage of the cancelled Katamari Online project

The original Katamari Damacy gameplay patent

Inspired-by ads: a playful ad from Travelers and a darker one from Doctors Without Borders
posted by Rhaomi (92 comments total) 357 users marked this as a favorite
 
Impressive bit of Katamari rolling, Rhaomi. What kind of star will it make?

Fantastic Post Star.
posted by notyou at 8:14 AM on September 21, 2014 [73 favorites]


At least 87 points for this katamari on the "best of 2014" level.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:23 AM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]


This is quite possibly the greatest post ever. And thank you for the link to the AskMe for related music. There are some amazing recommendations within.

I've always wondered if there is a word for the feelings of nostalgia you get from listening to a previously unheard piece of music but one which triggers the same emotions as the songs from that one time when you were so so happy. Handsomeboy Technique's Adelie Land is something everyone should listen to while perusing these links. Sounds very much like the music for an unreleased Katamari 3.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also: I'm reading this on a plane and pretty much dancing in my seat in anticipation while I wait for my phone to pull down the soundtrack from my iCloud storage. Silly me for not always having it synced, but the wait is going to make it that much better.

Na na, nananana nana na na nana na nana naaaa...
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


also this which is very delightful
posted by poffin boffin at 8:41 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


is it correct to think the ebullient marching band music/game inspired the Paprika parade scene?
posted by ennui.bz at 8:43 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, and because the similar-music AskMe predates her by a few years, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (previously) definitely hits the mark.
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:45 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Excellent post.

Has anyone here tried the PSN "PS2 Classics" version of Katamari Damacy for the PS3? I may have to go and buy that now—my kids have never seen this game.
posted by Songdog at 8:46 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


The first two Katamari Damacy games are the reason why I am still clinging to my PS2. Thanks for this post.
posted by ardgedee at 8:49 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Has anyone here tried the PSN "PS2 Classics" version of Katamari Damacy

I bought it a few weeks ago. Works and plays perfectly. The only drawback is the screen is a bit blurry with black bars on either side. The graphics were never updated to HD quality. Still, it's worth every penny.
posted by honestcoyote at 8:51 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


the coyote is indeed honest. well worth the $few.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:53 AM on September 21, 2014


my kids have never seen this game

I hear that's illegal in certain states. Great Sunday post - wish all games had the joie de vivre of Katamari Damacy!
posted by ersatz at 9:02 AM on September 21, 2014


I bought it a few weeks ago. Works and plays perfectly. The only drawback is the screen is a bit blurry with black bars on either side. The graphics were never updated to HD quality. Still, it's worth every penny.

Oh this makes me so happy. But I can't start playing today or I won't get any of the several things on my to-do list done...
posted by misskaz at 9:03 AM on September 21, 2014


This post deserves... *** ROYAL RAINBOW ***
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:17 AM on September 21, 2014 [22 favorites]


Has anyone here tried the PSN "PS2 Classics" version of Katamari Damacy for the PS3?

Works great, aside from the fuzzy graphics already mentioned. It's just too bad that there's no PS3 We Love Katamari, since I've long since lost my PS2.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:22 AM on September 21, 2014


Yay, love this post!

I made this Katamari fanart a few years back: felted Prince of All Cosmos
posted by polymath at 9:30 AM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Best option for PS3 is Katamari Forever, which collects most levels from the previous three games and I believe adds some new ones. After you beat a stage you can set graphics filters and change music, and there are several gameplay modes as well (Classic, Eternal and Katamari Drive which is a super speed Katamari).

Echoing thanks for an outstanding post!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Katamari Damacy was a revelation for me. And the difference between the original and the sequels is almost a case study in how you can get all the mechanics, visuals, music and details very right but without the voice of the creator there will still be something important lost.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:50 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


A couple years ago I was seeing someone whose roommates owned a little knitted Katamari with magnets in it. They spilled a package of something pointy on the carpet-- I think it was tacks-- and we were worried we would fail to pick them all up, since they kinda blended in. I suggested using a magnet, and it was the only one they had, so we used it to roll them all up.

I think one of the greatest accomplishments of Katamari Damacy is that its art really took the graphical limitations of the PS2 and rolled with them, making it seem like the stylized polygons were a choice rather than a necessity. You play a lot of stuff from that era and it feels like they're trying to get as realistically beautiful as possible, and as polygon counts improve this leaves us with pointy-looking faces and dated-looking graphics. Like many good abstract arcade games, Katamari holds up over time even as our machines outpace its original version.

I tried the PS3 one that mashed up levels from lots of different versions a few years back and was pretty disappointed, it seemed to really mostly collect the most tedious levels. The ios one is OK, though I wish it emphazed the get-to-a-certain-size levels more than the roll-up-objects levels.

also this yt which is very delightful

This is wonderful. Could one create a sort of "Katamari mod" for other games? It seems like it'd be possible for any game where the Stuff in the environment isn't glued down (that is, any game world where the Stuff isn't all part of the terrain). I'd play the crap out of an Elder Scrolls game where you defeat enemies by rolling them up and took damage with stuff falling off your ball.
posted by NoraReed at 9:54 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


The first two Katamari Damacy games are the reason why I am still clinging to my PS2.

Ha. I still use my PS2 as my primary CD/DVD player ... and I still play Katamari with my daughter.

I had a hard time finding Katamari 2 (We Love Katamari) back when it came out (maybe not widely distributed in US?). I've actually had it on my Amazon wish list for 7-8 years. Even now, to buy it new, I think it's $40+.

Any tips on where to find it (cheap)? It's obviously never at any retail/used-store outlets. (I don't play video games much, so hard to justify anything over $10.)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Unbelievable. We've never seen a post like this. What is it? You're amazing.
posted by Iridic at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2014 [37 favorites]


Unbelievable. We've never seen a post like this. What is it? You're amazing.

There's another user who does these 100+ link drops, usually about wonky economic/labor theory (I forget his name right now.) Nice fellow, but I usually prefer a bit more curation, with the massive link drops inside the MI (as the poster did, mostly.)

I do have 15-30 minutes or so to read something cool; I don't have 2+ hours to look thru it all to find the good stuff. ;)

My 2c: the "more inside" links are totally fine (and great), but I would suggest whittling down the front-page links to >10, with maybe 1-2 of the best at the front. Also, anything like Metacritic, IMDB, wikipedia links, etc. are unnecessary (IMO).
posted by mrgrimm at 10:36 AM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, I know what's going to be stuck in my head all day. Again.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:41 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sigh... Such an amazing game. I would love an HD remaster of the Keita Takahashi originals.

If anyone is wondering what he is up to these days, he is working on a new game at the game studio Funomena, which was started by people who worked on Journey. I'm pretty excited to see what they can do together.
posted by zsazsa at 10:43 AM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


We are in shock. We feel bested. Almost too elegant a post. So fab, Rhaomi is fabulous.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2014 [14 favorites]


Epic post! Thanks.

If you want to get meta, install the Katamari Everywhere plugin for Chrome and roll up this entire page when you're done.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2014 [6 favorites]


I just had the wonderful costume idea of "Drag King of All Cosmos"
posted by NoraReed at 11:37 AM on September 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Reading this post inspired me to listen to the Katamari soundtrack for the first time in at least 6-7 years. Now I want "The Moon and the Prince" played at my funeral. I have no idea what they're saying but I keep hearing "Funky Donkey".
posted by downtohisturtles at 11:43 AM on September 21, 2014


> I had a hard time finding Katamari 2 (We Love Katamari) back when it came out (maybe not widely distributed in US?). I've actually had it on my Amazon wish list for 7-8 years. Even now, to buy it new, I think it's $40+.

It's worth forty bucks. Treat yourself.
posted by ardgedee at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wish I could love it, but Katamari is the only video game I've ever played that has given me motion sickness.
posted by Hogshead at 2:01 PM on September 21, 2014


Warning: driving around Las Vegas while listening to the Katamari Damacy soundtrack is dangerous. Very strong urges to roll up buildings, other cars, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:50 PM on September 21, 2014 [10 favorites]


My, this post is certainly full of things!
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:06 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's funny that this is just now 10 years old. I just spent a bunch of time hosing around with a janky combo of a macbook, the pcsx2 emulator, a ps3 controller, and my hdtv/receiver setup to play this on my TV... and encountered a wall of crazy graphical glitches(is it one of those un-emulatable games like space station silicon valley?). My partner wanted to play it, and i did to, as i had pretty much forgotten about it.

This game was a HUGE deal at my high school full of weird ass mofos, a lot of whom were super in to animation(of the Pendleton Ward variety). It came out my freshmen year. This, and smash bros melee were the games everone played.

I don't really remember the sequel(s) at all. It was all about the original game. We were all obsessed with it and completely played it to death.

I think i'm actually going to go to my storage unit, find the disc, and bring my PS2 home so i can play it again.
posted by emptythought at 3:26 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


So the only way to legally play this is on some psN virtual emulator? Or curate some elderly hardware?
posted by scruss at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


We Love Katamari is generally inferior to the original, except that in the final level you can roll up the King of All Cosmos.

Of course, if you do you'll find that the resulting katamari still fits in the King of All Cosmos's hand, because of course it does.
posted by ckape at 3:54 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


My wife wants to run a Katamari Damacy LARP. She'll rent a football stadium, get a weather balloon, and she knows a guy who can do the attitude of the King of ALl Cosmos perfectly- him she'll set up in the stands with a megaphone. Have no idea how it would work, but I want to see it. For now, I may just dig out my PS II and waste the afternoon. I mean, I'm gong to be humming the theme song anyway...

Also:

Katamari Damacy at the Beach

Why you need Katamari insurance
posted by happyroach at 3:56 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ah, the King Of All Cosmos. I'd say he ties with Jareth for the all time Cape, Tights, Area top spot.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 4:08 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, man. This game came out when I was in college and it was a dorm room staple. This past year, I had a bunch of current undergrads (a former student and their friends) over to my apartment for cake and my partner and I broke out the PS2 and introduced them to Katamari. It holds up--they were entranced. It was a really nice evening.
posted by Tesseractive at 4:13 PM on September 21, 2014


I never played this, and don't have any video gaming gear -- but it's about the only video game I have ever wanted to play. Is there an OS X or iPhone/iPad version anywhere?
posted by wenestvedt at 5:06 PM on September 21, 2014


Is there an OS X or iPhone/iPad version anywhere?

Assuming the PS2 emulators for OS X are any good, you could run it that way. You'd probably have a superior experience in some ways since many emulators can run things at native resolution.

There was an iPhone version of I Love Katamari, but it looks like it might not work on iOS 8. I have no idea if it's any good.
posted by honestcoyote at 5:41 PM on September 21, 2014


I only played this one at a friends house years ago and was forced to leave by my better half after three hours of being unsociable. I may have to pick this up, because this game has stayed with me. Fantastic post, thanks.
posted by arcticseal at 6:44 PM on September 21, 2014


> There was an iPhone version of I Love Katamari, but it looks like it might not work on iOS 8. I have no idea if it's any good.

It works in iOS 8. It's okay, but pretty demanding of the phone hardware.

Also, the difficulty hits a cliff wall (probably both because of the wonky interaction and specifics of the game challenge) pretty early on, and it's the first Katamari game that I've ragequit. So.
posted by ardgedee at 6:52 PM on September 21, 2014


Ah, the King Of All Cosmos. I'd say he ties with Jareth for the all time Cape, Tights, Area top spot.

One time when playing:

"You realize that codpiece is the size of say, New Zealand?"
"Shut. UP."
posted by happyroach at 7:02 PM on September 21, 2014


> Also, the difficulty hits a cliff wall (probably both because of the wonky interaction and specifics of the game challenge) pretty early on, and it's the first Katamari game that I've ragequit. So.

Oh, this makes me feel better, because the iphone game is the only one I've ever played and I found it SO frustrating. I just assumed I sucked.
posted by looli at 7:36 PM on September 21, 2014


Beautiful Katamari is the reason I'm hanging on to my Xbox 360 and not upgrading to either the Xbox One or PS4.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:17 PM on September 21, 2014


I bought a new PS2 last year solely for Katamari, i regret nothing
posted by poffin boffin at 8:43 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't wait to dive into the rest of this post when I get home, but thank you for the link to the soundtrack playlist alone. I needed that today.

This really was an all-around amazing game.
posted by Gordafarin at 4:36 AM on September 22, 2014


Katamari Damacy (basically all versions) is pretty much my (and my wife's) favorite game ever. We even own a PS3 version of Katamari Forever*, despite not owning a PS3, because we were temporarily living someplace that did have one, so we bought it and did a marathon play session through it. I don't think a week goes by without one of us making at least one inside joke or reference related to the game or the music.

This post has me seriously considering dusting off the PS2 in the basement.

* Actually, we own 2 copies, because both of us bought it for the other without telling them, and then we forgot to return the other one. I keep meaning to pass it along to a nephew who has a PS3...
posted by tocts at 4:45 AM on September 22, 2014


I wish I could love it, but Katamari is the only video game I've ever played that has given me motion sickness.

Interestingly, the original Katamari didn't bother me, but We ♥ Katamari really made me sick. I've always wondered how much of it was mental, though - I'm getting a vague headache just reading/thinking about Katamari. Which sucks, because those games are awesome.
posted by god hates math at 5:02 AM on September 22, 2014


I too still use a PS2 as my primary DVD player (I even have a little remote control for it!) and now I kinda want to have a Katamari playing party...

The only problem is I'll need a TV for that.
posted by maryr at 6:26 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


BTW, how can I make the crab pick up sound my text message alert sound? Because SPRRRROINGGGG.
posted by maryr at 6:28 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


By Grabthar's hammer, the FPP was awesome by itself...and then there's more inside! Amazing post about one of my favorite video games ever.
posted by Gelatin at 7:58 AM on September 22, 2014


The recessional music at my wedding was the Katamari Overture.

We've stuck together since.
posted by mhoye at 10:06 AM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


CTRL+F
OCULUS RIFT


No matches found


OH COME ON, MY BODY IS READY!
posted by Theta States at 10:29 AM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]


Warning: driving around Las Vegas while listening to the Katamari Damacy soundtrack is dangerous. Very strong urges to roll up buildings, other cars, etc.

For a week or so when this game first came out, it completely changed how I saw my environment. I looked at the world in terms of rollability. Everything was ultimately rollable: pens, coffee mugs, laptops, computer desks, girlfriends...
posted by naju at 10:30 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


Katamari Damacy is an amazing game, just immediately arresting when you see it on the screen, especially for the first time. Back at GSU they had a room that, for a little while, was set up with PS2s and TVs, that you could reserve and check games out for and play. Well, a couple of times I reserved a system but brought in my copy of Katamari Damacy (like others above, I had the game even though I didn't personally own a PS2). I'd put the game in and a memory card and play Make The Moon, and distract the hell out of the pool players playing in the room.

I will say, however, that gameplay patents suck.
posted by JHarris at 11:56 AM on September 22, 2014


The recessional music at my wedding was the Katamari Overture.

Ours, too!
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:20 PM on September 22, 2014


Katamari Damacy is one of the most Tetris Effect-y games ever.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


BTW, how can I make the crab pick up sound my text message alert sound?

If you can find a let's play video clip of the sound on youtube there are free browser-based converters to make the audio into a ringtone.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:38 PM on September 22, 2014


I first encountered Katamari in my college anime club. We met in a lecture hall with a big projection screen and sound system, next best thing to a movie theater. One time I arrived early, and someone had hooked up their PS2 and was playing some generic driving/racing game. Then they put on this other game, with bouncy music and colorful charming graphics, totally unlike what they were doing before. And then they proceeded to Make the Moon. It was quite astounding. I didn't actually get to play it until that summer; my brother had a PS2 and at least enough taste in games to have picked up a copy of Katamari Damacy.

My favorite way to play was to put the moon level on eternal mode and just roll around at a relaxed pace until I got everything. That showed off well what I found most intriguing about the game: the scale changes and lack of distinction between mobile objects and static scenery. Most games have this distinction between the static level geometry - the ground you walk on, the trees and rivers, the buildings, often the furniture - and the dynamic objects - things you can pick up, enemies you can fight, characters you can talk to; like a low-budget cartoon, there is a clear distinction between things that can move and change and things that never will. In Katamari, you start small, and it looks like the same distinction is in play. You roll around on streets and sidewalks, between houses and past trees, and you pick up newspapers and bottles and such. It's pretty clear that once you get a bit bigger you'll be able to pick up plants or fences or boxes that were previously obstacles; that's not so extraordinary. But by the end of the moon level you are too big to even notice the houses. You've long since picked up the trees and the streets and even the hills. You end that level with nothing left but featureless ocean.

Does anyone know if Beautiful Katamari is worth playing? I don't have any kind of Playstation now, but I do have an Xbox 360. I mainly just want another Katamari fix after so long, and perhaps to introduce my wife to the game.
posted by eruonna at 1:09 PM on September 22, 2014


Wenestvedt: Is there an OS X or iPhone/iPad version anywhere?

The iOS versions are bullshit. There's actually two. "Kamari amore" is functionally the better one, but EVERY level except for one mode of the first one is an in app purchase. It's really shady and nickel and dime and I hate that shit. At least you play with an on screen "joystick" though.

I love katamari(which some people confuse with the console We love katamari, it's not the same) is on the other hand a proper full game... But it has the worst controls this side of the old iOS super monkey ball port: tilting the system ONLY, no option to just use a joystick or something. This is as terrible as it sounds, and gets super frustrating really fast.

Neither are worth any money.

The original game and ps2 sequel run ok in an emulator like pcsx2. It takes a lot of fuckery though. I've spent more time configing than actually playing. Interlacing has to be on, you won't get any sound without double checking all the sound settings, and lots of other bonus stupid. I recommend watching the "ps2 emulator on OSX" YouTube tutorial(and oh god, I could go on for ages about how much I hate that all of these sorts of things are ONLY 8 minute videos now, instead of some instructions on a page I could read in 30 seconds) because it really is a bit of a hassle.

Any remotely new Mac will run it fine though. Even older-ish ones should be ok.

I really wish it wasn't so impossible to play these games on current hardware. There's the PSN store re-release for $10 on the ps3(which is itself, kind of an old system now), or the old system thing. And this is one of those stupid games like Phoenix wright that still sells for more than it should if you just try and buy the original cheap.
posted by emptythought at 1:33 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks, everbody -- and thanks to taz for the sidebar shout-out!

NoraReed: "Could one create a sort of "Katamari mod" for other games? It seems like it'd be possible for any game where the Stuff in the environment isn't glued down "

Kataminey Damacraft!

mrgrimm: "My 2c: the "more inside" links are totally fine (and great), but I would suggest whittling down the front-page links to >10, with maybe 1-2 of the best at the front. "

There wasn't time to do it this go-round, but I've been toying with the idea of adding hovertext to at least the front-page links (like in last year's BrBa finale post) to make it clearer what each link is about. I like enthusiast intros that pack in as much colorful description as possible, but it's tough to do that while also indicating where the links are going. I'll give it a go later tonight, plus some additional music stuff.

wenestvedt: "Is there an OS X or iPhone/iPad version anywhere?"

I just recently finished playing the iOS port Katamari Amore (it says it doesn't support iOS 8, but it says the same thing for iOS 7, and I'm on 7.1.2). It's nominally free, but you have to in-app purchase the bulk of the levels beyond a single time-attack demo.

It's okay, but lacks the complexity and charm of the originals -- the music is uninspired, the environments more random collections of junk than dreamscapes full of visual gags, and the difficulty curve ramps up significantly towards the end of each mission pack.

I don't get why they don't just port the original game -- the controls are already adequate, and if they can make BioShock and GTA: San Andreas work in terms of graphics, then surely the original Katamari Damacy is doable.

looli: "the iphone game is the only one I've ever played and I found it SO frustrating. I just assumed I sucked."

It's the level design -- there's little overlap between the different size classes of objects, so you have to roll up pretty much every object of size N before you're large enough to get size N+1. The distribution of objects and the unforgiving time limit makes it tough to beat, especially later on.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:44 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I assume I am not the only one here who has suffered the Curse of the CowBear.

Someone else has experienced this, haven't they? You know the level: it's in one of the sequels, and your goal is to pick up either a cow or a bear. All around you, there are cows and there are bears. The level can stop almost immediately, because there are miniature cows (and bears) all around the katamari when you first arrive. You goal is the get the largest cow (or bear). The challenge is to get the katamari as big as you can, before picking up a cow (or bear).

You play this level. It is fine, as a level. The "get a thing of this particular kind!" levels never appeal to me, because it is so challenging to avoid all the tiny specimens that can immediately stop the level. But I played the level. I got a cow (or a bear--who can remember?). But then, right as the screen was freezing, right before I was transported to the King of the Cosmos so he could mock my cow (or bear), I saw it: it was the CowBear.

It is huge! This CowBear, this unnatural combination of herd animal and predator, of carnivore and herbivore--this beautiful, beautiful monstrosity. It is so big, you cannot even see it when you first start the level. It dwarfs all other cows. and bears. IT. IS. COWBEAR.

Quake before the glory of the almighty CowBear!


I saw it, and I knew not to go further. I had passed the level with my small cow (or bear). I didn't need to play it again. But my husband saw it. He saw it, and his mind turned to impossible dreams of glory. "I shall get The CowBear!" he declared. And so we began this voyage, this voyage to capturing CowBear. Like Icarus and his father, we toiled. He played, I watched and advised. Over and over, we restarted the level. We learned the exact path to take, to avoid hitting any miniature cows (and bears). With terrifying precision, we learned where each cow (and bear) hid, waiting for us. We would scream out when it finally appeared on our screens: THERE IT WAS! THERE WAS COWBEAR! WE SAW IT! And then, in our excitement, we would hit a small cow-colored statue, and the level would be over. Great jubilation exploding into exhaustion, frustration. And then we would start again.

This went on for too long.

We never got CowBear. My husband prefers not to speak about it -- it hurts a wound still too deep to discuss. He grows dark, even at the mention of CowBear. We both shudder at the sound of that level's music.

I have seen it on YouTube: I have seen the great CowBear caught. My husband refused to watch, unwilling to see others fly in the sunlight where we have only fallen. I hardly believe it--that anyone could ever actually roll up something so enormous as CowBear. I have seen it, but my eyes refuse to believe.

I can't be the only one, right? Someone else here -- someone else must have suffered the siren call of CowBear, surely. This must be something shared. This horror cannot be mine alone to bear. (and cow.)

Everything else Katamari, I love. I truly love these games. They are so perfect in every way... So perfect like CowBear.

Long live CowBear.
posted by meese at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2014 [36 favorites]


(and oh god, I could go on for ages about how much I hate that all of these sorts of things are ONLY 8 minute videos now, instead of some instructions on a page I could read in 30 seconds)

LET THE RAGE FILL YOU YES MY YOUNG PADAWAN JOIN ME NOW ON THE DARK SIDE

Re: CowBear, I too have played that level a bit and not captured the CowBear. It's a hilarious and magnificently frustrating level.

And I've too been sorely disappointed by the iOS Katamari games. Since Takahashi left Namco, whoever's in charge of the series seems not to have eyes but just two dollar signs (or maybe yen signs). Not only have we gotten the shameless moneygrabs that are the iOS games, but at least one of the disk-based Katamari sequels (it might be Beautiful) has "DLC levels" that people had discovered are actually completely stored on the disk. Basically, you're paying to unlock something they already completely made before pressing the disk, and decided to make you pay to unlock because fuck you.

It's one of the most shameless examples of screwing over loyal video game enthusiasts I can think of that doesn't come from Square Enix.
posted by JHarris at 3:47 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


When the new 3DS (which I am thinking of as the Super 3DS) comes out, a portable with 2 sticks should make Katamari 3DamaShi an easy call for Namco.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:04 PM on September 22, 2014


Ah, for the days when we first discovered Katamari Damacy. <3 Love this post and might get out the PS2 this weekend.
posted by wintersweet at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2014


Gah, the CowBear. I too have spent hours trying to chase that thing down--and never caught it. Never got the 1000 paper cranes, either.

We ♥ Katamari is truly awesome. It might be my favorite game of all time. The original is great too, but the controls in We ♥ are really improved (much more forviging of sharp corners), and it's so much bigger. And it has the best iteration of the Katamari theme--the Vince Guaraldi-esque arrangement that appears right before the level select area, assuming you're not too quick on the draw with the start button.
posted by equalpants at 7:32 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lyrics to Cherry Tree Times (the children's choir track) It uses the gameplay mechanics as a metaphor both for the twinge of nostalgia we could feel even in childhood toward our younger selves and for the experience of falling in love. "That time when we feel joy from small things." This soundtrack is a masterpiece.

If the Katamari comes, shall we go out
To the back alleys and walk with it, swaying, swinging, strolling?
Hey! Look outside the window!
In the sky, where a plane is leaving clouds behind it
Remember we could feel the coming of the pleasant autumn air in the bright orange moon?

We were exploring the city as the afternoon descended
I remember being shy, blushing to the touch of your hand
Those were the days when small things made us feel content

Oooooooooh-ooooooo-ooooo-woooooh
That was a merry, peach-colored season

[La la la chorus]

Now you and I think
Because we've grown, if even just a little
We want that time when we feel joy from small things.

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:06 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Look inside for essays, artwork, comics, lyrics, more music, hopes, dreams... my, the internet really is full of things.

I've already favorited this post, but I wanted to take a moment to mention how much I want to favorite this specific part of it over and over again.
posted by mhoye at 8:47 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Screw this, I might have to go get an old PS this weekend and play this game.
posted by Theta States at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2014


Warning: driving around Las Vegas while listening to the Katamari Damacy soundtrack is dangerous. Very strong urges to roll up buildings, other cars, etc.

Nonsense! A car could never roll up a building or another car, you need some fire hydrants and hot dog stands first.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:30 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nice, have now secured a PS2 + KD to play this weekend!
posted by Theta States at 1:38 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


More perspectives on this fabulous game, first from Tumblr: Katamari Damacy is my favourite game, and now I know why.

It also links to a great presentation from creator Takahashi, complete with slides: SPREADING LOVE & PEACE THROUGH GAMES

justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: "Lyrics to Cherry Tree Times yt (the children's choir track) It uses the gameplay mechanics as a metaphor both for the twinge of nostalgia we could feel even in childhood toward our younger selves and for the experience of falling in love. "That time when we feel joy from small things." This soundtrack is a masterpiece."

Be sure to read the lyric translation forum post from the FPP if you haven't already -- not only does a native speaker translate all the lyrics into English, but they provide commentary and analysis noting the puns, wordplay, and cultural references. The track "Katamaritaino," for example, has a sly sexual innuendo almost immediately followed by a grammatical allusion to Dali's Persistence of Memory. Fascinating stuff.

Here's some of the entry for "Cherry Tree Times":
So yeah, this song is an example of Japan's infamous fascination with the seasons, especially when it comes to poetry and song. Obviously sakura and peach seasons are spring. In case it isn't obvious, this song is about couple looking back at their childhood from the vantage point of middle age. In Japan, orange moons are considered comforting and warm, and exploring/catching things are considered summer-like, though they can also be spring, but mostly summer because of butterfly and beetle catching, which is still popular. Trails of airplane vapor are another summer reference, because the sky is often cloudless so its more noticeable and while you're out enjoying the sun, your apt to hear planes flying overhead.

The song starts in spring, with the children offering to go chase the katamari in the back alleys. To come out of their home. This part is written in a very immersive, 1st person style, the tone shifts halfway through the line about the plane's vapor trail, suggesting a shift to summer, or adulthood and the verse with the sweethearts at autumn reminiscing. So at the same time as its from the perspective of the couple at the end, its also in the perspective of the children growing up, simultaneously.

Next as they explored the city, they held hands. We go back to summer (catching reference) and the fact that they are no longer in the house or the back alleys, signifies that they have learned about the world and society (its not only the end of the morning and onto the afternoon, but the word for afternoon, hiru is very close to the word for spring, haru and sagari is the term used show its descended and over), and are onto bigger things in adulthood (exploring the cityu vs. playing in the back alleys). As he mentions blushing, and feeling happy, and then the peach-flavored season, we're brought full circle back to spring and also the memory of it as the same time.
Also, the soundtrack to the sequel, while less catchy and more experimental, is equally eclectic; some notable tracks:
  • Katamari on the Rocks - a demented a capella rendition of the main theme
  • Overture II - A pleasant, Peanuts-like piano interlude
  • Katamari on the Swing - A big-band number led by Japanese Tom Jones, also used in the game's intro
  • Kuru Kuru Rock - some kind of abrasive hip-hop acid trip
  • Everlasting Love - a bubbly chip-pop love song
  • Beautiful Star - a lovely, spacious instrumental with a subtle collage of samples
  • Angel's Rain - a dreamy French cabaret song with accordion
  • Houston - an electronic-tinged guitar harmony
  • Blue Orb - a glitchy experimental instrumental with cosmic themes
  • Scorching Savannah - an adorable medley of the first soundtrack's songs performed by a menagerie of synthesized animal sounds. Love the credited artists: "John the Dog, Bigmouth the Duck, Yuuhi the Crow, Pe the Goat, Booby the Pig, Sexy the Cat, Nyuu the Cow"
Also, I always thought the wee choir and electric keyboard lullaby in "Do Re Mi Katamari Do" from the PSP sequel was ridiculously charming.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:19 PM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


To this very day, I will occasionally catch myself looking up to see what the Hollywood Sign says right now.
posted by Space Kitty at 10:33 PM on September 23, 2014


Watching a YouTube video of Beautiful Katamari's "big" level, where you have to get to 2M meters within a total of 15 minutes, made me realize:

Katamari Damacy is the first incrementer game.
posted by JHarris at 11:16 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


I just came to that realization myself. But what it does better (in my opinion) than most of the clicker games is make incremental mechanic both natural and opaque. Usually the best these games can give is a tricky optimization problem and the worst is Skinner box busywork; the original Cow Clicker is never far from my mind. (Which is not to say I don't play and enjoy them. I can leave them running in the background at work, and big numbers are fun.) But in Katamari you never feel like you're just picking things up so you can get big enough to pick more things up, etc. You pick things up because it's fun, they make noise, and you can hardly avoid it anyway. And then you get bigger and more things become pick-up-able. I wonder if this feeling can be achieved in a clicker-style game...
posted by eruonna at 11:34 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh man. From the forum with the lyric translations:
“I often record my melodies that I have in my head using my cellular phone or PC by humming. My workspace is not completely private, and my co-workers make fun of me if they hear me humming, so I always record my humming secretly. I decided to insert this humming in the title sequence of the test version of the game because I thought it would be funny and a bit kooky. It was just a joke at first, but then people started to like it so I decided to keep it – and that’s why you hear some weirdo humming when you first load the game."
posted by Gordafarin at 4:49 AM on September 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well now I have my musical selections all set for today, but I'll need to wait until later to unpack the rest of the post. Thanks Rhaomi!

I came late to this game (2005) but from the instant I saw the title sequence I knew it was for me. It captured all the delightful randomness of discovering quirky new arcade games on my summer vacations at the big arcades of the New Jersey boardwalk. Yellow thing eating dots! Cats and mice on trampolines! Walking on hamburgers! I still have my old PS2 hooked up and the two Katamari games (and occasionally Activision Classics) are the only games that see any play.

I started writing what seemed to me the obvious mashup story, but never got too far and eventually just posted the cover image.

My kid was about four and a half when I got the game and obviously she loved it. It did inspire two bad dreams though. One was about the King yelling at her which was not surprising since she was scared of that happening during the actual game. The second dream was of a giant chicken that went around eating things and getting bigger.
posted by mikepop at 6:17 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know if Beautiful Katamari is worth playing? I don't have any kind of Playstation now, but I do have an Xbox 360. I mainly just want another Katamari fix after so long, and perhaps to introduce my wife to the game.
It's OK. It's really the only Katamari option for the Xbox 360. Totally worth downloading though.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:18 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Handsomeboy Technique's Adelie Land is something everyone should listen to while perusing these links. Sounds very much like the music for an unreleased Katamari 3.

The Katamari soundtracks are all so good so it's hard to imagine needing more but honestcoyote is totally right, Adelie Land is absolutely a lost Katamari soundtrack and I love it to bits. I'm kind of sad that Handsomeboy Technique has faded from view over the past few years, apparently sticking to random remixes and DJ nights and whatnot.
posted by chrominance at 3:45 PM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


mental note: when home check youtube for champion katamari speedruns.
posted by Theta States at 6:30 AM on September 25, 2014


Rhaomi needs a tshirt:

Hi, I'm from MetaFilter and I could overthink a ball of beans.


I've never played the game but holy fuck, what a post.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:07 AM on September 25, 2014


I never actually played this, and a quick google shows that it's compatible with at least one of the emulators - I should pick up a copy.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 9:41 AM on September 29, 2014


You absolutely should. It's just joyous. It is a game that deserves to be preserved for the ages. There aren't many games I can say that about, but it's definitely one of them.
posted by JHarris at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I had heard before that "Katamari" translates as "clump," and that "Damacy" translates as "soul" or "spirit," but it was only recently that I got a much better understanding of this.

In June, on This American Life, they were talking to a Japanese man who wouldn't give up on a game show, despite the endless humiliation and physical discomfort he was being subjected to. Through his translator, he said this:

"There's a phrase: 'Yamato Damashii,' 'The Japanese Spirit,' which is sort of: stick through. You endure things, you know? When you're given something, whether it's easy or whether it's hard, you just really do. You're obliged to follow through."
This American Life, episode #529: "Human Spectacle" @15:35

Oh! Wow. So...
The Katamari Spirit.
Yes.
The task is immense, the praise is faint.
But you stick through. Whether it's easy or whether it's hard.
Yes.

Also:

I've looked out the tenth story window of a Seattle hotel, and automatically started strategizing in what order to roll things up (first the people and small cars, then that long row of tall bushes, then large cars, trucks, small buildings, and then into the construction site, but avoiding that giant crane, it'll have to come later...)

I never got the CowBear either.

But I did get the Million Roses.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 7:13 PM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Everyone who hasn't played this, should play it. I rank it right up there with the first mario bros, LoZ: ocarina of time, super mario world, and plenty of others as being essentially a perfect game. It's like, gaming's MBV - loveless.

It's something that in a few years, like they do with any number of older games now, will be in the smithsonian.
posted by emptythought at 8:36 PM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


An even greater thing about Katamari is that it's one of the very few obvious classics of its age. I mean, the bloom is even coming off the rose of Ocarina of Time, to a degree, but Katamari Damacy is so obviously perfect. I mean, it's not perfect in the sense of being faultless, sure one could nitpick tiny things, but it is perfect in the sense of being of a overwhelming nature of rightness. I wouldn't change a damn thing about it.
posted by JHarris at 12:09 AM on September 30, 2014


Some kinda of graphics age more gracefully than others and Katamari is gorgeous.

I went and bought the most recent one today and enjoyed playing it very much.
posted by NoraReed at 3:31 AM on September 30, 2014


Some kinda of graphics age more gracefully than others and Katamari is gorgeous.

I think it's largely a matter of being heavily stylized- see also comparisons of launch World of Warcraft with the almost simultaneously launched Everquest 2.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:23 AM on September 30, 2014


I found a copy for under $10 shipped - let's hope my low end desktop has enough horsepower to emulate it well.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 2:30 PM on October 4, 2014


Man, with the section at the end of the post about inspired-by ads, I can't believe I forgot the original live-action Japanese launch ads, which have a surreal charm:

Appointment
Point-of-view
Katamari Damacy Tribute

Also fun: Man vs. Katamari (behind the scenes)
posted by Rhaomi at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


BTW if anyone's curious, my Athlon II P360 PC has no issues running this with a PS2 emulator.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:05 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


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