Katamari is a gaming franchise that’s somehow managed to roll out of the way of discontinuation that seemingly plagues weirdo projects from the early 2000s. Many offbeat experiences that rode the border between genuinely enjoyable and boringly uncanny have received the boot in the past two decades, but that hasn’t been the case for the Katamari franchise.
Perhaps its 10+ mobile entries have kept it afloat since its debut in 2005, or maybe its “moderate success” in Japan has given Namco hope that one-day international gamers will finally see how incredible this franchise is.
Regardless, We Love Katamari REROLL + Royale Reverie (which we will refer to from here on as We Love Katamari) recently breathed new life into the cult-classic sequel, giving a fresh coat of paint to a wildly underrated fever dream of a game.
We Love Katamari REROLL Key Details
- Developer: MONKEYCRAFT Co. Ltd, B
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, & Xbox Series X/S
- Release Date: June 2, 2023
- Price: $29.99
A Sequel About Being A Sequel… Kinda
On the surface, We Love Katamari’s story is a meta tale about how humanity has fallen in love with the King of all Cosmos following the success of 2004’s Katamari Damacy. As such, the conceited King has his son and the son’s cousins (meaning you, the player) fulfill the requests of his admirers.
Each one of We Love Katamari’s levels asks the player to complete specific tasks to appease your dad’s fans. However, regardless of the effort you put forth, the Katamari fanatics usually walk away ungrateful, handing over the finished product to the King, who then mistakes the discarded Katamari as a show of affection.
This cycle repeats until the player has created enough Katamari to fulfill a black dog’s request, which is to roll up the sun. Every Katamari you complete is turned into a planet by the King of Cosmos, which adds a collectible item to the “final” level that can then be rolled up to reach the required size to blot out the Sun.
But the second story, told via various cutscenes scattered throughout, focuses on the King of Cosmo’s harsh childhood, falling in love with his then fiance, and reconciling with his abusive father. We Love Katamari is deceptively simple on the outside, but these snippets of storytelling tackle deeper topics than one might think a game like this even should.
The King, desperate to live up to his cold father’s expectations, endures brutal training regimens only to fail during a juvenile boxing competition. He runs away from home, endures more rebuke from bullies, and then meets the love of his life.
The rest of the story feels like a cheesy fairy tale, where everything falls into place a little too perfectly. The King returns home, his father actually does love him, and he gets married. His father also crowns him the new King of All Cosmos without ever referencing the harsh reality of his upbringing.
We get a closer look at these events during the Royale Reverie expansion, where the player takes the role of the Young King and is forced to roll Katamaris for his father. It’s a short addition – five levels total – that peels back a few layers of the vain king.
As such, you can see how this translates into the King’s present-day actions toward his son. While their relationship is warmer than that of the King and his father, the Prince often receives the blame for anything gone awry.
One of King’s fans isn’t happy with the Katamari? It’s the Prince’s fault for underperforming. Fail to complete an objective in the time allotted? The King will shoot deadly lasers from his eyes at the Prince.
You can choose to ignore these elements – skip cutscenes or what have you – but they are still there. While they can be seen as traumatic or triggering, they also help add layers of depth. Whether those layers are needed… it’s hard to say.
Here We Roll Again
We Love Katamari is my favorite entry in the franchise. I think its variety of levels, iconic soundtrack, hub world, and seemingly endless collectibles make for a game almost anyone could enjoy.
However, it’s not a game that’s necessarily easy to pick up and play. Players have to use both thumbsticks simultaneously to roll and rotate the Katamari, and stopping a house-sized ball from rolling off a cliff can feel like pulling the reigns on a freight train.
To use a cliche that’s been used millions of times to describe the process – it’s like riding a bike. Seasoned Katamari players will settle back into the maneuvers necessary to turn on a dime and complete levels with ease. But the control scheme is quite awkward to start. It’s unlike any other franchise, and its controls alone can be what makes players put the game down before getting to the good stuff.
Whereas Katamari Damacy was very “roll up as much as possible” in every stage, We Love Katamari expands on this idea in its level-by-level narrative and designs.
In one level, a conflicted grandfather wants you to show him Katamari before buying Katamari Damacy for his grandson before swearing off video games forever following your performance. In the next, you roll an underweight sumo wrestler around a food market to add to his physique in order to win his upcoming match.
Not every stage is as fascinating as the last. Sometimes you will just be rolling up pennies and hair clips to reach a certain size within five minutes, but enough of the levels are diverse in their completion requirements to make the mundane tasks feel few and far between.
One facet I thought was going to be a complaint early on turned out to be one of my highest praised. All of the traditional Katamari levels share a similar starting point and size, making them feel reused. However, each of these levels have a larger size goal and longer time limit.
What you’ll come to find out is that all of the levels in the game are interconnected. The zoo you visited to roll up friends for a lonely (and horribly ugly) dog is just a couple blocks away from the house where you start in a handful of levels. Of course, you won’t know this until a woman asks you to make a 12m tall Katamari, requiring you to leave said house, roll up the familiar BBQ outside, followed by the school where the sumo competition took place, then on to the Zoo, ending in you rolling up the house that you started in.
Seeing the world expand like a microscope zooming out is a enthralling feeling. You start asking the obvious question: how big can you get? And the answer… very big. Skyscrapers become reminiscent of early level building blocks. That rainbow in the sky isn’t just for aestcthics, you can roll it up. And Monarch could have swiftly dealth with Godzilla if they only asked the King of All Cosmos to help out.
However, the tone of the game does change quite drastically as the levels progress in size. What starts out as humrous – rolling up a cat and hearing it yell – starts to feel more sinister. You roll up screaming citizens, buildings filled with horrified people, and their haunting screeches are heard the entire time.
We Love Katamari can feel like a horror game, and you are the monster.
A Very Kingly Upgrade
We Love Katamari has made some major improvements jumping from the outdated PlayStation 2 to the latest generations of consoles and PC hardware. Not that anything was explicitly wrong with its original itteration. We Love Katamari REROLL took an already fabulous game and gave it the love and attention it deserves.
Just like Katamari Damacy REROLL, the character designs are better representations of Keita Takahashi’s original artwork. The character models are crisp and show off Takahashi’s creativity, making the small scale levels some of my favorites, just because you get to see the little Prince and cousins in all their HD glory.
The improved loading times are a blessing and a curse. On one hand, when a level needs to load in additional areas after reaching a certain size, you don’t have to wait forever. But when you’re loading into a level and are greeted by the King’s floating head, you are given hardly any time to interact with the mini-game, let alone read the words flying from his mouth.
Of course, you can’t talk about a Katamari game without mentioning its soundtrack. We Love Katamari hit players eardrums with banger after banger. The main menu features the ultra catchy stuck-in-your-head-for-weeks accapella theme. Then you’ve blasted with the over-the-top jazzy Katamari on the Swing that will have you shouting “Okay, Mr. Sunshine!” at random points throughout your day.
And don’t even get me started on chaos that is Katamari on the Rocks (Arrangement)…
The soundtrack is jam packed, and for the price of $10-20 you can add the soundtracks to all of the previous titles to We Love Katamari. This seems a little exorbitant seeing as it’s a remaster boasting new and expanded content – again, only five new levels – but it’s worth the price if not just to hear Lonely Rolling Star again.
Rolling Up Every Collectible
We Love Katamari offers a lot for completionists in terms of collectibles. You have the 37 cousins, playable characters that have to be found and rolled up in each level. Some levels have upward of four to collect, and others only make cousins available after you’ve collected others, meaning you’ll have to replay a few level to collect them all – and you will want to, seeing as the actual final level is only unlocked after you’ve rolled up all 37.
There’s also gifts hidden in each level that offer wearable cosmetic items. Again, you’ll have to roll these up, and most levels contain two gifts. You can also unlock new cosmetics by completing the new Royal Reverie levels, but nothing beats Kinoko with a forrest of mushroom on her head.
Once players collect the camera, they can also start to hunt down and take photos of grafitti which offer picture frames in return. That’s right, this 2005 game has a photomode and a rather unique photo album to boot.
For me, We Love Katamari defined a large portion of my childhood. Playing this wacky game for hours with a sibling, ignoring all of the grittier story beats, and laughing hysterically at the ridiculous pompadours. But as an adult almost 20 years later, We Love Katamari REROLL has allowed me to relive that part of my younger years through a much more mature lens.
The King’s story may feel misplaced for some, but it helps explain the King’s actions. Why he is quick to accept the affection of others, and why he struggles to show love to his son.
The gameplay is still as stressful and downright fun as it was years ago, but the visual upgrades make for an overall better experience. That said, it is a niche game. It’s not for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. It’s found its own cult following, it knows what it wants to be, and it’s perfect at being a wonderfully weird experience.
9 / 10
Gamepur team received a PC code for the purpose of this review.