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Born for Wii: Katamari Damacy

Wesley Fenlon

Katamari Damacy rolled onto the gaming scene in 2004, bristling with the unanticipated fury of a budget title with mass-market appeal. Damacy's success and popularity in the United States, where it has quickly achieved a devoted cult following, is remarkable for a game that's so distinctly ... Japanese. However, anyone who's played the game can instantly grasp the appeal -- a delicious layer of charm coats the inner goodness of straightforward, addictive gameplay, and that's why Katamari Damacy is this week's game that is Born for Wii.

When the irresistibly alluring, slightly fruity King of All Cosmos accidentally destroys the heavens, his solution is a novel one -- roll up piles of junk and send them skyward to replace the fallen stars. Fortunately for us, he's far too lazy to do the grunt work himself. And that's where we come in as the tiny Prince, charged with the daunting task of restoring the stars to the sky with the aid of a magical ball (a katamari, of course) that sticks to damn near everything.


Katamari Damacy's
success stems largely from a highly original sense of style that pervades every aspect of the game. At a basic level, the extremely simplistic graphics set Damacy apart from other games -- every object is rendered in a very flat, blocky manner with few textures. While this could appear to be a cheap or lazy design choice, it's anything but; the graphics not only establish a distinct look for Katamari Damacy, they allow for tons and tons of objects to be displayed on-screen at once without the risk of major slowdown. The game's cutscenes are similarly basic, but the bizarre Kubrick characters and the outrageously entertaining King of All Cosmos make them oddly addictive. You just can't look away.

Of course, Katamari Damacy has far more to offer than a unique coat of paint. Quirky sound effects and a fantastically original soundtrack -- an eclectic mix that blends cheery J-pop with laid-back sambas and more traditional electronic game compositions -- perfectly complement the game's look. The soundtrack really seals the deal by cementing the feel of the game -- rolling a giant ball around collecting a banana here and a penguin there just wouldn't be the same without the upbeat score.

Much like Ape Escape did way back in 1999, Katamari Damacy sports an innovative control scheme that sets it apart from the vast majority of its contemporaries. To control the Prince, each analog stick on the Playstation's Dualshock is used independently -- to roll the katamari straight forward or backward, it's as simple as pushing both analog sticks in the appropriate direction in unison. However, turning is accomplished by pulling one stick back while the other is forward. The controls allow for extremely tight turns, and the maneuverability plays a critical role in the game's fun factor. Let's face it -- in a game about rolling up anything and everything, you want to be able to hit what you're aiming for.

But, as fun as it is, Katamari Damacy could be even better. The game deserves -- practically demands -- to be rebuilt for the Wii. A reinvention on the Wii would once again deliver on a unique control scheme, but with an all-new level of interactivity and immersion. Just as the left and right thumbsticks on the Dualshock required coordination and allowed for a precise level of control, the Wii Remote and nunchuk take the same concept a step further. Want to make a sharp left turn? Simply tilt the nunchuck backward and the Wiimote forward. Full ahead? Tilt them both toward the TV to haul ass. In the heat of the action, gesture controls for Katamari Damacy could easily elevate the gameplay to a frenetic experience (unless you're one of those people who play Wii Sports like a permanent resident of the coma ward).

With the Dualshock controller, players can quickly hop over the katamari (effectively performing a 180 degree camera rotation) with the click of both analog sticks in unison. With the Wii remote and nunchuk, this movement could easily be performed with a quick upward snap of the wrists, or could simply be mapped to a button on either controller. Another important feature, the katamari dash, is accomplished by rapidly twirling the control sticks, and would translate perfectly to a frantic Wiimote and nunchuk shaking. The last of Katamari's moves simply deal with scoping out the surrounding terrain and would fit perfectly on the nunchuk's Z button and the Wiimote's B trigger.

A port of the original Katamari Damacy with a reworked control scheme would be right at home on the Wii, especially at a competitive budget price point. However, the Xbox 360's Beautiful Katamari retains the original's graphical style, though obviously with a coat of high-def paint, and given the prowess of recent Wii titles such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, a Katamari port more in the Beautiful vein certainly wouldn't be out of the question. Even a port of the original game or its sequel, We Love Katamari, could easily be reworked to display at a sharper 480p resolution and support widescreen televisions. Regardless, Katamari Damacy would be a step above your average budget-priced Wii shovelware.

Thankfully for gamers everywhere, the idea of Katamari Damacy finding its way onto the Wii isn't just a pipe dream. The game has been rumored for some time now, but there's no indication that it's ever really existed. Still, the game's a no-show, and recent rumblings seem to indicate that Beautiful Katamari will not be coming to the Wii. Will it turn up? We'll have to wait and see. And, in the meantime, keep on rollin'.

Every week, Born for Wii digs into gaming's sordid past to unearth a new treasure fit for revival on the Nintendo Wii. Be sure to check out last week's entry in the series, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and for more great titles that deserve your attention, take a look at Virtually Overlooked.

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