I still have vivid memories of walking into a Best Buy back in my hometown and picking up a copy of the just-released Katamari Damacy on PlayStation 2 for a paltry $20. That lower price tag was due, in part, to the fact that nobody had any clue what a “Katamari Damacy”even was—other than potentially knowing it was some weird new game from Japan.
Of course, now the little Prince and his adventures in rolling up items are beloved by fans around the world. And yet, even after a direct PS2 sequel, later games on newer generations of hardware, and a few smartphone offshoots along the way, that original game still has a special place in my heart. It was a tightly crafted, focused game full of humor and charm before it felt the pressures of trying to recreating said humor and charm over and over again.
So, when Bandai Namco announced that they were bringing back the original game in Katamari Damacy Reroll, it was a peculiar decision, but also not. Returning to the game I played 14 years ago, I’m reminded of just how wonderful and special it was. Sure, it doesn’t have the wide variety of stages, unlockables, or additional content that later chapters would offer, but it also doesn’t need those things. This is a gaming idea at its purest and more honest, before the trappings of fame or the need to make everything “bigger and better” came into play.
For those living under a rock (that hasn’t been rolled up by the Prince yet), Katamari Damacy—and, thus, Reroll—tells the story of King of All Cosmos, who one night goes on a drunken rampage and ends up breaking all of the stars in the sky. Once he’s aware of what he’s done, he tasks his pint-sized son, the Prince, with heading down to Earth and making new stars. To do so, the Prince must roll around a sticky ball called a katamari, which can pick up anything that’s smaller than its current diameter. The more objects the katamari collects, the bigger it gets, and the bigger objects it can then roll over. The Prince is let loose in a quiet Japanese town, where he must run around collecting thumbtacks and candy and sunglasses and milk bottles and chairs and children and cars and boulders and buildings and kaiju monsters and even finally the very countries of the Earth—all in the goal of making his katamari big enough to impress his father.
From the start, Katamari Damacy used the PlayStation 2’s dual analog sticks to move the katamari around under what could best be described as tank controls. If there’s a hesitation that I have about Reroll, it’s the same complaint I had about Beautiful Katamari back on the Xbox 360: Things just don’t feel “right” when you’re using two analog sticks that aren’t at the same vertical positioning. It’s a minor nitpick of preference, though, and the game controls just fine here, even when using the Switch in handheld mode.
What definitely helps the experience is the boost in resolution and overall image clarity. Katamari Damacy’s simpler visual style worked great back on the PS2, but playing that version again as a part of doing this review, it’s pretty hard to go back after trying Reroll. Everything here is just so much crisper, more colorful, and closer to how your brain remembers the original looking. And, at least from my time with it, the frame rate is thankfully solid, with only the occasional dips depending on the stage or situation.
For the most part, Katamari Damacy Reroll is the original Katamari Damacy in content and experience, but there are two noticeable differences between each. The first is that Reroll now gives you the chance to use two Joy-Cons to maneuver your katamari via motion controls—and the results are pretty much in line with what’s to be expected from motion controls on most games, Switch or otherwise. In other words, a curious gimmick with little real tangible value. The other is a controversial change that may cause previous fans to curse Reroll’s existence for years to come: The original English voice acting from the quirky cutscenes is now back to its original Japanese. Okay, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal. I honestly don’t care either way, and almost think they make more sense in Japanese (given they’re focused on some random family from Japan), but the English dub was cheesy fun, so it’s sad that we couldn’t have the option to pick from both.
Katamari Damacy Reroll is a great reminder of how fantastic the original chapter of Keita Takahashi’s now legendary series was, but it’s then also proof of just how well that game still holds up all these years later. No matter if you’re an old pro at stepping into the shoes of the tiny Prince, or you don’t know your katamaris from your calamaris, take a break from all of the other games vying for your attention, and roll a little fun up into your life.
Katamari Damacy Reroll brings the original Katamari Damacy back for a new generation, and all of its fantastic gameplay and heart is now combined with beautiful high-definition visuals. There’s almost nothing new here save for mediocre motion controls, but then again, nothing needed to be added to make this quirky classic worth playing again (or for the first time).
E – Everyone
|Katamari Damacy Reroll is available on Nintendo Switch, PC. Primary version played was for Nintendo Switch. Product was provided by Bandai Namco for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.
Mollie got her start in games media via the crazy world of gaming fanzines, and now works at EGM with the goal of covering all of the weird Japanese and niche releases that nobody else on staff cares about. She’s active in the gaming community on a personal level, and an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming, consumer rights, and good UI. Check her out on Twitter and Mastodon.