Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: Fall 2007
No seismic shift occurred between the original Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari for the PlayStation 2, and the PSP iteration, Me & My Katamari, did little to disrupt the balance of simplistic gameplay and quirky storytelling established back in 2004. Beautiful Katamari for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 looks to continue this trend of complacency, expanding the role of the multiplayer game while generally maintaining the same style and feel of its predecessors.
As in previous Katamari entries, the name of the game is still to roll up a bevy of general items, plants, and small animals into a massive ball, and as the rotating heap of trash grows in size, the player will be able to nab even larger prizes, such as human beings, vehicles, and even skyscrapers. Beautiful Katamari doesn't seem to disrupt that general philosophy, though it will introduce several new environments, such as the winter wonderland of the Ice House. Both versions will make use of the standard dual-analog control scheme, and while SixAxis support sounds like a perfect match for the franchise, it could not be confirmed at the event.
The Prince of All Cosmos will return to push the ball of junk, but he will not be alone in this endeavor. Over 50 playable characters will be included in Beautiful Katamari, and though many will likely use similar character models with distinct skins, each will be fully customizable. As players progress through the single-player campaign (the story of which is not yet available), they can unlock a heap of presents, each of which may contain a wearable item like a ribbon or glasses.
Certainly, the shift to next-generation hardware carries with it several benefits, the most notable being the introduction of 720p support. Despite this, Beautiful Katamari maintains the extremely simplistic visuals of its precursors, with bland, boxy character and item models. While this only adds to the quirky nature of the experience, the upgrade to 720p doesn't really make the game look better, only sharper. Luckily, Beautiful Katamari is confirmed to feature an all-new soundtrack that will keep with the style of the music crafted for previous entries.
Online multiplayer via Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network looks to be the greatest addition to the venerable franchise, with competitive gameplay modes designed for up to four players. Alan Hopkins, development lead on the Beautiful Katamari, revealed that the online objectives would include finishing the round with the largest ball or the highest quantity of one particular item. Mini-games will also be available for play in the lobby as players wait for additional participants. Though online play sounds especially compelling, those without broadband will still be able to battle it out or work together in a pair of two-player modes.
Downloadable content is in the cards (presumably on both systems), though no details are available at this point. Hopkins also noted that a pre-release demo is likely, so those unfamiliar with Katamari should have a chance to give it a whirl prior to its release this fall. Beautiful Katamari certainly looks like more of the same, but that's not such a bad thing, especially with an anticipated budget price point. Without a significant investment, the prospect of a next-gen Katamari truly is a thing of beauty.
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