Inside Pulse 12

Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame Nomination: Katamari Damacy

Every week, we will present a new game to be nominated for the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. These nominations will occur every Monday and Friday, respectively. Our standards are just like the Baseball Hall of Fame: every game will be voted on by members of the staff, and any game that gets 75% of the vote – with a minimum of four votes – will be accepted – or thrown – into their respective Hall.

Game: Katamari Damacy
Developer: NOW Production
Publisher: Namco
Release Date: 9/22/2004
System Released On: PlayStation 2
Genre: Action

Who Nominated The Game: Katamari Damacy was our Game of the Year for 2004.

Why Was It Nominated: Naaaaaaaaaaaa-na-na-na-naa-na-na-naaaa-naaaa-na-Katamari-Damacyyyyyyyy

Sorry, I had a bit of a moment there. But even if you didn’t know the context of this article, chances are very high that just my typing out that ditty would have you humming the theme to Katamari Damacy. The song – and resulting game – ended up being featured in an episode of a show no less mainstream than The Simpsons. It’s become a veritable franchise.

It wasn’t always like this. In fact, the truth of the original release of Katamari Damacy is that Namco was expecting very little in the way of sales. Due to this, they shorted stock – the last thing you want is a bunch of your games in the half-off bin – and made the MSRP the full bargain price of $19.99. They didn’t expect the game to sell, and why would they? After all, it was as obscure a Japanese game as you can find. It was a new franchise, with a unique style of play, and a style of its own that screams “I AM JAPAN”. The only thing it lacked was tentacles. As a gamer, these are the games that I want to see in America, but if I was an executive, this game would give me night sweats.

Marketers and executives to this day haven’t learned a lesson that Katamari Damacy taught us in ’04: word of mouth is better than any marketing budget you can find. A few people tried it, loved it, and passed the word. A few reviewers tried it, and praised it to high heavens (the Metacritic average is 86%). Word spread, and continued to spread, about this game where you play the son of the King of All Cosmos – who looks like the Queen of Hearts’s gay, estranged brother – who is tasked with putting the stars back in the sky by rolling up Earth-bound objects with a ball called a Katamari.

“Dude, you should see this! See, as the ball gets bigger, you can suck more things up!”
“You can’t suck everything up, man… that’s impossible.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah. OK, wise ass, try sucking that person up.”
“Sure thing! *sucks person up*”
“… Are you SHITTING ME?”
“And now, I’m going to suck up a cow!”
“Mooooooooooo!?”

Within months, with sales making the game hard to find, GameStop was selling used copies for $30, or $10 over the MSRP of the new title. All of this for a game that didn’t see European release because it was too “quirky”. That’s fine, though, because once VAT was added on, the price of the game probably would have been like €90.

We were effusive in our praise. In our review of the game, the unnamed reviewer wrote the following:

“I’m a very anti-drug guy. I don’t even drink! But if you’re going to play Katamari Damacy, I think I might actually suggest dropping a few tabs of LSD first. (Or read one of Lucard’s RPG reviews. Whatever melts your butter)”

Later, in a tribunal, the praise continued. From Lee Baxley:

This is probably my favorite game out there now. I could easily see it as game of the year. It’s just so unique that I can honestly say I’ve never played ANYTHING like it, which is why it was so much fun. I hope and pray Namco brings the sequel to America.

Then Matt Yeager had his turn:

What do Tetris, Super-Bust-a-Move, and Puyo Puyo Pop have in common with a game whose name I’m not even sure I can pronounce correctly (round my house we just call it Calimari to save time and because we’re witty)? They’re all deceptively simple and super addictive puzzle games. With the odd description of pushing garbage around and it’s[SIC] super cheap price I had to see what this game was about and I couldn’t be happier.

Alex Williams summed it up best:

Why is it that when I spend $50 on a game, I’m mildly disappointed, yet when I spend $20 on one, I end up playing it for weeks on end? What is this inverse relationship here?

Finally, when it won our Game of the Year, Bebito Jackson managed to accurately encompass everything:

If you haven’t figured it out by now, we love this game. If you don’t play anything else this entire year (as insane as that would be), we entreat you to pick this one up. It “Ëœ s quirky, it’s fun, it’s addicting as all hell. Be prepared to play this game for hours on end. Don’t think you’ll “get in a quick game of Katamari Damacy” before work, class, or whatever. You’ll play one level, and keep playing more until your eyes bleed. It sucks you in like your mom, and won’t let go. The best part is that you’d never expect a game like this to have such a deep connection with the player; it’s like a mace shot, but without all the rolling around and screaming. No single game showed what can still be special about the video game industry other than Katamari Damacy. The little import that could, this game came to the States despite it’s eccentricity and bequilled all who played it. Without excessive violence or celebrity voiceovers, Katamari crossed over into the mainstream, even Entertainment Weekly picked up on it. It may be weird, but Katamari Damacy is definitely innovative, and worth checking out for anyone who calls themselves a gamer. Not bad for a $20 game.

And now, we get to see if this quirky, surprise hit has the stones to get into the Diehard GameFAN Hall of Fame…

All in Favour:

James Hatton: There are tons of reasons to qualify a game as a Hall of Famer. I almost voted NAY on this due to the length of the game. Katamari is a short game, even by modern standards of five hour adventures. The fact that this game possibly single handedly brought the budget game concept to mainstream console gamers could be enough. Add in an absurdest comedy, the mindlessly brainworm music, and a game dynamic that is replayable over and over and I have to think that perhaps you don’t need twenty hours of intense gameplay to be a Hall of Famer. Perhaps a game that makes you thrilled to play that same five hours over and over is a feat unto itself.

All Opposed:

Christopher Bowen: Katamari Damacy is a cute game. It’s unique, fun, and was a surprise hit.

But Hall of Fame worthy? Hardly.

Would people actually go back and finish this game multiple times? Is this game really THAT good? And what effect has this had on the industry? It’s still a niche title, after all. Katamari Damacy has had virtually no effect on the industry as a whole, and though the original release was mentioned many times by the mainstream media as an innovative, loveable game, the new car smell wore off after awhile. While the game is good, it doesn’t have the staying power of a Hall of Fame game.

Mohamed Al-Saadoon: I wasn’t around at the time Katamari Damacy was selected as Game of the Year but looking at the other staffer’s comments it seems it only made it as GOTY by default.

Really, Katamari Damacy is a fun game but does it really deserve to be called one of the best games of all time? It was a humorous quirky game but that alone does not qualify it for anything really (otherwise I would have voted Disgaea to be in the Hall of Fame).

Also my biggest complaint about the game: Can I have a mode with no time limit please so I can muck around?

Alex Lucard: So back story. In 2004 we had a three way tie for GOTY and no one was willing to budge in the preliminary voting. It was a time of stubbornness to be sure. So someone, and I honestly can’t remember who suggested that we trash all three games and go with a fourth choice that we can all, if not agree on, say we’d rather have win than the other two that weren’t their first choice. Surprisingly this was agreed upon and that’s how Katamari Damacy won.

To be honest, KD was just a cracked out version of Marble Madness to me. Sure it was cute, fun and one of the best budget games to ever come along, but as we’ve seen through the years it hasn’t aged well and the sequels have shown this really needed to be a one-off title in order to keep the magic going. Now it’s just kind of dull and “been there, done that” to me. if it hasn’t aged well, it doesn’t deserve a HoF nomination to me. That simple.

Ashe Collins: This is not one of my favorites. The concept was cute, run around and make a huge ball of everything you see. The design work was just too bizarre for me and while there was variations on the theme, every level felt like it was exactly the same. Sure it was a neat concept but then it felt to me like they didn’t do much with it beyond that. 
 
 
 
 

Aileen Coe: The idea of rolling up anything and everything into one huge ball then launching them into the sky as stars is a wacky idea, to the point that some likely speculated on the sort of hallucinogenic substances the creators partook in when they conceived the idea. It was a crazy idea, and just crazy enough to work, not just as something to build a drinking game around, but also just fun to play.

However, wacky can only go so far, and subsequent releases’ attempt to capture the initial draw of the original have fallen flat. Once the charm of laughing about rolling everything up into one big ball and the questionable attire of the King of All Cosmos fades, there’s not much left – at least, not enough for an induction into the Hall of Fame.

Chuck Platt: Fun. Sheer mindless fun is exactly what comes to mind when I think of Katamari Damacy. Bright graphics, a crazy premise, and a soundtrack that still makes me smile make Katamari Damacy a title I love and a franchise I continue to support. Shallow gameplay makes it hard to justify putting Katamari Damacy in the Hall of Fame. Definitely a high point of the PS2, for sure, though. 
 
 
 
 

Aaron Sirois: I like the game enough and I’ll randomly dig it out and play for a bit, but it really isn’t good enough to make any sort of hall of fame. I was actually shocked to learn that it won an award for game of the year here. (Before my time.) I find it an amusing title, nothing more. 
 
 
 
 

Bebito Jackson: Katamari Damacy? How did that get on the nominee list?

Oh. Katamari Damacy won our Game of the Year for 2004? No frickin’ way. Really????

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

How in the… who in their right mind… I mean, what the blood clot were we thinking??? Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came out that same bloody year. How in the world did GTA lose to THAT game? We must have been on crack.

Ah. I remember now. Many of us were on crack.

No no no, that’s not right. Only two members of the staff were on crack. The rest were bickering over… OOOOH! I remember it all now. You see, Shining Force had been released/remade on the GBA that year. Half the staff wanted Shining Force to be GOTY and the other half wanted GTA: SA to be GOTY. It ended up an unbreakable stalemate. So, the only logical choice was to make sure NO ONE was happy and thus Katamari Damacy was made Game of the Year.

God we were a bunch of tools.

Right. So Katamari Damacy for the Hall of Fame? Ah no, sorry. I voted for Shining Force. DENIED!!

As a matter of fact, I’m officially overturning the ruling and Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon (Game Boy Advance) is now the 2004 Game of the Year. Suck on it.

Result: 1 In Favour, 8 Opposed, 11% Approval = REJECTED

Conclusion: If there’s ever been an example of a game not standing the test of time as well as it should have, it’s this one. While no one said it was a bad game, there is a fine line between good and legendary, which Katamari Damacy doesn’t hit; only one person – a non-staffer at DHGF – thought it good enough to enter the Hall of Fame.

I do admit, I feel enlightened since learning the story of how KD became our game of the year. By “enlightened”, I mean “if I’d have had to deal with those politics, I’d probably off myself”. It doesn’t sound like The Kliq’s brightest moment.

If this vote shows one thing, it’s just how hard it is for a game to be elected into the Hall of Fame. The game that got in so far got in by the bare minimum 75% vote, and even a good game got blown out of the water. It takes a lot to be immortal around these parts.

Next Week: Keep your glorified yaoi manga that you call games like Kingdom Hearts. Around here, we roll with a different kind of JRPG. Next Monday, we’ll look at the 2005 Inside Pulse Game of the Year.

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