Design Review: Katamari Damacy Reroll – How unique games stand the test of time

I’m Kinglink and today I’m doing a Design Review on Katamari Damacy: Reroll, but I’m doing this review on the entire Katamari Damacy franchise.

If you don’t know about Katamari Damacy, this is the brainchild of Keita Takahashi, sorry for mispronouncing your name. I just am going to assume I have. He’s also known for Noby Noby Boy and Wattam, which I’m looking forward to covering when it reaches Steam. But something is special about Katamari Damacy.


A little background. I played Katamari Damacy back in the PS2 era when it initially came out. There was something special about Katamari Damacy. I got addicted to it when I played it and rushed through the game in a few hours. Even replaying it now, I have completed the game in around 6 hours, so it’s not a very long game, and yet it remains a game that has stuck with me for over 15 years. I’ve bought almost every Katamari game, starting with the original game Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari, Beautiful Katamari, Katamari Forever, and now… Katamari Damacy Reroll. While most of those games are unique and different, this time I am buying the same game as the original.

So if this is one of my favorite franchises, why? I think Katamari’s strongest point is how unique Katamari is. In a world taken up by every type of shooter, combat, and simulation and variations on all of them. Katamari instead asks you to collect objects and roll them up into a ball to make a star.

Even the opening of Katamari is strange, odd, and wonderful in a bizarre way. The opening cutscene has your father, the King of the Cosmos, confessing he broke the sky and destroyed all the stars in it and tasks you to recreate them. It’s unconventional at the least.

From there the player rolls up a ton of objects and builds a giant Katamari and if the King deems it worthy, he’ll place it in the night’s sky. If he does not… well, you can always try again.

What’s interesting is that when it first came out it felt unique As the player runs through the world and picks up objects, the world does get cleaner as you pass through the areas multiple times, gathering bigger and bigger objects in your massive ball of stuff. There are only a few games that are similar to this such as Viscera Cleanup Detail and even those are completely different concepts.

Katamari is just a quirky game, and yet this series has stuck with me for a decade and a half. Part of it is because of… Let me risk a copyright strike and turn the music up for a moment

That is Katamari Damacy’s soundtrack and one of my favorite songs, though the entire soundtrack is quite brilliant. Katamari Damacy won some soundtracks of the year awards, which were well deserved.

If you’re a modern gamer your first question might be “what else is there in Katamari.” The answer is not much. Katamari Damacy is as simple a concept as it is unique. In the original Katamari Damacy, there are about 20 stages with different layouts. Most of them are either make the largest ball or collect the most objects of a specific type, such as the stage on screen now is all about collecting Twins,

Three stages are different, one stage asks you to find the largest Bear you can, a second asks you to find the largest Cow, and the third stage asks you to try to make a perfectly 10 cm ball. That’s it. The later games are better because there’s more objects, better UI better gameplay, but this franchise is about a strange and simplistic game.

And yet 15 years after launch, I still think it’s amazing, and people seem to agree. I think it’s a perfect example of how important the concept of a game is to the memorability of the game, rather than the quality of the game itself.

Katamari Damacy found a huge player base and got a lot of attention for doing something different. A big part of this could be that the indie scene in 2004 wasn’t as developed at the time so strange quirky games weren’t the norm, and that’s certainly part of it. But I have a feeling Katamari would still strike it big today.

Unique games can still garner a lot of attention today, at least if players are looking for them. If players want the latest shooter, there are always hundreds of games competing for that role, but when a truly unique game gets released, people tend to take notice.

Papers Please has been an amazing hit, and recognized by many players and journalists, not just because it’s a high quality or polished game, but because it’s something that players wouldn’t have asked for but enjoyed because there’s nothing like it.

There’s not a lot of games like Papers Please, and most of them are trying to clamber onto Papers Please success, because people like Papers Please, why not play a game just like it, and I don’t think there’s a major success story in those copies.

And in this, we see a fundamental misunderstanding of Papers Please. It’s not exactly the gameplay people like. Let’s talk about one more game.

I may have lied before, there is one game like Katamari Damacy. Its name is The Wonderful End of the World, and in it, you are a large character made of various objects who walks around a world collecting smaller objects to continually grow your character larger and larger. This is very similar to Katamari Damacy… and yet it’s not great.

I liked The Wonderful End of the World when it came out because it was similar to a game I loved, Katamari Damacy, and that game hadn’t reached PC or Steam yet. In hindsight… The Wonderful End of the World isn’t very good. The levels are too short, the game is too limited, and the growth of the character is noticeable versus a slow increase in Katamari.

The problem is Wonderful End of the World is only trying to be Katamari Damacy, whereas Katamari Damacy was just trying to be different and that’s what people flocked towards, a game idea they haven’t seen before.

But if Katamari is a great game, what’s the problem with a spiritual sequel to it. Why not make a game just like Papers Please? It’s because Katamari Damacy and Papers Please aren’t popular for what they are, they are popular because of what they aren’t. They aren’t games that rely heavily on other games, genres, tropes, or ideas to define them. Both Papers Please and Katamari Damacy deliver unique experiences that players haven’t seen before. And yes, someone will say “But didn’t some game have that idea before?” I’m sure some game is similar to either Katamari and Papers Please, but most players weren’t familiar with those other games.

When a game is truly unique they stand out because players haven’t played those games before, and the experience stays with the player long after even if other games do the same thing.

Slay the Spire is one of the first games which flipped the idea of deckbuilding and started to develop players’ decks during the game rather than making the game a collectible card game. There now feels like there’s a weekly release of a clone of that system, but Slay the Spire is the game that changed the industry. As good as Neoverse, Ring of Pain, or any other similar game is. Slay the Spire is going to be remembered as the one that created the genre. They’ve made their mark on history and I applaud them for it.

Of course, there’s a lot more to the formula. Many unique ideas fail because of other issues. Just having a unique idea such as using a new control scheme with both analog sticks isn’t enough. Several reviews of Alien Resurrection for the Playstation 1 bashed the twin-stick control aspects of it. Though part of that is due to other issues of the game.

Delivering a high quality and polished game is always going to be important. It’s what sells the game and will help a game become a financial success. It’s ludicrous to think that just a unique idea can outweigh a need for quality control on the final product. It doesn’t. But starting with a different idea creates the ability to make something unique, different and that will be what ultimately stands the test of time.

That’s why Katamari Damacy, Papers Please, and perhaps even Slay the Spire will likely be remembered far longer than many games that imitate others because when you’re just one of the many, you’ll eventually be supplanted by a game that imitates you as well. But if what makes you special is how unique your concept was… well, any followup that tries the same thing will be unable to replace you since they would have to be different than you.

I had a lot of games I was thinking of bringing up and talking about for this review, but have cut this down, just for a quick list of games that I think fit this concept. FTL, Tales from the Off-Peak City Volume 1, Her Story, American and European Truck Simulators, as well as the simulator genre, and Animal Crossing. Then there are massive games such as Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto 3 which both have created entirely new genres out of their releases.

As a takeaway, when you hear about how unique a game is, don’t just think about what makes it unique but also consider how much of the game itself is unique, that alone may help you to realize if it’s going to be a game that will be memorable for decades or one that will be replaced as soon as someone else does the same concept better.

It’s often marketing speak to hear a company talk about how different their concepts are but the truly unique games don’t require players to be told how special they are. Players will notice that in the gameplay and experience that they haven’t had before, and that’s why it will stick with them.

Those are my thoughts on Katamari Damacy Reroll. It is a really fun game, and while there are some complaints I have, mostly in features that were available in the sequels, a lack of autosave, and admittedly the graphics are still from the Playstation 2, it’s still a fantastic game and I adore it just as much as the original. Also, it finally has achievements!

I want to take a fast moment to thank all the subscribers. I’ve just broken 1000 subscribers, and that’s a massive milestone. I honestly never thought I’d be here, and I hope the growth can continue. If you are not already a subscriber, there’s no better time than now. And if you are a subscriber thanks for watching more of my videos I appreciate it.

Next up we’ll have a review session where I look at a variety of games, and then after that… I’m going to try to tackle Streets of Rage 4 and the beat’ em-up genre.

I’ll pop up a couple of videos including my video on Achievements and Trophies and why they matter, click on them if you want to see more from me.

Until then I’m Kinglink and thank you for watching.