You'll undoubtedly hear more from me about this come Monday, but I'd like to get this off my chest right now: Katamari Damacy is one of the most refreshingly enjoyable video games I have played in years. Absolutely every aspect of the game's execution works in concert to create an experience that just evokes a sublime state. There's nothing pulse-pounding or jaw-dropping or even really intellectually challenging about it. But the happy music plays, and you roll the world up into a big ball, and the King of All Cosmos smiles down on you like a proud father, and it just makes you want to giggle with joy. It's just a satisfying experience. I've tried to explain why it's so good to people, but it's like a dream--it makes sense in the moment, but trying to articulate it to another person after the fact is a fool's errand. I have found that the best way to get people's attention is just to play it in the office, and watch as a crowd just sort of naturally coalesces. Understand that, in a work environment as saturated with gaming as this one--TVs on all the editors desks, cabinets filled with consoles, a private arcade not twenty steps away from where I sit--it takes something rather special to inspire people to stop and take notice.
There's a few months to go, but I still will not hesitate calling Katamari Damacy one of my favorite games this year. Top 5, easy. For this very reason, it makes me sad to think how many people will actually buy a copy of Katamari Damacy. While I have bottomless respect for Namco for choosing to stick with the original Japanese title for the US release, it doesn't really draw in the casual gamer. I'm all but sure that the game will garner a devout cult following, which it deserves, but I have to wonder if it will be enough to inspire Namco to take risks like this in the future. So, here's my proposal: Namco is bringing Katamari Damacy out in the states for $20. This is, as far as I'm concerned, an out-and-out steal. I would happily pay double that price for the game. Following that logic, I plan on buying two copies of the game, and encourage you to do the same. Keep one sealed for collector purposes, give one to a friend or relative, whatever. Just consider it a $20 contribution towards a future filled with a broader selection of games with distinct personality and a fresh perspective. The 2003 GameSpot award for Best Game No One Played went to Amplitude, a game I reviewed, and I really don't want to be two for two.
As I've been playing Katamari for review over the past few days, I'm reminded of two other landmark games in my personal gaming history--the first is Acclaim's No One Can Stop Mr. Domino!, the second was Titus' Incredible Crisis. I consider all three of these games to be cut from the same cloth, though if you were to bullet-point the hard facts about these games, they wouldn't really have that much in common. It makes me wonder what the Japanese perspective on these games is. Do they even consider these games particularly strange at all? Does the thread that links them all together for me even exist in Japan? How much of my own appreciation of these games comes from cross-cultural misinterpretations?