Review: We Love Katamari REROLL+ Royal Reverie
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that a franchise like Katamari Damacy has been with us for nearly 20 years. Then again, its quirky style and easy-to-understand gameplay may have something to say for its longevity. While certain games from the PS2 era wore their Japanese weirdness on their sleeve in ways that didn’t click with Western audiences, Katamari’s own brand of weirdness definitely clicked with me when it initially rolled onto the scene. That said, having new audiences experience the first game through the first Reroll was a welcome treat that I would still recommend picking up.
Given that developers have been dropping modern remakes for quite a while now, seeing We Love Katamari get the same treatment shouldn’t surprise anyone. Though there are people like me that missed out on the initial release and haven’t had a chance to experience it since then. With this being the first time this game has seen modern platforms, having this easily accessible is a treat in itself. Developed by MONKEYCRAFT Co. LTD. and published by Bandai Namco, We Love Katamari REROLL+ Royal Reverie was released on June 2, 2023, for PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Xbox Series X | S, and Steam. The PS5 version was played for this review.
Givin’ The Fans What They Want
Katamari games aren’t generally known for deep or intricate plots. But even then, they are at the very least tasked with setting up the reason that you’re rolling up random stuff into a ball in the first place. After the events of the first game, the exploits of the Prince and King of All Cosmos (mostly the Prince) ended up becoming a source of massive popularity. Suddenly (in a meta fashion), fans were clamoring for the King and Prince to roll up even more stuff as a result of their newfound superstardom.
Not one to take the adulation of adoring fans sitting down, the King once again sends the Prince (or whatever cousin you choose after capturing them in normal gameplay) to fulfill the requests of any fan who requests their rolling expertise. What’s worse, this game reveals that the stars that you rolled up in the original game only surrounded the Earth for the most part. So why wouldn’t you want to roll up more stuff and continue to fill out the night sky?
Really, this is about all you get in terms of the main plot. It mainly serves as a setup for the gameplay, and pretty much leaves it at that. The fan requests are mainly handled in the stage cutscenes before and after each stage you play, and that’s where most of the personality and the main plot lies. Given the escalation of the plot that focused on a singular family trying to figure out what was going on in the last game, I’m sure people were surprised that the main plot was simplified the way it was here.
That simplification of the plot is probably why the subplot of the King’s younger days almost seems like more of the main plot than the actual one that we get in this game. Told in a slideshow style, we get to see what kind of royal home life he led. It’s a bit of character development that does explain why the King is the way he is, and the kind of father he had to put up with at that time. It’s nothing profound, but I rather enjoy seeing character development like this in any capacity. It may be a silly game where you roll up stuff with a sticky ball, but at least we see that there was some care in putting any kind of lore into something like this.
The main draw for Katamari games isn’t necessarily the plot for me, but what’s here already is something I appreciate anyway. It’s wonderfully weird, getting to see the King’s past is a nice bit of lore, and largely concerning itself with the gameplay is something I don’t really mind at all. With these games’ vibes, seeing intertwining plot details on the level of Five Nights at Freddy‘s would just bog down the light and airy vibe this series is generally known for.
We Roll For Our Fans
We all know what you do in a Katamari game at a base level, right? You’re picking up stuff relative to the size of the katamari you’re rolling. After you get to a certain size, you’re able to pick up even bigger things. Continue to repeat that process until you reach the stated goal at the beginning of the stage before time runs out, and pick up more stuff after you hit the stated goal. It’s a simple concept taken to various extremes depending on the stage, but at this point, it’s a tried and true gameplay loop that sucks me in every time.
Sequels often feel the pressure to mix up the gameplay in some way, and the slight shift in focus definitely moves in that direction. Traditional “roll up to a certain size in X amount of time” stages are present, but there are several stages that do get a bit more gimmicky than the traditional stages. Things like rolling up specific items, rolling the largest of one specific item, and other kinds of stages are here in this sequel.
Where We Love Katamari starts spreading its wings with the gimmicks is where they start venturing into more esoteric objectives. Fan requests like participating in a big race, keeping a flaming katamari alight, and so on are definitely fun. But the balance of traditional stages and the more gimmicky stages is decent enough to feel like they understood why people enjoyed the first game while also trying new things to keep things fresh.
One other new addition that Royal Reverie adds to the single-player end of things is the chance to play as the young King in his princely days. No longer relegated to just cutscenes, his own overbearing father imposes ridiculous objectives onto him in ways that are harder than your typical Katamari game. None of these stages are extremely difficult, but some will have you using your rolling skills in a much more precise or tightly timed way than most traditional stages would. It’s definitely more of a challenge mode of sorts, as you’re not required to finish these stages to finish the game. But this fleshes out more as you progress through the main story, so seeing this extra content unlock as you do so is a nice addition to a remake that’s value-priced.
With multiplayer, the battle mode from the prior game is also here and is still as chaotic and fun as ever. With the “make the katamari bigger than your rival’s” vibe, the race to roll up more stuff is still big fun. There are objectives, such as holding onto a specific object until time runs out. But even with the simplistic nature of the multiplayer rounds, they still work.
That said, I wouldn’t necessarily say that multiplayer is always the main focus of these games. But the fact that they added co-op here is also a pretty fun addition. The setup is rather interesting for co-op gameplay, as you’re not rolling your own separate katamari. Instead, you’re sharing a single one and are forced to work together and communicate effectively to achieve your goal. Depending on who you play with, it can be a smooth experience or something much less pleasant. Compared to other co-op experiences, this is definitely something that still stands out. The concept still holds up, and it’s still pretty fun to play.
Regardless, the overall package still holds up, and the additions brought into this remake are nice little value-adds on top of what was already present in the original game. While the overall length of the story gameplay is still on the short side, something most fans are used to at this point, the attempts to help flesh out the content in this remake don’t necessarily feel tacked on. I don’t necessarily pooh-pooh short games for being short, but having new games increase in price as they have recently has made players evaluate the kind of value they’re getting for the money. I wouldn’t feel super great about dropping $70 on a short game, but Katamari games are often value priced from the jump most of the time. Hell, the first game dropped in the mid-aughts at 20 bones. With this game being $29.99 at launch, it being short with some extra content feels like less of an ask.
Rolling Smooth, Rolling Weird
I love it when the decision to go in an offbeat art direction ends up working for a game’s benefit. There will always be games that decide to push the graphical limits of the hardware it’s on, but then you get games that decide to go in a less intense direction and end up looking timeless as a result. People might have been pretty angry at the fact that games like Wind Waker went in a more cel-shaded direction when it was released, but the art style worked for the hardware it released on. It was even better when that game got the eventual modern remake treatment with Wind Waker HD and enhanced the visual experience in a way that made an already timeless-looking game look even better.
Katamari games in general made the decision to take the “timeless art style” approach from the get-go, and that signature low-detail style is honestly part of the charm. If you were to pit the original release up against any other high-detail PS2 game to a modern audience and ask them to say which style holds up better, you would probably get more positive responses for Katamari thanks to that decision. Sure, many of them would make mention of how weird the overall vibe is. But still, it’s a style that works. Why mess with a good thing when it’s already a tried and true foundation to work with from the beginning?
With this kind of art style staying consistent in many titles, it makes for a much easier ask for the hardware it releases on. While my PS5 copy looked just fine on my 4K display and played at a silky smooth framerate, last-generation consoles, and even the Switch could very easily run the game at 60 FPS at their native resolution without much issue. Hell, even titles like Katamari Forever were rocking these kinds of frames on the PS3 without that console breaking much of a sweat at all. It’s a wonderfully consistent style that doesn’t really tax the hardware it’s on all that much, and in the case of this specific version, feels rather well-optimized.
The overall audio presentation is still classic Katamari for me. There’s no significant voice acting here, aside from the booming narration at the beginning of story mode. Dialogue is in line with the way the series has handled it in the past, with record-scratching noises coming from the King and his adoring fans. It feels silly to say that some may find it weird, but it’s consistent with the whole series anyway. It would be weird if they didn’t use it at this point.
Music is also something that most people love about this franchise, and I would say that what’s here may not be as ear-catching as its predecessor. But despite that, I still find that what’s here is still good. It may not have as many catchy bops as before, but there are some tracks here that I really enjoy. Hell, you can set up a playlist of your favorite songs or change the track before the stage starts if you would rather do that instead of forcing yourself to listen to a song you don’t enjoy as much as other tracks.
Thankfully, I’m happy that the boat wasn’t rocked too much with this remake in terms of the presentation. It’s definitely an improvement over the original game’s performance, runs extremely well, and retains the weird art style that people love about this franchise. The fact that the audio isn’t afraid to wear its weirdness on its sleeve is still something I love about these games. Even with some of the songs not hitting as hard as its predecessor, it’s still a solid soundtrack overall. Really, all I ever want from a Katamari game is for it to be itself. We Love Katamari is definitely not afraid to do just that, and that’s why people like me adore these games.
Royal Reprise, But Make It Bigger
If there’s something to be said about the wave of modern remakes that continue to grace us, it’s that it makes it easier for people like me to give recommendations for experiences I was lucky enough to take in the first time around. Admittedly, I love games like We Love Katamari and its ilk for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes I like to chill out and roll up a ball of stuff after a rough day at work. Other times I just want to bask in this endearingly weird universe that just keeps getting better as time goes on. Really, it’s hard for me to not give most of the mainline Katamari games a solid recommendation to casual players for those reasons on top of how accessible it continues to be.
Really, the minimum expectation for me when it comes to remakes is to make a good game better than it used to be. I feel confident in saying that We Love Katamari REROLL+ Royal Reverie does enough to fulfill that requirement, and is priced in a way that makes it a no-brainer to pick up. It’s the best version of this game to date, and it gives me hope that seeing these being brought to modern platforms may be the spark that gives us brand-new titles. But for now, I’m fine with getting a well-crafted remake of a damned fine game with the kind of quality-of-life updates and additional content that help the low barrier of entry go down even easier than a straight port ever could. Go roll up some stars, man. You’ll enjoy it.
Review copy purchased by reviewer for PS5. Screenshots and featured image taken by reviewer.