|Developer(s)||Namco, Now Production|
|Genre(s)||Third-person Action Puzzle|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer (2 players offline, 2-4 online)|
Beautiful Katamari, released in Japan as Beautiful Katamari Damacy (ビューティフル塊魂 Byūtifuru Katamari Damashii?), is a video game by Namco Bandai for the Xbox 360. Beautiful Katamari is the fourth game in the Katamari series of games following Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari and Me & My Katamari.
Beautiful Katamari has gained extra attention because it was originally scheduled as a PlayStation 3 title in addition to the Xbox 360, but development on the PlayStation 3 was abandoned and Katamari Forever was released for that console instead. All previous Katamari games have been exclusively available on Sony consoles (PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable).
The game opens with the King of All Cosmos, his Queen, and the Prince, enjoying some tennis while on vacation. However, a powerful serve by the King causes the tennis ball to rip through the fabric of the universe, creating a black hole that sucks everything but the planet Earth into it. In order to correct it, the King commands the Prince to roll up katamaris on Earth to recreate the planets, sun, and other celestial features. Once the Prince completes this, the King then orders him to create a katamari large enough to plug up the black hole and restore order to the universe. The Prince then rolls up enough stuff to create the "Super Giant", a very large Katamari that he then clogs up the black hole with. In the end, the black hole is stopped and the King of All Cosmos takes all the credit for stopping it.
The core gameplay from the Katamari Damacy series is unchanged; the player, as the diminutive Prince, controls a "katamari" to collect objects smaller than the katamari, causing the katamari to grow and collect even larger objects, as to meet various objectives given by the King of All Cosmos. After successfully clearing any level once, the player can then attempt a time attack challenge on that level to make a katamari of a given size in the shortest time possible. Eternal modes, where the player is allowed to roll without any time limits, are available once a perfect score is obtained on a level.
In Beautiful Katamari, players are urged to build katamari with specific types of items. For example, to make the planet Mercury, the King asks the player to collect liquids. After successfully completing the task, the player is rated on time, size, and the number of objects meeting the King's request. Another level requires that the player roll up only hot items and avoid cold items to raise the katamari's temperature to 10,000 degrees Celsius.
Beautiful Katamari is the first game in the series to support high-definition television resolutions of 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Multiplayer modes include 2 player support on the same console and 2–4 player support over Xbox Live in both cooperative and competitive modes. One of the online battle types is a "Thingy Battle", similar to a mode in We Love Katamari, where each player must collect the most of a specific type of item. Game lobbies include simple mini-games.
The game tracks all progress by the player in the various modes and shares this data through Xbox Live to allow the player to compare their performance to others, including on normal request levels, time attacks, and online play performance (tracked as "cookies" awarded by the King). A "worldwide katamari", representing the total size of all objects rolled up by all Xbox Live players and the player's contribution to that, is also available.
Beautiful Katamari is the first game in the series to include downloadable content. Seven additional levels are available individually from the Xbox Live Marketplace. Each additional level occupies only about 384 kB on the Xbox 360 console's hard drive, leading game reviewer Aaron Linde to complain that the game was shipped feature-complete but crippled unless players paid additional money. One of the Beautiful Katamari achievements explicitly requires that the player "download stages" to be able to build a 1,500,000 km katamari.
Additional downloads available on the U.S. Xbox Live Marketplace immediately unlock ten cousins or presents at a time. These downloads do not introduce new cousins or presents into the game; they merely work around the game's need to have the player find these hidden objects.
Downloadable content for the European market was released May 7, though mistakes were made with the item names, resulting in two items named "Perfectly Sized Katamari" with identical descriptions and only an image to differentiate the two. There are 6 additional levels available for download on EU Xbox Live Marketplace.
History and development
Artist, designer, and creator of the previous Katamari Damacy titles, Keita Takahashi, was not involved with Beautiful Katamari, which was directed by Me & My Katamari co-lead game designer Jun Moriwaki.
Early in 2007, various reports suggested that Beautiful Katamari was in development and might be released in North America in Autumn 2007. These reports were based on a United States trademark filing, retailer listings, and a reported announcement by Namco Bandai to retailers.
A demo was distributed in the September 2007 issue of Official Xbox Magazine and on the Xbox Live Marketplace on August 14, 2007. The demo spawns the player in one of several starting points in a single level with a three minute time limit and an 80 cm katamari. The main menu features the song Nananan Katamari. The demo level contains a song called Katamari Dancing by Takashi Utsunomiya which is also the opening song.
According to a press release from Namco Bandai, Beautiful Katamari went gold on October 2, 2007. The game was released in North America on October 16, 2007, on October 18, 2007 in Japan and was released on February 29, 2008 in Europe.
PlayStation 3 and Wii development
A March 16, 2007 post at Orange Lounge Radio reported that Namco Bandai announced Beautiful Katamari to retailers, which included a release for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Wii. According to the post, the PlayStation 3 version of Beautiful Katamari was to feature support for the motion-sensing feature of the Sixaxis Wireless Controller. The post was removed at the request of Namco Bandai.
In mid-April 2007, the game was confirmed by Famitsu to be in development for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Japan, and officially announced by Namco Bandai Games America on April 20. Both versions of the game were stated to retain the dual analog control scheme of the PlayStation 2 Katamari games, and also include online play features.
Designer Jun Moriwaki stated in April 2007 that while a Wii version of Beautiful Katamari was under consideration, difficulties are presented by the system's controller that must first be resolved.
On June 29, 2007, IGN Nintendo editor-in-chief Matt Casamassina reported that according to unnamed sources close to Namco Bandai, the PlayStation 3 version of Beautiful Katamari had been cancelled due to porting issues and stalled PlayStation 3 sales, with resources being redirected towards the development of a Wii version. Namco Bandai was contacted for comment, but a statement was not returned in time for the publishing of the report. On July 5, 2007 Namco revealed their E3 2007 lineup, listing Beautiful Katamari as Xbox 360 only. On the same day, Famitsu reported that Beautiful Katamari had been cancelled for the PS3 and was currently in development for the Wii and Xbox 360.
The box cover image for the Xbox 360 version, released in late August 2007, indicates that the game is exclusive to the Xbox 360.
On September 11, 2007, Namco-Bandai's U.S. website briefly identified Beautiful Katamari as a title for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii, with the latter two platforms bearing a release date of "TBD." When asked by 1UP during the 2007 Tokyo Game Show, Beautiful Katamari director Jun Morikawa stated specifically that the game will not be available for the PS3, though another Katamari game that stars the King of Cosmos in the lead will make its way to the PS3 "soon". Morikawa also suggested the same for the Wii.
Due to the PlayStation 3 version cancelled, Namco later released Katamari Forever, which shares some of its levels with Beautiful Katamari, for that console in 2009.
Beautiful Katamari received mixed reviews from critics. Official Xbox Magazine stated, "It clearly aims to include everyone and exclude no one, and that's just plain refreshing amid a holiday season stuffed full of deadly serious, high-learning-curve me-toos." IGN gave the game a 7.8 out of 10, calling Beautiful Katamari "a welcome addition to the barren category of family friendly games on 360," but also found fault in the game's short length and the lack of evolution in the Katamari series. Other critics lamented the lack of originality in Beautiful Katamari. Game Informer called the game the "ugly duckling" of the Katamari series, praising the new multiplayer facilities but calling the environments "dull and lifeless." Import-centric UK site NTSC-uk gave it 6/10, saying, "When throwing in the short nature of the game and the lack of loving care to the little things that seemed to be lavished on its predecessors... then fans of the series may be left feeling somewhat disappointed. Newcomers will no doubt discover the reason why so many people hold the series very dear to their heart..."
As of December 27, 2007, Beautiful Katamari is the 25th best-selling Xbox 360 title in Japan at 24,186 copies sold.
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