“Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” — Dr. Ian Malcolm
Just because a game might be phenomenal, that doesn’t always mean that it needs to be followed-up with any further installments. Such is the case with PaRappa the Rapper, which, even though I completely adored it, I never felt the need for a sequel to it. The original experience was just so divine and worthy of repeated playings that I couldn’t see the point in trying to one-up it. My stance was validated with the release of PaRappa’s pseudo-sequel, Um Jammer Lammy, as no matter how I tried, I just couldn’t get into it. And as for PaRappa’s proper sequel, PaRappa the Rapper 2, well, some things are best forgotten.
Much like PaRappa before it, the odd and unique experience that Katamari Damacy provided really struck a chord with me. Granted, I’m a sucker for games that piss on the standard conventions of the day, but even without that bias, it can’t be denied that Katamari Damacy was just FUN…for everyone. And also like the original PaRappa, Katamari had such a high factor of replayability that I never once pined for a sequel. The experience was near-perfect, and I didn’t really see the need for Namco to try and improve upon it. To me, this was evident with the release of We Love Katamari; a game which I liked, but was quite indifferent about. Sure, it added a couple of gameplay elements not found in the original, but ultimately it just felt like “more of the same”, with a soundtrack of much lesser quality.
Which brings me to Beautiful Katamari…
Having skipped out completely on Me and My Katamari and having not played any game in the series for nearly two-and-a-half years, I was actually looking forward to Beautiful Katamari on the Xbox 360. I figured with multiplayer on Live and those wonderful Achievements, Beautiful would reinvigorate my affection for the series — especially after my long absence. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
Beautiful is a good game, let me be clear on that, but after so many previous installments, the quirkiness and “shiny” of the original game has completely worn off. Whereas We Love Katamari felt old-hat to me, Beautiful felt like a big ol’ bag of “blah”. I neither disliked nor enjoyed the game with any great measure, and I mainly felt as though I was just going through the motions…on the way to grabbing a few Achievements for my Gamerscore. I don’t think I could have been more indifferent about the game if I tried, and gave it up at about the 50% completion mark. (If it helps the series’ uber-fans any, I did quite enjoy the game’s soundtrack.)
Unless they can do something really interesting on the Nintendo DS’ unique hardware, I think it would be best if Namco just left the series alone for a while. A good 5-year (minimum) break might be a fantastic tactic in making the next Katamari game feel funky fresh again. After all, I really believe that “The King” could use the time to properly “find himself”. (There’s clearly some sexual identity issues that he has yet to sort out after 4 games.)