2004 was the first year gaming truly made the leap from a niche audience to a bit more of the annual blockbuster phenomenon it has become.
I remember not being able to turn my head without some kind of AAA behemoth landing on the gaming shelves. Halo 2, Metroid Prime 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Jak 3, Half Life 2, DOOM 3, Ace Combat 5, Burnout 3 Takedown, Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within, Ratchet & Clank Up Your Arsenal, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. All fun games, but ugh…it was the first year where I consciously became exhausted of so many sequels and actually considered taking a well deserved break from video games.
Where was the originality? Where was the fun? Where was that one title which ignored the broader audience and targeted gamers and gamers alone?
Namco had the answer in their budget title Katamari Damacy.
This wonderful third-person puzzle game tells the story of a young prince forced to clean up after his irresponsible father destroys the night sky’s constellations. The only way to do this is to magically roll up elements from the world into a sticky ball until it becomes big enough to satisfy the father’s high standards.
Nothing mass appeal about this game in the least, but the small price tag caught the attention of a lot of gamers, and it was the feel good success story of the year. The $20 was enough to justify the infectiously addictive soundtrack alone, which had managed to trump Halo 2 in several award events around the net.
Of course, Katamari Damacy eventually devolved into the same kind of annual routine franchise it had originally stood out from, but the first one remains a charming reminder of what games can be with just a little more heart and a little less money.
Kind of funny that we’re nearly ten years on, and the digital release is only 50% of the original retail price.
Also released last week was Spike’s Fire Pro Wrestling Returns, a sprite based wrestling game with a long fabled history in Japan dating back to the 1980s. Only two were ever released in the States, and this was one of them.
Even those not interested in wrestling can find a charming experience in this gem.