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Tama-Neko's Okamiden Game Review

Okamiden

Okamiden game Review

Okamiden is a Nintendo DS action/adventure RPG released by Capcom in Japan in September 2010 (with a Western release slated for Spring 2011.) It is a sequel to Capcom/Clover Studio's game, Okami (for PS2 and Wii.)
Okamiden follows the adventures of Chibiterasu, the son of the wolf/goddess Amaterasu. 8 months after the defeat of the eight-headed snake demon, Yamata no Orochi, Issun notices a new dark force at work in the land. Amaterasu has returned to her world in the sky, but Issun finds Chibiterasu, a young wolf pup with the same orange markings as Amaterasu, and convinces him to help save the world. Along the way, Chibiterasu is joined by a number of allies including Kuninushi, a young would-be warrior, Nanami the mermaid, Kagura the actress, Clow from the moon, and the fiery-headed Manpuku. Together they fight to keep Akurou-ou (the Lord of the Evil Way) from plunging the world into darkness.

Story & Playability

Okamiden is an action/adventure RPG by Capcom for the Nintendo DS. It is a sequel to Okami, and takes place 9 months after the events of Okami. Amaterasu has ascended back to her land in the skies, but it seems there are new forces of dark haunting the land, and it is up to her successor, the young wolf pup Chibiterasu, to save the day.
I have never played either version of Okami, so I came to the story and its world with a fresh face. For the most part I enjoyed the story, although I felt it wandered a bit too much at the beginning, and then rushed to a final ending too quickly. The first half of the story you don't have really much of a mission except to sort of free the land from the evil aura that's covering it, but you sort of wander around haphazardly and fix small things that come up. It takes traveling to several other places before the main villain of the story, Akuro-Ou (literally Lord of the Evil Path) is even mentioned as being behind all the shenanigans. Once he appears things happen very quickly, and the last quarter of the game is basically a near-constant set of battles.
The main theme of Okamiden is cooperation and friendship. This is quickly established because Chibiterasu almost never travels alone. A variety of people come and help you out at different places. You get a total of five partners, and each has different abilities which are necessary to progress through the story. As you travel with these partners you see a lot of their back story and character development, which is a good thing because the main story contains a fairly standard 'save the world from evil forces' plot. Each partner has their own quirks, and you'll probably find one or two you really like, and then get annoyed when story events force you to get a different partner.
I felt the game was a bit short. My game timer was 24 hours, although there were several sidequests I didn't follow up on that might have added a few more hours. It ended at a good point, as the game basically runs out of plot at one point and just ends up throwing you in a standard "refight all the bosses again before facing off with the final boss" and extending further would have been repetitive. Still, it felt like there could have been further exploration in the world, which is a rich and varied place populated with a host of interesting NPCs. I haven't tried any of the post-game extras yet, so perhaps there is a bit more waiting for me there.
One very annoying part in how the story is told is that during cut scenes, you have no control over the timing. In most other RPGs I've played, cut scenes (unless they are animated separately from the game engine, like the anime cut scenes in Tales of Hearts) let you breeze through or pause the dialogue (depending on when you press the 'next' button.) In Okamiden, the cut scenes flow at a preset rate. You can skip a cut scene entirely, but you can't pause or skip individual pieces of dialogue. For someone whose Japanese comprehension is often questionable, it forced me to speed read and probably miss some interesting plot points.
In short: Standard RPG plot, with slightly awkward pacing that feels like more story could have been added without affecting the overall feel of the game. A good mixture of characters to keep your interest. I hope you can read quickly, because otherwise the cut scenes will leave you in the dust.

Rating: 7

Graphics

Given the limitations of the DS hardware and system, I was quite impressed by the art. The artwork is nothing like the screenshots I've seen of the PS2 and Wii versions of Okami, but for a handheld, they serve quite well. The game is full 3d CG. As in the Okami games, the art is based on traditional Japanese ukiyo-e and calligraphy styles. This gets taken to some extremes, as the thick-and-thin variations in brush strokes are translated into character designs, leaving Chibiterasu with lots of sharp angles. Additionally, a lot of elements are presented as flat shapes (like papercuts) on a 3d plane. For example, the flames billowing out from a torch are flat, and if you walk around the torch, you'll sometimes see the 'thin' edge of an individual flame. Each flame is set at a different angle so the full torch is still 3d, but it takes a little getting used to. This is not apparent in screenshots of the game, but you can see the effect if you watch some of the trailers.
Just about everything in Okamiden is dripping with cuteness. First off, you have Chibiterasu, who is portrayed as an adorable wolf puppy. Then you have all the Brush Gods, who teach you brush strokes. They're also children, so you get baby dragons (which are portrayed as sea horses in accordance to Japanese lore) and tiger cubs and baby monkeys and my personal favorite, penguin chicks. It's just a total cuteness overload. This may put off some people as the game feels a lot less serious when piglets give you the fireworks ability.
Backgrounds are lush and full of detail. However, a lot of details only appear as you get closer for them, so you may end up missing things unless you're running straight at it (such as the trees that you can bloom.) This keeps the screen from getting to crowded, and you'll never miss any story-related item that way, but if you really want to explore you end up having to run into every corner of the screen to make sure you've gotten everything. Each area of Okamiden has its own distinct feeling, conveyed by different color palettes and background details like buildings or wildlife. Character designs are also distinct, even for NPCs. They don't take the 'recolored sprite' shortcut that many RPGs do when trying to populate villages, possibly because there really aren't a whole lot of different NPCs; just enough to make the world interesting and give you things to do outside the main plot (with the exception of the merchants, who all look like brothers.)
There is a bit less variation in the monster designs, which are mostly based on classic Japanese demonology (youkai.) For example, there are four types of spinning tops, and the main difference is that one is fire based, one is ice-based, one is lightning based, and one can use all three elements. At least the bosses are more detailed and far more interesting.

Rating: 9

Sound

I really enjoyed the music of Okamiden. I am listening to the music player right now. In keeping with the traditional Japanese style of the game, the music employs various motifs and instruments common to Japan. Flutes carry most of the melodies with support from different strings and percussion from taiko drums and a few vocalizations like you might except in a traditional play. Each area of the game has its own melody that really helps set the mood. When you start out and most areas are covered with the evil fog aura there is a hauntingly sad melody, but once you dispel the aura the music turns upbeat and filled with excitement at the prospect of new adventure. My favorite music is in the the Catacombs, which reminds me a lot of Chrono Trigger's 'Time Circuits' piece which is played when you are in Enhasa. Both songs bring forth the idea that the place you're exploring is something bigger and more fascinating than anything you've previously encountered, and impart a sense of wonder and mystique at a seemingly advanced civilization. A lot of other pieces are similarly interesting, and I'm definitely going to buy the soundtrack when it is released in November. Until then I'll make do with the music player you get access to post-game.
There is no voice acting in the game (unless you count the voice intoning OKAMIDEN when you start up the game). Characters 'talk' in gibberish, although each character has his or her own dialect. Women have high-pitched gibberish, men have lower-pitched gibberish, and bosses have echoing-gibberish. It's a little disconcerting at first, but then you get used to it. By the end of the game you'll be able to distinguish who is talking by their pitch of gibberish. Voice acting would have been nice as good actors can help enhance their characters' personality, but I suppose this saves on localization. That, and Nanami (the mermaid) would probably have gotten that annoyingly cute little-girl voice that grates on my nerves.

Rating: 8

Fun

Having little exposure to the world of Okami outside of its artwork, I came to the DS game with few expectations. In all, I really enjoyed the game. I wish it was longer, since it felt like the ending was rushed, and some more time to explore the world would have been welcome. The story is not too interesting on its own, but the rich cast of characters draws you into the world and brings a lot of depth. The artwork and music help immerse you in this fable-like classical Japanese world, and are really quite good given the DS limitations.
Okamiden is focused more on puzzle-solving than on fighting, making it more adventure than action. This is great for someone like me who has played all four Professor Layton games and is considering getting a 3DS just to play the fifth. Some fights are scripted (you need to fight an enemy to cross a path, and boss battles of course) but most of the time you can try to avoid enemy encounters, since you can see them on the field before you actually engage. You don't gain EXP in battles (to improve your stats you need to fill your happiness meter by blooming trees or helping out people via sidequests) so there's not a lot to gain out of it except some money. Most of the puzzle-solving deals with trying to figure out how to get to the next area of a scene, utilizing the strengths of your current partner. It can get repetitious after a while (the 8th time Nanami has to swim across a stream and hit a switch to create a bridge, you wonder why Chibiterasu can't just swim himself) but the gimmicks tend to change with each area so you have to keep thinking. Beating bosses is also a bit of puzzle-solving, as you can't just walk up and hack them to bits. You have to pay attention to the surroundings and see if there's anything you can use (like fire from torches) and figure out which brush strokes are most effective (wind is great against flying enemies.)
My main gripe I have with the game is the camera. The camera angle changes automatically when you move across an area. For example, if you run along a curving path, the camera will curve with the path, so if you hold down the 'up' key you will run in a graceful circle. You have little control over the camera, and the changing perspective means you're often running into walls or falling off of narrow pathways or encountering enemies you weren't able to see because the camera was in the wrong place. This makes exploring rather frustrating at times.
Except for that, I found Okamiden to be great fun. Of course, that might also be because I got the first-press bonus of a celestial brush stylus. Drawing brush strokes with the stylus just makes the game feel that much more awesome.

Rating: 8

Final Verdict

7.83 (good)

Reviewed by Tama-Neko, Oct 15, 2010

Comments

  1. CyanideBlizzard Retired Moderator Oct 15, 2010

    One of the great things about Okami was simply the originality it brought to the table. It was a fresh, new concept that was beautifully executed and simply a visual treat to play. When I heard they were doing a sequel and it was going to be for the DS, I was thrilled. Here is a concept that is perfect for the stylus and hopefully they'll take even more advantage of that.

    It sounds like since it went over to the DS, a few new issues developed and some of the originals stayed as well, but overall it does sound like they truly did a faithful job with the game. I've been curious about how this title would be ever since it was announced and it's nice to finally know how it is.

    Fantastic in depth review as always, Tama!

  2. flyindreams Oct 20, 2010

    Sounds like Okamiden's everything I was hoping for :D And yeah, agree with Cy that some of the issues you raised carried over from the original. It's been a while since I played Okami on PS2, but I remember thinking at several points that the game might end, but it didn't, and then when it actually ended I was like what?! That was the end?!? But despite some story pacing issues, I think it still speaks to the strength of the game that once you beat it, you still want more. I can't wait to get my hands on it!

    Speaking of awesome DS games, ZOMG they are coming out of the woodwork like there's no tomorrow... http://kotaku.com/5667585/professor-layton-and-ace-attorney-co+starring-in-upcoming-title << SO EXCITED. And so happy to be a DS owner right now :DD

  3. SchRita Dec 23, 2010

    Nice and original.
    Good job on the review. :)

  4. Warpten29 Jan 11, 2011

    Good summarization!

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