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Okamiden Hands On Preview

The celestial brush in its truest form.

Before I even landed in E3, I had already made up a list of games that I wanted…no, needed to play before any others. Okamiden was at the top of list, and ever since its North American arrival was announced ahead of TGS 2009 I anticipated my first run with the DS sequel to the critically acclaimed PS2 and Wii title.

Many times, getting ones hopes too high can end in utter disappointment and leave a tarnished opinion of the game in a journalists mind. Although I worried that I may be setting myself up for that scenario, I can confidently say that Okamiden not only lived up to, but exceeded every expectation I had.

Today I played a demo, which focused on introducing players to controlling Chibiterasu and the Celestial Brush using the DS. Though on a platform greatly different than any others Okami was featured on, the gameplay still feels very much the same.

Okamiden continues from the point where Okami leaves off, and stars the two main characters Chibiterasu and Kuni (Susano's son). While I can't speak for the actual game itself, the demo focused heavily on independent control of both characters.

While Okami was very much an adventure title, the Okamiden demo was incredibly puzzle based, featuring several puzzles that required the combined cooperation of Chibiterasu and Kuni. Players will normally directly control Chibiterasu, whose movements are very fluid and very similar to those experienced in Okami. However, during certain times, Kuni will need to jump off of Chibiterasus back in order for him or Chibiterasu to perform independent tasks.

While in these independent states, players will continue to control Chibiterasu, while players will draw a path using the famous Celestial Brush from Kuni to an obstacle, such as a switch over a bridge that only he is light enough to cross. Though I only saw a few of these examples, they were intricate enough to require thought and would be a fantastic addition to the Okami formula.

With that said, the addition of another constant playable character was the only real change that I noticed. Every other aspect felt very similar to Okami, and as such, veterans will surely feel right at home.

The art style remains just as elegant as players will remember, and while the DS takes away a bit of the smoothness, it retains the beauty of its home console brethren. The soundtrack will be familiar to any Okami fan including all of the same sound effects, from battle to the Celestial Brush.

After controlling the Celestial Brush using first the PS2 controller, and then the Wii, I can confidently say, and probably without much surprise, that the DS is by far the best outlet for the tool. There's no control sticks, or fussing with an unsteady hand, just an easy way to draw smooth crisp lines that ensure success every time.

As before, players will encounter constellations, that when traced will reveal a new Celestial Brush technique, and many will be familiar, such as Rejuvenation, Slash, and Bloom. These techniques will be used to reveal new paths, clear paths, and defeat enemies just as they were in the last.

Finally, the last important aspect to discuss is combat, and like many of the other elements I experienced in the demo, the combat felt very familiar and simple. While Chibiterasu will be responsible for defeating enemies outside of the familiar enclosed space, there will still be plenty of closed off combat with familiar looking enemies. With a push of a button Chibiterasu will throw the disc on his back, and combat will ensue just as it had in Okami, ending in an explosion of cash and ink bottles, along with a rating to let players know how they did.

After spending nearly 20 minutes with the title, I can confidently say that Okami was meant to be played on the DS. With its artistic integrity intact and all of the charm and appeal still present, the DS allows gamers to experience Okami in a simpler way that will add new elements to the already great formula.

According to the Capcom representative, they are looking to release the title during Q1 of 2011.



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