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Okamiden Review

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On 04/20/2011 at 12:40 AM by Matt McLennan

Believe it or not, a technologically inferior system can still host a good sequel to Okami. If you don't mind the copy-and-paste feel.

For everyone.

I am just going to say this right now: don’t ever expect Okamiden to outdo its predecessor. The original, directed by Hideki Kamiya and developed by the beloved Clover Studio, was a fantastic take on mixing Zelda gameplay elements and Japanese mythology. While many wanted a sequel (myself included), Capcom closed up Clover and the staff behind Okami left to form Platinum Games. Now we have a sequel in our hands, Kamiya-less and developed by a completely different team, on an inferior piece of hardware too.

Thankfully, after having played the game for two weeks, I can safely say that this is the DS’s true swan song and manages to outdo both Zelda titles released on the same system.

Nippon Downsized

The DS may not be very powerful, but that didn’t stop development companies from pushing our favorite little dual-screened handheld to its fullest. Okamiden takes the world of Nippon and squeezes it into the DS’s screen resolution. While Nippon looks a bit more blocky and grainy in some places, it’s still one thing: colorful. Okamiden is easily the best-looking game on the DS.

Those who are familiar with the original will appreciate the old locales looking almost the same as they did on the PS2/Wii, as well as the brand new areas. Every town and dungeon is well-designed. Everything looks like a watercolor picture come to life. But what really steals the show in terms of graphics are the character designs. Okamiden is an adorable game. Yes, adorable. A male in his early twenties who has played games for almost his entire life wouldn’t call a game adorable unless it doused him in sugar.

The bad guys shouldn’t be ignored either. From the mooks to the bosses, each enemy is unique. The only exception are the elemental enemies, which sometimes share the same character models, though with different looks for their element. Bosses, without spoiling too much, are amazing. One battle has you facing off with a giant Kabuki doll, which moves and acts like one.

Sound design makes good use of the DS sound chip. New and old tunes are very well done, perfectly setting the mood during gameplay and cutscenes. Sound effects, again with some lifted from Okami, don’t overstay their welcome and are not annoying to listen to (not even the little voice clips from Chibi’s partners).

So with all this praise being leveled toward the graphics and sound, is there anything wrong with it? A couple of things. I have experienced slowdown during battles; it doesn’t happen too often, but it’s jarring when it does. Some tunes taken from Okami lose some of their feel in the transition to the DS (Orochi’s Cave, I’m looking at you), but these things don’t detract too much from the experience.

Okami Babies

Okamiden takes place exactly nine months after the events of Okami. As Chibiterasu (AKA Chibi AKA Mutt AKA [whatever major characters call him]), players will explore the world of Nippon and are tasked with restoring everything after evil curses the land. Sound familiar? It should, it’s just like Okami’s plot. Now all the Brush Gods are their offspring from Okami, and Chibi gets different partners to help him save Nippon.

As a whole, Okamiden is FUN to play… once it gets up and running. Like Okami, the story scenes are somewhat longwinded, but thankfully the story as a whole is a real treat. The storyline is the real star of this game. Every piece of dialog is localized wonderfully, and all the major characters have a distinct personality.

Exploring dungeons and the overworld has its own unique quirks. Chibi’s moveset is pretty much like Ammy’s. You have an attack button, a jump button, and a dodge button for battles. Battles can be both optional and mandatory, depending on the location or the game’s plot. Not featured in Okami, however, is the partner system. Throughout the plot, Chibi gets new partners whose unique skills help him get through the game’s dungeons. Their skills are not limited to dungeons, however. In battle, Chibi’s partners can attack enemies with well-timed button presses. This helps out with battle rankings, which earn you Yen for buying items.

The brush mechanics are the same as they were in Okami, but with the added assistance of the DS Stylus. By pressing either the L or R button, the action shifts to the bottom screen and Chibi can draw with his Celestial Brush. Unlike Ammy, however, Chibi has a time limit to how long he can stay on the Brush screen, and Chibi’s ink pot doesn’t refill automatically like Ammy’s did. Buying items like Ink Refills is absolutely necsesary. Regular enemies drop ink pots after they are defeated, but boss battles are a different story: ink pots only drop occasionally, so buying an Ink Refill or unlimited ink for a short time is recommended.

Okamiden’s gameplay has a couple of problems, specifically the movement controls and the overall difficultly of the game. Moving with the control pad SUCKS. While a lot of places have Chibi move with the path when you are going forward, turning is stiff. Is it manageable to get through the game like this? Absolutely. A bit too manageable, since the puzzles are so easy. Okamiden’s puzzles are usually like this: See an obstacle? Good. Current brush powers are useless? Find a new one! Now use the new brush power! Hooray, you solved it! Wait, are those spikes I see? Guess it’s time to use that partner of yours! The only time I found myself scratching my head was during a few boss battles, but once you figure out their weaknesses, they are cake.

“Who did Ammy hook up with?!”

Despite my comments about the movement controls and overall difficulty, Okamiden won me over with its story and gameplay. I am a big Zelda fan, and I was disappointed with the DS entries. Okamiden managed to outdo them both, and any Zelda fan should give Okamiden a try.

Unless, of course, we get a 3DS version…which has been rumored.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Nate Hascup Staff Alumnus

04/20/2011 at 06:45 AM

*Continues Holding Out For 3DS Version*

I guess my complaint regarding the demo's controls were legit. I'll probably get it if we don't hear of a 3DS version before the end of Summer.

Nick DiMola Director

04/20/2011 at 07:51 AM

I'll let Chessa throw in her two cents, but I know that she has expressed some similar complaints while playing through this.

Personally, I'm a little miffed that the game doesn't have more than one save file. I guess I'm holding out for a 3DS version too, Nate, because at least that will provide me with another slot to save my game in.

Nate Hascup Staff Alumnus

04/20/2011 at 01:34 PM

I think there is little excuse for a game these days to only have one save slot. Sure, some games might legitimately not have enough room for a second slot but with the DSi having an SD card slot and on-board storage I see no reason they couldn't have included an option for extra save files some how.

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