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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.
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.
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.
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.