Game Name: Okamiden
Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Release Date: March 15, 2011 (US) March 17, 2011 (AU) March 18, 2011 (EU)
Nearly five years after releasing Okami for the Playstation 2, Capcom have now delivered a follow-up exclusively for the Nintendo DS. Okami certainly made a name for itself with it’s beautiful art-style as well as sharp gameplay and an engrossing story. All that being said, Okamiden certainly has a lot to live up to and the young pup Chibiterasu along with a full cast of larger than life personalities are ready to do just that in this brand new DS follow-up. Just how far does this adventure go to stand on it’s own? Here is my review for Okamiden.
Okamiden takes place nine months after Amaterasu & the drunken warrior Susano had battle with the Dark Lord Yami, freeing the world from the curses and demons that inhabited the land. In just a short time, the demons have mysteriously started to reappear and a the land of Nippon is in need of a hero once again. Instead of Amaterasu, a much younger pup by the name of Chibiterasu is summoned to save the world, only this hero does not boast the same strengths and powers of the Sun God, yet still has the power to use the Celestial Brush. Chibi is a bit naive and young, but that is exactly what separates Okamiden from it’s predecessor as with this being a smaller adventure, this adorable pup quickly makes a name for himself with his childish and light-hearted antics. While partnering up with a few allies along the way, it is now up to Chibi to restore the cursed land of Nippon back to it’s original beauty and defeat all the evils along the way.
Okamiden’s plot is told through various cutscenes with the villagers that take up residence in the land, and while it is a slightly smaller tale, the narrative certainly does a great job of conveying the same depth that the original tale brought with the charming dialogue sequences that take place in the game. After a long start, the game eventually takes off in a big way and through proper pacing, this journey starts to branch out as Chibiterasu encounters different allies to assist him. There are quite a few different allies in the game, but in my opinion none come more vividly portrayed than Kuni, the young ambitious warrior who is the son of Susano and determined to be a hero.
The whole main plot does make it easy to want to progress, but with a strong emphasis on smaller plotlines, the main story quickly gets put on back-burner as you perform smaller tasks throughout a good portion of the game. Some of these are rather quirky, and some are made to tug at your emotions, but either way within just a few hours, it becomes quickly obvious that developers wanted to lengthen the game with these smaller side quests. Thankfully all of these moments do a great job of tying into the main quest at hand and by the end everything feels like one giant, completed puzzle with a spectacular finish.
For those who never played the original title before, Okamiden has many different aspects of gameplay. For the most part, Okamiden is a bit of a platformer when it comes to traveling the land as running and jumping both perform smoothly and without problem whatsoever. Battles though bring a whole new element into the picture and control a bit like a hack and slash, very similar to the Legend of Zelda titles we have seen in the past. When you encounter a demon, you are thrown into a room with a set number of enemies and you must mash one button, hacking and slashing them into a puff of dust. It is a rather simple formula, but it works well for the most part and new techniques and weapons obtained later add a bit more depth to the system.
One of the great things about Okamiden is how it borrows fully from it’s predecessor and perfects the main brush techniques with the Nintendo DS’ touchscreen. The celestial brush plays a huge role in the gameplay as it is used for just about every element within the game. Starting out, the brush is a bit limited with your main powers being just a slash as well as the power to create a sun at anytime, but soon many upgrades become unlocked and add new strokes that add new strategies into the gameplay. By quickly hitting a shoulder button on the DS, the world freezes and is placed on the bottom screen in which you can draw whatever you may need to complete a task. The touchscreen is very responsive although at times tracing an object must be executed a few times before the game actually recognizes it was done correctly. It can be annoying to have a proper stroke rejected, but due to the quick and easy to use interface, moments such as these will be quickly forgotten.
Another high point of the game is the many dungeons to explore as they usually full of well crafted puzzles that add a bit of challenge to the game and better utilize the powers of the celestial brush. Whenever you have an ally on your back, you can quickly dismount them and work together with guidance from the brush to trigger switches or take advantage of each ally’s special techniques to open up a new area or find an item. Each dungeon may feel the same, but due to the variety given of these puzzles, no player should feel any sort of repetitiveness as each experience feels fresh and new everytime.
The celestial brush also plays a role in many quests within the game. For instance, if a farmer needs a plant to grow, draw a sun. Some tasks require a bit more effort than that to complete though with a need to do some backtracking to fetch a particular item but thankfully warp points are eventually introduced to make this a much quicker experience. With all the strokes you can learn in the game, I was a bit taken back of not getting to fully utilize certain techniques as a good portion of tasks just require a sun or something similarly simple. I did however feel that the game makes up for this though as many techniques can be used in clever boss battles down the road.
This whole journey in Okamiden is a rather large one and I clocked in with a little over 20 hours during my first playthrough. I do feel that with the heavy amount of side-quests and item collection, many will be able to get even more time out of the game and this is certainly a title to experience more than once with plenty of vibrant personalities and scenery to encounter as well as some crafty puzzles and challenging yet fun bosses to take down.
Much like Okami, Okamiden shares a very unique and stunning visual style that makes every animation flow like a work of art. Though the visuals are slightly toned down this time around, this title still shines through as one of the best looking DS titles to come out so far and truly pushes the device to the limits in terms of presentation. When you throw in the classic Japanese setting, cherry blossom trees that bloom instantly, and the colorful characters within the game, it becomes hard to even put down the game as the world is a blast to explore.
The music in Okamiden also fits the Japanese theme as well and adds quite a bit of overall atmosphere to the experience, especially during the emotional scenes. Things like having small chimes start to ring or the loud pop of fireworks also add to the reward of performing correct strokes as well as giving off a well deserved feeling of accomplishment. My favorite part of the sound though was the voice acting. There isn’t any true spoken dialogue really, but there is a lot of scrambled jibberish when a character that is speaking that gives each character a personality all to their own, and everytime Chibi lets out a squeaky bark, an angel gets their wings.
Okamiden does a great job of utilizing the Nintendo DS’ features to bring forth a full and memorable experience. Seeing how late it is in the system’s lifespan, some might not really bother with this title due to the newer and shinier 3DS, but I truly hope that won’t be the case as this follow-up provides the same in depth experience as it’s predecessor and even sharpens gameplay with the new well crafted control scheme. Other than all of that, the story is simply one not to miss as it keeps delivering up until one big payoff at the end. While it isn’t perfect, this little adventure has a big heart and is yet another sign that the Nintendo DS isn’t dead quite yet.
I Give Okamiden: