Okami was much loved upon its PlayStation 2 release, but sales never seemed as if they would reach high enough levels to justify a continuation in the series, perhaps due to the unfortunately timed released - just as the next generation consoles were beginning to emerge. Nevertheless, following a Wii port, Capcom did announce that a sequel would be coming to Nintendo DS, and the company has shown further interest in extending Okami into a series by including the first game’s protagonist, Amaterasu, in Marvel VS Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Strangely, though, Okamiden has found itself released into the same situation that befell the original, launching just a week before Nintendo 3DS arrives on the scene. With original developers Clover Studios departed, taking Okami writer and director Hideki Kamiya with them to form Platinum Games (née SEEDS), can Okamiden hope to capture the same critical success as its predecessor?
The events of Okamiden take place nine months after sun goddess Amaterasu helped to rid Nippon of demons in Okami. Coinciding with the number of months in a typical human pregnancy cycle, Okamiden’s most important cast members are children, many of whom relate back to Okami’s line-up, not least the main character Chibiterasu, son of Amaterasu. Initially found by Celestial Envoy, master artist and Amaterasu’s partner Issun, Chibi finds himself on a journey to revive a land once again cast upon and overridden by demons, equipped with the same ability that his mother possessed - the Celestial Brush, a divine power that allows him to draw solutions to any problems that lie ahead of him.
The younger cast, coupled with a title that translates roughly to Okami Chronicles and a story that retreads themes and locations from the first game, gives the impression that Okamiden is not really intended as an all-out sequel; more of a side story, a smaller brother to the console title. As a result, players new and old will get something out of the game, as those new to the series can hop in with little prior knowledge and discover Nippon for the first time, with a few references back to the original filling in any significant gaps, whereas older fans will appreciate the hooks back to Okami, such as returning characters or their relatives.
Players spend much of Okamiden galloping around Nippon, usually with a companion child riding atop the mirror that Chibi wears on his back (which, handily, doubles as both a saddle and a weapon), searching for people in need of a helping hand - they may need you to find missing items for them, or they may require aid of a more celestial nature, and of course these goodwill missions all tie together to the larger story of cleansing the land, leading you into dungeons and dangerous situations aplenty. Successfully fixing a problem will result in that person regaining their faith in the gods, which benefits the player by awarding them with more notches to their health or ink bars - necessary to use Chibi’s godly powers, for without ink Chibi loses his special red markings and his powers. Health and ink refills are found plentifully around Nippon, hidden in pots, so you’re never too far away from a boost if you require it and don’t have any healing items to hand. Enemies will also lock Chibi into battle as he runs; it’s possible to dodge these if you’re not in the mood, as the floating spirits that try to engage you move slowly enough to weave around.
Battling shifts players into a circular arena that they are free to roam, as are the monsters. The combat is more about timed button mashing than anything else, though players can also be clever with the Celestial Brush to deliver vicious critical strikes, while jumping and a combat-only dodge move help you to avoid damage. Each battle is rewarded with money - the amount dependant on how much damage you receive, how long you take and how well Chibi and his child partner work together - that can be spent at merchants around the land to add to your stock of items. Should you wish to escape battle, all you have to do is hack at the cracked wall present in each arena and then jump out of the gap that appears.
Many people had difficulty with the Celestial Brush mechanic of Okami, finding it tough to make it do as they wanted with the PlayStation 2’s analogue sticks or the Wii Remote’s pointer until they had had sufficient practice. There is no such learning curve in Okamiden. The touch-screen is a natural and obvious home to the gameplay, with players able to draw directly onto the world with the stylus. The action takes place primarily on the top screen, controlled by the D-pad and buttons to jump and attack, while a menu resides on the touch-screen with swift access to healing items, the different weapons that are collected throughout the adventure and tomes of helpful and interesting information about Okami’s lore, your objectives and your abilities. As soon as Chibi runs into a puzzle or enemy that must be dealt with using his painting powers, however, either of the shoulder buttons can be pressed to slide the top screen down to the bottom, slipping through a parchment-like sepia filter to portray the sumi-e, ink and wash-inspired style as it goes. How much you can draw is restricted by the amount of ink you hold and a timer ticking down on the top screen; in non-battle scenarios you get up to 30 seconds to unleash your art, while battles allow 15 seconds per action - both are generous timings. Clicking the shoulder button again unleashes your command; alternately, you can hold the shoulder button the entire time and let it go when you’re ready to let rip.
Being the son of a sun goddess, Chibi is able to call forth the power of sunlight when necessary by default. It’s not long at all, though, before he begins to encounter descendants of the gods that helped his mother through her own trials, gaining additional abilities from them after making contact with them by joining their constellations in the sky with brush strokes. As the game goes on Chibi gains the ability to control various elements, and is able to guide his child companion to places he cannot reach after they have dismounted from his back, so that they might collect treasures, press buttons or even be used as an anchor point so that Chibi himself can spring into a previously locked off area. The use of powers and the companion abilities is gradually built from miniscule amounts to actions that must be performed frequently, easing players into the groove so that they know roughly what to do in each scenario they encounter.
The touch-screen allows for a greater degree of control - when it works. Most of the time actions are executed without a hitch and it feels extremely smooth as you flick between movement and Celestial Brush; battles are particularly exhilarating, with bashes of your weaponry followed quickly by a swift touch command to inflict the wrath of a god. As more powers are added to Chibi’s repertoire later on, however, things can get fiddly because of the need to be perfectly precise with your stylus tapping. Several of the commands are activated by drawing lines to link things together, and with the size of the play area it can be easy to click the wrong character and thus activate the wrong power if they are stood next to each other. There are also instances where the drawings get slightly more complex and are less readily recognised. It’s a blessing that Okamiden is forgiving when it comes to Celestial Brush activities, as in puzzle situations you are allowed to keep trying until you get it right, and it’s easy to click in and out of the painting mode if you want to retry as fast as possible.
It was surprising when the ‘sequel’ to one of the most beautiful games created was announced for the aging Nintendo DS, the first Okami so well-suited to a big screen as it was. More shocking is that Okamiden works well while still approaching the action adventure genre in a similar way. Capcom have gone full throttle into the sort of game that you would find on a console, only shrunk down to dinky DS size. The same perspective is taken as the console Okami, with similar camera angles, storytelling methods and gameplay, which works both for and against the game. It’s refreshing to see a story-heavy action game like this on DS, not filled with mini-games at every turn, but at the same time it exposes the system’s limitations. The large environments have been split up into sections entered into through portal-like ‘gates’, so that the handheld can deal with them and load in new areas without losing much in the way of frame rate, for example. Thankfully, Capcom have managed to do this in a way that, while not entirely seamless, does not interrupt the game’s flow as much as it could have, with the surrounding locales often visible if not instantly visitable. The swift load speed of cartridges alleviates the issues, too.
Less portable-friendly moments rear their heads when it comes to saving, which can only be done at Origin Mirrors scattered around the game; these also act as teleportation points later on. They’re generously placed, usually one or two per area including before boss battles, but if you get stuck into a dungeon and suddenly have to get off the bus, your only option is to snap your DS shut and hope that you’ll be able to find a save location quickly when you get the chance to open it again. A quick save option would have been immensely useful. There is also a tendency for cut-scenes to come thick and fast - fine if you’re not on the move, as they’re well done and quite often genuinely funny, but there is no way to pause them or save mid-sequence if you need to get up and go, nor can you speed them along as you can with regular text by tapping the A button.
While Nintendo DS is not up to the graphical capabilities of PlayStation 2 or Wii and thus could never replicate Okami fully, Capcom have had a fine shot at it and captured the original style quite well despite the downsize. Okamiden is one of the best looking titles on DS, and though blocky textures are often apparent on the environment it is an impressive achievement for the system as a whole. The sprawling Shinshu field may not be all loaded in at once, and you may not be able to skip across it in one seamless attempt, but it looks feasible which is almost as impressive. Chibi and his various cohorts look great and animate well, and the effects thrown around are equally good, especially the transparency effects.
What people may take away most from Okamiden, however, is composer / arranger Rei Kondo’s majestic soundtrack. The first game rightfully won a BAFTA for its soundtrack, and this follow-up does not let the side down in that respect either. The DS speakers do not do it any justice, but throw in some half decent headphones and the effect is glorious. There are sad tunes, pieces that rouse you for battle and soaring victory themes, and every one of them is fantastic, a mix of traditional Japanese-style music filled with taiko drums, shakuhachi, shinobue and sho flutes and chanting vocals, alongside tracks that would not seem out of place in a game such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If there was ever a DS game that required headphones - aside music games, of course - Okamiden is it.
The scope of the adventure is admirable for DS, but limitations of the system are shown up and it is not entirely optimal for play on the go. The touch control is fantastic when it works but can get confused later on.
The environments are impressive despite some blocky textures, but it is the characters that steal the show with some nasty looking bosses and great animation.
Garbled voices ‘narrate’ the game and fit well, but it is the music that stands out above every other element of Okamiden, more than capable of swaying your emotions at key moments. Stunning.
It’ll take a good 20 - 25 hours to complete the main quest, and then there are side-quests to fulfil. Huge for a portable action adventure.
The Okami franchise proves to be a fitting end to another console, just as the original was to the PlayStation 2. Okamiden is amongst DS’ finest adventure titles, despite the system’s age holding it back in some respects. It may not feel like a ‘full’ sequel, more of a fan-servicing side-story or an introduction to the world for newcomers, but Okamiden proves that there is plenty of life in the series yet should Capcom choose to forge on.
Whilst I couldn't get into the Wii game due to being one of those who had significant trouble with the Wii Remote controls (to the point where I wanted to throw the damn thing out of the window), Okamiden was very special indeed. From the early demo that I played mid-way through last year, to the Japanese edition I'd been tinkering with over Christmas, to this fully localised version, Capcom has delivered its second massive DS smash of the year (after Ghost Trick).
I wonder if the engine isn't a tweaked version of the one used in Clover Studio's Viewtiful Joe : Double Trouble ! (which was one of the most impressive early DS titles to me), but I might be wrong there.
I'm about 12 hours in and I'm absolutely loving it so far, despite my ridiculously high expectations. The music coupled with the story is by far the most impressive aspect of Okamiden for me. Simply amazing.
My only problem with this game is the same as with the first one : the localization of the names. Why can't they just name Kushinada by her full name, instead of just "Kushi" ? The french translation for the first one didn't have that problem, but now this one is localized only in English, meaning that those who are used to the full names now have to think twice to recognize the characters from the first episode.
Kafei2006 said: My only problem with this game is the same as with the first one : the localization of the names. Why can't they just name Kushinada by her full name, instead of just "Kushi" ? The french translation for the first one didn't have that problem, but now this one is localized only in English, meaning that those who are used to the full names now have to think twice to recognize the characters from the first episode.
Weird. The German translation of Okami for her was Kushi as well, so I'm used to the short names coming from that. Was the French translation the only one that had the full names for characters? Why would they shorten the names for only some versions and not all? Did they think that people from different countries prefer the full or short names?
I don't know of any other version that had the full names, I wasn't aware that the German version suffered from the same problems. French people are usually nitpicking whenever something isn't true to the Japanese roots in Japanese games, so that might be a reason. And I agree with that. That's even insulting that they should change the names for western audiences. Like what ? We are too dumb to read the full names or remember them or something ? Like...
Those dumbass westerners will never be able to cope with "Kuninushi", so let's rename him "Kuni"
Kafei2006 said: I don't know of any other version that had the full names, I wasn't aware that the German version suffered from the same problems. French people are usually nitpicking whenever something isn't true to the Japanese roots in Japanese games, so that might be a reason. And I agree with that. That's even insulting that they should change the names for western audiences. Like what ? We are too dumb to read the full names or remember them or something ? Like...
Those dumbass westerners will never be able to cope with "Kuninushi", so let's rename him "Kuni"
I think that they just thought that shorter names sound more appealing for western players but who knows. It's really not a big deal for me though, partly because I'm used to it and partly because the rest of the translations are really really well done. I'm loving them so far. At least the nicknames Chibiterasu gets troughout the game are hilarious. I laughed everytime someone gave him a new one and Chibiterasu was totally shocked. Those reactions were golden.
I've played it for around 20 hours now, getting some collectibles prepared and slowly going for the finish and then starting a 2nd playthrough immediately after it where I collect all the stuff I missed in the first run. There seem to be a whole lot more missables this time around which I, as a completionist, really hate.
SuperLink said: Getting stuck into it now, just got to the playhouse last night.
It's an amazing game considering the DS' limitations. If you ask me it can't possibly do much more to blow the disappointing DS Zeldas out of the water than it has done.
I'm extremely impressed with what Capcom have done with this.
Yeah I agree. As much as I love Zelda(even the DS games), Okamiden eats the two DS Zelda's for breakfast. It almost made me wonder if that was really the same handheld I used to play Super Mario 64 on because it's just way above that. Capcom somehow managed to become my favorite 3rd party company by constantly pushing the limits of Nintendo's platforms, like with Monster Hunter Tri on Wii.
I've finished it last weekend and I loved it even more than Okami. I'm amazed that there were actually people thinking that it wouldn't be even near as amazing as the original and damage its reputation.
I'm going to make a little summary of my opinion about the game here, as I don't have time for writing a worthy reader review.
Gameplay: 8 It was quite hard to get used to moving with the d-pad in the beginning and playing the game in general as limitations are becoming pretty obvious in that aspect. However, after a while I got a hold of the controls and simply demolished every demon in my way. Puzzles are easier this time around due to the touchscreen controls of the DS but they can occasionally get annoying.
Graphics: 10 Quite possibly the best looking DS game I've seen to date. There are some blocky textures but remembering that it's the DS, I think that it's really the most any developer has gotten out of it yet. Character's are beautifully animated and the highlight of the game, especially in the wealth of cutscenes.
Sound: 10 FORGET the speakers of the DS, NOW! They don't do the wonderful soundtracks of Okamiden any justice which are, at least for me, even better than the ones from Okami. Cleverly used in cutscenes and other situations such as battles, they invoke countless emotions with ease and really make you feel with the character's. My personal highlight of Okamiden coupled with the story.
Value: 9 It took me around 25 hours to complete the game with everything there was. I didn't realize that there were that many missables but luckily I didn't miss anything at that point and managed to snag everything in one playtrough. There's definitely a lot to do again in Nippon and you might even find yourself coming back for a second time.
Total Score: 10 I went into the world of Nippon again with skyhigh expectations and was still blown away by what Capcom have done with Okami's legacy. The story supported by the amazing music is brilliant, riddled with some really unexpected plot twists and tie-in's with the story of Okami making the story anything but bland. Okamiden has an excellent balance between the new and the old. You'll visit many familiar places and see many familiar faces but many new ones as well. Altogether, the visuals, the gameplay, the music, the character's and the look of the game succeed in keeping that special Okami feel that made me totally fall in love with it in the first place.
If you've played and loved Okami or just love Japanese culture in general, this is pretty much a no-brainer. I recommend completing Okami before starting Okamiden though, as there are many connections and references to it troughout the game.
I finished Okamiden thismorning, totally teared up at the ending, but was even more excited by how it ended... the prospect of future Okami games seems so promising if they used that kind of cliffhanger even after the collapse of Clover...
Once I got stuck in, I truly loved Okamiden, it totally blew the DS Zeldas out of the water in terms of gameplay, story, and scale. Despite its kiddy appearance it wasn't a walk in the park like one may expect, and it ended up being more important to the plot than I'd ever anticipated it would be. I think, like some have said, it's impressive considering the limitations and is faltered mostly by the fact that the original game was already such a complete package, on systems much stronger than the DS too.
If you ask me, by far and away the greatest Action Adventure title on DS, and one of the best games the system has to offer, I'm getting happily stuck into the NewGame+ right now and I think I might play the original again.
Here's hoping for a culmination sequel on the 3DS!