Okamiden (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 23.03.2011

Review for Okamiden on Nintendo DS

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.

Screenshot for Okamiden on Nintendo DS

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.

Screenshot for Okamiden on Nintendo DS

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.

Screenshot for Okamiden on Nintendo DS

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.

Screenshot for Okamiden on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

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.






Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (11 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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