Friday, April 15, 2011

Okamiden

Its been over a year since "The Legend of Zelda:  Spirit Tracks" was released.  Since then, I have been suffering though horrible withdrawal from the greatest video game franchise of all time.  Its hard to live without something that's been such an important part of my life for some years.  I feel the walls coming in on me.  They want to eat me!  I must escape this torment of a "Zelda"-less existence.  How long until "Skyward Sword"?  No release date yet!  I'm going to long be eaten before then!  What could possible make this wait less horrible?  ...Wait, could it be!  Yes, it is!  A sequel to my favorite artificial "Zelda" substitute game, "Okami"!  And this time, it stars an adorable puppy!  Yay!

There is nothing more adorable than a cartoon puppy.  Oh who's the cutest little badass puppy Sun God in the world?  You are!  Oh yes you are!   Yes you are.  Awww...  You're more adorable than a baby monkey riding a pig.  The main character is so loveably cute that he's named Chibiterasu!  And how evil are the villains in "Okamiden"?  Must be pretty nasty since they're literally trying to kill a puppy.  Plus they're attempting to destroy stylized medieval Japan, too.  But attempted puppy-cide is a far worse crime!  The only answer is a happy helping of murder using magic ink brushes!  Face Puppy Power!

(I promise, no more exclamation marks for the rest of the review.)

Putting "Okami" on the DS seems like a no-brainer.  Since the gameplay involves magic drawings in combat, what better system to put it on them a system that has you physically draw on its lower screen?  When I first bought the original game on the PS2, I hated it because I felt it better belonged on the DS, with the drawing controls being really clunky and terrible.  The Wii version was actually playable and I finished it last summer after it briefly drove me completely insane.  I did get to meet actor Terry O'Quinn because of it though, that was fun. What I like is that while shrinking down the console, they also shrunk down the protagonist, adding tons of extra cute.  The DS controls, however, has easily the best ink controls of any version.  Its extremely rare to have your designs not register as an attack.  On the Wii, I could spend whole minutes trying to get a cherry blossom to come back to life, here it happens every time I draw a circle on them.  The only place where the system seems to get bogged down is when you order your allies around, because its really easy for the game to think you're not touching them.

Unfortunately "Okamiden", being a DS game, is vastly smaller, less detailed, and contains a far less complete world than the first "Okami".  Unlike the Zelda DS games, which did not attempt to literally translate "Wind Waker"'s gameplay but instead brought back traditional top-down Zelda perspective, "Okamiden" takes the Kingdom Hearts route of attempting to recreate its predecessor's style.  Naturally its impossible to actually fit everything that was "Okami" into the tiny DS, so "Okamiden" takes a lot of shortcuts.  You can't dig anymore, you can't feed animals, no more fast running, no more advanced jump techniques like double-jumps, no new skills to learn, and no swimming.  Not to mention the entire feel of the world is much more constrained now that the environments have to be divided up in order to be small enough for the DS to process.  You can't help but feel really off-put and a little claustrophobic by these changes.  Ultimately you never really want to just run around the fields of Japan Nippon, which was so much the pleasure of "Okami".  I haven't played the entire thing yet, but I get the sense that there is far less to do in "Okamiden" then the original.  I won't be hallucinating Terry O'Quinn's head on a giant grape this time, because there are no sidequests that original (and horribly impossible).

A lot of the limitations I guess can be explained because Chibi is a puppy.  Ammy was an adult wolf, she didn't have any problem with water or running.  Chibi is still a baby, no wonder he can't jump around so well.  But even Chibi's own smallness doesn't explain why, for instance, caves holding certain game features that no longer can be used are now collapsed.  Also, Nippon for some reason now lives in eternal daylight.  Its a bit pointless being a Sun god if you can't bring the Sun up*.

Chibi does share his mother's odd detached sensibilities, though he seems more interested in the people around him.  His mom Ammy would run through Nippon letting her Companion Fairy do all the talking while she did the fighting, but Chibi has a running connection with the major characters, who all are his temporary companions.  You join up with various children who can see that you're a God, go through one or two dungeons, then they leave and you join with another kid.  Each one has gives Chibi a new nickname like "Dude" or "Pooch" or "Squid", none of which he actually likes, summoning a little rain cloud every time to show his disdain.  When they get separated he shows real emotion, giving a soul-crushing little puppy whine.

The major addition to "Okamiden" is a little something borrowed from "Spirit Tracks":  partner gameplay.  Much like Zelda's ghost possessing a Darknut, your companions can be controlled for certain puzzles.  See a switch you can't reach?  Send your partner over there and have him or her step on it.  Then have them come back.  This idea is okay enough in principle, but it gets really tedious for one simple reason.  In "Spirit Tracks", you could order Ghost Zelda around infinitely.  Here every action costs ink, meaning that you always are on the clock.  Also Zelda was kind enough to include a simple button to press to have your ally return to you, "Okamiden" makes you physically send them back to you, often the exact same path they just took.  Your allies also fight a bit in the battles, but I can't really tell how much affect they actually have.  Personally I like the allies because I find the idea of a little kid riding a puppy to be beyond precious.  (Yes, I am utterly paralyzed by Chibiterasu's cuteness.  Sorry.)

The dungeons so far have been okay enough, I guess.  They seem to be really really short though.  One puzzle actually managed to truly stump me, something that Zelda games haven't been able to do for a long time.  (Turns out I just forgot about the vine hookshot, but whatever, still got me.)  Where "Okamiden" really shines is in the boss battles.  They're very complex exciting affairs that give the best challenge this series has yet to offer.  I was able to go through the entirety of "Okami" without dying once.  Now that they've added "-den" to the title, the bosses seem to each beat me at least once.  One boss, a demon witch, is healed by the little monsters she summons.  So you have to stick your ally on a switch stopping the monsters.  Unless you're really fast, clean house, this boss can last forever.  It was really fun, and definitely the place where "Okamiden" earns the thirty bucks I spent for it.

One weird thing about "Okamiden" is that there is no camera control.  At all.  The shoulder buttons, which I assume to be the camera after years of DS Kingdom Hearts, actually bring up the ink moves.  So sometimes I want to move the camera but I accidentally cause the ink screen to pop up.  Sometimes you'll be running with the camera literally facing directly in front of you**.  This never becomes a huge problem because there's usually no pit or monster ready to hit you in your blind spot.

My most petty complaint is about the cutscenes.  The conversations take a really long time to get finished, and this game is text only.  It gets tedious.  I can read a lot a faster than this game thinks.  Every cutscene is made basically unwatchable because of this.  And for some reason, the scenes all are massively verbose with endless exposition.  They aren't badly written scenes, it just takes too goddamn long for the next line to appear.  "Okamiden" makes me skip more cutscenes than any other game I've ever played.  Barring "Disgaea 2".

Another random thought:  what's funny about this game is that in Nippon, Amaterasu actually now has a religion.  Characters just randomly will express "Thank, Amaterasu!", "By Amaterasu!".  Its great to see that all the Praise I gathered up in the last game has worked.  I wonder if God feels this way when people pray to him.  There is a few annoying parts when Chibi saves the day and people instead thanks his Mom.  I bet Jesus gets jealous about this too.

This review came out a bit more negative then I wanted.  I mean, "Okamiden" isn't the best game I've played, but for the DS, its not bad.  Its not really a full sequel to the first game, but that was really impossible for the console they picked.  The game is still just as silly as the original, and the stylize Japanese art style still looks just as incredible.  "Okamiden" might have been better served on the 3DS.  They could have at least kept the animal-feeding quest, that was adorable.  Ultimately, Chibiterasu is really really cute.  And I can't stay mad at him.  He might tell his mom to take the Sun away from me, who knows?

Further Thoughts:  Having now beaten the game about a week after writing this post, I can say I was somewhat disappointed in a few areas.  At least half of Nippon is not in "Okamiden", at all.  I didn't even know that I had reached the final boss because I thought I would be traveling to Kamui, or the ocean, or Nissun's town at some point.  The last boss was seriously awesome, I won't give him away, but just know one thing:  I want a pet like this.  Really, "Okamiden" comes together at the last boss, truly showing itself off as a really good game.  Still not really good enough to be a proper sequel, but worth playing.

However, the biggest disappointment I have in this game is that you never get to meet Ameterasu!! Why not?  Chibi never gets to meet his Mommy!  Its horrible!  The ending of this game should have been Chibi snuggling right up to Ammy, and then both having a nice mother son moment.  This scene writes itself, why isn't in?  Instead Chibi just rides a flying saucer into space... which was the ending to the first game.  There is a blatant sequel hook, so maybe in "Okami 3" I'll get my wish.  Maybe that game will never be made.  Capcom, remember that.  You aren't guaranteed a sequel, so make the best game you possible can.  I want my adorable mother son moment, dammit.  I feel profoundly ripped-off.  This kind of heartwarming thing was what I needed in my life, and ITS NOT THERE.  WHY???  TERRY O'QUINN, TELL ME WHY???

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* Okay, Ammy is the Goddess of the Sun.  So what is Chibi the God of?  Nemesis?  Is there some other star in our Solar System he's supposed to represent?  I thought it might be a cool idea to end the game showing two Suns, one big and one tiny to represent Chibi's place in the universe.

** Looking at Chibi's face is a bit better than looking at his backside because... well, they added an asshole.  The entire game basically the camera is pointed directly at this dog's asshole.  And just like in real life, when you notice your dog's asshole, you try not to look at it, you try to ignore it, but somehow you just keep on seeing it no matter what you do.  I don't go looking for dog assholes when I play games either, "Okamiden" makes that asshole really prominent.  Playing the game can get really uncomfortable, because that little black pixel of an asshole is like two inches from your face, all the time.  I dare not imagine what programmer had the horrible job of putting a tiny black dot under Chibi's tail.  This was not a problem in "Okami", by the way.  Either they didn't animate an asshole, or the camera was just at a higher angle so you didn't see it all the time.  Somebody at Capcom consciously decided that for the sequel, the dogs needed much more prominent assholes.  And what's really scary, is that guy probably has a family... probably with a dog.  I almost want to call Japan's police just in case.

After playing for awhile, I start to hallucinate that the asshole is actually Terry O'Quinn's eye, starring at me.  Judging me.... Oh man....  I need help.

9 comments:

  1. Lies! I count two more excaimation marks after that point. Got you this time, eh? Thought you could pull the wool over my eyes, didja?

    A great review, as always. It's been a while since we've had a good DS game around here, hasn't it.

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  2. Those weren't my fault, those were quotations. You can't say that I said those things, that was the thoughts of the NPCs. You can't judge somebody by somebody's else's words.

    ;_;

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  3. Speaking of DS games, are you going to play Radiant Historia? It's been praised quite a bit and has the same composer as the Kingdom Hearts series, so it's worth at least checking out.

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  4. Referring to the Current Thought: Since the song has no lyrics I must assume that you want to die in a giant robot while fighting either in Antarctica, or falling from orbit. Personally, I'd go with the falling from orbit version, except my opponent would be a dragon being ridden by a wizard.

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  5. I actually explicitly remember being extremely disturbed by Amaterasu's asshole in the original Okami. Also by the move where she takes a shit on the enemies.

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  6. Wait, what?!

    There's a move where you can shit on enemies?!

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  7. It was called "Brown Rage", and it let you steal rare items from enemies without having to figure out there weakness and use it right when they die. There was also "Golden Fury", a less effective version of same wherein Ammy takes a piss on enemies.

    I don't know if these moves are in Okamiden. Care to enlighten us, Blue?

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  8. They don't seem to be. The dojo in the Fields is closed and the other one is in the sea, locking it off from travel. I don't know why they cut out the special combat skills, because lack of room is definitely no excuse there. How much coding does it take for us to have more than one fighting technique?

    No sub-weapons either.

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  9. Your post is very funny ^^. But unfortunately, Chibiterasu isn't a God name in legend. Chibi just mean small in Japanese (may be you know already), it just a combine name with Ammy. His real name is still unknown. As for the story, there is one possibility that Amaterasu already die when she return to Celestial Plain in Okamiden. Maybe you can check it for yourself.

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