Today I finished an adventure that I had started out on just a mere 24 hours or five months earlier: Okamiden.
My initial apprehension towards Okamiden rapidly faded as I began to get into the game and realize that in it’s complexity it was far more than just a scaled down rehash of the seminal PS2 Okami. From combat, to brush strokes, to atmosphere and plotting the game has nearly everything that it’s big brother has.
My initial impression dwelt heavily on Okami’s scaled down gameplay at it’s lack of features. I now have to eat these words. Although the button-mashing aspects of combat are scaled down to just mashing A to attack, the ease of using brush strokes on the DS makes the spirit brush an integral component of late-game combat. As I began collecting slicing, lightening, fire, and wind strokes I soon found myself combining them into effective combos: wind to knock an opponent on the ground, rain or lightening to slow and trap them, then close in with a couple of bombs and basic attacks. I would say that by the end of Okamiden it had the combative depth of Okami.
Dungeons were likewise exemplar. Puzzles made liberal use of companions special abilities and combinations of brush strokes to activate devises. I found myself taking my time in many of these places to really explore all the rooms, solve the extra puzzles and pick up every last scrap of artwork I could find. I don’t think I have so thoroughly immersed myself in the exploration aspects of a dungeon crawl since Ocarina of Time.
Aesthetics & Plotting
Okamiden is gorgeous and I am rather surprised that the aesthetics of Okami could scaled down so perfectly to fit onto the DS’s small screen. Yet, here it is completing with music, sounds and tantalizing natural scenes.
Okami suffered one issue. It jumped the shark in its plotting. The early gameplay introduces eight-headed dragon Orochi and for the large part of the tale we believe that we are somehow fighting against this beast. Yet, we defeat him two thirds of the way through the game and are suddenly a new demon turning the progression of the story completely on it’s head. The result is a feeling that the later half of the game had been rushed and lacks the detail of the first portion of the game. The ending seems a tacked on after-story to the quest to lift Orochi’s curse.
Okamiden, on the other hand, feels like a much more complete narrative. The major plot turns are well foreshadowed and we expect these surprises – Kurow’s betrayal and the appearance of Akuro make sense from a narrative perspective.
I feel that Okamiden is a complete adventure title. Unlike the DS Zelda titles which I think attempt to be minor iterations in the overall Zelda lineup – Okamiden simply feels like a full fledge title and not a scaled down hand-held port of it’s predecessor. I hope that it sees some good success on the handheld platform and look forward to the continuation of this franchise. Kuni’s tale deserves to be told.