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Before I say anything, I beat Okami. It was a fun game with some issues, and my PlayStation 2 version is an important part of my video game collection.
Before I say anything else, I didn’t like the first hour of Okami. It’s one of the few games I went back to play the first hour of because I thought it would illustrate well what a bad first hour looked like, and I was right. But it’s also a good example of where this site can go wrong. Some games like Okami just take a long time to get going, but this can also cause gamers to quit prematurely, like my friend and fellow writer Steve did.
Enter Okamiden, the chibi-ized version of Okami for the Nintendo DS. Okamiden will likely go down as one of the last good DS games before the 3DS is released in a few weeks (hopefully time remembers Radiant Historia, as well). Because I enjoyed Okami but didn’t like its first hour, Okamiden seems like the perfect game to try out for a bit. Will Capcom repeat the same mistakes they made with Okami? Will the game be too targeted for children? How will the gameplay and stylized graphics translate to the small screen?
Released yesterday, here is Okamiden’s first hour.
00 - I tap Start and the first half hour of Okamiden begins. There are two “difficulty” options: Old Hand and Greenhorn. Pick Old Hand if you’re “ready for the full experience.” I guess that’s me. The game begins its opening cutscene with some Japanesey music.
01 - There’s someone narrating, but it’s just Animal Crossing speak (mumble mumble). The game is telling the adventure of Amaterasu in Okami and how she defeated the eight-headed dragon of Orochi. I can skip the cutscene by pressing Select.
02 - I have no idea how long this will go on, but the original Okami opened with walls and walls of text, hoping this will end soon.
04 - Ugh, I just realized that the game was just telling what happened BEFORE Okami. Seriously, do we really need another history lesson? We’re just getting to the real Amaterasu now.
05 - Oh, hey, an animated cutscene instead of just static backgrounds! It’s been nine months since Amaterasu saved the world, and now things aren’t looking so hot again.
07 - Basically scene after scene of the sky going cloudy and black. Oh no! Issun, the most annoying assistant since Navi! Issun is hopping around talking to a little girl named Ayame. Issun is explaining what a Celestial Envoy is, I think he’s trying to hand off the dangerous duties of rescuing Japan from mortal peril.
09 - I sort of zoned out, but the game got my attention when some demons started dancing around Issun. Suddenly, a little Amaterasu shows up and Issun explains the ropes! B jumps, Y attacks. I guess I figured this was going to be a stylus only game.
10 - The fighting seems pretty reminiscent of Okami, so I had no problem taking out two low-life demons. I got some yen and a rice ball for my trouble. The game also displays the enemy’s health on the bottom screen.
12 - Now the low down on the Celestial Brush, hold L or R down and the top screen sepias its way to the bottom screen where you can draw on it. I’m told to draw a circle in the sky.
13 - The game finally acknowledges it’s a circle on my third attempt, not a great sign (for me or the game).
14 - “If Ammy is your mom, then who did she...” Actual quote from the game. The art style of the world is unsurprisingly vibrant, but what is great is that it really pops out on the small DS screen. The game also makes a point in telling me that I’m under a time limit when drawing, I thought Okami had one too? Can’t remember.
16 - I’m running around in the overworld now, the bottom screen is a mini-map and the top screen is tightly following Ammy.
17 - There’s a giant Crazy Taxi arrow right in front of my nose telling me where to go. I follow where it leads me, but then it tells me we must have missed something so we turn around. Odd.
19 - We meet up with Dr. Redbeard, some kind of potion master. I save my game at an Origin Mirror.
22 - I’m exploring the village instead of following the arrow, interested to see what Redbeard has to say.
23 - There seems to be a lot less to interact with in the world in Okamiden, couple that with all the loading and I’m already having doubts.
25 - We’re off to see Sakuya, the mystical plant lady from Okami. I’m in a much bigger overworld now, don’t see any apparently loading portals so this is a good sign. I can rotate the camera using the touch screen.
27 - I enter Kamiki Village, which looks a lot like the village from Okami. I guess the opening town in this game was a new place?
29 - I dash through the very familiar Kamiki Village and reach Miss Sakuya’s cherry blossom. Sakuya appears, looking a bit less slutty for the portable platform.
31 - Issun is explaining that Ammy is Amaterasu’s son, and then Sakuya and Ammy hug, not sure why. The game surprisingly advances the text automatically. I know it would be super obnoxious to do it on your own, but I figured since the game is targeted towards kids they might read at a slower pace.
32 - Okay, something happened... Sakuya’s tree got struck by lightning and blackened. Demons! Issun tells me to draw the outline of a dragon and a huge white dragon flies through the sky and drops some mini dragons. Seahorses floating in the air!
35 - They chatter on for a bit and then teach me a new skill, rejuvenation. I trace the outline of Sakuya’s tree but it doesn’t look any healthier. Sakuya returns to tell me the tree needs to bloom, and then Issun decides he’s going to retire from the Celestial Envoy business. What timing!
37 - I’m told to run around the village and find a new partner. I bet it’s that Ayame girl from the first village though.
38 - Ugh, the game’s not going to let me leave the village. BOO.
40 - Apparently everyone has turned to stone, now Issun tells me to check out the field.
41 - And now back into Kamiki Village...
43 - We’re at the top lookout point of the village now, wonder what we’ll see? I need to draw a moon first. Ammy’s got skills. So after basically doing nothing, Issun again tells me we need to find a partner.
45 - I guess my moon managed to turn the stone people back into their normal selves, but it also spawned some demons to fight! After the easy battle I rejuvenate the poor lady’s scarecrows for her. I get some Praise points for my trouble.
48 - As I try to leave the village again, Susano shows up. Susano was the human that helped Amaterasu sometimes in Okami. And here we go through another explanation that Ammy is not Amaterasu. I also can’t leave the village because there’s a boulder in the way. Fun.
50 - Some samurai kid named Kuni jumps around with his fancy sword moves and then falls flat on his face. His mission is to defend young maidens who cry. Oh, he can see Ammy’s stripes, maybe he’ll be my Celestial Envoy.
51 - Kuni is Susano’s kid... doesn’t this game take place just nine months after Okami? Like Issun, I shouldn’t ask too many questions.
53 - Yep, he’s my new partner, he’s pretty nervous though. Ammy tosses Kuni on his back and he regains his composure. Woah... graphical slowdown!
55 - Susano still won’t let us out of the village, now what do we have to trigger? Back up to the top of the village, apparently.
57 - Ah, i was wondering when we’d arrive here. We’re in that dark, cave like place that you first learned how to do things in Okami.
58 - A bridge is out so I try to draw a new one, nothing I try seems to work.
59 - After about 10 attempts, the game finally has pity on me and shows that I need to draw a box around the missing portion, not actually try to draw it in. That’s the end of the first hour of Okamiden.
What I liked: Looks and feels like Okami, has all the charm of the big screen game too. Drawing with the stylus should be pretty solid as long as its clear what you’re actually supposed to draw.
What I didn’t like: The graphics just look okay, not as impressive as I expected from a system this deep in its lifespan and an art style this good. The amount of loading also makes me feel like I’m playing this on a 32-bit console.
What I hated: The opening exposition. Ugh, not again.
Would I Keep Playing? No.
For better and worse, this is really just Okami on the small screen. Okamiden features all the great things from the classic and all of its baggage. Tons of exposition at the beginning, an excessive amount of time just going from point A to point B back to point A, and annoying companions who just won’t shut up and let you play the game. And while the art style is beautiful, I don’t think it translated that well to the small screen. The backgrounds are nearly non-existent and the NPC character models look like polygonal smudges.
While I’m sure this will be a fun adventure, I’m not looking forward to slogging through the endless tutorials and hand-holding just to get there. I’ll pass for now.