Okamiden Review

Okamiden [Available only on Nintendo DS]
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: March 15th, 2011

Parent TalkOkamiden is a colorful fantasy adventure game appropriate for all ages.  The factors that may discourage younger children from playing are the amount of text and the difficulty.  The lighthearted story is widely accessible, and though the plot is simple, the characters are easy to like and the journey satisfying.  This is a wonderful game.  Teenagers and older gamers will be drawn to Okamiden because of its similarities to The Legend of Zelda.

Okamiden is the long-awaited sequel to the critically-acclaimed Okami.  Unfortunately, the original never saw commercial success despite excellent gameplay and art direction, so it’s a godsend that the franchise is still alive.  The Wii port managed to attract a larger audience than the PS2 version.  Okamiden successfully recaptures the wonder of the first game and stands as a competent follow—not a mere extension or pitiful cash-in.  It’s one of the finer Nintendo DS games.

The Great:

Excellent mechanics.  Okami introduced the “celestial brush.”  This concept tied in exceptionally well with the art direction [that largely resembles classic Japanese artwork] and the plot.  The main character, Amaterasu, is the Sun Goddess of Shintoism and the celestial brush acts as a tool of divine creation.  The idea has transitioned well to the Nintendo DS.  The stylus and touch screen perfectly emulate the experience of applying paint to paper, enhancing Okamiden.  The Wii version had the right idea, but the IR pointer wasn’t as precise as needed.  On the DS, this concept is never cumbersome; it’s always effortless and natural, exemplifying strong game design.

The Good:

+ Fantastic art.  Okami is one of the most beautiful games on PlayStation 2, and by extension, one of the most attractive Wii games.  While most developers are preoccupied with hyperrealism, Capcom let the world unfold with a one-of-a-kind aesthetic. Okamiden retains that style and successfully presents it on the Nintendo DS.  Capcom really pushed the system to its limits and produced some of the best 3D visuals possible.

+ Great storytelling.  The story is simple, but the delivery succeeds.  A complex script isn’t necessary—that’s what strong, likable characters are for.  The creative team focused on the “partner” characters just as they did with Chibiterasu.  In a sense, each character is a study in different character themes.  The first Chibi partners with is Kuni, the adopted son of Susano.  His tale is largely one of courage, self-confidence, and friendship.  Intricate dialogue isn’t key if the characters are easy to relate to.  The narrative successfully blends humor, sadness, and action.

+ A rich world.  Okamiden is portable, but never comes off as a “Okami-light”.  The world is every bit as rich and vibrant as before.  The areas are the same, as you explore a fictional ancient Nippon/Japan.  This is no rehash, however.  Rather than force you through the same dungeons and scenarios, Capcom injected new life into the familiar locations by slightly remixing them, adding dungeons and including new places to explore.  For example, Sei’an City is host to a playhouse—a level which does not appear in the original game.

+ Variety cast.  Amaterasu and Issun worked well together in Okami, but the developers knew they couldn’t just recycle the same character chemistry.  Chibiterasu is a lovable pup, but its humans this time that help you connect with the game.  Each character explores something different and keeps the pace interesting.  Thankfully, the enemies aren’t recycled either.  Bosses are unique and creative.  Most are relatively simple to figure out, but the beauty lies in the experience.

+ Balanced pacing.  You can never be too thankful for quality game control.  The challenge should come from the game pushing you, motivating you to improve skillfully by adapting.  This is definitely the case with Okamiden-the balancing is just right.  The game gradually introduces abilities.  The adventure never pushes ahead too fast or throws the book at you.  The expansion is comfortable and fun, never letting the game become boring.


The Bad:

– Stiff.  The DS only features a d-pad.  Translating an originally 3D action/adventure game to a platform without an analog stick is tricky, as the controls never feel quite as fluid.  The stylus is  perfectly suited for the celestial paintbrush, but moving Chibi is stiff.  To compensate, Capcom integrated a kind of “smart movement” system, where if the terrain changes, Chibiterasu naturally leans that way on the path.  In essence, pressing up on the d-pad causes Chibi to move up, but he veers with the path as it leans, making it easier to stay the course.  Still, it’s tough to get used to.  The 3DS fixes this, because of the analog circle.

The Lowdown:

Okamiden is a fine send-off for the DS.  It lives up to the expectations set by the incredible original and is an excellent adventure all-its-own.

5 thoughts on “Okamiden Review”

  1. I agree with this review, very spot on as usual, yes the control D-pad feels akward o say the least, but the game is so beautiful, kudos to capcom,and the story so good that you wont mind, really one of the best on the DS.

  2. Thanks! The d-pad isn’t the best way to play a 3D adventure game like this, but I can see that the developers at least tried to get around it, and I’m impressed that there aren’t any significant camera issues (which often plague these kinds of games when they make the transition). The visuals do hold up really well, even in comparison to the PS2 original. I really hope this means Okami will become a franchise for Capcom, and maybe we’ll see another entry, possibly for 3DS.

  3. I really wanted to give this one a go as the PS2 original was fantastic. I too hope this means Capcom turns this series into a full blown franchise. Only time will tell I suppose, but I’m right there with you on there being another one for the 3DS. I think that system has some real potential, if only developers give it their all.

  4. I’m surprised that the DS sequel is fairing well without the help of the original developers, Clover Studios. It’s nice that Capcom remains faithful and are making a franchise out of this. After all, Amaterasu’s inclusion in MvC3 is totally awesome…one of the fastest characters in the roster with some really unique moves.

  5. Definitely! Ammy is always on my team in MvC3. So happy she was included, despite the naysayers.

    I wasn’t too worried about the game, but I get what you mean Ahmed. Clover was a very talented studio and it was a shame that they dissolved, although now I guess they’re back in the form of Platinum. Capcom has had experience making similar games though. I mean, Okami was built in a similar structure as Zelda, and we know Capcom has had some great hands-on experience with that franchise, which I think came in handy here. With this DS game, I can definitely see some ideas culled from Capcom’s past, from other Zelda games (like directing your partner character with the stylus) and of course, from the original Okami.

    I think the story could definitely carry on though, because it’s largely inspired from mythology and fairy tails, so they could easily look more into the Nihon Shoki and Kojiki for more inspiration.

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