It would be a huge understatement to say that I was a fan of Clover Studios’ Japanese watercolor styled opus, Okami. The inventive art style, the adorable characters, the Zelda-esque gameplay with a twist, and the interesting insight into Shinto mythology all endeared the title to me. It’s easily one of my top 3 favorite PS2 games.
It’s been too long coming, but I finally got my hands on the much anticipated sequel, Okamiden. I was nervous; would an IP so near and dear to my heart successfully make the transition from console to handheld without losing the charm and fun that made it so wonderful?
Okamiden takes place long after the events of the original, and all the characters are descendants of characters from the original game in their childhood. The player steps into the role of Chibiterasu, loosely translated as ‘little Amaterasu’. The character models are beyond cute – Muppet Babies meets Okami’s art style.
The beauty of the move to the DS for the franchise is that the art direction allows the graphics to scale down for the portable market without losing the beauty and fidelity. Many other games just look horrible when a developer attempts to cram the feel of the original console game into a portable, and Okamiden avoids this nasty fate.
The signature Okami gameplay mechanics are back, with the DS touchscreen used for working with the celestial brush. Just like the original, working with the brush is a bit awkward at first, but once you get used to how the game wants you to draw the different shapes this mechanic is just as fun as ever.
I didn’t find the learning curve to be overly frustrating; games recognizing player-drawn shapes have always been a bit wonky. The original Okami suffered from this too, and even other modern offerings like the excellent downloadable title Trine can be occasionally unforgiving about this.
Okamiden offers a few twists on the old formula as well, with Chibiterasu taking on an adventuring companion. Kuninushi (Kuni), is the child of the hilarious swordsman Susano from the last game. Kuni rides on Chibi’s back, helps out in combat, and is even used for puzzle solving.
Chibiterasu can have Kuni dismount, and then use the celestial brush to draw a line leading Kuni to where you want him to go. Since Kuni can reach areas that Chibi cannot, odds are that you’ll be using this power quite often.
Combat is naturally scaled back to accommodate the confines of the DS screen, but the lack of depth seems to be compensated for by a liberal sprinkling of items to keep your ink pots filled. With more ink comes more opportunities to use fun brush techniques like the Power Slash in combat, which keeps the fights from getting too spammy.
All in all, I was extremely pleased with my time playing Okamiden, and I’m very much excited for the release of the game. Okami fans thirsting for more of what made the original great will not be disappointed here. Watch a sad movie before playing it so that the cuteness doesn’t send you into shock.