Okamiden Review for Nintendo DS (DS)

Okamiden Review for Nintendo DS (DS)


The Wii’s Okami was often compared to the Legend of Zelda games, and the comparison was apt. Okami was like if Twilight Princess has been Japan-ified to the fullest extent—complete with Japanese lore, a bizarre sense of humor, and a very small character who is obsessed with certain parts of a woman. You played the game as a white wolf named Amaterasu who must save the world from an evil force using the power of calligraphy. Your paint brush was the Wiimote, and you can imagine the frustrations that resulted from that mechanic. Despite difficulties with accuracy and sensor bars, the game was nearly as fun as any Zelda game and was considered by many to be one of the best games of 2006.

Okamiden Screenshot

The protagonist of Okamiden is the son of the white wolf from Okami—a little white pup called Chibiterasu (also known as “Chibi”). Instead of traveling with the tiny Celestial Envoy Issun, Chibi carries a number of different characters on his back—including the son of the hapless hero Susano from Okami. Chibi learns his brush techniques from the children of the Celestial Brush Gods that appeared in the original game.

All in all, Okamiden is to Okami as Chibiterasu is to Amaterasu—smaller and cuter, but essentially exactly the same. In a way, this is a good thing. Okamiden is a very good game with good writing and excellent gameplay. It’s one of those games that is very hard to put down, because it’s fun just to run around and accomplish nothing. However, the fact is that Okamiden is almost the exact same game with a different story. You go to the same areas, solve many similar problems, learn the same brush techniques, and fight the same baddies. Some of these things are slightly altered, like the designs of the baddies, but some of the recycling is shameless. Remember the old lady who lost her laundry pole in Okami? She lost it again. How do you lose a laundry pole twice in nine months?

Okamiden Screenshot

The fact is that Okamiden is still a very good game, but recycling bothers me. It sends the message that the developers are more interested in money than being creative, and if gamers don’t call them on it, then we can expect a lot more of the same. Give us some credit. No one wants to buy the same game twice.

On the bright side, at least Capcom recycled the game’s quality as well. It’s easily one of my favorite DS games of all time, right up there with Phantom Hourglass. Okamiden has the same smooth movement and satisfying combat found in Okami. The only thing that’s considerably different is using the Celestial Brush, since the Wiimote has been replaced by the stylus. While using the stylus is a lot more accurate than the slightly schizophrenic Wiimote, it’s also a lot less fun. As frustrating as the brush techniques could be in Okami, it was still fun to actually slash at enemies with the Wiimote rather than just drawing on them. Plus, having to grab the stylus every time you wanted to draw didn’t exactly contribute to the game’s flow. It also added to another one of Okami’s flaws: the difficulty level. Okami was already too easy. I only died once while playing Okamiden, and that was due to extreme negligence on my part.

Okamiden Screenshot

Another aspect of the game that’s different is the dungeons, which is one of the most important parts of a Zelda-like action-adventure game. Though many of the puzzles are similar to those found in Okami, a lot of them revolve around the one new brush technique found in Okamiden. Since Chibi has partners that are big enough to be of some use, he is given the ability to guide them—that is, draw paths that his partners follow. You can guide them onto switches or to treasure chests that are unreachable by Chibi. Though this technique is technically new (at least to this franchise), it’s not all that creative or entertaining, and none of the puzzles involved are at all difficult. The only challenge came from the random hazards, like floating scissors that would fly around and smack my partners every few seconds, which apparently made them forget what they were doing so that I had to redraw the path ten times before they finally made it. More irritating than fun, the game doesn’t get extra points for that one.

Partners were also useful in battle. Susano’s son flies off of Chibi to attack enemies from afar. A rather angry young actress throws fans off in all directions. Some partners have powers over elements that can be used to stun certain enemies, leaving them open for a solid beat down. It makes the standard combat—which was perhaps a bit dull in Okami—a little more interesting.

The side quests in Okamiden are much rarer than they were in its predecessor, which is to be expected since it’s a handheld game. Still, there are quite a few hidden treasure chests to root out, which is a nice diversion. I love an excuse to explore every bit of the map. One thing that can make this difficult, however, is the camera. Since the shoulder buttons are used to freeze time so that players can use the Celestial Brush, the only way to control the camera is to hit the arrows on the map, located on the touch screen. It’s not convenient. Most of the time the camera does a good job getting behind Chibi on its own, but there were a few times when its failure caused me to run into a baddie that I didn’t feel like fighting. During combat, a time where it’s essential to be able to see the things you want to see, camera problems are even worse.

Okamiden Screenshot

The music in Okamiden is once again pleasant enough to listen to all day and appropriate for each environment. The sound effects work well (especially Chibi’s adorable little bark), and although many found the computer-generated noises that were in place of voice acting in Okami to be annoying, I don’t expect voice acting in a DS game.

One thing people complain about in Wii and DS games are the graphics. It’s true—Nintendo sacrificed visual quality for innovation. Of course, the best way to combat this flaw is with more innovation. One of the best things about Okami and Okamiden is their style. Like Twilight Princess, these games manage to look just as impressive as any PS3/PSP game by wielding a beautiful artistic style that makes us wonder why we ever cared about realism. Capcom put the same effort into making Okamiden look like it was entirely painted by a master Japanese artist as they did in Okami, plus it’s more adorable with all the baby animals. This style carries over into the writing, which maintains the same Japanese humor and dynamic characters. The plot is of course still steeped in ancient Japanese lore, giving it a level of depth that many games lack. Okamiden, like its parent, is full of charm.

I would love to give Okamiden a “must buy” score, but I can’t tell anyone that they have to buy a game if they can go out and buy one that’s essentially the same, only better. However if you have a DS and enjoyed Okami, Okamiden would be a great addition to your collection. It will provide you with many hours of genuine fun, which can be hard to find in a handheld game. I highly recommend that DS owners play Okamiden. That is, if you can tear yourself away from your new Pokémon game.

Who needs realistic pores when you can have a Japanese work of art to play in? 4.2 Control
Mostly smooth, with a few camera issues. They also weren’t as fun as in the original game, even if they were more precise. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Generally pleasing, and the weird little noises in place of voices are more understandable on this platform. 3.5 Play Value
Although very fun, this game loses major points for too much recycled content. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • The touch screen and stylus of the Nintendo DS are the ideal tools to simulate Okamiden’s trademark celestial brush. The stylus brushstrokes are pressure sensitive, which helps to accurately depict the look and feel of Sumi-e artwork.
  • Using the in-game Partner System, players can join forces with new characters in the game, each possessing unique abilities that will help Chibiterasu defeat enemies and conquer puzzles.
  • The beauty of the highly stylized Japanese calligraphy and scroll paintings are depicted in pixel-perfect handheld glory.
  • Draw bridges into existence, transverse canyons, and connect winding paths through space by using the celestial brush and the abilities of Chibiterasu’s partners.

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