Recently Played: Okamiden

After playing bits and pieces of it over the past few weeks, I've finished Okamiden. It's about 15-20 hours. Probably longer if you're looking for every secret and collectable. I don't like it, but this is due more to my tastes than the game being completely broken or anything.

To give you an indicator of how I view the whole Okami thing. I thought the PS2 game was good. I don't think it deserves the endless praise it's accumulated over the years... but it's a decent game. I loved the art style, the brush motif, and the enemy designs. At the same time it's almost stupidly easy with so many in-game fail safes that it's damn near impossible to see the game over screen unless you're really, really trying. Not to mention it has some pacing issues, and if you aren't into parodies of Japanese folklore as old as the hills... you probably won't get much out of it either.

I don't know if there's ever a graceful way to complain about a game, but I will try as hard as I can. Right up front, I want to say that this game is perfectly playable. It's probably even fine. And if someone had not played Okami on the PS2 I could possibly see how they might love it. If you like cute things and children, you're in luck. I wanted to get that out of the way, because that's about all the nice things I can say about Okamiden.

Okamiden (Okami Plus Kids,  Minus Everything Else: The Game)

Here's Your "Tale of Genji" Reference. Enjoy
This game is not for me. Period. It somehow manages to hit everything I don't like about character design. On top of that, it has a story awkward enough to muck up the plot of the first Okami. The first game was basically one big affectionate parody of Japanese mythology, so at least it had direction. Okamiden doesn't have that base to build on and the story is as simple as good vs evil plus kids. Maybe because of that, it ends up reusing a lot of events from Okami to the point of being uncomfortable.

It feels more copy-paste than a play on nostalgia. There are new areas, but the split feels pretty uneven by the end of it. The worst involves taking one of the most awkward parts of Okami and developing it into a major plot point that stretches through the last half of the game. And they don't even have a pair of twin clockwork owls wearing top hats and monocles to justify it.

A lot of it feels lazy, especially the cast. Most of them involve taking a character from Okami and making a kid version of them. You play as Chibiterasu, who is a young Amaterasu. You have Kuni, who is basically a young Susano. You have Kurow, who is basically a young Waka. Etc. It's a lot like Baby Mario and Baby Luigi syndrome only spread out to most of the major cast and trying to pawn them off as brand spanking new characters. Maybe I could enjoy this if it was a Muppet Babies deal. Except these kid versions follow character arcs similar to their older counterparts. Yes, I know that Kuni is boastful and cowardly and by the end of the game he'll learn what bravery means and actually become a hero. Yes, I know that Kurow is mysterious but helpful and will show his true colors when it really matters. And that sounds really harsh, but I cannot treat younger versions of older characters like they're new or something special. I'm one of those guys that hates Baby Mario and Baby Luigi when they show up as characters in Mario Kart. And I get the same feeling here.

Also perplexing is the way they make the top screen the center of the action where you fight enemies and navigate the land. Whenever you use the celestial brush to draw symbols to use abilities, there is a pause as the entire top screen shifts down to the lower screen. When you're done using the stylus, everything shifts back to the top screen. It sounds kind of petty to harp on a few seconds of transitions... but considering how many times you use the Celestial Brush throughout the game, those few seconds add up. It gets old quickly, and I really wonder why they didn't just make it so you could effortlessly shift back and forth between brush abilities and the action. It's like a thorn in your foot you can't get out. You will live, but it will bug the shit out of you if it's not already causing extreme pain.

Fuck You, Kabuki Puppet!
Overall, the game is tougher than Okami. I actually died a few times. Combat walks a fine line between bearable and tedious, because a lot of enemies have annoying invincibility frames that stretch out fights. It's also been simplified to button mashing. You get three weapons throughout the game. Three. But the worst part is the boss battles. Holy shit.

The tipping point for me was the third boss of the game that involved fighting a giant Kabuki puppet. Defeating it was kind of annoying. Then you fight the Kabuki Puppet two more times. What's especially bad is that you have to play connect-the-dots to defeat the puppets. Only by the second and third fight they're throwing up barriers you have to counter with fire and exorcism magic on each dot. There's no way to simply hit all the dots in one go... so you end up doing tons of screen shifting as you're forced to hit each individual dot before connecting them all. If you aren't fast enough the boss recovers and you get to do it all over again. It doesn't get much better from there.

One boss is even a palette swap evil version of the main character that comes out of nowhere. There is nothing I hate more than palette swaps trying to be passed off as an original character. It's fucking lazy.

The writing is also not so great. Almost perplexing really. Not that Okami was a pinnacle of game script writing, but Okamiden feels like they aren't even trying. Kurow is the best/worst example. How do you like your Highway to the Danger Zone references in a game about mystical Japan? What about "hella bad"? Do you like a character who uses so much slang he's one dawg away from- AW SNAP! DROP A BOMB ON IT? What does "I didn't know he'd be so diesel" even mean!? What does Vin Diesel have to do with any of this?

I could go on, but I've probably already overdone it. It just feels like Okamiden has no soul. It's going through the motions without actually leaning anything from the game it's supposed to be a sequel for. In my mind, sequels should do something new or add to the experience. Okamiden doesn't even give you more of the same. It just feels gutted.
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4 Comments
Posted by Sarumarine

After playing bits and pieces of it over the past few weeks, I've finished Okamiden. It's about 15-20 hours. Probably longer if you're looking for every secret and collectable. I don't like it, but this is due more to my tastes than the game being completely broken or anything.

To give you an indicator of how I view the whole Okami thing. I thought the PS2 game was good. I don't think it deserves the endless praise it's accumulated over the years... but it's a decent game. I loved the art style, the brush motif, and the enemy designs. At the same time it's almost stupidly easy with so many in-game fail safes that it's damn near impossible to see the game over screen unless you're really, really trying. Not to mention it has some pacing issues, and if you aren't into parodies of Japanese folklore as old as the hills... you probably won't get much out of it either.

I don't know if there's ever a graceful way to complain about a game, but I will try as hard as I can. Right up front, I want to say that this game is perfectly playable. It's probably even fine. And if someone had not played Okami on the PS2 I could possibly see how they might love it. If you like cute things and children, you're in luck. I wanted to get that out of the way, because that's about all the nice things I can say about Okamiden.

Okamiden (Okami Plus Kids,  Minus Everything Else: The Game)

Here's Your "Tale of Genji" Reference. Enjoy
This game is not for me. Period. It somehow manages to hit everything I don't like about character design. On top of that, it has a story awkward enough to muck up the plot of the first Okami. The first game was basically one big affectionate parody of Japanese mythology, so at least it had direction. Okamiden doesn't have that base to build on and the story is as simple as good vs evil plus kids. Maybe because of that, it ends up reusing a lot of events from Okami to the point of being uncomfortable.

It feels more copy-paste than a play on nostalgia. There are new areas, but the split feels pretty uneven by the end of it. The worst involves taking one of the most awkward parts of Okami and developing it into a major plot point that stretches through the last half of the game. And they don't even have a pair of twin clockwork owls wearing top hats and monocles to justify it.

A lot of it feels lazy, especially the cast. Most of them involve taking a character from Okami and making a kid version of them. You play as Chibiterasu, who is a young Amaterasu. You have Kuni, who is basically a young Susano. You have Kurow, who is basically a young Waka. Etc. It's a lot like Baby Mario and Baby Luigi syndrome only spread out to most of the major cast and trying to pawn them off as brand spanking new characters. Maybe I could enjoy this if it was a Muppet Babies deal. Except these kid versions follow character arcs similar to their older counterparts. Yes, I know that Kuni is boastful and cowardly and by the end of the game he'll learn what bravery means and actually become a hero. Yes, I know that Kurow is mysterious but helpful and will show his true colors when it really matters. And that sounds really harsh, but I cannot treat younger versions of older characters like they're new or something special. I'm one of those guys that hates Baby Mario and Baby Luigi when they show up as characters in Mario Kart. And I get the same feeling here.

Also perplexing is the way they make the top screen the center of the action where you fight enemies and navigate the land. Whenever you use the celestial brush to draw symbols to use abilities, there is a pause as the entire top screen shifts down to the lower screen. When you're done using the stylus, everything shifts back to the top screen. It sounds kind of petty to harp on a few seconds of transitions... but considering how many times you use the Celestial Brush throughout the game, those few seconds add up. It gets old quickly, and I really wonder why they didn't just make it so you could effortlessly shift back and forth between brush abilities and the action. It's like a thorn in your foot you can't get out. You will live, but it will bug the shit out of you if it's not already causing extreme pain.

Fuck You, Kabuki Puppet!
Overall, the game is tougher than Okami. I actually died a few times. Combat walks a fine line between bearable and tedious, because a lot of enemies have annoying invincibility frames that stretch out fights. It's also been simplified to button mashing. You get three weapons throughout the game. Three. But the worst part is the boss battles. Holy shit.

The tipping point for me was the third boss of the game that involved fighting a giant Kabuki puppet. Defeating it was kind of annoying. Then you fight the Kabuki Puppet two more times. What's especially bad is that you have to play connect-the-dots to defeat the puppets. Only by the second and third fight they're throwing up barriers you have to counter with fire and exorcism magic on each dot. There's no way to simply hit all the dots in one go... so you end up doing tons of screen shifting as you're forced to hit each individual dot before connecting them all. If you aren't fast enough the boss recovers and you get to do it all over again. It doesn't get much better from there.

One boss is even a palette swap evil version of the main character that comes out of nowhere. There is nothing I hate more than palette swaps trying to be passed off as an original character. It's fucking lazy.

The writing is also not so great. Almost perplexing really. Not that Okami was a pinnacle of game script writing, but Okamiden feels like they aren't even trying. Kurow is the best/worst example. How do you like your Highway to the Danger Zone references in a game about mystical Japan? What about "hella bad"? Do you like a character who uses so much slang he's one dawg away from- AW SNAP! DROP A BOMB ON IT? What does "I didn't know he'd be so diesel" even mean!? What does Vin Diesel have to do with any of this?

I could go on, but I've probably already overdone it. It just feels like Okamiden has no soul. It's going through the motions without actually leaning anything from the game it's supposed to be a sequel for. In my mind, sequels should do something new or add to the experience. Okamiden doesn't even give you more of the same. It just feels gutted.
Posted by EuanDewar

Everytime I try and hate it I look at Chibiterasu and just think everything is alright in the world.

Edited by JJWeatherman

Well that's just too bad. My excitement to try the game has plummeted. Especially after reading your examples of the dialog. That's just horrible. Ah, well.


(Oh yeah, and that's a good title for a blog. I like it.)
Posted by Sarumarine
@JJWeatherman:
To be fair, it's not like every character talks like the examples I posted. But Kurow is one of your partners and he sticks with you for a long time, so he has plenty of opportunity to overuse "Dude", talk about "peeps", tell people to "peace out", and grind your nerves down to nothing. And at one point early on you can talk to an NPC that Issun calls "dawg".

It's like they tried to work in how Waka used some French in Okami, only they never stopped and went totally overboard.