Never got around to playing Okami on PS2 or Wii? You disgust me – close this window immediately and repent on your failure as a supporter of beautiful and original games.
Er… wait. You can stay if you promise to give Okamiden a chance this time. And if you're an Okami fan who's worried about the art style suffering on the small DS screen, rest assured that Okamiden definitely pushes the DS hardware impressively, and it still looks and sounds absolutely stunning. The paintbrushy sumi-e art style seems well-suited to the DS too, and the colors are pleasingly vibrant. Of course, Chibiterasu is adorable too.
One obvious reason for putting an Okami game on the DS is that the touch screen seems made for the celestial brush. As you play through the game, you unlock various celestial brush moves that do everything from unleash special attacks on enemies to make trees blossom. You can use the celestial brush anytime by hitting either bumper button, which freezes the action while you draw the appropriate brush move. Using the correct brush move is often a big part of Okamiden's many Zelda-like puzzles, and also crucial for dispatching certain enemies.
Enemies appear throughout the overworld that you can engage or avoid as you choose, and running into one triggers an RPG-style encounter. Chibiterasu can do a basic attack with the Y button and an adorable twirl dodge with the A button, and most enemies are vulnerable to specific strategies using a combination of celestial brush moves and attacking. One of the fiercer enemies in the demo was a flying snake that was invulnerable while holding his swords, and required careful timing and the right brush stroke to dodge its sword throws and send the serpent crashing to the ground.
Like its predecessor Okami, Okamiden is strikingly Zelda-like in gameplay. At one point in the play session, Chibiterasu walked by a familiar-looking crack in a wall, and drawing a cherry bomb with the celestial brush to exposed a hidden entrance. It's one of the many obvious rip-offs that appeared in the original, and we can't help but love Okami and Okamiden even more for it, because it so clearly comes from a place of respect, and even though certain aspects are pulled directly from the Zelda series, the Okami series still has a heart of its own.
The game is out in Japan already, so it's going to be tough to wait until next year for the US release. In the meantime, you can check out the recent TGS gameplay trailer, and look for our interview with Okamiden producer Motohide Eshiro later next week.
Oct 6, 2010