Okamiden: An interview with producer Motohide Eshiro

The twilight days of the venerable DS may have already begun, but that’s not to say that there won’t be anything worthwhile coming out for the long-lived handheld now that the 3DS is set to enter the arena. Capcom’s awesome-looking Okamiden, the follow-up to their PlayStation and Wii classic and all-time GamesRadar favorite Okami (by the way, you should play Okami), is set to release on March 15. We sat down with Okamiden’s producer, Motohide Eshiro, to talk about the origins of the game, its release timing, where all of its new gameplay ideas were spawned, and just what it takes to bring back a fan favorite for another go. Some of the answers might just surprise you.

GamesRadar: The amount of fidelity to the original game, graphics-wise, is really impressive. Was that a challenge to do on the DS hardware?

Motohide Eshiro: It was pretty difficult – there’s obviously a big difference between the power of a handheld and the hardware the previous game was developed on. We had to lower the amount of polygons in the models and the amount of joints in the underlying skeleton, but we were able to utilize clever visual tracks to make things look like they have more joints than they actually do. There was a lot of experimentation involved to make it look as good as possible, given the hardware limitations. Another area we needed to adjust was sound. Since the game isn’t on a disc, we had less memory and resources to work with. It took a lot of effort on the part of our sound designers to bring things down to size for this game. The programmers also had to work hard to deal with issues like framerate. It’s tough work, but we’re pleased with the results.

GR: Was the creation of Chibiterasu a direct result of the need to scale the models down?

ME: That’s something that’s definitely worth talking about, since it’s tied to the development process. In the very very early development stages, when we first ran tests to see if the game would be even feasible to do on the DS, we used Amaterasu as the player character model. What we found out was when the camera zoomed out too much, she was really hard to see due to her ornate design. If we zoomed in too close, Amaterasu would cover too much of the background. We decided to keep the level of zoom but just tone the character model down. As we worked at it, we hit upon the idea of making the character look more childlike. We decided to go with it and make the character Amaterasu’s child, Chibiterasu. It was born of necessity, and somewhat of coincidence. From there we started thinking, if this is Amaterasu’s offspring, we can’t have them be as powerful, so we need to make up for that – what if the character worked with partners? If we’re going to have a partner, how about a whole series of partners? If we’re having so many characters, shouldn’t we give them all different abilities that will make them as formidable as Amaterasu? It all kind of started from the idea of shrinking the character.

GR: That’s really interesting. So a lot of the unique features of Okamiden are the direct result of compromising for the limitations of the hardware, in a way.

ME: Yes, Chibiterasu is a character born specifically because this game is on the DS. We do owe the Ds a debt of gratitude, in that respect. It’s something that happens a lot in game development – we owe the director a lot for this – often you start with a core idea which begins a chain reaction, and the game design will begin to blossom under its own power. That’s exactly what happened this time around.

GR: The game is going to release in mid-March, around the same time as the 3DS. Are you worried that the game will be overshadowed by this new, shiny hardware launch?

ME: It is most certainly a concern – ideally, we would have liked to get this one to market earlier. But the last thing we wanted to do was compromise the localization. The story is very important to this game, and we wanted to do the best job possible. We spent a lot of time making sure elements of Japanese culture would get across and make sense to people who play it in English. We had no choice but to take our time and do that part right, and we don’t regret that. The good news is that the 3DS is backwards-compatible, so if you bought your 3DS but have trouble filling your quota of interesting games to get with it, by all means we encourage you to check out Okamiden on your new machine!

GR: So if you buy a 3DS, you should totally buy Super Street Fighter IV 3D and Okamiden.

ME: Yes. At least 2 copies of each. *laughs*

GR: A lot of people in the press feel like the original Okami didn’t really get the commercial success it deserved. Since the original title wasn’t a smash hit, what was the impetus for making a new Okami game?

ME: One thing we should probably make clear is that, while this is a new game in the Okami universe, it isn’t exactly a sequel in the traditional sense. We really want Okamiden to stand alone as an original title – obviously, it takes its cues from its mother, but we wanted to add enough new things and have it play differently enough to be its own thing. We went about that in a lot of ways, like the partner mechanic, where your partner character plays a vital role in solving puzzles and the storyline. As far as the DS as a platform, it seemed like a natural choice from both my and the director’s point of view. We both agreed that since we have a game where a key mechanic is drawing things, we wanted to but the controls literally into the players hands so they could enjoy the smooth feeling of drawing directly on the screen.

GR: Looking at it from that perspective, it might be less surprising, even though – unfortunately – the original Okami didn’t do as well as we all think it deserved to.

But despite its performance, it has a pretty fervent fanbase. As a game developer, which situation is more favorable: having a commercial mega-success that doesn’t have a big impact on individual players, or a sleeper hit that earns the love of a smaller but devout fanbase?

ME: That’s a really difficult question. I think the ideal would be to have a balance between the two. Obviously, if a character is not popular, or a game lacks any endearing personalities, it’s kind of hard to justify a sequel. You need to have a strong character. I think in the case of Okami – and in any game, really – it’s about having a character or characters that people can relate to, that will make them want to play the game. What’s also really important is timing the release such that more people will be exposed to the game. That job really falls on the producer to try and control the course of development and hit just the right timing in release, which isn’t always easy to do. Certainly, a popular character goes a long way, but timing is equally as important to get the kind of sales that you need for a game.



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  • Averagegamer18 - February 17, 2011 2:21 a.m.

    I am one of the people who haven't played Okami. I been watching it though and the game seems great, except for little things but for me personally I just can't get into it enough to buy the game or rent it and play it. I will probably try Okamiden like a demo but I don't think I will buy it. Not cause of the 3ds *unless bundled with Zelda* but because Okami never really appealed to me.
  • MrDuracraft - February 17, 2011 1:44 a.m.

    Ok, that picture of them in the masks makes me want to buy it more than I already do. That disguise was one of the best things in Okami
  • philipshaw - February 16, 2011 11:58 p.m.

    I love Okami, one of my favorite games of the last 5 years. I will check this out if the reviews are good
  • Nap1400 - February 16, 2011 7:54 p.m.

    @Yaro: No DS games will support 3D. Sorry! OT: I've never played Okami, and from what I've seen and heard, I'm missing a lot. I may pick this up to try to get into the series. Maybe there will be more Okami games in the future.
  • 93bleach - February 16, 2011 6:32 p.m.

    Wow march is a really bad month for my wallet but a very good month for gaming on the ds/3ds. Okamiden, pokemon black, 3ds and a game to go with it.
  • hoba - February 16, 2011 6:22 p.m.

    So I have a month basically to play Okami again? Damn I wish I was still unemployed. :) I can't wait for this game to get released. March 18th's EU release cannot come soon enough. @FreedomPhantom As well as TWEWY, which is an awesome RPG, I'd recommend Elite Beat Agents (it's insane but always manages to make me smile), any of the Professor Layton games and Super Scribblenauts. Infinite Space is well worth checking out if you can find a cheap copy, but its learning curve is as steep as the Matterhorn and has put a lot of people I know off it.
  • Yaro - February 16, 2011 11:44 a.m.

    That was a pretty good review...I will buy a 3DS and I will buy Okamiden (yay for backward compatibility)...think it will support 3D, or rather, think that some (if not all) DS titles will support 3D on the 3DS? I'd love to see Castlevanias with 3D backgrounds and spell effects/particles/candles.
  • Clovin64 - February 16, 2011 10:54 a.m.

    That worries me. With the 3DS being released around the same time, its most likely that Okamiden will be completely overlooked. Again. If I remember correctly, the first Okami game was released on PS2 shortly before the UK PS3 launch. History does have a way of repeating itself...
  • FreedomPhantom - February 16, 2011 6:20 a.m.

    @TRcommander Yeah I've heard of that title. I might just have to check it out now it's only $15. Plus, GR gave it a great review.
  • JoeMasturbaby - February 16, 2011 3:56 a.m.

    pokemon white and okamiden. never thought the DS would give me a boner. might have to preorder it soon.
  • TRcommander - February 16, 2011 3:43 a.m.

    sorry for the double post but it's not for the 3DS gamefreak. It just happens to be releasing at about the same time, but it's for DS.
  • TRcommander - February 16, 2011 3:37 a.m.

    @FreedomPhantom- Another great game is The World Ends With You. That was the 1st game I played on the DS that I felt made good use of both screens cause most other games at that point had most of the action on one screen and just menus and stuff on the other. Also, I just bought Okami for Wii, and I'm gonna get this one too but they're gonna have to wait till I finish the other dozen owned but unplayed games I have sitting on my shelf (I had a really good Christmas)
  • gamefreakl1996 - February 16, 2011 3:27 a.m.

    ...its only coming out for 3DS?! *twitch* I refuse to purchase a 3DS, ever
  • FreedomPhantom - February 16, 2011 3:17 a.m.

    Okami was a work of art! This makes me so excited. This interview is also very interesting to me because I love seeing the creative processes of others. I think it's sweet that the game is still progressing forward in gameplay even though it has more hardware limitations :) Okamiden is definitely one of those games that I'm going to get when I get a used DS. I plan on getting all of the best DS games that have come out and have a dual screen gaming binge! So far my list goes: Okamiden, Zelda: Spirit tracks, Pokemon Heart Gold, New SMB, and GTA: Chinatown Wars. Any other suggestions from seasoned DS users?? :)
  • KolbitosFruitJuice - February 16, 2011 2:35 a.m.

    I'll get my little brother to get it, so I can play it. Don't have a DS. Sad face