Okamiden review

  • Essentially a portable version of a classic
  • DS is perfect for brush strokes
  • Partners, new abilities differentiate the game
  • Lots of slowdown and stuttering visuals
  • Dungeons, combat are too straightforward
  • Saying bad things about Okami

We’ve made no secret of our immense love for Okami, the latter-day PS2 adventure that perfectly copied Zelda’s best traits and slathered them with one-of-a-kind watercolor graphics. For years we begged the world to take notice and turn Okami’s unique world into a successful franchise, and at long last, a sequel has finally arrived. But instead of expanding the premise and building on what made the original so alluring, Okamiden essentially repurposes the first game for the DS audience. The result is a well-meaning but compromised version of a gorgeous, captivating world.

Like the original, Okamiden puts you in control of a weakened wolf deity who, once powered up, can use magical brush strokes to purify and heal the poisoned land. But this time it’s not Amaterasu who’s saving the day – enter Chibiterasu, Ammy’s adorable son who arrives just as Nippon begins to crumble. Like his mother, Chibi gains Celestial Brush techniques that damage enemies, summon sunlight and control the elements, each of which is activated by tapping L or R and literally drawing on the DS screen. This aspect is obviously well suited for DS, as the stylus gives you a tactile sensation missing from both the PS2 and Wii versions of Okami.

The powers themselves are a mixed bag. You’re using the same moves gained in the first game, so there’s little fresh or exciting about them, but Okamiden does a good job of giving you these powers early on. Compare that to Zelda or Metroid, which usually take hours upon hours to award familiar powers we’ve been using for decades. Still, we would’ve liked some kind of progression, like combining brush powers for new effects or at least a new wave of Chibi-specific moves that separated him from his mother. There are a couple of additions, but largely we’re dealing with repeats.

But it’s not all old material – Chibi isn’t quite as capable as Ammy, so he has to rely on a series of friends to help him exorcise the myriad demons clogging Nippon’s plains, skies and towns. In keeping with the adult-child motif, each partner is also a young version of an existing Okami character, be they direct descendants, servants or strongly suggested offspring. As the primary addition to Okamiden, these partners play a huge role both in gameplay and story.

Each partner has their own special battle ability, like slashing one enemy with a sword or playing musical notes to damage enemies all around. Seeing as Chibi’s own battle options are depressingly direct (Y-Y-Y-Y, brush slash, repeat) the partner moves help add a little spice to the combat.

Even then though, they’re not so clever or interesting that they made combat especially fun; some enemies require a bit more strategy to beat, and the towering bosses are even more elaborate, but by and large the fights became something we tried to avoid as often as possible, primarily because you gain more goodies for healing sick trees and fetching people’s missing belongings than you do for tackling every single enemy on the map. Okami’s about healing and helping, not endlessly fighting.

Far more useful are the helper’s out-of-battle abilities, where they hop off Chibi’s back and walk wherever you trace a line. One girl can see invisible platforms, another can emanate water from her body and douse flames, for example. Just like Zelda builds dungeons around the item you find in their depths, Okamiden structures its levels around the helper on your back, so you definitely put them to good use.

Once we start talking about dungeons though, Okamiden’s flaws start to break through. Even though they’re obviously (and admittedly) inspired by Zelda, no puzzle, room or area of Okamiden is truly challenging. Need to get through a door? Use the key that’s in the treasure chest 10 feet away. Wall of ice blocking your path? Blow some fire to melt the obstacle. Time after time you have to engage in these non-puzzles that simply drag out the experience instead of create memorable dungeons. Certain Zelda (and Okami) areas were so pretty and well thought out we had no qualms about playing them two or three times; Okamiden’s are comparatively basic.

This begs the question, should Okamiden have been a handheld Okami, or something else more suited to the DS’ limitations? Look at Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks – they’re nothing like the console versions, but are unmistakably “Zelda” even if you don’t care for the complete touch screen controls. They’re re-imagined, DS-tailored games that play to system’s strengths.

Merely converting the lush PS2 world onto the less powerful DS feels like the wrong approach at times; several areas suffer from slowdown and choppy visuals, and oftentimes you’ll see aspects of the environment suddenly pop up when you’re five feet away. Watching this inspired world stutter and jerk around is both unfortunate and disappointing. Furthermore, using a d-pad to navigate a 3D world has never been a good solution, and it’s as annoying as ever in Okamiden.

Each of those issues (draw distance, slowdown, control) could have been solved with the 3DS – increased power and an analog slider mean better, smoother graphics and more responsive controls. We’re not going to get hung up on “what Okamiden could have been,” it’s just hard to ignore these issues when they pile up and start tugging on a game that would have looked and played better on PSP or 3DS. Yes yes, the DS has in the install base, but sometimes you should build a better house in a less populated area instead of cramming a compromised home into a crowded suburb.

Our last major complaint is the storytelling – not the story itself, which is cute and genuinely interesting, but how it’s conveyed. Minutes upon minutes are spent watching enormous cutscenes that display text at the slowest speed imaginable. Oh, you can skip these, but you’re skipping the entire cutscene and will undoubtedly miss plot points and clues explaining where to go next.

Meanwhile, some dialog scenes let you mash the A button and speed through the text. Why couldn’t this be the case throughout? We repeatedly had to close the DS mid-cutscene because we were trying to play Okamiden like a portable game – you know, on planes, trains, buses and cars. If you’re planning on sitting still for the duration, this isn’t an issue, but again, Okamiden should have taken the DS’ strengths and expectations into consideration.

At its core, Okamiden is a successful, shrunken-down Okami, but it’s trapped on a system that can’t entirely pull it off. The art style, music and mechanics, while lifted from the earlier game, are still captivating and worthy of exploration, though we couldn’t shake the feeling this story would have soared higher on another platform.

Mar 15, 2011

More Info

Release date: Mar 15 2011 - DS (US)
Mar 18 2011 - DS (UK)
Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Capcom
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco, Mild Blood


  • Darkhawk - March 21, 2011 3:43 p.m.

    The original Okami had the same cut-scene problems. And with those annoying voices too (especially Navi).
  • bloodyshadow - March 16, 2011 10:30 p.m.

    "Kind of hate it" huh? A seven seems a tad far from "hating" it Brett. Oh well. I played it a little at PAX and was bored as shit. Good review, though. Even though the score wasn't what I expected, you made all your points clear.
  • GameManiac - March 16, 2011 8:41 p.m.

    It's worth playing, as far as I can tell because I bought it. I'd rather wait until I beat the first game though before starting this one.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - March 16, 2011 6:33 p.m.

    ^ It's not THAT derivative, no. All new story, and the friends you meet along the way have their own character arcs. There IS a lot of talking though...
  • rubblemaker - March 16, 2011 12:27 p.m.

    Brett, is the story the same as PS2 Okami? but with mini characters? I was hoping for a different adventure at least. Similar gameplay mechanics don't bother me but if I know that basically in five minutes mini okami is gonna meet mini Susano at that damn rock and they're gonna talk about his fighting prowess for the next five hours then the games gonna get stale fast.
  • austincharlesbond - March 16, 2011 7:24 a.m.

    I have played the Wii version 5 times. One of my favourite games. Apparently the end of this game hints at a sequel, so I pray it is a 3DS game.
  • EroticInvisibleMan - March 16, 2011 7:17 a.m.

    Just wanna point something out real quick to the commenters. 7 is a good score. Don't get hung up on it (not that anyone really has yet.
  • quincytheodore - March 16, 2011 6 a.m.

    Well, that must have been tough, saying negative things about Okami. Stay strong, Gamesradar. You stay objective though :D.
  • GamesRadarBrettElston - March 16, 2011 5:22 a.m.

    I almost brought up the typos, but didn't get around it. Yeah, there are several, and there are moments where some of the SFX stutter. Makes an otherwise pretty world seem rushed. If you never played Okami, I wouldn't recommend this as an introduction - play the first one instead. It's better in every way, yet largely the same. This is still good, just no substitute for the first if you skipped it. 'Den's also full of references to the first so you'll miss out on a lot of stuff if you begin here. No, putting it in a 3DS will not magically fix the control, slowdown or popup issues. Okamiden is designed for DS, not 3DS, and therefor can't take advantage of the improved hardware.
  • Syncmaster - March 15, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    how can developers still make stupid design decision like unskipable cutscenes or dialogue nowdays? its common now to even pause cutscenes wich is great, but that is retarded
  • Spybreak8 - March 15, 2011 10:04 p.m.

    What about people that never played Okami, I guess add a point to the score then huh? Eh I'm already sold so I'm not really checking out the score.
  • CaptainSalmon - March 15, 2011 8:40 p.m.

    BIAS. Or at least I am. Despite it's apparent mediocrity, I still reckon this is worth a buy. Even if it is to support this pseudo-franchise.
  • justinbanda - March 15, 2011 8:19 p.m.

    @SirNinja: I know, right? If only those games could have come a year or two ago. Ninty doesn't look like it's about to let people forget about the original DS just yet. Now, if only someone would port the original Okami to the 3DS...
  • SirNinja - March 15, 2011 8:08 p.m.

    Between Okamiden, Pokemon Black/White, and Dragon Quest VI, the DS is really going out with a bang. Can't wait to play this.
  • Clovin64 - March 15, 2011 7:49 p.m.

    Pretty much what I was expecting. I'm a big fan of the PS2 original, and I would buy this, but Pokemon White and Dragon Age II have robbed me of my money. I'll just have to wait till later to pick this up.
  • EnragedTortoise1 - March 15, 2011 7:27 p.m.

    So.. many... dog... puns... GR is becoming my dad.
  • FauxFurry - March 15, 2011 7:24 p.m.

    If Capcom were able to curb their urge to release this puppy on Nintendo's old dog rather than learning a new system's worth of tricks, why not give this old shelter dog a proper showdog makeover ? (Translation: Give the Okami flash game the full side-scrolling action-adventure-platformer treatment for the DS or at least make it more like the handheld Legend of Zelda games...or even Willow for the NES.) Fans have been waiting a god's age for a follow-up to Okami to come out, so what would another year have meant to them if that's what it took to get it just right (without having to re-hire the guys from Clover, anyway)?
  • grizzly311 - March 15, 2011 7:08 p.m.

    Would love to get this and some Pokemon, but my DSi seems to have vanished mysteriously. Guess it is as good of an excuse as any to breakdown and buy a 3DS.
  • Yaro - March 15, 2011 6:56 p.m.

    Wait what if you put Okamiden in a 3DS? Won't you be able to use analogue stick and get a better framerate? That would make sense right?
  • shawksta - March 15, 2011 6:46 p.m.

    Frankly I like the visuals, It reminds me of Viewtiful Joe Double Trouble. Ive learned to never trust some reviews on my picks,Gamespot giving pokemon Black/White 7.5, but your review was great nontheless,a 7 seems underrating but im gonna enjoy this game regardless I can tell. Its great to see the DS get last minute games before 3DS's launch, Its most likely gonna continue, especially since Ace attorney investigations: Miles edgeworth 2 has yet to be announced but already released in japan.

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