After a painful week of waiting, we finally have some concrete info on Okamiden, thanks to Famitsu. The game’s full title is Okamiden: Chisaki Taiyou, and the events it depicts take place a few months after the original game.
For anyone just getting caught up, Okamiden — like many other Japanese franchises of late — has made a transition from console to portable, being developed for the DS this time around. The game features the return of Issun, as well as a new wolf, Chibiterasu. (Ammy’s kid maybe? Which would make Wakka something that isn’t safe to say in this post.) Issun is escorting Chibiterasu to the wood sprite Sakuya, who is in need of his assistance.
Chibi isn’t the only mystery either, seeing as how Okamiden also features Susano’s son(!), Kuninushi. The Famitsu article points out that the game will reveal just how it is that Susano suddenly has a kid despite not much time having passed between Okami and Okamiden.
As you’d expect, you’ll be using the stylus to perform the different Celestial Brush techniques. There’s no mention of whether or not Chibiterasu is able to command any new techniques that Ammy couldn’t, but Famitsu does mention that Okamiden will have a greater focus on cooperation with the partners that ride on Chibi’s back. An example was cited where you have to use the Celestial Brush to to draw a different path for your partner to take, while you yourself make your way across a rickety old bridge.
Since the original announcement of the game being on DS, there has understandably been some concern over how well it will be able to live up to the expectations set by its predecessor. Most of us weren’t expecting an Okami sequel at all, and while I empathize with the “something’s better than nothing” sentiment, the original just so happens to be my favourite game of all time.
The problem is, the original Okami represented something that was a whole lot more than just a “game.” Whenever the games-as-art argument is brought up, Okami is the first name that springs to mind, not simply because of the art style, but because Clover did such an incredible job creating and executing an aesthetic vision. The world was believable, the characters were believable…but more importantly, Okami allowed you to explore every inch of this world at your leisure, to uncover its secrets and the secrets of Nippon’s populace.
Not to sound overly harsh or judgmental, but I don’t see how Okamiden will be able to replicate the feel of tearing through the Shinsuu Fields, weaving your way in and out of the flora, leaping over rocks, leaving a trail of gorgeous flowers and leaves behind you. Regardless of how good its characters were or how much fun the brush techniques were to use or how amusing the game could be, Okami did rely heavily on its visuals to help bring its world to life. There was something incredibly breathtaking about pulling the camera back to a bird’s-eye view of Ammy running through a forest, leaving a trail of flowers in her wake. It isn’t something that can’t be replicated on the DS, and this comes from someone who normally loves watching developers create 3D games for the system.
There’s also that little matter of who’s in charge of Okamiden. Naturally, it’s not Clover/Platinum Games, which makes a big difference. No, Okamiden is being produced by Motohide Eshiro, producer of Ace Attorney Investigations and directed by Kuniomi Matsushita, who directed the Wii port of Okami.
What strikes me as odd is, Matsushita says the reason behind Okamiden being for the DS is that he wants more people to experience the visuals and the world of Okami. While that’s a noble endeavour, the problem with this line of reasoning is that, by putting it on the DS, you aren’t exactly exploiting one of Okami’s most appealing traits: the artwork. Okamiden is only about 25% complete at the moment, but as you’d expect, it looks pretty terrible. The chances of it being DSi-exclusive so they can spruce up the art are pretty slim, too.
I suppose we should all thank Eshiro-san for green lighting the project. After all, it is nice to see Capcom give Okami another shot at success. Still, this is hardly the ideal situation for the franchise, and one wonders if scaling it back so much in an effort to keep the budget under control that it loses much of its appeal is worth the effort at all.