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Okamiden - NDS Screenshot - 866671

Okami was a PlayStation 2 title (later ported to the Wii) that was creative, joyful and featured a wonderful blend of Japanese artwork with ethereal themes. The game was a hit with critics and gamers alike.

It’s been a couple of years and the next iteration of the franchise is gearing up for a release on the Nintendo DS. But for those who fondly remember the original, and who may have fretted that the new title is a major departure … well, the short of it is that the game is not much of a departure at all.

The original title feature a white wolf named Ameterasu (check spelling) and his human companion saving the world of Nippon from an evil force. The duo battled and used the Celestial Brush to create beauty from the barren decimated world. Okamiden picks up the story thread, advancing the world and introducing the wolf pup Chibiterasu, which just happens to be the offspring of the white wolf of the original title. And the spirits of the Celestial Brush, those spirits that empowered the skills in the first game … they may be gone, but their offspring are about and ready to bless the efforts of Chibiterasu.

Still intact is the underlying element of restoring beauty to the world, but there have been changes to the fighting mechanics as well as some new elements added to the power of the brush. One of the more notable changes is the skill called Guidance. Using the Guidance skill, players can pause the world, pull up the Celestial Brush and draw a path for Chibiterasu’s human companion to follow. This is important during many of the game’s puzzle elements. For example, Chibiterasu can have his human companion climb of his back before a bridge that is too fragile to support the combined weight. The wolf pup can cross and then the Celestial Brush can be called up and a path can be drawn for the human to follow. Basically this allows Chibiterasu to guide his partner to points to help with puzzles.

Because the companions for Chibiterasu are young, and Chibiterasu is a pup, the skills are only half of what adults would have, but that is where the combination of skills plays a vital role in defeating the monsters of the game. Each partner has his or her own skill set and those are vital to the story.

When it comes to the combat, the game has taken the mechanics of the first game, streamlined and simplified them. But straight-on combat is not the only thing that needs to be done to defeat bosses in the game. Okamiden producer Motohide Eshiro liked the puzzle elements during combat to the Legend of Zelda games.

The game’s developers have also taken great pains to ensure that the vibrant and unique art style of the original game remains intact. While there are familiar scenes, even those villages that were in the original will boast new buildings and new items to find. The redesign also extends to the enemies, which (coming from Japanese mythology) are more colorful.

Okamiden is a visually compelling game and while the Capcom team was proud to show it off, players looking for some hands-on time may have to wait a while. No firm release date is yet in place but it is anticipated that the game will launch in 2011.

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Michael Lafferty
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