Okamiden: Chiisaki Taiyo Looks Promising

Okami was yet another underloved classic, a visually stunning title swept under the rug despite every reviewer shouting its praise. It was lucky enough to get a port to the Wii, but even hungry Zelda fans looking for another hit of action-adventure couldn’t help boost its sales. So most gamers were surprised when Capcom recently announced Okamiden, the franchise’s debut on the Nintendo DS.

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This time you’ll take control of Chibiterasu, a puppy version of the wolf god Amaterasu who starred in the original. Chibiterasu can still use the celestial brush, but he/she won’t have quite the same muscle as the sun godess we’re all used to. To make up for this, Okamiden features three partners who you’ll team up with in order to once again restore the balance of nature.

I wouldn’t blame you for thinking this is just a cutesy port, as the mission setup will feel pretty familiar to Okami veterans. You’ll be doing chores to help the local village, such as using the brush to making sakura trees bloom or helping fishermen catch a big haul. This time you won’t just be controlling your own abilities though. Capcom say that the relationships Chibiterasu has with his/her partners will greatly affect the storyline and gameplay, so you’ll able to control their actions fully with the touch screen. On the videos from TGS we could see a young girl flipping switches and collecting items, which seems pretty remedial when you consider the other innovations from Okami. Hopefully the partners will have a heavier influence on the puzzle solving that I loved in the first game.

Even for the Nintendo DS though, this game looks lush. I’m constantly surprised at what this platform can produce in the graphics department, as Capcom has managed to bring the harsh brush strokes and watercolour palette across without any noticeable compromise. It might not be at quite the same quality as top titles on the PSP, but it’s sure to turn a few heads when your sitting on the bus.

The only downside to this is the choppy framerate. At times the combat felt a little slow and jarring, which is a shame considering the Wii version made such big improvements with integrated motion controls. The animation in Chibiterasu’s attacks just didn’t feel quite as smooth as Amaterasu, especially when switching from action to stylus input. Still, Okamiden is early in development and there is obviously a lot of time for improvement. The familiar environments and characters means that gamers will feel instantly at home and i’m sure Capcom will put in plenty of development to give it the polish it deserves. Lets just hope it gains enough support to keep this fantastic series alive.

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