Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Okamiden DS is a perfectly formed adorable adventure that feels more like Zelda than both Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. While on the original DS it's technically impressive, well written and beautiful to look at, put it in a 3DS and it turns into something rather magical.
Okamiden isn't what I was expecting, although if I had played Okami (Wii) I think I would have known what was coming. The classic dog based calligraphic console game has pretty much been recreated on the DS.
I've been impressed by Zelda Spirit Tracks (DS) and Zelda Phantom Hourglass (DS), they are my sort of games. There is something thrilling about squeezing that big console adventure down into a device that you can take anywhere with you. But even with Nintendo's insider knowledge of their handheld, they still had to cut corners and add repetition to achieve this trick.
Okamiden is different because it doesn't feel like smoke and mirrors. Rather than simplifying the camera angle and rendering as in Zelda, it stays far closer to the original Okami -- and to my money is actually a much truer implementation of Zelda than the halfway house that Nintendo have delivered.
I've seen the game criticised for this by reviewers who have played it on the DS. Having trading my old DS in for a 3DS I was playing it on the newer console. It wasn't until I ran a side-by-side comparison between Okamiden on a 3DS and DS that I realised how much better it looked. Not only is it upscaled, but all those speed issues simply go away on the 3DS -- it runs smoothly even with multiple enemies on screen.
The result is a game that invites you to explore and play it. Some of the pacing issues that put some people off the original Okami adventure (such as the unskippable 30 minute introductory film) seem to have been streamlined here, and there is generally more snap about the place.
The game slowly opens up, again like Zelda, to provide you with ever more areas to investigate. You are also granted more abilities along the way too, these take the form of various magical spells that are triggered by freezing time and drawing some calligraphy shapes on the screen. Different shapes and symbols achieve different effects.
The result of all this is a game that kept making me smile.
This feels more natural than my brief go at the Wii version. A pen and stylus seems the perfect match for these drawing commands. More precision is required here than the usual DS game, and you soon get into drawing shapes that look nice as well as trigger the required attack or event.
Exploration is broken up with more focused dungeon puzzles, again much like Zelda, where you have a particular location to get to and a boss to do away with. I was pleased with the amount of variety here though. Some tasks were simply a grind of battles, while others felt more like a role play adventure -- there's an underground monsters layer that, with its comical inhabitants, is not a million miles from the likes of Costume Quest.
The result of all this is a game that kept making me smile. Not just from the well paced adventuring but with the main character Okamiden. He's a loveable young dog who partners with a variety of other characters in the world. The thick-outlined drawing style works with some exquisite animation to create an endearing bond with the young pup.
I don't usually attempt games that are anything longer than ten hours or so, but I've ploughed in a good fifteen hours here without even realising it. Standing at 30 hours to complete, I'm actually relishing the amount of adventuring still left to do.
Games of this quality don't emerge until the end of a console's life. This and Ghost Trick show how much extra enjoyment can be squeezed from technology once the developers really understand how to use it -- not just visually but the sorts of experiences and interactions that work.
It's a perfectly formed tiny adventure of epic proportions.
From the lukewarm reception I'd read about Okamiden I wasn't expecting it to be as groundbreaking as it felt. I know it is very similar to the original Wii and PS2 game, but for me this is no bad thing. If you're suffering from Okami-fatigue then this DS version probably isn't for you, but for the rest of us it's a perfectly formed tiny adventure of epic proportions.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: