Get ready to once again pick up your celestial brush and protect Nippon from all the evils in the world. You may think that in order to do this you’ll need a super strong, masculine hero, but you’re wrong. You’re going to be saving all of Nippon as a puppy. A cute, adorable, huggable little puppy named Chibiterasu. Chibi, also known as Mutt, also known as Pooch, also known as Dude, etc., is the hero of Capcom’s sequel to Okami, Okamiden. We got to spend over ten hours previewing the title, and believe us; we’ve never said “Aww…” so much while playing a game. Ever.
Okamiden takes place nine months after the events in Okami, developed by Clover Studio, which has since gone under, in 2006 and later re-released for the Wii in 2008. Okamiden takes all aspects from the original game, for better and for worse.
In the opening levels of the game, you’re teamed up with your new partner, Kuni. The lovable Issun is still in the game, and pops up from time to time, but only as a miniature helper. Kuni is the son of the swordsman Nagi and his love interest Kushi from the first game. Kuni and Chibi start their adventure once again learning the ropes of the celestial brush, and gaining powers that are very reminiscent of brush strokes in the first game. A new technique in Okamiden is the power of Guidance which allows you to lead your partner to various to areas which will help you to solve puzzles or acquire treasure from chests.
Brush strokes such as Sunrise, Rejuvenation, Power Slash, Bloom, Vine, Cherry Bomb, Waterspout, Galestorm, and more all make their appearances in Okamiden in one way or another. This time around, the children of the respective Celestial Gods grant you their powers, resulting in absolutely adorable cutscenes in which you can’t help but smile.
The brush strokes are also very intuitive with the DS controls, much better than they ever were for the PS2 or even for the Wii. Strokes are easy to draw now, and most of them turn a different color so you know that you’re doing it right. For example, when you draw a Waterspout the ink turns blue, or when you draw Vine the ink turns green.
The story is very dynamic, the characters are all endearing, but none of that helps the fact that the cutscenes in Okamiden are long, and pop up all the time. Half of the time you’re actually playing the game, while the other half you’re just watching the events play out. The option is available to skip the cutscenes, even if you’ve never watched them before, but valuable information and tons of super cute scenes play out during them so we didn’t mind watching them. This is the type of thing that also happened in Okami, and we wish that they would have used at least some voice acting this time around.
Aside from Kuni, Chibiterasu also partners up with a slew of new characters, all with their own respective abilities, that are reminiscent of people from Okami. A valley boy-esque member of Waka’s moon tribe named Kurow with has the ability to walk over chasms, a stubborn mermaid vassal of Otohime named Nanami who can control water, and a headstrong actress named Kagu with the ability to vanquish spirits, who trains in Sei’an City where Queen Himiko once ruled.
Characters aren’t the only thing that is back in the sequel. A lot of Nippon’s various locations are back as well, and look almost as good as they did in the original game. If you’re familiar with the locations from Okami, you’ll have no trouble navigating through the world in Okamiden. Very little is closed off for the player, and areas like Sei’an City seem just as large as in the first game, and are still inhabited with all of the same lovable characters like Mr. Flower doing his silly Gura Shuffle.
There are also a handful of brand new areas, all filled with interesting characters, side quests, and items for you to collect. These cities are a joy to explore, and as you gain new abilities you can always go back to them to find even more items.
It’s simply amazing how stunningly beautiful Okamiden looks. The cel-shaded, watercolor graphics transport fantastically to the DS system, and each level is vivid with so much color and life that every once in a while you have to stop to admire your surroundings. Using bloom on Guardian Saplings in Okamiden is just as beautiful as in the first game. But because of how much information is constantly being put on the screen, frame rates did suffer a tremendous amount throughout our preview, and the game can get very laggy at times.
Another thing to note is that, just like with Okami, the game is very easy. We hope that the final product has a few notches of difficulty to at least make us feel like we’re in some danger during random encounters and boss fights. The puzzles are also quite easy, and while fun to solve, they were never quite difficult enough to stump us.
As it stands now, Okamiden is shaping up to be an epic adventure. With a huge ensemble cast of characters, a variety of brush strokes, a vivid, gorgeous world to explore, and only minor inconveniences here and there, this adorable game is one you should definitely keep your eyes on.