Underrated is a funny word. There are games out there that have been called underrated so many times that they're not really underrated any more. Is there anyone who's not heard of Shadow Of The Colossus, Beyond Good And Evil, or Psychonauts by now? Which makes Otogi such a sad case. No-one's heard of this game. It's never brought up in forums, never achieved much attention on Youtube... which is a shame, because despite being nearly ten years old, it still wipes the floor with most other Action RP Gs out there. The gameplay is a mix of Ninja Gaiden style sword-slashing with aerial acrobatics reminiscent of Wuxia films. Indeed, the aerial gameplay is one of the game's highlights. While the combo list isn't as extensive as games such as Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, the ability to fight with your foes 50 feet above the ground indefinitely adds a thrill to the game rarely seen elsewhere in the genre. The controls are simple but effective, and the inclusion of two attack buttons means you can string together attacks nigh-on indefinitely. Special mention must be made to the destructability of the environments- practically everything can be destroyed, usually by sending demons flying into stuff. One thing that must be mentioned with this game is the art direction. This is the reason why Otogi is such an underrated gem: the art direction is absolutely stunning. Like, Okami stunning. Everything is tied together by a melancholic fairy-tale aesthetic. The levels are made up of beautifully stylised versions of ancient Japanese architecture, and abstract renditions of mythological locations. The visuals are given a colourful, soft-focus aesthetic. The music is minimalistic, evocative, and one of the game's biggest triumphs. Everything ties together to create an interactive Japanese fairy tale, and one that is a joy to bathe the senses in (even ten years on). There are a few flaws to mention: several levels are re-used later on in the game (though not right till the end). The camera can prove a little tricky to master (though an auto-centre helps with this). And the game gets pretty damn tricky in places towards the end. Regardless of these few niggles, Otogi is still a fantastic blend of Hack And Slash and Action RPG. Criminally neglected, it's still worth checking out all these years on.
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