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It's iffy that this game was made without the original creator's blessing, but I'm open to new people making a sequel. The ones picking up the torch had better do it right, though, and I'm not sure Okamiden does.
There are great things. The visuals are pretty solid for DS graphics. The brush is perfect with the stylus, and you can tap the draw button for a hands-free pause. The dungeons are new and feel evenly paced until the sluggish finale, and the game has a new system of rotating partner characters, which is lots of fun, as each has their own attributes and can be directed with the Guidance mechanic. The story is a mixed bag, but it does not shy away from real drama, surprises, and heavy themes. It may have a lower age rating, but it doesn't feel dumbed down.
There are problems. The gameplay is much less elegant due to the hardware. Reused maps must be chopped up into multiple loaded screens. The brush drawing requires that the top screen move down to the touchscreen on the bottom, which takes a second and removes the snappiness of brush use. The English translation has poor quality control, with grammar issues and inconsistencies with the previous game's names and spelling. This may be the clearest sign that it was made by different people. Also, there's a lot of missable content.
The story has Okami's shadow all over it, and retreads a lot of ground. Only one overworld section is brand new to this game, with all the rest being reused from before (yet some areas from before are cut out altogether). Also, a big portion of the game involves time travel to both periods in Okami, and while one section is cool, on the first game's Sunken Ship while it was still sailing, I wasn't a fan overall. At least they don't ruin the time loop. You also never return to the present in gameplay, which feels weird. I do like the bosses, and their fights are more strategic, if a bit annoying because damage takes forever without upgrades, but the game goes into retcon a little with the new villain, which is disrespectful. I like seeing what happened before and after the game, but part of me wants a sequel that only moves forward in time. I for sure wanted one that expanded Nippon a little more than adding just one town.
There's also a scene that left a bad taste in my mouth. A priestess has created a character brought to life by a demon as an evil womanizer. He then charms your current partner and you have to chase him out of hiding. At one point, he and your friend are under the covers of a bed. Did I mention she's a child? Even though the game knows he's a bad dude, the bed and her age take it too far for the tone. "The perfect man gone wrong" can lead to very dark places, and this game goes there by accident.
I think Okamiden is worth playing, but I can't complain if the next game made by the original creator is an alternate sequel. Its existence is kinda underhanded, and it's not good enough to justify that.
The celestial brush mechanics are back in full swing. They allow a lot of freedom in designing the game, as they can place a wide variety of obstacles without having to worry about the player being annoyed by frequent trips to a menu. It literally raises the upper limit on how good the game can be. However, the screen takes a bit from pressing the button to enable symbols to be drawn, which is slightly aggravating. Many things have been fine-tuned: floral finishers work slightly differently, brush technique recognition is improved, even the mechanics of the techniques themselves have changed slightly. They seemed to have a better idea of what they were doing. But a few things about partner mechanics seem to not be well thought-out. Partners attack when you land the final hit of a melee combo, and the number of times your partner attacks affects how much yen you get from that battle, effectively punishing you for using brush techniques.
The story maintains its quality from the original, and there are Call Backs inserted that are actually great sub plots, yet poor localization has resulted in the game contradicting itself and its predecessor on many occasions. They're mostly minor things, though, and easy to look over. The visuals do their best to maintain their style from the first game, but something is lost in the transition to the DS. The soundtrack is, believe it or not, superior to the first game, at least in my opinion. You can only control the camera in a few locations and camera angle is crucial to the gameplay, but the auto-camera is so good it can be hard to notice.
Yet several things seem to have a lot of room for improvement. Movement and melee combat are slow and somewhat clumsy, ink no longer regenerates automatically, and there are fewer brush techniques. Only two new brush techniques were introduced: Guidance, which is used VERY frequently, and Magnetism, which is awesome but used rarely. Vine works much differently, so I guess it technically counts.
The best part of this game comes at the end. The final boss of this game is the Best Boss Ever, bar none. A gimmick is reused from the first game for this boss, and is fine-tuned for this fight. The ending an enormous Tear Jerker, even after viewing it several times I cry every time I see it. If you loved Okami, odds are you'll like this.
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