Lone Wolf Cub (Okamiden – Nintendo DS)

It’s a bit weird when Deities have kids. Take the Greeks: they either leap out of their parents’ heads, or discarded testicles end up morphing into grown women. Then if they’re not eating each other, they’re breeding with each other.

Thankfully Okamiden‘s tale of the prodigal son is not quite as decadent. The main protagonist is Chibiterasu, son of wolf-Goddess Amaterasu of Okami fame. As the cute and excitable Chibi, you must follow the path set by your mother with the guidance of chirping bug-guide Issun.

I’d like to point out that despite my best intentions, I never sat down and played Okami properly. However, I did manage to wrangle myself a quick demo thanks to a Game store manager friend. Maybe I’m a little under-qualified, but the main differences between both games are pretty obvious.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to guess what the main differences will be: just look at the platforms. You could never hope to recapture the visuals of the Wii on the handheld DS – at least not at the moment. Look at Mariokart DS versus Mariokart Wii: there’s no comparison. So perhaps it isn’t fair of me to say that if Okami is akin to Hokusai, Okamiden is a crayon replica.  Brush strokes aren’t quite as smooth, and scenery didn’t quite ‘blend’: Chibi stood out as a completely separate object from the background, reminding me of a time when polygons ruled supreme and everything looked like a virtual Mount Rushmore. It made me feel a tiny bit like Okamiden was a step back a few generations rather than the bright young thing it promised to be.

For all my (possibly unjustified) picking at the visuals, the gameplay is as fun and frisky as Chibiterasu himself. Your circle pads unleash a bundle of smooth melee attacks so Chibi can bash and crash his way through enemies, bushes and crockery like there’s no tomorrow. Chibi can now leap and even vine whip his way across the landscapes, but beware of lag between sections of the game: sometimes you can find yourself having to wait (admittedly only a few seconds) for the game to catch up. The stylus lends itself elegantly to sweeping brushstrokes, and it’s a lot of fun to swirl and sweep your way through battles (although you do have to watch your ink pot level, running out mid-flow is a bit of a downer).

We all know how much kids hate being compared to their parents, but you can’t help but notice that Okamiden feels like a big game stuffed into a small console when stood beside Okami. Play on and you’ll be rewarded with Chibi’s new abilities, innovative boss fights and lush dungeons.

With its dynamic battle system and dungeon-style route map, it’s easy to compare Okamiden to the Zelda franchise – in fact, reviews from ONM to IGN have recommended Okamiden to fans of Link’s adventures. If you’re not a fan of Zelda, I say pick up Okamiden anyway. The puzzles are more likely to raise a chuckle than a furrowed brow, but the game itself is just like Chibi himself: cute, charming, and easy to follow.


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