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Not so similar after all

Glad I’m not the only one catching the Viewtiful Joe nods. I’m also pleased to see “Just go for it!” crammed in as a certain someone’s battle cry. Between this and their swan song, God Hand, Clover Studios was dishing out all sorts of wonderful fanservice. A shame so few appreciated it at the time. I totally gave Clover my money the day Okami came out, so I’m not guilty just because I’m late to the party!

I Completed the game’s first full-fledged dungeon today, boss fight and all. Even when compared to, say, the first dungeon of Ocarina of Time, progress was very straightforward. Good thing, since a brisker pace is a much better fit for Okami’s mechanics. As I mentioned before, running around is some of the most fun one can have with the game, so it’s smart they never seem to keep the player in one spot for long. I was moving directly from one room to the next, never worrying about backtracking or hoping I didn’t miss that one cracked wall on the previous floor. While the appeal of a more maze-like approach is understandable, this endeavor was an invigorating change of pace. The game doesn’t even give the option to carry multiple keys — it’s one at a time, and thus far they’ve been located in the immediate vicinity of the bonded door. The door lock itself presented a favorite moment of mine, actually: the little jerk stuck its tongue out at Amaterasu and giggled mockingly when I first passed by, but cringed and squirmed in fear once it saw her return with the key. Never before was unlocking a door so satisfying as watching that creep evaporate; it’s reassuring to see personality continue to shine through in more than just the fundamental aesthetics.

The boss battle itself was well-designed, even if there weren’t any particularly impressive moments. I was expected to utilize abilities I had just learned to discern a weak point, a common implementation that has proven effective time and time again in videogames. I only hope these abilities remain effective during future encounters, rather than be totally washed aside once I learn the next technique solely for the next big fight.

One unfortunate quirk of the dungeon design is how nearly every new room you enter takes a few seconds to steal camera control and pan around the interior. It helps for a few shots of the larger, more impressive rooms, but in most cases I’ve found it unnecessary. Surveying is something I’m very much used to, thankya kindly. Fortunately, chit-chat is finally eating up less of my play time. As a result, pauses in play have reverted from a real annoyance to more of an amusement. When the characters do take a moment to bicker, muse, or babble aimlessly, the humorous writing at the core of it is now much easier to appreciate. And, to be honest, by “characters” I’m mostly referring to Issun; the bug’s high horse personality was off-putting at first, yet either from character development or simple overexposure I’ve grown to like him. He certainly has no reservations concerning talking to himself. Many entertaining characters persist through the story and world, but for the most often you’ll be focused on Amaterasu and Issun — and only one of them has developed speech.

By the way, I swear this post is the last time I’m going to make a Zelda comparison, because each time it only results in Okami distancing itself from its more popular peer. Okami’s roots are equally faithful to the traditional platforming and action seen in Viewtiful Joe or Castlevania. While not nearly as difficult as either example, Okami’s assorted obstacles might pose a threat to your Grandma or five-year-old nephew. On the flip side, that just makes it more fun for those of us who know our way around a controller. After a slow start, Okami has finally begun developing into more than a preview of what’s to come.