Monday, November 1, 2010

Wolf Time Is Over

So wow. I finally completed Okami.

I didn’t try to do all the side quests or collect all the items. I didn’t just do a full-tilt run through… there’s some extra gathering and grinding because I didn’t really know what would be necessary to complete the main objectives. Now that I know what the main narrative is, and have a good idea what abilities are needed to reach hidden items, I could do another run-through, and even without looking at a guide any further, complete it with a pretty high percentage.

But I’m not going to go through the game again. And here’s why: It is just too long.

It seems odd to me that this game has so many aspects of a long RPG (that most people would probably play through once, maybe trying to complete as much incidental stuff as possible) and many aspects of a collectible-heavy action game like Super Mario Galaxy (that folks might play over and over again to get better grades on each level and find all the shit).

Okami is another in a huge array of action-RPG games, the definition of which varies from gamer to gamer….with Okami seeming to skew heavily to the action side. You move and fight in real-time… and it is possible to run from one end of the kingdom to the other without using the overworld map. Like Odin Sphere or Muramasa your characters strength and survivability are greatly affected by the RPG elements, the items and leveling up. My problem with Okami is a lot like the issues I had with Odin Sphere. Even long action games tend to be a more distilled gaming experience compared to RPGs. When an action game tries to BE an RPG… in some misguided attempt to provide value for money or something… then it overstays its welcome. Okami took me fifty hours to complete. At 25 or 30 hours it would’ve been more than a good buy (play time-wise). If I’d tried to find all the items and do all the side missions I can’t imagine how inflated my time would’ve been. And Okami is beautiful and slick, but it ain’t THAT beautiful and slick.

If you’ve read any of my posts on Odin Sphere, my feelings about Okami would read very similarly. It is very beautiful, it has a wonderful soundtrack, and the story is cool and funny at times, with a lot of characters, some of which are quite memorable. So the aesthetics are firing on all cylinders. It doesn’t recycle scenery as much as Odin Sphere did, but other aspects of the game drag on and on and on. Boss fights in particular a hugely long AND recycled. You fight Orochi, the major villain of piece three times… and none of them are quick.

The whole game illustrates the adage ‘too much of a good thing’. You can get sick of you favorite food if you eat enough of it. Okami threw new missions, new characters, and new locations at me, and I still got sick of it after the first half. There have been a number of times I’ve tucked in with a long book, or a huge game and enjoyed it. But the mechanics of this game just speak to a more focused play experience than it turned out to be. When these guys formed a different company and produced Bayonetta I think they figured out what works. Bayonetta has A LOT in common with this game apart from the style of the artwork… but is much shorter and more focused, while still having aspects you can dig into and explore. You get graded on your performance for each battle in Okami, just like in Bayonetta. There’s a lot of skill and technique involved, choosing the correct weapon and practicing enough to get good and kill the monsters as quickly as possible, just like Bayonetta. There is no method to jump right back to a sub-level without replaying the whole campaign, which is decidedly NOT like Bayonetta. They’ve got this whole action/combat thing going on, but it is inextricably woven into this GIANT story.

Ever play one of those games where the objectives, steps towards objectives, or puzzles are so obtuse you’d swear they are in there just so you have to buy the guidebook? Yeah, Okami has some of those. Japanese mentality being different and all that, there were times when some of what the game wanted from me was just impossible to figure out. It might be a puzzle, or it might be ‘where to go next’ based on some obscure hint an NPC gave out. The game keeps a log of objectives and hints but some of it was just so oblique I couldn’t manage it. I probably looked at an online guide about five times through the course of the game. I’m not proud of that, but four of those times I went ‘how the fuck did they expect me to know that?’. So there you go.

I can’t say it’s a bad game. It looks like no other game and it is obvious that the designers put their all into it. I’m a game aesthetics whore, so there is a lot about Okami that really speaks to me. But, it kind of sucks for such a huge, beautiful, expansive game to make me say that I’m glad its over.

But I’m glad its over.

(image kyped from GameFAQs)

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