Release Date: March 15, 2011
Publisher: Capcom
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+

Okamiden for the DS is a video game that manages to be both really cute, and really lovely. Though it follows events in the more expansive Okami (PS2 and Wii), it doesn’t feel like a full-fledged sequel, nor is it necessary to have played the first game to enjoy playing this one. And while die-hard fans of the original may be disappointed by the smaller scale, Okamiden makes for an extremely approachable introduction to the unforgettable world of both games.

In Okamiden, you are Chibiterasu, the child of Okami’s protagonist Amaterasu. Like his mother, Chibiterasu is a celestial wolf with the power of the Celestial Brush. Depending on the situation, you will draw various patterns with the stylus on the touch screen to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and revive the curse-stricken land. But because Chibiterasu is very young and inexperienced (and often confused); he is given a partner, who changes depending on the part of the story. His partner adds his or her own special talents, enabling Chibiterasu to get through sections he wouldn’t be able to on his own. As you advance, you’ll learn different brushstrokes from the children of the Celestial Brush Gods of the original game. Here’s where a big part of the adorable factor comes in, with cutscenes of little bears, piglets, monkeys, and other assorted real and mythological animals presenting each new move. But as cute as they are, the artwork throughout the game is so beautifully and sparely drawn that it remains enthralling despite the omigosh- little- baby- animals.

For fans of action-adventure games like Zelda, the actual game play will feel familiar. You and your companion explore the various regions, meeting and talking to the residents, and sometimes rescuing them or taking on quests to find objects that have been stolen by curse-demons. And speaking of demons- there are a lot of ’em.  When you encounter one (and you will, probably every five minutes or so), the combat is a fairly standard melee mode, with a little button mashing and a little dodging around, and then the big finish with the appropriate brushstroke.  There’s also a fair amount of backtracking- some of the object missions can only be completed by going back through areas after you’ve learned a new move. The touch screen serves as a map, allowing you to access items you’ve purchased or found, check your progress on a quest, or get a refresher on moves you’ve learned.

The health meter- called solar pots- can be filled and added to by earning “Praise,” which accrues as you help people, whether by defending them from evil or by returning their lost possessions.  Performing the “Bloom” brushstroke on the myriad bare cherry trees will cause them to burst into flower and also help fill up the meter.  As you revive more areas of the land, your solar pots will increase and you’ll be able to have more ink pots, which are necessary in order to perform brushstroke moves.

As mentioned above, this is a very accessible game for players of all levels. At the start screen, you can choose between two difficulty levels: “Greenhorn” which has auto-restoring inkpots, or “Old Hand,” where you’ll have to smash pots and defeat enemies in order to refill your ink supply.  Even in the second mode, the boss battles shouldn’t require more than a few tries to defeat for any but the most novice gamers, though they do get a little bit more challenging as you progress.  And for fans of the “walk around and look at stuff” sort of game, it’s ideal.

Sometimes a bit repetitive but always beautiful, Okamiden is a good bet on the DS.  Check it out, and then pick up Okami for the Wii or PS2.

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