Otogi: Myth of Demons
With the PS2 inundated with ninja and samurai titles, Xbox owners finlly get From Software & Sega's Otogi - while waiting for Ninja Gaiden.
We were first exposed to Otogi: Myth of Demons back in May, and it looked very promising. With some excellent graphics and highly interactive environments filled with destructible objects, Otogi boasted great physics and solid gameplay.
The game was definitely one of the highlights of the Sega booth and initial impressions had some gamers thinking of PS2 Shinobi when first catching a glimpse. Some of the core fundamental gameplay aspects did seem a bit similar, but Otogi looked and played different in many ways to differentiate it from the rest of the pack.
Otogi, developed by From Software and published by Sega in the US and Europe, is a game set in ancient Japan and steeped in real-life folklore and mysticism.
The story of Otogi is based on an undead warrior named Raiko, who is summoned by the surreal voice of a mysterious woman and is given the uneasy task of stopping a demonic army that's been unleashed upon the Earth. During Raiko's missions, he'll need to destroy plenty of monsters and release the trapped spirits that are trapped within certain background structures and objects.
With the prophecy of the long forgotten doomsday myth coming true, Raiko needs to do some quick studying of 12 varieties of magic as well as master over 30 weapons in order to end the world domination aspirations of the hoards of demon warriors on their way over.
Before tackling the gameplay portions of the game, first a brief overview of the controls, which are very responsive. It took just a few seconds to figure out what each of the buttons did and then we were off for some hacking and slashing! The controls are intuitive with the left analog stick controlling Raiko as well as centering the camera whenever you click it. The right analog stick serves to control the camera as well as toggling the enemy life bars on and off.
Raiko's action moves consist of powerful slash attacks, weaker but faster slash attacks, magic and jumping. Pressing the jump button twice brings about a double jump, and holding the button down causes Raiko to slowly float back to the ground. These jumping moves and their variations can be quite useful especially against the flying demons that refuse to land and take their beatings like real demons.
The L & R shoulder buttons also serve important functions. They can be used to lock the camera into place or lock onto certain enemies. More importantly, the R trigger speeds up Raiko's movements throughout the levels as it activates a cool looking dash move that can be performed in the air or on the ground when used in conjunction with any directional movement of the analog stick.
Other cool moves are the combination attacks and the ability to remain floating in the air while performing a multitude of attack combos. Raiko has some awesome hang time! You could combine the total hang-time of all basketball players put together and they'd still come up short against Raiko. They'd all hit the ground fast while Raiko remains airborne for over a month.
Gameplay is a mixture of 3D mission based, hack n' slash styled gameplay with some RPG elements. At the start of the game, it seems to be a game that shares some similarities with Capcom's Onimusha and Sega's Shinobi for the PS2. But the longer you play the more original Otogi feels.
One of the more noticeable things about Otogi from the start is its dark and ominous settings. The overall atmosphere of the game is a bit on the creepy side at times with demonic creatures littered throughout the environments and mysterious voices that chime in throughout parts of the levels, along with the almost silent soundtrack at times that's pretty much made up of sound effects, voices, and some authentic but random instruments being played in the background.
As Raiko you head out into the countryside and try to dispose of the many mythical creatures that inhabit many of the surrounding areas. The game features some highly interactive backgrounds that can be destroyed which is one of the coolest parts of the game. A lot of times if you see it, you can pretty much destroy it or destroy parts of it. Like running into a house and totally demolishing it from within while doing battle against its horrifying inhabitants. You'll be destroying castle walls, trees, Shinto shrines and many other interactive objects. It actually pays to go nuts destroying almost everything in sight as a good number of these interactive objects contain trapped spirits that are freed upon destruction.
The battles throughout Otogi are quick and ferocious, these enemies are NO cakewalk by any means. They all seemed to require multiple hits in order to be destroyed and they only get tougher as you progress further through the game. Fortunately power-ups are released after killing some of the enemies throughout the game and they automatically gets absorbed by Raiko, pretty similar to the soul absorbing that takes place in Onimusha.
Raiko's stamina gauge consists of a life bar made up of greenish orbs that represent hit points, and as long as at least one remains green, Raiko will remain alive. After they're all depleted, Raiko has very little time left to replenish it before he dies. Within the main stamina gauge is a purple magic gauge which allows you to activate magic spells and perform dashes as long as the gauge has some power left in it. Fortunately it also serves as a means to slowly recharge some of the orbs in your stamina gauge. Unfortunately when your magic gauge is totally depleted, you not only have to deal with the inability to use magic or the dash moves, but also deal with a shrinking life meter as a result. It's easy enough to prevent those things from happening by just collecting power ups that refill the purple gauge meter after destroying some enemies.
Fortunately not only does Raiko have a wicked moveset allowing him to perform a variety of moves and combos, but he can also master over 30 weapons and 12 varieties of magic to help dish out a major pummeling on the enemies throughout the game. You have the ability to upgrade your weapons, magic, and character attributes, all of which can be seen in your inventory screen.
You'll make your way through 25+ levels with well designed and highly destructible environments, destroying as many of the structures that appear before you. Each of the levels will require that you perform a different task in order to proceed. You'll be destroying certain key structures, battling powerful bosses, ridding a map of all enemies, successfully reaching certain points on the map, and even freeing all of the trapped spirits among other things.
After completing each stage, you're presented with a menu screen that contains several options including the option to buy new weapons, accessories and magic. You can also equip the items in your inventory and travel back to any of the levels you've already cleared in order to free any of the spirits that are still trapped there or obtain more money or gain more experience. You can even travel back to a stage you've already ransacked and demolished and return to it in its destroyed state and compare some before and after visuals of your landscaping work.
The Menu screen provides you with plenty of options to Load, Save, and equip your newly purchased items such as weapons, magic, and accessories. you can also view the creatures list, display the artwork of the types of monsters you'll need to destroy in the upcoming level.
At its peak moments Otogi can be quite a solid game with great floaty controls and plenty of challenging enemies to hack and slash away at. Unfortunately all is not perfectly well in the world of Otogi as the gameplay can at times get a little boring thanks to what at first may seem like unstructured or unclear gameplay paths.
The hacking and slashing started off cool as we ran around destroying all types of ancient Japanese structures, poles, and other objects throughout the game as well as dismantling all of the enemies. But eventually the WOW factor began wearing off and left us wanting a more rewarding experience early on.
The difference between this and PS2 Shinobi in that regards is that with Shinobi you actually get a feeling of progress and accomplishment as you traverse through different areas and check points until you face off with the end level bosses. Early on, there were times when Otogi felt like it had its fair share of aimless running around, with no real clear cut gameplay paths. But that problem eventually got rectified by investing more playtime and really trying to understand all there was to Otogi. Once you invest the time and effort in understanding and submerging yourself into the world of Otogi, it truly becomes an awesome experience.
Graphically Otogi is a very beautiful game. It's no surprise that From Software would be able to deliver such lush, delicious visuals but it's still great to see a game trying to make use of the powerful Xbox hardware.
The graphics seems to have a soft camera focus look to them, similar in style to the soft visual quality of Squaresoft's The Bouncer, and Sega/Amuze's upcoming, Headhunter: Redemption. The effect is quite nice. There are some beautifully sharp and colorful textures a plenty throughout Otogi.
The character designs look great, featuring a host of beautifully modeled, textured and rendered characters inhabiting the world of Otogi. Many of the characters sport some smooth curves to provide them with a more organic look as opposed to the blocky look of many characters in other games.
The more powerful monsters are definitely the most impressive, from the large hovering creatures in the early levels to the very powerful and enormous bosses that show up later in the game. They have some of the best looking models I've seen in a next-gen game
The animations of the characters are also impressive, with Raiko sporting some of the best animations in the game. Everything Raiko does is done with super smooth movements. One of our favorites has to be the animations during Raiko's floating jumps.
The backgrounds and environments are equally beautiful, with superb structures throughout the game as well as mountainous passages that are lit beautifully well. Ancient castles, lush forests and plenty of other high quality environmental settings await you during your journey through Otogi. They're all designed beautifully, complete with very nice use of various effects to provide them with their overall dark and creepy atmosphere.
The lighting effects are great and feature a variety of light sourcing effects with varying intensities throughout the levels accompanied by nice particle effects, fire flies, dust, haze, beautiful water effects and a host of other graphical goodies help make up the visual beauty of Otogi.
The audio portions of Otogi seem pretty first rate at times, but that's really before noticing the almost silent nature of the game. The music features a somber selection represented by a rich set of authentic instruments.
The quality of the music sounds great with beautifully sounding instruments resonating throughout the game. You can practically see the plucking of the stringed instruments, along with some very nice flutes and Japanese drums among others being used throughout the game's soundtrack.
But music isn't something you encounter much of during the early portions of the game and feels more like a design decision more than anything else. At times you'll hear soloing instruments chiming in from time to time. But overall there wasn't much of an actual soundtrack to Otogi. Most of the game's audio consisted of airy and atmospheric sounds, contributing to the ambience of the game.
The sound effects were pretty good overall with sharp sword slashes and the sounds of demolished structures crumbling throughout the environments. Each of the sound effects seemed to be treated with ample use of bass and reverb to give them a nice thick sound. The voice acting was also done very well, filled with mysterious male and female voices providing some eerie narrations at times.
All in all, the quality of the sound work is pretty top notch, taking advantage of the surround sound capabilities of the Xbox to help immerse players into the dark and creepy world that Raiko must traverse through.
Overall the Otogi experience left us wanting more from the game. Although the levels can be pretty short, which is a good thing, they can still be pretty challenging to get through in one piece. But thanks to the wonderful graphics, intuitive controls, and accessible gameplay, the challenges are more than welcome and should make Otogi a solid addition to your collection.
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Otogi: Myth of Demons (480x356)
Sega's impressive new ninja action title - direct feed, in-game footage.
Otogi: Myth of Demons (320x240)
As above, lower resolution.