Developer: From Software
Release Date: August 27, 2003
Buy 'OTOGI: Myth of Demons': Xbox
Otogi: Myth of Demons is old school. Really old-school. It's hard. Sometimes to the point of being hair-pulling, controller-throwing, take-a-hammer-to-your-TV hard. Levels WILL take multiple tries to complete and bosses WILL frustrate you to no end. But in Otogi's case, that's a great thing. It's got an awesome vibe to it that's not often seen these days. It hearkens back to the NES-era of gaming, where completing a stage spontaneously makes you whoop and holler and perhaps even yell your success to anyone who might be in the nearby vicinity.
All of the hard work is certainly worth it. Each of Otogi's levels are absolutely awesome, with stunning level design, beautiful art, and mysterious creatures inhabiting them. Your duties tend to fall into one of two categories: destroy the reigning enemy in the area, or... destroy the area itself. That's right - each of Otogi's beautiful levels are super-destructable. Powerful attacks will cause pillars to crumble, rocks to shatter, wood to splinter, and even the ground to crack and dissolve. The game truly becomes a stunning, immersive experience throughout it's entirety.
You play the role of Raikoh, the last member of a clan that exists closest to death on the bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead. Raikoh's job was to deliver the fatal blow that finally ended a person's life. He never felt very content with his position, but went on doing it - until the time came to end his own Father, and Raikoh couldn't - he fled. Raikoh nearly died some time later, but was rescued by the mysterious one known as Princess - a powerful entity whose face she has not shown, even to Raikoh. As long as he agrees to follow her requests, she gives Raikoh the power to stay alive in the world of the living. The story progresses from this point - it's extremely interesting, and it has a feel throughout it that I really enjoyed.
The game's controls are very sharp. You move Raikoh with the left thumbstick, and while you have the option to adjust the camera with the right thumbstick, I rarely ever did. You can lock onto enemies by tapping the L-trigger, which works much in the same way as Zelda's revolutionary Z-Targeting system did in 1998. Though it can be occasionally frustrating to lock-on to the enemy you want to, it works very well and keeps the camera in a good position - which is definitely an achievement, considering many of the enemies you'll face are often flying all over the place. As far as attacks go, Raikoh can produce a weak yet fast attack with the B button, or a strong attack with the Y button. With the proper timing and button presses, you can perform a number of useful combos that will aid you in combat. Jumping in the air is easily done by tapping A - and you can perform a double-jump by simply tapping A while already in the air. Once you're in the air, Raikoh can kind of "float" when he performs an attack - an awesome, stylish way to attack enemies that you'll be extremely happy about. You can also perform a nifty warp/dash by tapping the R trigger, or use magic with the X button.
Magic is definitely a cool aspect of the game. When outside a level, you can equip any one of a number of spells, ranging from summoning firey phoenixes that charge the enemy, to bolts of raining lighting, or a swarm of magical butterflies that chase after the enemy. Each spell is extremely slick, and has varying levels of power. If you simply tap the X button, you'll produce an immediate spell that, while somewhat weak, may get you out of a tight situation. If you need power, you can hold in the X button to charge up power - upon releasing it, a devastating attack is produced.
During every mission, you'll earn gold and experience points (which will cause you to level up and makes you stronger). The gold can be spent on a variety of weapons, magic, or accessories. There are basic swords, heavy swords, staffs, and even double-bladed swords. You can purchase a number of magic spells. There are also some nifty accessories: some will increase your defense or attack power, or perhaps protect you from ailments such as burns. You can also repair your weapons here; you see, each weapon has a vitality meter which lowers as you use the weapon, and as a result affects the strength of the weapon. Repairing things will give you the vitality your weapons need.
So, as you can see, there's quite a bit more to the game than just basic mindless slashing! These RPG-esque elements really add a lot to the game.
The graphics in the game are extremely nice. The game's menus are presented with a feudal Japanese feel, and are just plain fun to navigate with their ripply effects and awesome patterns flying by. The in-game graphics are what you'll no doubt be clamoring about, though. All of the environments have a distinct, detailed look, and each enemy is amazingly well-crafted. The fact that sometimes, literally dozens upon dozens of enemies are coming at you all at once, and there's never a hint of slowdown, just makes the game that much more amazing.
The sound in the game is just as good. Powerful drumbeats will penetrate your ears and send shivers down your spine, alongside classy violins and other funky instruments. There's also a healthy amount of voice-acting in the game. The Princess' voice is very well done, and I never once got sick of hearing it. A few of the bosses are extremely annoying, though. It's not that they're bad - it's that they'll sometimes incessantly repeat the same chants over and over. Then again, it makes me wonder if the developers did this on purpose to add frustration and perhaps even a somewhat corny feel to boss battles - either way, they can get annoying, but it's nothing that hurts the game badly at all.
Is Otogi perfect? Not quite, but it's close. The camera isn't 100% cooperative, but it was rare that I did have a problem with it. The thing that will certainly bother most people is the insane difficulty of the game. It's not a problem for some people, and those craving a challenge will eat it right up, but this is not the kind of game that your average casual gamer will pick up and have fun with - they'll be frustrated, and if they don't have patience, they'll be tossing down the controller in minutes. So no, the game's not for everyone.
Nonetheless, Otogi is an awesome game, and very welcome on the Xbox. From Software can't be commended enough for their tight controls, RPG aspects, awesome levels, ridiculously tough bosses, and drop-dead gorgeous art and sound. A huge thank-you goes to Sega for releasing the game for those of us who speak English. There's already a sequel due for release in Japan. Don't miss out on this one - and at $40, it's cheaper than most other new games on the market. If enough people pick it up, maybe we'll even see the sequel come overseas. Here's hoping!
Score : 9.4/10
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