I kid you not. This game is more Japanese than Japan is now. Im not talking about a nice plate of Japanese food at a Japanese restaurant; I am talking about 1000 A.D. chilling out in a Japanese temple with the Emperor of Japan while drinking sake type of Japanese experience. Of course as Otogi was originally released in Japan over half a year ago this is not too surprising.
So a majority of you are probably thinking so what? at this point. Well, now that the Xbox is finally getting some great RPGs in its library, the only place it is still lacking is in the Japanese inspired gaming genre and lets face it, there are a lot of gamers out there who love those types of games.
Of course not everyone is a fan of Japanese games, so Im sure the rest of you are wondering if this title is for you. Well here are a few questions you will need to ask yourself to find out. Do I enjoy collection big friggin swords and whooping demons with them? Am I entranced by pretty colors and cool magical spells? To I like to demolish anything that isnt made by nature and even some things that are? Does Diet Dr. Pepper taste more like the original Dr. Pepper? Ok, that last one wont help you that much but if you answered yes to any of the questions prior to that then you might want to take a look at Otogi.
To some it up in one long sentence using as many commas as possible, Otogi is a glitzy, colorful, Japanese, demon bashing, sword wielding, magic using tool of mass destruction which actively encourages you to smash, bash, demolish, destroy, kill and maim anything that moves, or doesnt move for that matter. If that wasnt enough commas for you, here are some extras. ,,,,,,
One of Otogis biggest downfalls is that it is a relatively short game. Sega estimates that the game can normally be finished in less than 15 hours. Of course this is only if you play the game straight through from start to finish. You have the option of going back to any of the 25 levels you have previously beaten and attempting to collect all of the items if you happened to miss anything the first time through. Youll find yourself doing this periodically to scrape together a little more money to buy that cool sword set you were looking to get.
Thats right, Otogi has a little bit of an RPG element with the fact you can buy stuff for your character. Of course dont expect to be offered hundreds of different options: usually you have the choice between 3 or 4 different weapons, spells and accessories between each level. These selections do change every once in a while when you advance though, so there is a bit of variety. Each weapon and accessory changes your attack, defense and magic rating, so picking the right weapon for your playing style becomes crucial later on in the game.
As I have already states, this game involves a lot of breaking stuff. Your first goal is to break demons. Well, destroy them actually. Destroying demons releases energy which will fill your magic and health. You will notice that while you play your magic will slowly deplete even if you arent using any of your mystical powers. This is because you are a creature of magic, so you slowly consume your reserves just to stay alive. Once your magic runs out you slowly lose health until you die. This creates a rudimentary time limit that can be lengthened by killing every bad guy that crosses your path. Aside from destroying the demons you are encouraged to destroy everything else too; from houses, to brick walls and even trees. This is because there are souls trapped in various objects, and releasing these souls is what earns you some major cash to upgrade your gear.
Otogis controls seem very much like one of their previous games: Gunvalkyrie. If you have played Gunvalkyrie before then dont let this comment scare you off. A lot of people dont like Gunvalkyrie due to the fact it is so freaking hard and they tend to blame it on the controls. Luckily Otogi is a much more forgiving game and doesnt require complete mastery of ultra-complex combos to get through a level. This means that the games difficulty is still hard, but rewarding instead of frustrating. Basically you have the ability to jump, double jump, dash, use a regular attack, a power attack and cast magic. While this doesnt sound like a lot of control you will soon find out that massive midair combos can be linked together making you look like a genuine magical Japanese Samurai. Once you get the hang of it you will be able to impress your friends and pick up girls at game stores with Otogi on display!
You can really see that Otogi drew a lot of influence from other games Sega has produced. This is obvious in the graphics area if you played Panzer Dragoon Orta last year, as its Japanese styling very closely resembles that of Otogi. Of course this is great news because Panzer Dragoon was a beautiful game and a pleasure to watch. For those of you who havent played Otogi or Panzer Dragoon, they both incorporate very lush and vivid colors for the atmospheres and have a strong emphasis on magical attacks and explosions. This adds to the fun of mass destruction as things look really cool when you tear them apart.
Otogi also manages to keep a very decent frame rate even with the carnage taking place. Most games with explosions and destructible levels have nasty stutters in the frame rate when things are falling apart. The only time I really noticed any slowdown with Otogi, though, was when I was simultaneously destroying a building while be assaulted by multiple demons at ones. Even then it wasnt a severe drop and would hardly be noticeable unless you were looking for it. That means you can also add smooth playing to the list of reasons why Otogi is such a great action game.
By this point I am really getting tired of saying the word Japanese and this is probably one of the few times anyone has ever seen the words Japanese, Xbox and great game all in one article. But since I still have to discuss the sound section I will have to say it one more time: the soundtrack holds true to the Japanese theme. You cant expect to have custom soundtracks to a game like this, as bashing demons through temples just doesnt mix with 50 cent or any other music that is out there right now. You dont have to worry though as the soundtrack is varied enough that it actually compliments the gameplay and can really get you even more involved with the story.
The sound effects do a great job of holding their own too. Well rendered grunts, smashes, sword swooshes and screaming demons add to the experience. The only place where the sound suffered was some of the repetitive audio clips when you are fighting bosses. Each boss seemed to have about 4 lines that they would repeat over and over. Now when it takes you 2 or 3 attempts to defeat a boss it tends to get old in quite a hurry. Sega should have either recorded more sound or shut them up. Of course this does bring up the great point that we are lucky to have English sound at all. Otogi was originally released in Japan so all the voices had to be re-dubbed. The new English voices are great to say the least, and shows that Sega is aiming to please anyone on Earth who wishes to play this game.
To summarize, this is a wonder addition to the action/platform genre from Sega, and in my honest opinion is one of the best action games to date for the Xbox. Of course some might be worried that 15 hours is a little short: my advice to you is to rent it and try it out... chances are good that you will end up buying it anyways. Oh, and if you didnt get to read Japanese enough or see enough commas, then here are a few more to satisfy you! Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese, Japanese.
Suggestions: Woohoo! Otogi 2 has been announced! Make sure we see this in the US, Sega. And possibly make it a little longer, as that seems to be the complaint heard the most on our site.