Otogi 2 (Hyakki Toubatsu Emaki) Import Impressions

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Romier S, Feb 16, 2004.

  1. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    Let me begin with some background for those who may not be aware of my opinions of the first Otogi. In short, I felt it was one of the top action titles to come out in 2003. Its gameplay borrowed and improved on elements from various games that came before it and it is these improvements that I felt put the game a level above the rest. The quick dash function was simple to pull off yet remained integral and effective throughout the whole of the game. The hack and slash gameplay while simple in its implementation allowed for a great bit of variety thanks to a menu of weaponry, magic and accessories that would make most action games out there weep in embarassment.

    Also worth noting is that Otogi's visuals and most importantly its art direction was second only to Panzer Dragoon Orta on the Xbox last year IMHO. The game featured an almost dream-like quality that made you believe you were part of the spirit world that bore Raikoh. It also housed some of the most impressive particle effects and destructible environments you could find in a game.

    Its music, rooted in traditional Japanese sound and created using various instruments such as the Koto, three string guitars such as the shamisen and bamboo flutes fit the atmosphere of the game perfectly and was a pleasure to listen too. (So much so that I own the soundtrack [​IMG] ).

    However the game was not without its problems. Despite the variety of weaponry, the game could become somewhat repetitive as you moved further along. The lock-on function was hit or miss and could cause some serious problems with the in game camera which already exhibited issues keeping up with the action. The question of course is has Otogi Hyakki Toubatsu Emaki (Otogi 2) corrected these problems and improved the experience of its predecessor? Read on...

    Otogi Hyakki Toubatsu Emaki begins much like the original. A few small drops fall to reveal the main menu and display the games logo. The new opening theme is very enchanting and ethereal which pretty much prepares you for the fact that you are in for the same type of atmosphere you exerienced in the first game. Otogi 2 is for the most part, quite import friendly. All of the main menu screens are in Japanese with English subtitles which makes navigation very simple. Once you select your game settings you will witness the first in-game cutscene . You begin Otogi 2 playing as Seimei. A rather diminutive woman who wears long white robes and uses two fans as her weapons. She plays very simliar to Raikoh in the original Otogi with the exception of her attacks which vary greatly (shes far more deadly and can withstand far more punishment at the outset). She can still use the quick dash maneuver as well as remain airborne for an almost limitless amount of time. The goals of the game are the same. Eliminate and massacre every enemy you see while in the process destroying as much of the environment as possible and achieving your given goal before your "magic aura" runs out.

    The first mission is fairly straightforward and involves Seimei working her way to an old tree in the center of a crystalline lake. Just so happens the lake is located in a frozen ice cavern full of the bird demons from Myth of Demons. The tree also happens to hold the sword of a certain silent killer named Raikoh. Seimei must reawaken Raikoh to help in defeating the demons that have overtaken the land and to do so she and her companions (The four other playable characters in the game) must make a terrible sacrifice. Which brings me to a concern that anyone here should have when deciding to import this game. The entire story and cutscenes are all done in Japanese. Unless you are familiar with reading and understanding the language you will be lost on the events that transpire in the sequel. The games does do a good job of visualizing alot of the story for you so you can get the "gist" but if your like me you want specifics and unfortunately without knowledge of the language you won't get those specific details. However I knew this going in so this isn't a complaint as much as a warning. I am currently searching to see if some intrepid gamer took the intiative in translating the text and if I find something of the like I will post it here for all to have access too.

    Once you free Raikoh you will take control of this newly resurrected can of whoop ass and you will immediately feel the difference in control. Raikoh's combo's are very simliar to the original but have been smoothed out and new attacks have been added. Its difficult to describe but there is just much more of a flow here. The combat here is actually more spectacular and "BIG" than the first game. I'm sure many will recall the feeling of executing a combo and sending your enemy crashing through several walls of a building and seeing them crumble to nothing. This is not a slight occurrence in Otogi 2. Raikoh and company are extremely powerful and when they complete a combo they send thier prey careening into any wall or obstacle in thier way. Enemies will now blast into and bounce off of walls and into each other causing mass destruction to themselves and the environments around them. My god is it satisfying. In fact one of Raikoh's new companions Kintoki, a huge slow moving mammoth of a man that carries an axe almost as big as Raikoh himself, sends enemies small and large flying through the air with one tap of the "Light" hit button! If you happen to use the "power" attack button Kintoki will literally pick up the target and physically throw them wherever you want (No matter the size of the enemy). Problem is the big man cannot double jump and is the slowest of the characters available. Needless to say though Kintoki is one fun character to play the game with.

    Along with Kintoki, Seimei and Raikoh you will have access to three other characters. One of these characters is Tsuna. A dog headed warrior who uses a double bladed sword that he can split and dual wield. His attacks and combos are the most impressive of the six characters in appearance and he has a ton of potential but he starts the game a tad weak in the health deparment. Then you have Usui who is a childlike female who is extremely fast and dangerous and wields a large scythe for a weapon. Finally you can also play as Suetake which is the most oddball of the new characters. Suetaki is a tree spirit with no arms at all. Its primary weapon is a spinning blade on its back that can do massive damage from long range. Each character is distinct and each offers a very different play experience. Some levels force you play as certain characters while other allow you to choose to your liking.

    The gameplay and button layout as mentioned are for the most part identical to the original game with some slight changes. The lock-on functionality has been tweaked somewhat. There is now an "auto-lockon" option which will lock your character immediatley onto the nearest enemy without having to press the left trigger. This is helpful for beginners who are learning how to play but more seasoned players will want to turn this off as there are consequences to using it. First of all you need to get out of range of the enemy to remove the lock and this can be problematic when trying to escape from certain scenarios. When not using the auto-lock you can simply hit the left trigger to remove the lock-on. Also added to the sequel is your ability to now shuffle and side-step in a circular pattern around the enemy once you acquire them as a target. (which is something the first game was sorely missing as it was difficult to identify when you were truly locked onto an enemy or not).

    Camera control is also very similiar but has been tweaked so tight corners do not present as much of a problem. As a whole the camera is improved in the sequel but still presents some consistent problems that were present in the first. Specifically when fighting multiple large enemies or when in the presence of enormous structures that can easily obscure your view. The second level of the game has you fighting your way through a small japanese village infested with Spiders that would make Shelob blush. You will truly tremble the first time you see one of these things but the problem is when your caught in a cluster you'll wish you could see yourself and not the spiders bulbous back side[​IMG]. Its no worse than any of the situations you found yourself in in the original game but I do however feel it needs mentioning as it is a somewhat annoying flaw.

    Level progression in Otogi Hyakki Toubatsu Emaki is now far less linear. Once you select a new stage you will be taken to an overhead map that allows you to choose from multiple stages. Each stage is ranked according to difficulty and skill. If you find yourself having a hard time with a stage you've chosen you can quit out and select another until you've built your characters experience level up enough to handle it.

    Speaking of which the experience and levelling system has been brought over from Otogi intact. Each character needs to be played individually to gain experience so it may be more prudent to focus your attention on one character for each playthrough of the game. Once you complete a level you will see a simliar results screen showing you the experience you've accumulated, spirits released and percentage of the environment destroyed. However now you will also see what points have been allocated to your characters strength, endurance and other attributes. For those who love stats and tracking a characters progress you will be right at home here.

    In between levels you will again have access to the shop which will allow you to purchase magic, accessories and new to the sequel a "development" menu. You read that right folks, you can now purchase skill enhancements at your liesure as well as purchase some other rare items (including weapons). Its worth noting that all of these menus are also in Japanese with no subtitles so you won't be able to read the changes that are being made. I did come across this guide that includes translation for the most important options (very valuable):

    Translation and Guide to Otogi 2

    No longer available is the option to buy weapons. Weapons are now unlockable items that require you to meet certain requirements and complete a variety of trials. I was a bit disheartened at this since I really enjoyed the humongous arsenal of the original and to be honest with 10 levels under my belt I still don't know how I feel about the change. I'll have more thoughts on this once I complete the game though. The afformentioned trials act as mini-levels that you can partake in during level downtime. They are goal based and difficult but add some great variety.

    Graphically Otogi 2 is an absolute marvel to look at. I try to remain as even handed as possible when I post impressions about any game but this is easily in the upper echelon of graphically impressive Xbox games. The various filters and screen effects used make this game MORE atmospheric than its predecessor (if thats possible). Otogi: Myth of Demons created a balance of very mystical and other-worldly environments broken up with very real world locations in which to fight these demonic forces. The sequel however pushes the fantasty dial up to eleven and never lets up. Even the most real world environmet looks like something out of a dream and the game is all the better for it.

    The previously mentioned spider infestation level occurrs in a lush Japanese village with small homes, water mills and towers. There is a small stream running through the center of the village and there is a strong downpour of rain. There is also a hint of soft lighting used to instantly bloom the whites and brighten the colors of the environment and well its just jaw dropping. The water effect is subtle and not overplayed but beautiful nonetheless. Juxtapose that with four to five spider creatures that are three times your size standing in the middle of this village with dozens of smaller minions surrounding you and you'll understand the scope that From Software was trying to go for here.

    Textures are sharp as they can be and almost every last thing is destructible. There is a later level that has you fighting your way out of an isolated temple that sits at the base of a gargantuan tree! The bark and wood detailing in the roots and even on the side of the tree is to die for and trust me I'm not overstating here that you'll be amazed by the scale of the environments. The framerate is also absolutely rock solid maintaining the same rate of movement present in the original (30fps) with only a slight hint of slowdown when the screen is filled to the brim with enemies and effects.

    For those that need even more graphics eye candy, the particle effects have been ramped up even more in Otogi 2. No longer does the enemy dissipate into a small cloud leaving behind the orbs of energy that keep your characters alive. Now every slash, every attack, every kill is followed by an EXPLOSION of particles that fills the entire screen. Not too mention slashing your enemies into obstacles is accompanied with debris flying everywhere and smoke filling every nook and cranny. From Software has also seen fit to add a haze effect similiar to the one found in Climaxs' MotoGP and MotoGP2. You are rewarded with this effect when you complete a lengthy combo or begin your attack with a "power" slash. Anyone that felt the original Otogi offered some of the most chaotic and outright insane combat situations will be in utter amazement here. Top notch stuff here folks and might I add that this is one of the few games out there that can compete with something like Panzer Dragoon Orta in both technical achievement and art direction.

    Musically, Otogi 2 matches its visual accuity with ease. Its features very simliar themes to the original game and is again peppered with a traditional Japanese flavor. Most importantly the music fits the mood of the game perfectly and is almost as important as the visuals in creating the dream like atmosphere present in the game. The voice acting also seems very good with great emotion and inflection when needed. Of course its difficult to gauge without a better understanding of the story and I'll readily admit to not having any understanding of the language itself but I am familiar with the work that goes into Japanese voice acting (being an avid anime fan) and believe I can differentiate a good Japanese voice actor from a bad one.

    Let me conclude this by saying anyone thats a fan of the original Otogi had better get on both knees and pray to the gaming gods that someone picks this game up for a US release. Any fan will *NEED* to own this game once they have played it. For non-fans of this hack and slash type gameplay Otogi 2 is not going to sway you but the graphics may be enough to capture your attention. The sequel retains the feel of the original and makes enough changes and additions to create a far more interesting, deeper and an overall superior game. The atmosphere is thicker, the graphics are a whole lot prettier, the music is all the more lovely and the gameplay is just as enjoyable. Like any other game it has its problems but the good more than outwieghs the bad. I am one of those who has been praying for a US release and I still do, however if you have the hardware and can import this beast...DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS!

    Impressions and more can be found here:

    Otogi 2 Impressions and more....
     
  2. Todd Terwilliger

    Todd Terwilliger Screenwriter

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    Great review, Romier. I really liked the first Otogi. I'll be patiently waiting for the sequel to hit this side of the Pacific.
     
  3. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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    They are impressions more than anything else but thanks for the compliment nonetheless Todd[​IMG].

    Again the chance of this game receiving a US release is up in the air right now. The first Otogi did not sell very well at all and the possibility of Sega picking up publishing on this one again may be slim..
     
  4. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    Great write-up as always. [​IMG]
     

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