Okamiden has remained under the radar for the most part as of late, so it was nice to see the game on display at E3 2010. After spending a bit of time with the game, it's clear that it continues the tradition of beautiful oriental-style artwork and scenery, not to mention the same unique gameplay of the original Okami release.
Since the game is being developed for Nintendo's DS system instead of the Wii, the brush gameplay mechanic has a much different feel this time around. In many ways it feels far more intuitive and like a real brush, so the benefits of the DS touchscreen are immediately felt when you begin playing the game.
The game's camera also tends to remain behind the player and seemed to work quite well despite the fact that you don't have to spend all of your time self-adjusting it. It was immediately clear from playing the game that fans of the original Okami are going to be in for a real treat with this new DS release.
I was fortunate enough to have some time to sit down with the Producer of Okamiden, Motohide Eshiro, and he was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his newest project. You can find out what he had to say in the exclusive Nintendo Life interview below.
Nintendo Life: With the original making an appearance on the Wii, why the decision to bring this sequel to the Nintendo DS system?
Motohide Eshiro: First of all I should clarify that Okamiden is not really a sequel to Okami in the sense that it's more of a successor. Okamiden is its own franchise so what you had on the Wii was Okami and that was its own game. We wanted to maintain the world of Okami, but create a new franchise with it so we thought the Nintendo DS was the perfect place to start with that, thus we created Okamiden to put on the DS.
NL: How will the gameplay differ from the original in this new title?
ME: Well for starters, you're not going to be using an analog stick to move around so you have to use the d-pad on the Nintendo DS. With that brings a new set of challenges and one of those was the problem of what to do with the camera. The first game had kind of a roaming free-range camera and it would sometimes get you lost at times if you didn't follow it just right and some players wouldn't know where to go next. This time we decided to put the camera more on a rail. The camera sort of guides you where you need to go so that you don't get lost. In that sense, your movements are easier in that you know where to go much more easily.
Also the big thing is the use of the touchscreen. We think it's the perfect match for the Celestial Brush. Now when you use the Celestial Brush it feels much more intuitive than when you were using the Wii Remote. The Wii Remote was good for the first game, but now you'll be able to accurately draw exactly what you want using the stylus and the DS touchscreen.
NL: The graphical style of the game is probably what stands out the most with the cel-shaded look and oriental theme. Was that difficult to accomplish on the DS given its 3D graphical limitations?
ME: Yes, that was a challenge and half in trying to do the game on the Nintendo DS. For starters you had the background artists working with much fewer polygons and their job is to try to transfer the world of the original Okami to the Nintendo DS and give it that same feel and atmosphere with much less to work with.
The same could be said of the person working on the characters and animations. They had less room to work with such things as facial animations and other features, yet they still had to make them convincing at the same time.
Then the programmers had to make sure the processing power was being fully utilized inside the Nintendo DS to be sure that it wasn't being overworked and causing slowdown within the game. So each person working on the game had their own individual tasks, but they all worked together as a team to make sure the game looked and played well on the Nintendo DS.
NL: Okamiden will obviously appeal to fans of the original Okami, but what aspects of this new release do you think will draw in new fans to the series?
ME: Well first of all for the Okami fans they're going to love the graphics and gameplay of Okamiden. It will be everything they loved about the original Okami, only on the Nintendo DS system instead of the Wii.
As far as new fans go, I think they're going to feel that the Japanese-style artwork, while not the type they commonly see outside of Japan, is something fresh and different and hopefully people who love unique and interesting games will appreciate the type of experience Okamiden offers them.
The game mechanics themselves with the Celestial Brush are something that are really satisfying to be able to draw exactly what you want on the screen and have it transfer naturally. I think that's very satisfying. So people who like great graphics and rewarding gameplay experiences I think will find just what they're looking for with Okamiden.
NL: Aside from the change in play control from the Wii Remote to the Nintendo DS touchscreen, what is the biggest difference between Okamiden and the original Okami?
ME: I think the biggest difference is the partners that we have in this game. That's something that wasn't in the original Okami game. Now the main character in the game is Chibiterasu and he's not what you would call a fully realized god yet, so he doesn't have all of the powers that his predecessor had. He needs some help this time around so we prepared an array of partners that will help him throughout the game. And because we have these partners in the game, that affects the story, the setting, and even the gameplay itself. The partners add to all of those elements and create a very different playing experience than was featured in the original game.
NL: Have you had the chance to see Nintendo's new 3DS system yet and do you think it would make a great home for a future Okami title?
ME: (Laughs) Actually I was lined up before to try it out, but I didn't have a chance because the line was way too long. I do hope that sometime during my stay at E3 that I'll get a chance to get my hands on it and try it out.
As for as a new Okami title on the 3DS, first of all I want to put all of my efforts into getting Okamiden out and into the public consciousness. I mainly hope the public reaction to Okamiden is good and that fans like it. Hopefully if the reaction is good enough and fans want to see another game we can look at possibly developing an Okamiden game for the 3DS. We're certainly not ruling it out.
I'd like to thank Mr. Eshiro-san for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some of our questions. And I'd especially like to thank Laura Klang Glienna for setting up the Okamiden interview and helping me schedule it around my many booth visits.