Towering over your soldiers, the mighty Odama rolls a path of destruction over all it touches - friend or foe. Direct your soldiers with voice commands, and guide them out of harm’s way on to victory. Let the battle begin! This is a pretty epic game, so allow us to set the scene a little.
The battle begins in 1539 when the world is torn into a bloody conflict. Endless battles ravaged the once-beautiful land, which had long been governed by Lord Yamanouchi Nobutada of the Yamanouchi clan. When Lord Yamanouchi’s trusted vassal Karasuma Genshin betrayed him in a fierce coup, Lord Yamanouchi took his own life rather than bear the shame of defeat. Hungry for revenge, Tamachiyo, eldest son of Yamanouchi, assumed the name “Kagetora.” Traveling secret, he fled to safety with a handful of his most loyal retainers.
At the tender age of eleven, Tamachiyo knew the horrors of war. Though the Kagetora camp had few soldiers and fewer provisions, they possessed two secrets their longtime foes knew nothing about. One was a Yamanouchi family treasure, a gigantic ball known as the Odama. This giant ball was said to have been taken from China long ago, during the Tang dynasty. Legend held that, when unleashed in battle, the Odama would inflict untold damage to foes or grant great power to allies, but these legends remain untested.
The other secret was that the doctrine of Ninten-do, the Way of Heavenly Duty. The word Ninten-do is formed from the first kanji of three proverbs: Nin-ga Mu-shin ( “Attended to one’s duties without ego”), Tenzai Kohrin (“Those in heaven will descend”), and Do-gi Tsuu-mei (“Moral action is a daily command”). The Way of Ninten illustrates the mindset if the Kagetora army, soldiers who have entrusted themselves to the heavens to fight for a common purpose. This is the true origin of bushido, the code of the samurai.
Witness the treasure of the army, the Ninten Bell. When struck with the Odama, its tolling brings miracles. Guide it into the donjon of Karasuma Keep, and your victory will ring throughout the land. With the Odama and Ninten-do on your side, Genshin’s camp is no better than a straw hat. The time for battle is upon you. Will you accept the challenge?
Odama is a new and innovative type of pinball game set in the warring-states period in Medieval Japan. But as you’ll soon discover, Odama is a very unique pinball game. You will witness troops fighting on the screen with all their might and a massive sphere careening across the battlefield. You will discover that Odama is not a weapon you should use recklessly but one that you must use wisely.
The true heroes of Odama are the nameless soldiers. There could be no victory without them. If you want to win, you must use the Odama carefully so that it aids your troops-if you focus only on pinball, your recklessness will lead you to defeat.
Unlike many other Nintendo Gamecube games, Odama utilizes the Nintendo Gamecube Microphone and microphone holder. After memorizing a wide array of commands, you’ll then have to speak them into the GCN Microphone. If the microphone can understand what you said, your troops will react by doing the command that you said. For example, if you said “Advance”, your troops will advance forwards.
In Odama, voice is your most important tool; speak your orders to guide your troops and give them the strength they need to piece forward. They will summon all of their energy and push into the fray with greater vigor than ever before. A strange sense of unity forms from the union of your voice and the soldiers’ brave shouts in response; the cries of battle meld and blend with the hideous music, filling and echoing in your room as you play. This is the sound of war.
At the beginning of each stage, the bell crew will emerge from your base and advance toward the gates when you first launch the Odama. Use your troops and the Odama to protect the bell crew. Even if you don’t issue commands, your bell crew will still advance toward the goal. If you need to deploy more troops to assist your bell crew, all you have to do is press the Z button. You can deploy a limited number of troops on the field at one time, so watch the flow of battle carefully and choose your timing well if you hope to win the day.
In Odama, there are three ways to end a stage. One of them being guiding the bell to its goal within the time allotted. The other two being losing all of your Odamas and allowing your bell crew (or any dispatched crew) to be pushed behind your own flippers. As you can tell, the best of the three is certainly the first one.
When on the battlefield, there are some things you should try to remember. One of those being that only troops that accompany the bell through the gate will be available for deployment on the next stage. In addition to this, the green Odama will conscript enemy soldiers to fight for you, but it will pass over your troops without hurting them and when your base is attacked, you will lose controls of your flippers for a short period of time.
When your troops near the bell crew engage the enemy, the side with more troops will push the front line toward the side with fewer troops. The number of troops on each side is displayed on-screen. You can push the front line by defeating enemies, for example, when you roll over the enemy with your Odama. Be careful: your Odama will harm your own troops as well as your enemy’s.
Enemies run over by the Heavenly Odama (when it glows green) will be conscripted into your army. The Heavenly Odama will pass over your troops without harming them, but the Odama will revert after a period of time. In order to obtain the Heavenly Odama, you must do one of two things. One of these is to collect hearts scattered on-screen until your bell glows white, then striking it with your Odama and the other being roll over a green power-up with your Odama.
There are several voice commands that you can speak into GCN Microphone. Some of these are “Advance”, “Fall Back”, “March Left/Right”, “Press Forward” and “Rally”. Each of these commands are self-explanatory and as you progress in the game, you will grow more accustomed to using them. At first, it seems frustrating but after awhile, you should get the hang of how the game plays.
Once you find command scrolls on the battlefield, you can use voice commands to issue orders to your troops. Some voice commands can be issued to a single group of soldiers, such as the bell crew, when you target them with the cursor. You can also target certain items on the battlefield. If you see such an item, target it with the cursor and use your “Rally” command.
Herein lies the biggest issue with the game - sometimes the voice commands aren't understood properly by the game and this can lead to some highly frustrating moments. It also doesn't help that voice commands side, there's a staggering amount of input controls to remember - this is about as far away from your 'standard' pinball game as you can possibly get.
Whether or not your troops follow your orders may be a matter of morale. If morale drops too low, your troops may not listen to you at all. Morale can suffer because of the Odama hitting and killing your own troops, the bell crew is pushed back by the enemy or you use a certain voice command. Morale can increase if you deploy more troops onto the field as reinforcements or if you order your troops to rally on a rice ball.
Calvary troops can cut a swift path through your defenses, leaving a wake of destruction upon them. If they reach your base, your flippers will be disabled for a short time. If you can wipe out all of the enemy calvary with your Odama, however, you may receive an unexpected reward.
Rice balls appear from time to time, containing within barrels you’ll find on the map. Pick these up with your Odama, and then launch them with your cannon. If a rice ball lands near enemy troops, they will stop fighting and run over to eat it. This could be just the distraction your soldiers need to seal a victory. Also, if you tell your own men to rally on a rice ball, you can increase your morale, but the front line may fall back a little.
Graphically speaking, Odama is a little underwhelming. From a distance, the graphics look wonderful, with lots of textures and color. However, when the action zooms in it looks a lot less impressive. The character models are blocky and lack detail. Calling the graphics mediocre might actually be a compliment in this scenario.
While the experience is lessened slightly by the unpredictable voice commands and the incredibly complex gameplay, Odama is certainly one of the most innovative Gamecube titles. Though the game faced poor sales, that didn’t stop people who bought the game from enjoying it. Many people enjoyed it and some even hope for a sequel.