Otogi: Myth of Demons (Xbox) review
"The moon ascends and illuminates the dark and barren wasteland. Spectral ghosts and demons can be seen fluttering around the ruins of past temples. The whole region is barren with the presence of the undead and haunting screeches can be heard echoing from the farthest cave. There seems to be no hope in such a hopeless land, however, there is one presence that keeps the land in check. He is the eliminator and purifier of demons and undead, but he is among the dead himself. Being deceased he is ke..."
The moon ascends and illuminates the dark and barren wasteland. Spectral ghosts and demons can be seen fluttering around the ruins of past temples. The whole region is barren with the presence of the undead and haunting screeches can be heard echoing from the farthest cave. There seems to be no hope in such a hopeless land, however, there is one presence that keeps the land in check. He is the eliminator and purifier of demons and undead, but he is among the dead himself. Being deceased he is kept alive by otherworldly sorcery and time is against him in his quest to return to the land of the living. It is the focus of time that encompasses all that is Otogi: Myth of Demons, and it is something that adds both uniqueness and frustration to the table. It is this separation of emotions toward a recognizable game-play element, that makes this game a double-edged sword.
As you would have probably guessed by now you play an undead warrior, by the name of Raikoh. He is a forgotten being that was brought back to the living by a mysterious princess. His task in his previous life was to ensure that everyone met their end when it was their time to go. Kind of like your, not-so-everyday “Grim Reaper.” Now your mission is to purify the land, by extinguishing demons, purifying demons, and doing other tasks that will make the world a better place. Whether it be turning a haunted temple to rubble or releasing a hidden source of energy that will purify the land. The story is certainly enchanting and is what proceeds to draw the player into a mystic and chilling realm, unlike any that I had seen before. With a very dark mood present, that engulfs the entire world of Otogi, it is probably best to leave smaller children in the other room.
Now Otogi: Myth of Demons is a third person action game, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. The game moves in a stage based scenario with missions that you must complete, enemies you must destroy, and regions you must purify. For each stage completed you will gain more and more money, which you can use to buy more powerful weaponry, magic, and accessories. More so is the fact that as you improve and conquer levels, you will also level up. With this kind of traditional improvement system, the game synonymously acts like a Zelda-esque role-playing title. From giant blades and long partisans, to dark dragons and fiery phoenixes, there are plenty of great attacks to master, and trying to gain them all will help you grow in strength as well. Now as we head beyond the premise of the game’s flow, there are many mechanics that try to fall in line to make it a complete experience. That experience expands to three primary categories: the challenge settings, camera, and lock-on system. One is an balanced addition with plenty of expandability; one is shoddy and lacks refinement, and the last falls right on its face. Which one is which, will be up to you to decide.
Now what could be more fun than being a powerful, demon bashing undead? From stage to stage you will be controlling Raikoh in an RPG based environment, with plenty of beat-em-up elements thrown in. You have your magical power gauge and your “mercy orbs,” which act as your life essence. You can continue to find life recovery orbs as you destroy your enemies, but your main enemy in this game is time. Being sustained by magic alone can not be good for your body, which is exactly the case here. As you continue your way through each stage, you will slowly be losing your magical energy. After a certain amount of time, you will be out of magic energy and begin losing your mercy orbs. Once all of your mercy orbs are drained, it is off to the graveyard again for a premature burial. So, a primary focus on the game will be the management of your magic bar, and looking for magic/life orbs. While you are performing your tasks and racing against the clock, you are also being graded for how many enemies you destroy and buildings you demolish. It is this sense of being rushed that adds to the already challenging difficulty level, but also takes away from some of the game. There definitely will be some times where you are lost in a level, or trying to take down incredibly difficult monsters, and there is nothing worse than getting stuck and helplessly watching your life drain away. Well, other than being trapped at work and watching your day drain away, and we all know how that feels.
Do not think that just because Raikoh has a limited time in each stage, he lacks any decent offensive moves. The incredibly smooth and simple control premise makes for some interesting combinations. Your attacks are divided into two sectors among the B and Y buttons, the fast and weak attack and the lay down the bang attack. From this you can pull off some great aerial and ground combos for some kick-ass maneuvers on your unsuspecting enemies. With the help of the X button, you can form some deadly conjurations to unleash on your enemies. From the darkness dragons and lightning rain attacks, to fiery phoenixes and butterfly swarms, the magical effects are very impressive and can be implemented into your attack combos, for extra damage. Raikoh can teleport too, both on the ground and in mid-air, giving him great maneuverability and a good defense against enemy magic. Lastly with the help of the L button, the lock-on system is displayed. Though it is helpful in the aid of launching magic attacks, it unfortunately lacked a polished finish. The mix of the hard to control lock on system and frustrating camera, introduced the blunt side of the two-sided blade.
Just as in other classic games such as Zelda: Ocarina of Time the game uses a lock on system, which you can use to target certain enemies. This would have been a great tool to add if there were fewer enemies to confront in each fight. However, at times there will be literally insane numbers you will be up against, and locking on to one enemy while twenty others are blasting you, is not a good idea. Another thing I thought was annoying about the system was that it cycles too fast from enemy to enemy. Half the time I was trying to lock on to another enemy, but the system kept going past him. To make matters a bit more inconvenient, Otogi sports one of the most annoying cameras I have seen in a game today. Complimenting the lock-on systems unnecessary quick speed, the camera constantly swings around way too fast, sometimes facing the wrong direction. You have control over the camera, but it is so loose and jerky that trying to manage it with the lock-on system can be a pain in the ass. While the camera can sport some good postures and everything, it unfortunately is not very reliable in small caves and passageways, where most of the game will be taking place. Makes you wish they hired the camera dude from Mario 64 instead of this guy.
For those that were expecting a very challenging game when they got this, man did they not have a clue. Otogi is one of the most difficult games I had played in a long time. Some rough game mechanics aside, the game literally throws you into the battlefield in some of the latter, of the twenty-five stages. Putting the beat down on demons, fighting an incredibly powerful boss, head to head, or leaping over fire demons and lava to get to the end of the level in time, are just some examples of what you will be doing. There are plenty of hardships to be had in each level, and trying to get a good destruction score and collecting every last thing will be incredibly difficult. However, I had a very good time in just smashing my way through each stage and fighting every last being that came up to me. Speaking of which the air battles are extremely fun and banging swords with demons a hundred feet in the air is intense. Now while all this is going on you are sure to be looking around and getting a taste of the environment. Amazingly, Otogi sports some of the most beautiful graphics I have yet to see on the system.
The symphony of an art form
Expansive oceans, vibrant forests, and haunted, demon infested lakes never looked so good. The game sports some of the most colorful and detailed graphics I have ever laid eyes on. Making use of beautiful artwork and wonderfully rendered light effects, the game is truly displayed in flying colors. Example being the fight with a giant demonic worm; the detail of him, Raikoh, and the hazy, yellow sky as you fight him in mid-air is breathtaking. Though you may end up totaling everything in each level, take a minute to look at the detail of that temple or ruin, or the picturesque quality of the weather effects. Everything is in real time and there is no slow down whatsoever in the frame-rate or image quality. The game truly makes you feel as if you are in a feudal, ancient demon world. The character detail is no slouch either, Raikoh’s stern expressions and vivid movements are wonderfully animated, as are the hundreds of other demons, each being unique in their own fashion. Hey, I am getting into the visuals so much they should have had a movie mode or something.
Though not as terribly impressive as the visuals are, Otogi: Myth of Demons sports an impressive soundtrack as well. Following the theme of an ancient Japanese setting, the game sports a lot of Japanese instruments and sounds. Primarily in the form of drums and string instruments that bring the whole uniqueness of the game together. It certainly is a great change of pace to all of the rock-music or vibrant silliness of some other games currently out right now, I won’t give any names though. On top of things the music really suits each level’s mood extremely well. From the upbeat mood in an intense boss fight, to a more serene feeling when traveling through a crystalline cave, each level surrounds you with art at every turn. Following in the praise, the sound effects are great too, the clanging of the weapons, roar of the magic, and grunts of the demons are all realistic. Well, as realistic as a demon infested world can be of course. On top of that, everything is in Dolby 5.1 sound, which is basically the last touch needed to ensure a rich audio experience.
With all that it had going for it, Otogi: Myth of Demons is truly a unique and innovative approach, combining so many genres into one package. Being part RPG, part action, and part beat-em-up, is something that most games do not even tread upon, and the beauty of the visuals and sound help bring it all together. With its incredibly high difficulty level, it is not for the casual gamer, but more so for the more experienced talents. It is because of this and the lack of advertising that caused Otogi to slip right under people’s noses. If the game could have just fine tuned that camera and lock-on system a bit better and loosened up on the difficulty a bit, it could have been an instant hit. The whole rushed time limit system also brings down some of the game’s value to me, as I am more of an exploration kind of guy. Regardless the game sports a graphical and audio quality that few others come close to, and is worth the rental just for that alone. I may sound like a graphic whore for saying that, but it really is amazing, and if you can get by the camera and tough difficulty, maybe this game is for you. On a side note, what is it with demons and ancient Japan anyway? Makes you wonder if that is where they got all their video game ideas from.
Community review by destinati0n (October 05, 2004)
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