For me, this March is all about two things : The 3DS and the lovely RPGs coming out that also happen to be sequels : Okamiden which I’m halfway through and partially reviewed, Pokemon Black/White – my next review in progress, (Tales of) Ar Tonelico Qoga which I might get time for if I can finish the first two, The 3rd Birthday and the upcoming The Legend of Heroes : Trails in the Sky.
Original games also came out this month to great reception, but I’m here to talk sequels, and in this case, the two for DS and which of the two is more worthy of a purchase.
Getting both games on the same day, I was biased. As great as the last generation of Pokemon was (I beat one of every generation up to now, so the battle system has been growing a little stale), White and Black looked like it would be the same style with a little of that 3d effect, while Okamiden happens to be the successor to one of my top 5 PS2 games. The plan was to spend 80% of my time on Okami and 20% on the new Pokemon which surely could not achieve the magic of the old games…..
I’m around the halfway mark of both of them and can say with certainty that my opinion and approach to both games switched places, now my time goes 90% to Pokemon and 10% to Okamiden.
It’s a shame too! Okamiden came in with big shoes to fill and I love rooting for the underdog. The DS is not the place for Okami, plain and simple. On the console, the world was huge. There were spots where the screen would change to a new area, but otherwise you would get a large chunk of area to explore. Further dividing those regions for the DS really makes it feel disconnecting. Naturally, everything takes a step back : the visuals, available memory, the music, the weapon system, the scaling of the world. How do they make these reductions cohesive? A chibified protagonist who interacts mostly with kids and gets into more childish encounters than the original game. Clearly marketing to the “AWWWWW, A PUPPYYYYY!” crowd. So basically, everything gets reduced somehow from scale to expected age range.
None of those are serious problems though. It’s when the game so closely tries to mimic its older brother that I get bored and walk away during several auto-scrolling conversations, run away from every fight that isn’t a boss because there isn’t much to buy anyway and just want to get the damn story over with and move on to something else that things fall apart. If you need a short time waster, you’ll be likely to stick with Okami to the end without feeling repulsed or anything, but that’s about it, no real lasting power here.
Pokemon White (or Black) though…. Before comparing it to the older games, on its own it is great. The villains and many characters are genuinely interesting and the music is great, particularly some of the battle themes. The scenery is beautiful and varied. The pokemon available also have enough personality to be a welcome addition to most teams, there should be something for every player this generation.
Compared to its predecessors, the game is practically a complete revision of the old mechanics as well as sets a new standard for the series. Hands down the best Pokemon game I’ve played since maybe Gold if not the original. TM’s are now reusable, pokemon no longer take poison damage while walking on the field, the Pokemon Center and Mart are now combined into one building, multiple items can now be registered to one button, there’s more difference between White and Black than just a couple of exclusive pokemon, the pseudo 3d effect actually enhances the gameplay experience and is used in creative ways, the AI is improved considerably, the pacing of the game is improved by removing the mandatory beginning of the game errands and practically putting you into action from the time the game begins in your house and overall deviating from many of the parts of the Pokemon series that we could call “traditional” such as the structure of the gyms, one of which is in the back of a museum for instance and by adding a more dynamic camera that pans during battle (especially when you go idle) and on the field.
It might be because they drop every 5 minutes in the earliest stage of raising pokemon in this game, but I feel more of a bond between myself and the current team than most of the previous games.
It’s painful, because Okamiden just doesn’t match in originality and manage to feel like a fresh game of its own. If you happen to have only the time or money for one of these two games, for the love of god, go the Pokemon route. Sure it’s the DS game getting the most hype and attention, but for good reason.
Also, since I don’t want to waste blog space repeating everything I just said, consider this the first impressions segment of my Pokemon White Review in Progress. Game Freak probably won’t dampen my opinion unless they try really hard.