Reviewed: September 12, 2003
Reviewed by: Mark Smith
Released: August 26, 2003
Otogi: Myth of Demons is one of those rare and unexpected surprises that we, as game reviewers are occasionally treated to. I had no knowledge of this title prior to a few weeks ago when a tube arrived in the mail with some cool posters for Otogi. Before I even had a chance to look the game up on the Internet to see what it was all about a review copy had arrived.
Even after careful examination of the box I still had no idea what to expect. The feature list proclaimed a unique blend of action and RPG but the screenshots and cover art were rather cryptic. I was a bit apprehensive as I popped the disc into my Xbox, unsure of what to expect.
From the opening title screen to the intriguing menu designs and gorgeous first few levels I was immediately captivated by a spell more powerful than I have experience in any game of this type in a long time. It would be easy to compare Otogi to the Devil May Cry games on the PS2 and this would be a valid comparison only Otogi does the genre up proper with amazing style and oriental flair and mysticism.
Otogi: Myth of Demons features:
Otogi is purely a visceral exercise in violence. You have but one objective, and in your quest to complete your assigned goals you are to destroy every last demon you encounter and as much of the surrounding environment as you possibly can. Even the story takes a backseat to the carnage, as Raikoh is unceremoniously deposited into the first level and literally fed to the wolves, or in this case, the demons.
Controls are as raw and simple as the game itself. You attack with the B and Y buttons; one is a quick attack while the other is a slower but more powerful assault. The X button summons a spell and the A button allows Raikoh to jump and even double jump to incredible heights. When you launch an attack in midair you can even stay suspended for extended periods of time.
The left trigger allows you to lock onto enemies so you can circle strafe or target them in midair while the right trigger invokes a powerful dash move. This move is especially critical in pulling off some of the more powerful attacks, dodging enemies, or jumping to unreachable heights. With masterful use of the dash button you can bounce from enemy to enemy without touching the ground creating some sensational combat sequences.
Magic plays an important part of Otogi, not so much for spellcasting but in the fact that Raikoh’s life force is dependent on his magic meter and that meter is slowly ticking away like a virtual stopwatch. You can regain magic by defeating demons and locating hidden power-ups thus extending your time in each level. This is the only way you will ever get a 100% completion for each of the massive levels.
Getting 100% not only requires you to complete your primary objectives but to also free trapped souls within the level. This is far from easy as there are only a few souls in each level but hundreds of objects in which they may be trapped. Often you will discover and release a soul accidentally from collateral damage from demon combat. The first soul I found was trapped in a tree in the first level. This naturally led to the systematic destruction of the entire forest, but you have to temper your destruction of the environment with that ticking magic/life meter. Balancing the demon combat with random object destruction while keeping a wary eye on your vitals is a careful balancing act that will take you hours to master and keep you coming back to each level to improve your previous performance once you do.
There is a thin veil of RPG buried in Otogi. You earn gold that you can use to buy new items and weapons and repair your current arsenal. Weapons lose vitality (VP) the more you use them but can be repaired between missions to restore their killing power. Other items like spells and magical items give you protection or additional combat abilities. Items and weapons all have weight values and these are used to calculate the total weight of Raikoh, which affects his speed and jumping distance. Raikoh, himself, earns experience and increases in levels.
There are more than 30 weapons in Otogi but many of them are hidden quite deep in the game. To make matters worse you really never know what you need to do to earn them. Some goals require you to beat a level within a certain time limit or execute a multi-hit combo of unknown duration. Unless you invest in a strategy guide or seek advice online you’ll probably miss out on a lot of the better weapons, but when you do get lucky and accidentally meet one of these arbitrary goals it is always a pleasant surprise.
Boss battles are amazing and rank right up there with some of the best boss battles in gaming history. They feature some intense gameplay elements and require interesting tactics and strategy. Your battle with the Crimson Lord will certainly be one of your 2003 gaming highlights.
My first complaint with Otogi is the level of difficulty, which never really seems to get any tougher in the later levels. Even though Raikoh is continually improving his abilities and arsenal the enemies only moderately increase in number. After you get about halfway through the game it will quickly turn into a slaughter and lose a lot of its initial challenge.
My second complaint is the repetition of the game levels. Of the 29 levels only half of them are truly original in design. About halfway through the game you will start repeating the first sequence of levels with minor cosmetic changes. The textures are different but the landscape is the same. It just cheapens the game by artificially extending the gameplay.
One only needs to play the first level of Otogi to realize they are in for a magical treat. Set in a dark forest there is this brilliant blue glow off over the horizon that casts an eerie silhouette of everything between you and this unseen light source. It’s the same lighting effect you’ve probably seen in many a movie or in the X-Files and it comes across perfectly in this title.
Each of the first 16 levels is just as creative and visually stunning, and even when the levels eventually repeat themselves with new textures its hard not to enjoy them. All the levels are rich with color and feature environmental effects, eerie glows and more particle and volumetric mist than any two other games. Plus every level can be totally devastated – if an object exists chances are it can be smashed into a million pieces.
There are 40 unique demonic creatures you will face and each is more frightening and intriguing than the last. Some of these creatures are the inspiration of nightmares and all are totally original. You’ve never seen anything like these hideous spawns of hell. The model for Raikoh is a bit on the simple side but is animated nicely and he leaps and hovers with the grace of a ballet dancer and his combat actions are accented with colorful streaks and powerful particle explosions.
With the exception of a few minor framerate issues in the later levels and the odd camera glitches that randomly pop-up from time to time Otogi is a visually solid title that is guaranteed to show off the power of your Xbox. Even the menus with their subtle ripple effects contribute to the overall presentation.
The music in Otogi can best be described as “hauntingly beautiful”. The mellow strings and woodwind instruments that often swing into some off-key bars are both authentically Asian and eerily creepy, evoking the perfect atmosphere to compliment the visuals.
The sound effects are minimal but quite effective. You get the swoosh of your blade and the explosive impact as you destroy trees, sculptures, doors, and just about everything else in the level that can be destroyed. Demons offer some interesting effects and the entire sound package come alive in Dolby Digital surround.
The speech is more of a personal preference. SEGA was kind enough to include an English dub for those of you who don’t like to read your dialog, but for you import purists you can toggle on the original Japanese dub and put on your reading specs. Admittedly, the Japanese track will add some authenticity to the game but the English dub is surprisingly good.
Otogi is one of those games you can beat in 10-12 hours but you can plan on twice that time to complete it. You are scored on each level so there is certainly an incentive to replay and improve your previous performance, and locating those hidden souls will require the total annihilation of every object on a level – unless you get really lucky.
Those of you on a budget may want to rent this title but everyone else will want to make this game a permanent addition to your Xbox library.
Otogi: Myth of Demons is guaranteed to satisfy the gamer that craves fast and furious combat, haunting music and stunning visuals. Put your brain on hold and prime those reflexes for one of the most intense action games to hit the Xbox this summer. The carnage is primal and can even get a bit repetitive, but when a game is this much fun and looks this good a little repetition can be tolerated, especially when they lead to some of the most epic boss fights in gaming history. Otogi is an addictive little action title that will keep you coming back for additional helpings for a long time to come.