E3 2001

Okage: Shadow King Game Impressions

Sony's E3 booth really cannot be accurately referred to as a booth, as it was more of a massive area, covering a good segment of the main hall. Of the myriad titles on display and available to play at the show, possibly the quirkiest and most unique was the upcoming PlayStation2 RPG, Okage: Shadow King.

The game was released in Japan this past March and has been referred to by many loose translations, including Beelzebub and I. Now officially confirmed for release in North America, and given a true title, Okage: Shadow King will soon bring PlayStation2 owners a unique and oftentimes peculiar RPG title. Players take on the role of Ari, a young boy who comes to be possessed by the Shadow King, an "evil" demon who makes Ari his slave in exchange for saving his sister's life. The Shadow King, who's true name is actually Dan, is not particularly intimidating, and wishes to dispatch other demons in the area, who he believes are detracting from his own power. While the playable demo did not progress too far into the game, it was clear that Ari and the Shadow King are destined to travel great expanses, and will meet many other characters.

The graphical quality of Okage: Shadow King is what initially sets it apart from conventional titles. The characters can easily be mistaken for rejects from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, with stick-thin limbs and freakish facial features, not to mention weapons that range from swords to parasols. All this, as well as foes like the man-eating onions, makes for a rather entertaining and quirky experience.

The game's combat system is basically composed on top of the traditional Active Time Battle gauging system, but with a twist. When the ATB gauge fills completely, you can instruct one of your playable characters to attack, but while the game waits for your input, everything freezes. So if you or an enemy was in the middle of leaping through the air to attack when one another character's turn comes, the actions halts and the camera slowly pans around the frozen scene, much in the style of The Matrix. Further, there is no true distinction between the actions of different characters, so if you tell two characters to attack at once, they will both jump out and attack, possibly at the same moment that some members of the enemy party are attacking you. With some groups of enemies including upwards of 10 foes all at once, this can lead to fast and furious melee combat on a massive scale. As well, combat is laden with special lighting and transparency effects, a definite showing of what the PlayStation2 can do.

Okage: Shadow King is planned for release this summer, and will bring players about 80 hours of very unique gameplay. While the look of the title might be cartoonish in nature, the game itself is rather intense, and focuses on a more mature storyline. Thus, Sony is aiming the game toward the 18-24 gamer age group. We will keep you updated as development on the North American verison of this RPG continues.

by Matthew Wanlin    

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