Okage: Shadow King - Review

Okage: Shadow King - Review

By: Silver X

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 6
   Plot 7
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

15-25 hours


Title Screen

   Enter the world of Okage, an odd ball mixture of dysfunctional quirkiness meet Saturday morning slapstick, a tale twisted of silly endeavors. Demented of that Tim Burton style of craziness, Okage: The Shadow King is quick to compromise its genres normalcy's. Much like Earthbound before it, Okage is skim of sane ideas, but in theory nothing of it's sorting is new beyond the casual inverse sensibility here and there. Its still quite like your average RPG when you tie together its individual pieces, though instead of saving the world, your conquering it, and instead of a happy, willing optimist for a hero we have Stan and Ari, mister devil and socially frustrated teen respectably.

   Part of Okage's problem lies in this inconsistent execution. For all intents and purposes, Okage is a niche title with a very limited draw, relying on whacked out imagery and sound comedic backdrops for the most part. This works moderately well in the early going, but as the game progresses, it's refreshing edginess shimmers to that of conventional and often cliched means. Beyond that the gameplay is trite, and contrary to the games intents that objects tired and cliched procedure. It's as if Okage's developer, Zenfer, imagined an incredibly original game but couldn't follow through with their blue prints. Because of this, the end product of there hesitations is half baked, half-realized and more of an unwilling old schooler then perhaps the best of em'. You can't pretend to make a trippy, niche title and end it conventionally as if you'll appeal to the masses and solidify some god sent effort. In effect, Okage comes off as an awkward throw away at best.

   Okage's beginnings are not of the assuming sort, leading the stories main hero, Ari, through a series of rather uneventful tasks. From the offset, its apparent that Ari isn't quite like your normal hero, as his both quiet and notably indifferent to adventure as a whole. The story opens promptly on the night of a local caravans visit, a day which confronts the hero with several unorthodox matters, namely the ghostly curse of his rambunctious sisters undoing, that which saw its work just after the carnivals end. Upon heading home, Ari and family decide on a course of action, and to the surprise of many, Ari's father suggests a remedy, that of a mysterious pot which he had found a few days earlier. Ari's adventure begins here, as they summon Evil King Stan from the pot who thereby grants them safe remedy of their beloved sister, though, at the cost of one family member's unconditional service to his bidding. Ari unsurprisingly is chosen as Evil King Stan's slave, and hence the "heroes" quest for world domination embarks promptly with the task of finding the other evil kings, which would serve to strengthen the now weaken, shadowy devil.

   While not all that special, the story of Okage is cute in it's own little way. It lacks the epic scoop, cutting wit and emotional dialogue of some games, but it's not the sort that thrives on an epic tales wrapping. For all intends and purposes, it's a soft adventure with unchallenging themes. The dialogue, characters and underlining concepts are low-key and are proof of this. Suffice as it is to say, if you enjoy lighter stories, there's definitely a lot of potential to be found herein.

It's Time To Kick @$$ And Chew Bubblegum!
It's Time To Kick @$$ And Chew Bubblegum! 

   The translation is serviceable, but not outright fantastic. Occasionally your dropped with a slew of fine lines that are both entertaining and witty, but they never seem to involve anyone other then Stan or your own responses, and as a whole the script tries to be funny, but really doesn't succeed. This isn't to say that Okage reads poorly, it certainly doesn't, but beyond the spotty witticisms, the translation is "of little note".

   In terms of structure, Okage's plot is not unlike an extensively overdrawn fetch quest. Broken down through a series of chapters, main objectives fall flat and center on the stories main premise, that is to capture the scattered evil kings and restore Stan's strength without much undue distraction. This is far less grating a feat then you may suspect, largely due to the fact of Okage's clever imagery, sound comedic overtones, and Stan, who's contributions to the games overall literary freshness are more then considerable. Key events are written with a fine tongue for comedy and remain enjoyable regardless of the underlining plot redundancy.

   Stan, for the most part, is a hilarious comic relief stand in that would best serve as a mold for future characters of his sort. The key is his funny; unlike 90% of those other would be comic relief fools. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much of a cast to work with, and while he is extremely funny throughout, no one else is, and for that matter the entire cast sans the shadowy one and Ari is incredibly annoying and uninteresting. Which is a shame really, because half of the games draw is instantly downed when the characters fail as comic individuals. The cast is peachy, waxed and out of control, but that doesn't mean there entertaining, funny or rewarding.

Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland 

   As a whole, it's quite apparent that while Okage begins strong, it doesn't hold well down the stretch. The cutesy story themeing and evil-induced plot are sugar on the cake, to be sure, but unfortunately there isn't any cake. Beyond the gimmicky exterior of these spacey plot devices you have a very conventional RPG experience. Sooner then later those strong comical elements that made Okage so fun and refreshing to begin with dissipate, taking with it the only sweet qualities and leaving many cavities.

   The musical score definitely does not. With a sense of variety that honors a broken, tilted 8-track venal, your ears wouldn't be committing an injustice for closing out the horrors of this ghostly tales sound track. Trite and not all that remarkable. The vocal narration, however, is fairly well suited, and the sound effects, though sparse, aren't horrible by any means.

   Much like the rest Okage, the battle system is dysfunctional, though it's far more a taxing practice to appreciate it's technical foul ups then a cast of messed up, peachy delinquents. What may have been a glorified attempt at a battle system 15 years ago is merely a hackneyed mishap now, a tedious practice that's both half hazard in design and completely skewered in execution. Combat is simple, trite and incredibly uninspired, which coupled with appallingly randomized and unintelligent combat physics leave, for the most part, a grossly large emphasis on blatant luck for Boss battles, and simple button mashing exercises when with dealing casual small fry. Tactical prowess sold separately. Enemy encounters are avoidable though ever bit as annoying as if they weren't, serving for swift challenge via non other then drowsy eye strain. Mind the couch cousin's folks, there certainly far more tempting then yet another level gain.

   The interface suffers a similar fate, opting for wacky visual design over true functionality. Item menus are adequately presented, though combat menus are anything but pleasing with small text sizes and unnecessary obtrusions filling the mold.

   The short end of it is while the inverse ideas and funny dialogue prove amusing, their appeal dries up well before the closing credits, and certainly before they can deter an otherwise lackluster effort. Scathed by it's own limited draw, Okage is plagued with a laundry list of significant shortcoming that effectively repress what could have been a great game. Much like a tiring stand up skit, Okage runs out of material and relies on unremarkable padding for much longer then it should be allowed to. The end result is something that's mediocre at best, saved slightly by occasional bursts of witty dialogue and truly fun endeavors here and there. Playable, but hardly replayable, a game that looks radically new and interesting but is far more conventional then mere pictures would let on. Rent first.

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