Okage: Shadow King - Review

The Nightmare Before Christmas Part 2: Stan & Ari's Saga

By: Zachary Lewis

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 8
   Plot 3
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

15-25 hours


Title Screen

   RPGamer's news staff phrased it precisely when they used the phrase: 'Satan and cute are two words not often used together'. Insofar as the graphical style of the game is concerned, they couldn't have been more accurate. Okage: Shadow King is one of those games that places all its hopes for financial success on two factors. First, the brand name of the developer - Sony in this case. And secondly, a graphical style that simply cannot be believed until it's seen firsthand.

   As crazy as the battle system may look and sound from the screenshots and RPGamer's interview with Torrin Rettig, it's actually not that complicated. It follows much the same pattern as Skies of Arcadia, but with the addition of an ATB meter for each character. Characters will continuously fight throughout the combat turn, in a decorative fashion, yet again akin to Skies. This touch to combat is the one thing that makes the system bearable, aside from the totally bizarre and hysterical monster designs. Magic use is prohibitive for many reasons, primary among them is the entire disc vs. cartridge argument. Although the DVDs hold vastly superior amounts of data, they also have the distinct trouble of coping with load time. Because using magic involves the use of the sub-screen, it is overly time consuming and can cause the player to become bored quickly, while the PS2 hardware tries to catch up to them.

Ari & Stan Dish It Out
Ari & Stan Dish It Out 

   As mentioned previously, the interface menu isn't exactly the epitome of sub-screens. There is a distinct load time involved in every use of the menus. Thankfully, with the game being so short, you're not going to spend a lot of time in the status screens, so it's not a terrible problem. Strangely, many of the other areas of the game suffer from similar neglect. The music and sounds, for example, are very bland and can become quite monotonous. It's obvious that a large portion of the effort placed on the game went directly to developing the graphical style. Although not misplaced, the effort on the graphics outweighs the rest of the game so phenomenally, that the title is reduced to little more than eye-candy.

   With a story as complex in scope as The Legend of Zelda, Okage would truly be a laughable sort to anyone who primarily enjoys nitty-gritty sagas in the vein of Koudelka or Xenogears. The story centers around a young boy, named Ari, who has his shadow posessed by the demon king, Stan. In payment for a service rendered to Ari's sister, Ari must help Stan reclaim his rightful title of 'Shadow King' by helping to overthrow the lesser demons who have taken over in Stan's absence. The dialogue of the game is, for the most part, clear of errors, and on the upside, emotions and opinions are well adapted and portray a good part of the story.

Tell Me This Doesn't Remind You Of A Certain Tim Burton Film
Tell Me This Doesn't Remind You Of A Certain Tim Burton Film 

   The things that really hold Okage above becoming a totally abysmal horror of an experience are the graphics and the imagination put into them. Almost every person and creature in the game is a complex mishmash of cute and terrible. A pink aligatoresque creature that you could easily find stuffed in your kid sister's bedroom, has fangs that are 8 inches long - and well used at that. It's this kind of wacky exploration of Okage that makes the game worth playing. Seeing every strange new face, and battling every bizarre fluffy horror is a vastly enlightening experience, that everyone should enjoy. It's like mixing your nightmares with a trip to the petting zoo, and trying to find your way to the exit post haste.

   Seeing as you can skip a large portion of the battles in the game, and that there isn't any particularly good reason to level up, the game is fairly easy - although skipping combat defeats the entire purpose of playing a game where the character designs and odd graphics are really the wherewithal of the gaming experience. For the same reasons, there's not much reason to replay the title, either. That is, unless you want to laugh at the creature designs again at some point in the future.

   As long as Sony wasn't expecting Okage to be a spectacular hit success, they're probably not feeling too foolish about developing and publishing the title. It suffers from too many common and mediocre areas to be a long-lived classic in any but the minds of children. This is one RPG that is saved solely by the graphics and the utter quirkiness behind its concept. Maybe next time Sony will remember to add some gameplay to the mix.

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