Otogi: Myth of Demons

Otogi: Myth of Demons

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 9/19/2003 for Xbox  

Starting about a month ago I began receiving postcards from SEGA advertising a new game called Otogi. Little information was to be found on these post cards, just that the game revolved around death and Japanese mythology. A few weeks after I received a few roll-up posters that shed more light on the game. I wasn’t too thoroughly excited yet but I appreciated that SEGA was fully behind one of its lesser known products. Then last week, a review copy of Otogi showed up in my mailbox, now I know what all the hoopla was about. For years PS2 owners had shoved copies of Devil May Cry into the faces of their Xbox-loving friends. For years they teased them, laughed at them and ridiculed them with what turned out to be one of the best 3rd person slashers of all-time. That moment stops now, Otogi is not only every bit as good as Devil May Cry, it’s better than it. Some may even call it the Devil May Cry killer, it’s that damn good.

I don’t blame you if you don’t know what all the hoopla is about; it’s received very little play in the media in general. It’s not a fault of SEGA’s PR staff though, they practically shoved it down our throats and begged us to cover it, blame us, the media, for all of our stubbornness and laziness. Now it’s a time to recoup and make amends. Basically Otogi follows the story of Riakoh, feudal Japan’s version of the grim reaper. He’s sent out into the field whenever a spirit needs “cleansing” or help passing on to the next life. This is when you come in, assuming the role of Raikoh, you venture out to do some major cleansing, with extreme prejudice I might add.

What’s nice about Otogi is that it has a fairly violent theme but it doesn’t resort to sheer violence to lure people in. There’s little or no blood to be found and the graphic depictions are kept to a minimum. It chooses to rely on solid gameplay and addictive fighting elements to draw you in and keep you secured to your seat. Sure the core gameplay revolves around repetitive button mashing, but there’s enough action and eye-candy sprinkled about to keep you mesmerized and entertained for hours.

It’s deceivingly easy as well; the first few levels will lull gamers into the false sense of security only to throw them into a wall during the first boss battle. Otogi definitely isn’t for the faint of heart and be forewarned, you will fail and you will have to retry many levels over and over again. If you’re a fan of old-school platformers then this is definitely a good thing, especially because the levels are so unique and varied. Surely, most of them revolve around traveling across the landscape while punishing anything that moves. But there’s enough beautiful imagery and intense action to keep you gripped to your seat.

Unlike most of today’s brawlers the levels don’t feel like an excuse to fight a boss. Each level feels unique and acts like its own entity as opposed to some fodder before the boss battle. The levels all have a personality of their own, from jumping puzzles across rock ledges to feudal Japan-style houses that need to be demolished, each level is unique and better than the previous. Best of all they’re rather large as well and while some of the earlier ones feel eerily empty the levels definitely become better as the game progresses.
Combat is accomplished via some pretty spectacular swordplay. The X button performs a weak slash while the Y button performs a harder slash that knocks enemies back 10-15 feet. Hitting different combinations of buttons yields various combinations, some more powerful than the others. Upon completing the levels players earn currency that can be used to purchase new weapons, items and magic. Magic works in conjunction with the sword strikes and serves as a good support maneuver during combat. In addition to kicking ass combo-style, you can hit enemies into scenery, causing it to crumble down like those old-fashioned monster movies. Actually destruction is fairly encouraged and you’ll even be graded on each level by your destructive ability. You needn’t destroy the entire environment on the first run though; you can access any of the levels at any time and unleash hell upon your enemies. This is especially satisfying because like that little kid on the Milk commercials, you can come back and school the enemies who used to punk you out when you were smaller and weaker.

The visuals look pretty simple to begin with, but as you progress you’ll start to notice the beauty in the simplicity. Buildings crumble to the ground with a thunderous blow as Raikoh unleashes his havoc upon the landscape. As he floats around the levels his scarf flows behind him with the sort of beauty that makes that trash bag scene in American Beauty to compelling. There’s enough refinement in the enemies to make them appeal to the eyes. Not to say that the game doesn’t have its share of poorly constructed enemies, the plant demons in particular, but the good definitely outweigh the bad here, especially in the manner in which they fit in with the theme.

It appears that From Software took a cue from the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it comes to audio. In most of the levels you’ll hear an ominous female voice guide you and expand upon your enemies’ backgrounds. The filter used for the voice gives it a sort of godlike tone, akin to the voices used for the female elves in the LOTR films. It’s pretty nice in the beginning, soothing even, but it gets old rather quickly and becomes more of a nuisance than a pleasure. Some of the boss levels get annoying too as they’re populated with tons of annoying repeating phrases. Sadly these can’t be turned off and you’ll be forced to succumb to them time and time again.

It seems that the only flaws come in the form of repetition, but for anyone who grew up on Shinobi, Streets of Rage, Final Fight or Ninja Gaiden, it’s not really much of a problem. Otogi is about kicking serious amounts of ass and having a great time while doing it. There’s a lot of fun to be had, so if you’re in the market for a good 3rd person slasher this is the game you’ve been waiting for. Otogi is, without a doubt, one of the few “must-own” Xbox titles available on the market.
If you've been looking for an excellent 3D platformer on the Xbox your time has come. Otogi is everything that you could have ever dreamed of and more. Definitely one of the best games of the year and a highly recommended title for all Xbox owners.

Rating: 9.1 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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