Review by DancesWithLobsters
"A strong argument for video games as art."
It doesn't have enormous breasts. It doesn't have big guns. It isn't Live!, or even multiplayer. But what it is, might be the best XBox game to date, and one of the most artistic games ever.
I have never seen more beautiful graphics on the XBox. The sun glints off rooftops, creating a glowing haze. The levels darken when clouds pass in front of the moon. Shattered mirrors glitter as their pieces fall to the ground. The sheer level of detail is remarkable, and what's even more incredible is that it stays at a very high framerate. A little stuttering would be forgivable in such a beautiful game, but even the occasional framerate drop is masked in an extremely artistic motion blur and haze, making it look like an intentional effect. This is the apex of XBox graphics. When it says Only on XBox on the cover, a few minutes of gameplay will tell you why.
Rich in history, Otogi looks and feels like an anime based on the mythology of the Heian dynasty. Again, it's the little touches that make this game beautiful. For every weapon, item and enemy, you can get an artistic picture that looks like a hand-painted picture done in 10th century Japanese style. In-game, the weapons and monsters are well detailed and nicely animated.
For a game that's so visually and conceptually complex, control is very intuitive. It's easy to pick up, easy to use, yet remains rich enough to benefit mastery. By the end of the first mission, you'll feel in total control of Raikoh. One of the most incredible aspects of this game is the highly destructible terrain. A solid hit can send enemies flying through walls, houses, and trees, or knock them into the ground with a crater. And you even get points for causing this kind of destruction! My only complaint is that the camera is a little swingy, and in the heat of combat I don't always have time to position it where I need it, or even click the left thumbstick to bring it back behind me. However, the controls are so intuitive, I can usually maneuver even with a bad angle of view.
Even if this game had no sound, it would still be fantastic. But it does have sound... incredible sound. The music is perfect, thematic, and great for the mood. Little touches like chimes when you're injured and a tako drum on the menus are just icing on a very tasty cake.
Replay Value: 7/10
The game's of good length, but each level can be replayed at any point to gain extra items, experience, gold, or to complete additional objectives, like getting big combos. You also get the option to face the level in its 'original' state, if you want to trash it again, or its 'current' state, so you can keep going back to finish up levelling the area and free all of the souls in it. Add about 30 weapons to buy and unlock, along with items and magic, and you'll be playing for a long time. This is one of the few games that's so genuinely fun to play, you'll want to go back and play levels again just for the joy of destruction and the beauty of the scenery.
With a release price of $40, this game is almost too good to be true. Part Shinobi, part Onimusha with a dash of Gunvalkyrie and a pinch of Devil May Cry, this could be a Game of the Year.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/31/03
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