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Otogi Overview

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Otogi: Myth of Demons

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Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors

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by Tor O'Bergin - August 11, 2013

Otogi, as a series, was one of From Software's most wonderful creations. Having released such incredible and groundbreaking titles such as the King's Field series, the hugely popular Armored Core games, Shadow Tower: Abyss, and as of late Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, one might think their experience in the pure hack-and-slash genre was lacking from seeing subpar efforts such as Ninja Blade. However, the Otogi games are extremely well-made and very satisfying to play, and Otogi 2 happens to be the most beautiful game ever seen on the original Xbox. Not only that, this is yet another From Software game in which the famous Sword of Moonlight appears, and it is deadly.

Otogi: Myth of Demons

Released in North America half a year after its Japanese release, in the middle of 2003, Otogi: Myth of Demons was loved by critics. It won EDGE's 2003 Game Awards as the Graphical Achievement of the Year, and many heaped praise on its musical score. Like many critically acclaimed niche titles, however, it didn't sell very well, and moved around 130,000 copies, 80,000 of those North American. This same pattern was repeated with the release of its sequel in North America almost a year after the Japanese release, with love from critics but a lukewarm reception in the market, a paltry 40,000 North American copies. One man even sent a letter to Electronic Gaming Monthly, curious on how short EGM's review of the game was, and received a response from the editor-in-chief at the time, Dan Hsu: "As good of a game Otogi 2 is, we still have to acknowledge that relatively few people want to read about it."

This sentiment was reflected in sales, and it was quite obvious after the generation ended that the PlayStation 2 audience would have been more receptive of Otogi. On the other hand, the Playstation 2 simply could not have handled the game as it was, and it would have looked significantly worse. In fact, the beauty of Otogi itself is a compelling case for the hardware superiority the Xbox had over the Playstation 2. This isn't to say the games are just graphically advanced, however - a deceptively simple combat system with depth lurking underneath, an amazing soundtrack using all kinds of traditional Japanese instruments, a mythologically inspired storyline and art style and incredible animation all work together to create a unique world that did things few people see in a hack and slash title.

Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors

From Software is a master at crafting atmosphere, often pairing beautiful worlds with haunting and omnipresent melodies - for example, the distinctive sound of a traditional Japanese string instrument while cherry blossom petals fill the screen and the player dashes through the air as Raikoh. He gracefully lands with his long hair trailing like an extension instead of rigidly modeled to his head, a relatively new technique in that generation of 3D games. The particle effects, in quantities far above the level of anything on the PlayStation 2, allowed for a mystical and rich world. The environmental destruction was not only a fantastic way of allowing the player to feel the power of the being he was controlling and add extra depth to the levels - it also was accounted for as an actual mechanic.

When Raikoh used a Heavy Attack and slammed his weapon into a flying demon, it did not just split apart midair, or remain unflinching. The sword burst with power and, as if hit by a giant hammer, the victim spun at incredible speed directly into the ground or whichever direction was opposite the player. This meant that when the demon hit the ground, the sheer force of their body striking terrain did extra damage. Nearly everything that wasn't a wall or the ground was destructible, and many stages had traditional Japanese structures, simple rocks and even entire destructible buildings. This meant it was possible to simply hit a demon into a situation where not only would it take damage from the impact, but also from the subsequent falling debris.

Levels that took place indoors often included walls through which you could Heavy Attack a demon, or a large stack of pots and boxes that burst into hundreds of pieces when destroyed. There was even a stage in the first Otogi with soft terrain that allowed the player to create craters in the ground with the bodies of demonic birdmen. Explosive eggs that detonated like they were filled with dynamite at the slightest touch could be used strategically, as one could send an enemy careening across the room and into a group of these eggs. Some enemies were even explosive themselves, meaning that if one played their cards right, they could slash at an enemy with light attacks, and then finish them off with a heavy attack that turned them into an explosive missile, setting off a chain reaction of exploding enemies that sometimes slowed the actual framerate of the game down - an extremely satisfying result that was a spectacle to behold.

Together, the light and heavy attacks, movement options, and the ability to cast a magic spell with the X button worked well. One could double jump and use the airdash, and if one wished they could airdash through the entire level, although this alone will not clear a stage. It's possible to cast magic in midair, and attack animations change based on whether you're airborne or grounded. The fluidity and freedom of this system makes controlling the main character (and characters, as of Otogi 2) a joy.

Otogi: Myth of Demons

It's worth noting that the mythology and main character are all inspired by the legends and stories surrounding Minamoto no Yorimitsu, and this Minamoto was often with his retainers, the Shitennō (Four Heavenly Kings). In Otogi 2, Usui Sadamitsu, Sakata no Kintoki, Watanabe no Tsuna and Urabe no Suetake are playable characters - their names simply shortened to Sadamitsu, Kintoki, Tsuna and Suetake, although they possess very different physical forms to the ones depicted in the legends. All of these people, by the actual historical accounts, lived during the Japanese period of Heian. Their loyalty to Raikoh Minamoto is the very picture of the relationship between a samurai and their lord, willing to sacrifice their lives at the drop of a hat. Abe no Seimei, another facet of these stories and originally a male onmyoji - a specialist in magic, occult and the divine - appears in Otogi 2 as Seimei, a female sorcerer. The demons that appear in the Otogi games are also so familiar in Japanese culture that more often than not, a player even slightly familiar with these legends, or any Japanese media at all, will recognize recurring themes or monsters present. This means that even a glance at some of these monsters, paired with one's knowledge, helps tell the player what this monster will do or what its weaknesses are. This brings us to the games themselves, so let's take a look at Otogi: Myth of Demons.

Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors

Otogi: Myth of Demons

Otogi: Myth of Demons

Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors

Otogi: Myth of Demons

Otogi: Myth of Demons


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Otogi Overview

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Otogi: Myth of Demons

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Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors

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