|Title||:||Otogi: Myth of Demons|
|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
It takes courage these days to create an original video game — one not based on an existing game series, movie license, or other multimedia entertainment.
For breaking from that tendency, I commend Sega, as Otogi: Myth of Demons for the Microsoft Xbox swears no fealty to any previous incarnation. Sadly, its uninspired gameplay is unlikely to win over many gamers, either.
Otogi founded in Japanese myth with which any American audience will likely be unfamiliar. Players live and die as Raikoh, a royal executioner who must regain his own life by purifying his homeland of trespassing demons. Each discrete level has Raikoh carrying out the edicts of a mysterious, godlike figure. The goals usually consist of fighting one's way into a town, temple, or mountaintop, and defeating either a specific monster, or all foes present.
In classic platforming style, Raikoh can jump, double-jump, swing his sword, and dash. He has a floaty sense of maneuverability, including hanging in the air when repeatedly striking an enemy. The two attack types, swift and strong, can be chained together for multiple hits; on this statistic and others does the game rate a player's performance. Raikoh's strong strike is so powerful as to send spirits spiralling away, forgotten by the player until they return to attack unexpectedly. It proves best to keep one's enemies close.
Its this lackadaisical gameplay that may fail to ensorcell gamers. Though the buildings are destructible, giving gamers more exploration and demolition opportunities, there's little variety or strategy to the game. There exists the freedom to play a level completely, clearing it of threats and treasures, or quickly, beelining to the targets, and to return to levels, improving one's score, earning gold, and purchasing new weapons and spells. But pursuing these varied goals involved unvaried routines that boil down to finding a demon, pounding it mercilessly, taking a few hits yourself, and repeating. Most of the cannon fodder Raikoh encounters, though they vary in appearance, do not vary in challenge, opting to fire magical projectiles and swap blows whenever possible.
The presentation by which all this occurs is average. The graphics are dark and detailed, with effects that are often more than eye candy. For example, one level features a lake that is deadening as it looks, and a moon that the clouds occasionally obscure, allowing darker spirits to rise. The lock-on camera leaves Raikoh hideously exposed to many other dangers, and lessens his ability to attack groups of enemies and chain attacks.
The soundtrack quietly invokes the setting from which Otogi draws its roots. The voice acting is average, with decent casting of enigmatic benefactors and deluded loyalists who spout directions and dangers unprompted.
Tapping into Japanese myth for inspiration is clever, but ultimately one to be unappreciated by an American audience, for whom all this setting is indistinguishable from other fantasy creations. If the game had more magic, fewer and smarter creatures, and more goals with real results, as opposed to an abstract ranking, Otogi might have been mythical in quality. As is, it will doubtless be lost to the mists of time.
This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Gamebits, 30-Sep-03