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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okage: Shadow King is Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA)ís latest role-playing release for the PS2. This wacky RPG makes headway because of the delightfully humorous overtones and unique visual appearance. While the game plays very traditionally, the dollop of fun that goes along with it and the appealing visual approach makes this an excellent adventure. Join us as we take an in-depth look at this game and see if it can escape the shadow of other popular adventure titles or whether it suffers the same flaws that detract from so many other RPGs.

Sonyís first-party releases have shown a real consistency and quality over the past few months with titles such as Extermination, Twisted Metal:Black, Ico, and Dark Cloud making gamers stand up and take notice. With the release of Okage: Shadow King, SCEA unleashes another solid entry in the RPG genre that offers both fun and challenge with a unique approach that makes it stand out. While many players might dismiss this game as yet another RPG In a sea of them, Okage: Shadow King is full of surprises. The First thing youíll notice is the unique visual approach with deformed, wacky character designs reminiscent of Tim Burton that give the game its own personality. These characters give the game a unique, silly feel that is just perfect for the light-hearted adventure that follows Ė itís difficult but tongue-in-cheek. While there is very little spoken dialogue, the text is funny and chock full of jokes that can be surprisingly lewd. Additionally, there are plenty of sight gags to keep you amused as will the off-kilter animations and wacky environments. This is all tied together seamlessly, with really outstanding production values that give Okage a smooth, believable feel that immerses the player into a humorous, silly experience.

As you might have guessed by this point, Okageís plot is fairly bizarre Ė you are a young boy named Ari and youíve been possessed by Stan, the evil shadow king. The funny thing here is that Ari is a timid kid whoís always accused of walking in other peoplesí shadows. As you progress through the game, Stan is constantly at your side throughout. Stan has been captured for several hundred years in a bottle and has lost a lot of his power in the meantime. He can only regain his power with your help. This is because at the same time as Stan was imprisoned, other shadow kings have emerged to stake their claims on the world. Itís up to you and Stan to seek them out and battle them so that Stan can regain his lost powers and you can escape his shadowy presence. Along the way, youíll also face a variety of monsters and villains who are also a little bit wacky and silly in appearance as well, making them fit in well with the feel of the rest of the game. Overall, the world of Okage is a mirthful, light-hearted one, but one that is consistent and somewhat believable in its own way.

One of Okage: Shadow Kingís more interesting twists on the play is that while Stanís directives seem malicious initially, heís actually helps point you go in the right direction Ė this isnít obvious at first but he does ingratiate himself on you. Of course, no one seems to take him seriously when he proclaims his power, as his host Ari is a timid boy and everyone seems to think that Stanís appearance as his Ďshadowí is a trick heís performing. Along the way, youíll also meet other weird characters including members of a heroesí club, a mysterious female hero with a pinafore, citizens of various cities and towns and others, who can join in your party to help you in the quest. You need to choose who joins your team carefully, as each character has their own strengths and weaknesses and you need to figure out who would help you on your quest the most. It really doesnít matter who you choose since each character adds even more humorous quirks to the storyline while adding to your teamís overall abilities.

While itís silly in plot and atmosphere, donít be fooled since Okage plays like a traditional RPG where you have to wander around towns, talk to other characters to gather information, battle enemies and explore the massive worlds in the game. Just as in other RPGs, there are hit and experience points to manage, items and inventory to manage plus most of the usual RPG trappings. As you go along, youíll have to master the arts of casting spells. These can be either good or bad, depending on whether theyíre Ďcursed.í So from a gaming standpoint, the structure and approach of Okage can be best summed up as traditional. One thing you need to worry about, and that gets annoying is that you can only save your progress at one of the hotels. This is a cool system, but they seem to be a bit spread out, making the game much harder than it could have been. The other main issue that detracts from the overall experience are the random battles, which seem to slow you down and get repetitive quickly. The enemies have somewhat predictable patterns, except for the Shadow King bosses who are very difficult to beat. Still, Okage has a good balance between exploration and action and unfolds at a good pace, gradually increasing the story arcís tension to keep the long-term interest level high.

Okage has an excellent interface that allows the player to control the main character, engage in battles or call up Stan without much thought. The menus are laid out clearly and intuitively with little clutter. Interaction with other characters in the villages and moving around is intuitive, making the world seem more believable and alive.  The controls are surprisingly responsive thanks to the real-time approach used. The battle sequences take place in real-time which is a plus because the animations are elaborate but not excessive but as noted earlier, the battles can get repetitive after awhile and even the many new spells and curses that you can perform donít really help this as much as they could have. Still, Okage has the same problem that a lot of other RPGís have, and while it might be qood idea to look at this system and maybe make some improvements, this isnít the title thatís going to do that, unfortunately. That complaint aside, this is still a solid adventure title that most fans of the genre should find easy to understand and satisfying for what it is.

Okage is a surprisingly funny game with excellent character designs and an interesting plot. While the adventure isnít the hardest or most epic ever created, itís a solid quest that should keep you entertained for many hours. While Okage is not exactly innovative in how it plays, thereís enough solid gameplay here that most RPGers will have a good time, especially with the off-beat characters and storyline which makes the experience much more enjoyable.  Okage: Shadow King is an excellent title with many interesting sequences, making it both deep and highly entertaining. Itís not a revolutionary title, but this solid RPG has enough action, challenge and fun to keep you occupied for many hours.