Okami

 

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

Last and not least, for day 7, and the final day, I bring you Okami. If you haven’t yet played this one, boy are you missing out!

“Developed by the amazing Clover Studio and based on Japanese myths and folklore, you take on the role of a wolf, but not any old one! You take on the role of Amaterasu, a Shinto goddess of the sun, who must save the land from darkness”

One of the most distinctive things about Okami straight away (besides you being a wolf, that is), is the art style used throughout it. Even when it maintains 3D elements, the cel-shaded, cartoony like style is heavily reminiscent of the art style known as sumi-e, done with soft brushes and inks. Colorful and interesting, the visual style of Okami is what first draws you to it. The story, gameplay, and music is what makes you stay.

“Set in an old, feudal-ish style of Japan, Okami tells the story of how Amaterasu is called forth by a spirit protecting a village in order to help save it, after a warrior unseals (and fails to defeat again) a great evil”

The more you progress on the story goal, the more you will be able to explore of the world and, along the way Amaterasu will gain the help of a (rather annoying but thankfully easily ignored) companion, as well as meet other characters that will either help or hinder her along the way.

The game is RPG-styled; besides the main storyline quests you have side quests, mini-games, and some extra fun activities, such as feeding some wild animals or making trees bloom once again, slowly restoring the land to its former beauty. Each of these actions reward you with points later used to help raise stats, such as your health.

“The variety of attacks range from simple barks to making complex patterns on the screen”

Besides the basic attacks, Okami has a couple fun ones too: like peeing on an enemy or barking at them to attract or annoy them… but her main forte is her weapon, the Celestial Brush, through which, by drawing a certain symbol, you call forth certain powers: such as making trees bloom, attacking enemies with powerful attacks, etc. Of course, using this uses up ink, which requires you to keep a stock of this handy.

“Battle isn’t free-range; when you approach an enemy you’re encased in a small area within which to fight them. Certain enemies are weak to certain attacks. The rest of it is pretty common to other games”

Not everyone on the land know that this lovely little wolf is actually Amaterasu, and thus I found it a little weird that most villagers would randomly decide to put quests on what’s basically a dog… but I suppose that can be forgiven, as some of the quests are quite funny and interesting, as are the character’s reactions to the wolf’s actions.

Matching the feudal Japan style, the music used throughout the game, sometimes upbeat, sometimes not, is a perfect companion to the game. It’s so good in fact, I’ve even found myself wanting to get the sountrack for it.

“Even if you aren’t a big fan of RPGs, Okami is definitely a must-try game for its quirkiness, story and looks alone!”

And with Okami we finish up the week! Of course, I’ve left plenty of my favorite games out: Persona, .Hack, Final Fantasy, etc… if you’re interested in reading more PS2 reviews, then leave a comment below~

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my other reviews for the PS2 Review Week series! Read you next time!

 

Way of the Samurai 2

 

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day 4 We have Way of the Samurai 2!

Following the Feudal Japan theme, Way of the Samurai 2 puts you in the role of a starving rounin who, having arrived to Amahara, must now make its way in the world and survive.

Way of the Samurai is mainly, but not entirely, a fighting game, and as such fighting is what you will be doing a lot of. However, you will also have choices to do other things, as well as choices on who you fight for, and against, by siding, or not, with the different factions.

Although I would have wished that this game was infinite play, it sadly has a time system. Each day is divided into five sections: Early morning, morning, afternoon, evening and night. Most of the things you can do, including traveling within locations, might take up time to achieve, so you have to manage your time carefully, for you only have a certain amount of days to work within. Because there’s a time limit, you will be left wanting to replay the game to accomplish things you’ve run out of time to do, or even to turn from a good samurai to a bad one…building your reputation and siding with different people and factions in each run.

Because of all the choices you can take, there are also several endings for each type of samurai you can become. You can become a lone samurai, a sort of police, a gang member, a people’s samurai, etc. It all depends on the quests, missions, and sides you take, and who you side or make friends with.

The controls aren’t the best, but they’re decent enough that you won’t find yourself troubled by them. There is some character customization at the start, letting you choose between male and female, a name, what starting weapons you’ll have, and a bit of variation in heads and clothes. While it’s not very vast, it’s nice to have various types of weapons and looks to choose from. If this is not enough, along your journey, aside from the typical consumables and story/quest-related papers, you will also find decorative items you can wear, sometimes quite funny, sometimes… really weird.

While Way of the Samurai 2 might not have a ground breaking story behind it, the sheer amount of choices you can make in your replays and the likeable characters, as well as the lovely typical music, make it a must-play for me.

 

4.5/5

Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day 2 we have Fatal Frame 2 (also known as Zero ~Crimson Butterfly~)!

Following into the steps of Fatal Frame, this second installment of the series also focuses on a story of siblings. This time it’s twin sisters Mio and Mayu. Mayu sees and follows a crimson butterfly deep into the forest. Worried, Mio follows after, but loses sight of her sister when they reach a lost, abandoned village. As you can imagine, the village is cursed and in it dwell plenty a ghost, again created by dark rituals once performed there, this time (surprise, surprise) involving twins.

While searching for her sister, Mio comes across the Camera Obscura, which will be her only weapon against the ghastly apparitions…

During the game you mostly follow Mio, though there are a few scenes where you play Mayu.

Much improved upon the first installment, not only are the controls and the twin’s pace much better, but the saving points seem closer in between as well. There are some puzzles, and the camera has been improved upon plenty, making it easier to handle and better and faster to work with.

Like before, the game has a few difficulty settings and with each comes a different ending, adding variety and making you want to replay it with a harder challenge. And of course, there are costume unlockables, camera upgrades, and story bits to find throughout it all, as well as ghost pictures to collect in a beautiful album… that sadly just about takes up the entirety of your card’s memory… so you better have a large one prepared for it!

Much like the first installment of the series, all the sounds, voices, effects and music are perfect to get you into the mood of the frightening, eerie village. While Fatal Frame 1’s events happened only within the one mansion, here you have an entire village to explore and get lost in, which can sometimes prove fatal… The ghosts are once again frightening, even a bit more so than the ones on the previous game, and the typical Japanese village’s run-down, eerie looks and story are done superbly, transporting you into this world once more with a little too much ease.

I highly recommend everyone plays Fatal Frame at least once in their lives, and out of the first 3 installments, Crimson Butterfly is definitely my favorite.

 

5/5

Fatal Frame (Project Zero)

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day one we have Fatal Frame!

“Fatal Frame, also known as Project Zero in some countries, is one of the best, most innovative (for the time) survival horror games”

Turned into a Franchise so far 5 titles long, this series by Tecmo was one of the first I played on the PS2, and one of my favorites too.

“Set in 1980’s Japan, the story follows Miku and Mafuyu Hinakasi and she journeys into one of the best horror stories to grace the PS2”

Armed with a mysterious camera that has the power to expose the supernatural, Mafuyu goes investigate a haunted mansion where many a grossly murder has been committed with the hopes of finding out more about it – and perhaps even finding a renown lost folklorist in the process – shortly after disappearing himself. This prompts his sister Miku to go in search of him. Within the mansion Miku finds his brother’s camera and, armed with it, sets off in search of him, in the process unveiling dark rituals and fighting the spirits it has created.

“The original gameplay mode was centered around the camera itself, the only weapon you have against the ghostly encounters (your only other option being running from them)”

Taking pictures of ghosts with this camera saps their energy and eventually kills them. The more accurate the picture, and the more upgrades you make to the film and camera, the faster you dispose of them. Not all ghostly encounters are a fight, many are simply part of the story, showing you more of what went on, and, if you manage to snap a picture of them in time, become collectibles.

“Like any good horror from Japan, it focuses a little bit less into jump scares (though there are some, of course) and more into the eerie atmosphere and story – a very dark story that is very, very interesting, and apparently based in a couple urban legends from Japan”

There are ancient rituals and powers at play here, trapping the spirits in the realm and lurking at every corner as you explore deeper and deeper into the mansion.

“Everything in Fatal Frame, from the music, the sounds, to the dark visual of the rundown, ancient Japanese mansion, help immerse you into the world of Fatal Frame”

The ghosts are frightening without resorting to making them look like monsters, and it certainly manages to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering if the next apparition you’ll come across will be just an echo, or one that might hurt you. This is definitely a game best played in the dark and with headphones on to get the complete feel of it.

Of course, the game has plenty of unlockables: mostly costumes, a few camera functions, and an extra “battle” mode in which you forego the story to instead simply fight certain ghosts in order to earn points to unlock things. In addition, if you end the game in the “Nightmare” difficulty, you get a different ending.

Seeing as it was the first in the franchise, the controls leave a little to be desired though, such as Miku’s slow, slow pace. The only thing I really disliked however was the lack of a free save, having to resort to save points instead, sometimes a bit far in between, or making you backtrack since you had no idea when the next one would be.

All in all, though, the game is definitely worth a play if you’re into survival horror. It’s different, it’s scary, it’s creepy, and it’s wonderful!

 

Fatal Frame III: The Tormented

I’ve talked before about Fatal Frame I and Fatal Frame II. The third installment on the franchise, Fatal Frame III barely makes the cut of my favorite PS2 horror games.

The story follows Rei Kurosawa, a photographer who has recently lost her fiancé in a car accident. During one of her jobs she believes she sees her dead lover, and afterwards she begins having nightmares of an old Japanese manor, and a mysterious tattooed ghost woman.

In the style of the previous two, the entire gameplay is based on you taking pictures of the ghosts in order to defeat them. The whole old Japanese setting is still as eerie as ever and serves to give you goosbumps all through the game, as does the modern one, for that matter.  As you advance in the story both Miku and Mio (from Fatal Frames 1 and 2) make appearances – a very nice way to tie up all the stories.

So what is different from the first two?

Well, not much, if I’m honest. The camera controls are fairly similar to Fatal Frame 2, not having any notable improvement, unlike the changes made from 1 to 2 which greatly improved gameplay.

The most notable difference then is on the split timing of wake/dream. Unlike the other two, you’re not physically going into the house and getting lost, but dreaming about it. During the times Rei is awake and at her own home it’s spooky and has creepy sounds and happenings, but can be considered the “safe” time, while the times she dreams about being in the manor are most certainly not safe.  Later in the story the lines of reality and dream get blurred, but the idea of having a safe time to explore and investigate was something I really enjoyed. Unfortunately, you never see much outside Rei’s home so it felt kind of boring in the end, and didn’t give as much freedom as it seemed to offer. For that matter, you never see much outside the (admittedly very large) manor, except for what’s considered it’s underground and surrounding areas. I do wish there had been plenty more to investigate during the time Rei is awake, and more proactive actions to take.

Another change to the game play was the addition of a gimmick; namely, candles. On the one hand, the idea was nice. On the other, I thoroughly hated it because it added a sense of rush that was not necessary on a game that to me should be slow, spooky exploration (as the first two were). This gimmick only comes into play after a certain point in the game, however, and it involves finding certain candles to prevent quite dangerous ghosts to appear around you at every turn. Should the candle run out these ghosts will appear to make your life impossible, until you find the next candle… or die in the process.

There are two endings to the game, which as usual is nice to have. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

All things considered Fatal Frame III is a beautiful third installment to the series, but I would highly recommend the second one over it.

4/5

Shinobi

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day 5 we have Shinobi! And for once it’s not set in feudal Japan.

“Once again taking the role of a sort of ninja, Shinobi follows Hotsuma as he makes his way through the Golden Palace, a mysterious place that appeared in Tokyo after suffered a massive earthquake, bringing with in a dangerous and evil sorcerer intent of bringing Hell to earth”

The game is quite hack and slash, making you go through eight levels of insanity with a horrible sense of urgency thanks to the sword your character wields: Akujiki, a demon sword that feeds off the souls of fallen enemies.

If you fail to keep the sword fed with enemy’s souls, then it will start feeding off your own. The real kicker? The gave has no real checkpoints. Good luck! You have a couple other weapons besides the sword as well, but that is your main one.

“Like any good ninja, Hotsuma is able to make amazing jumps and can run quite fast. The speed at which you move through the game makes it quite dizzying – in a good way”

You always feel like you’re making a lot of progress, even if you aren’t. Despite the hack-and-slash nature of the battle system, the rest is essentially a 3D platformer game. Trust me when I say you will be doing a lot of jumping, wall climbing, and general parkouring in between places, and that you will fail and fall more times than you’d like to.

“The graphics are quite interesting, the design of the ninja with his mask makes it quite creepy, and there’s something about his red scarf that I just love”

The music, traditional mixed with modern, upbeat themes, fits the whole sense of urgency the game has too.

While normally I don’t go for such games that make you repeat entire areas whenever you fail, the speed at which this game makes you move makes everything feel very fluid, and you will soon be at the point of your original fail in no time at all, even if re-slaying all those groups of enemies can turn quite annoying if you fail often.

Still, it’s a game I would greatly recommend even to more casual players.

 

Shinobido

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day 3 we have Shinobido!

“Shinobido: Way of the Ninja, throws you into the world of feudal Japan by putting you in the role of a ninja now suffering from amnesia. Everything from his name, where he is from, to his reason to being where he is or what he’s meant to do – all of it, he’s forgotten after an accident”

There is a mysterious person who begins to communicate with him by way of letter – a letter that’s attached to arrows shot to his little hideout shack. He is the one to say the memories and soul of the ninja have been stolen and somehow inserted into in eight mythical stones, which are now, of course, scattered.

This gives you the goal of the game. The way in which you accomplish it is, as advised by the mystery writer, to gain the support of one of three warlords from the area in order to make things easier for yourself.

“As you progress through the game, the various warlords offer you different missions and payments, sometimes with extra rewards (for instance, one of the eight stones), and you’re free to accept or deny any one of them”

Of course, accepting one will put you at odds with the other two – particularly if the chosen mission plots against one of them.

Shinobido has very high replayability because of this: You can play to get the favor of each lord or of none, or try to pit one against the other… In between missions, you’ll have to fend off the occasional attack to your shack by savages, which makes for good practice of your skills and of trap-setting.

“As a ninja you will be able to buy and make use of several skills, upgrades, and extra items, not only to set up as traps, but also for active use (such as various type of bombs)”

Each mission happens in a different map, sometimes you might revisit the map in another mission, sometimes you’ll get a different one. The lords’ castles are the most fun to explore. Like any ninja, you’re supposed to avoid detection, the game leaving it up to you if you want to skulk around unnoticed or sneakily kill people, but usually it’s a lost case to go in guns blazing… and in some particular missions, will take you straight to a game over. While the game isn’t exactly open world, within each mission you will be able to choose which path to take to your goal, some being easier and others harder.

“There are also various types of missions you can choose from: retrieving items, killing everyone, find and steal from a convoy, or guard the convoy, assassinate a single person, etc; giving you plenty of choice to avoid things you don’t like doing”

The controls are surprisingly intuitive, and you have so many things you can do as a ninja that you actually make use of each and every button in your controller. The characters move smoothly, the AI is fairly good, noises might attract people, you can use distraction techniques, and much more.

The graphics are really good for a PS2 game, the story is compelling and interesting, and the sounds and looks fit perfectly. Then again, I have a thing for old Japanese sites, in case you couldn’t tell.

Shinobido is a game I often find myself going back to play over and over, and if you’re into stealth, you will too.

ICO

Welcome to PS2 Review Week! Each day of this week I’ll be reviewing an old PS2 game I love and still play, focusing on the slightly lesser known or lesser played games and franchises (so no, even though I loved Final Fantasy, you won’t find reviews of it here).

For day 6 I bring you along ICO. You’ll aww, and you’ll cry.

“Developed by Team Ico, makers of Shadows of the Colossus and The Last Guardian (both also Amazing games!), Ico follows the story of, well, Ico. He’s a young boy from a village that had the misfortune of being born with horns”

The village has a whole story about the horned children being a bad omen, so whenever one is born, they take them and lock them away in an apparently abandoned fortress. In this fortress Ico finds Yorda, an apparently mute girl whom he’ll become fast friends with, and find as well many a lurking danger…

“I won’t tell you more about the story, as I don’t want to spoil it and truly, the story is everything in this game, even when everything else also makes it a wonderful play through”

Ico is a puzzle/platformer game, and as such, you will be scratching your head several times trying to figure out the puzzles, some of which will require Yorda to help you – and Ico to help her in turn, with the final goal of escaping the fortress.

“The controls are simple, helping you feel more immersed in the game by not constantly having game elements in your face”

The graphics and the general artistic air of it all is simply beautiful, breath taking even, the details on the fortress and on the characters bringing them easily to life, along with their very distinct personalities helping plenty to do this as well. The soft music and sounds seem perfect to the game as well.

“The puzzles are intuitive but still challenging, and by making you require the use of both characters to get through, they make you grow even more attached to them… not that you need more help”

The game is most immersive and the uniqueness of Ico and Yorda, as well as their growing friendship (have I mentioned they hold hands? They are both super adorable!), totally pulls at all your heart strings over and over again.

Honestly, there is nothing to hate at all on this game. It’s beautiful, it’s artistic, it has a great story, and great gameplay. It’s definitely a must play, and, once you’re done, I definitely recommend you go and read the book it was based on, as well.

Definitely worth your time, 10 stars out of 5. (What do you mean that’s not a proper rating?)