[The developers behind Okamiden, the unexpected DS revival of cult classic Okami, share the decision making processes that lead to the form the game took -- including how Chibiterasu and Kuni, the game's two leads, emerged.]
In 2006, Okami launched on the PlayStation 2 to widespread critical acclaim. It won more than 30 critical awards and praise for game design amongst all global gaming media.
Then in 2008, Okami launched on the Nintendo Wii system, also with strong critical acclaim -- but both the Wii version and the PS2 original garnered relatively little commercial success.
Without overwhelming sales for support, and in the wake of the closing of original series creator Clover Studios, the prospect of another title in the Okami universe seemed doubtful.
Vocal fans were hungry for more sunshine and wolf-god adventure. Luckily, there was a talented and dedicated team at Capcom that was eager to see a new game from the Okami franchise, too.
In 2009, a small passionate team at Capcom developed a unique vision of how to continue the brand exclusively on the Nintendo DS system. The first announcement of Okamiden came in April 2010; no longer was the gaming community wondering if there was going to be a follow up game in the Okami franchise.
Okamiden launched September 2010 in Japan and March 2011 in the pan-Western territories on the Nintendo DS. Making the vivid, colorful world of Okami portable and appealing to the globe wasn't all sunshine and cherry blossoms during development. Here are some of the notable successes and challenges that occurred during the development and localization process, as recollected by Okamiden director Kuniomi Matsushita and producer Motohideo Eshiro.
What Went Right
1. Partner System
When we began working on Okamiden, we decided that we did not just want to create a continuation of the original PlayStation 2 Okami game, but rather, create an entirely new game. By making the game's main character, Chibiterasu, a wolf pup, we were able to maintain the connection with the first game but still create something different enough to stand on its own.
However, since there would only be minor visual differences between Chibiterasu and Amaterasu, players may be left to think, "Doesn't Chibiterasu just do the same things that Amaterasu does?"
That was when the team's ideas all came together. A child version of Amaterasu would only have half the abilities of the adult Amaterasu. It would be rather difficult for half of a god to save the world, but if there were a partner, then the two of them could work together to save the world.
If both Chibiterasu and a partner traveled together, then the ability to use both characters (one person and one animal) would be an entirely new feature not present in Okami. And if there were to be a partner for a young god to bring out more depth in the game, then naturally we would want to have this partner be a child as well.
It was that train of thought that led to the creation of one of Okamiden's key features -- the partner system.
2. Choosing the DS Hardware
When playing the PlayStation 2 version of Okami, many people thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I could actually use the brush techniques on the screen itself?"
Players were able to get a taste of this with the PS2 controller, then using the Wii Remote, but with the Nintendo DS's stylus, they are now able to master and intuitively use the brush techniques by drawing directly on the screen with the stylus.
With the PS2 controller and Wii Remote, it was often difficult to draw complex lines such as an infinity symbol. However, with the Nintendo DS stylus, not only is one able to draw even more complex lines precisely, but we were able to create even better puzzles and missions that utilize the celestial brush mechanic.
3. Compelling and Heartwarming Story
One of the great things about the original Okami was its heartwarming story. Since Okamiden comes from the same realm as the original game, it was necessary to have the story for Okamiden be just as compelling.
However, since the story of Okamiden takes place nine months after the original Okami, we needed to come up with another heartwarming story that would not contradict the events of the first game. To do so, we enlisted the help of a famous scenario writer, Yukinori Kitajima, to create this compelling story, and by doing so, the simple plot quickly evolved into a detailed and rich scenario.
4. Easy Accessibility
By using the brush techniques and the partner system, we were able to create an easy and fun way to solve puzzles and enjoy the game. The brush technique "Guidance" is introduced to the player in the beginning of the game during the prologue. This gives both novice and experienced players the chance to experience this new technique. Players can utilize the "Guidance" technique not only to team up with your partner and solve puzzles, but also to play and progress through the game much more naturally.
Finding a sweet spot for broad consumer accessibility while satisfying the Okami fan as well as marrying the core gameplay with the celestial brush techniques was crucial to the development of Okamiden. We think we have succeeded by incorporating the themes and concepts we wanted to communicate in Okamiden.