Game Review – Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke 2 (PS VITA)

PSVita_Cover_sceSince it’s Japanese release on July 17, “Oreshika 2” history became filled with success and controversy. But, how? Isn’t this supposed to be one of the best seller titles for this month? This is a complicated matter which is better to understand by playing, but I will try my fullest to explain…

Story & Characters

oreshika2-04After the disappearance of the divine treasures, many tragedies befall the human realm. Trying to calm the gods, the human race decided to choose randomly an entire clan to be sacrificed in a sacred ritual.俺屍2_20140721_132859However, since this was not the wish of the gods, Kitsuto – the mischievous second-in-command of the Heavens – travels to Earth in order to revive the unfortunate humans who were sacrificed, but he finds out they were all cursed with two spells: 1- They will die really young, living for 2 years at most. 2- They can’t have children. Those curses were so powerful that would last even after their deaths. Since those were the same curses used against the clan who helped the heavens in the past (the first game), this made difficult for the gods to believe this whole matter was just a coincidence.oreshika2-03Kitsuto explains how all the calamities happening in the mortal realm are a sign of the Gods losing their powers, and how the treasures must be recovered to avert this situation. After saying how the whole sacrifice ritual was just a set-up to get ridden of them, they get so enraged that even their remains start to move.oreshika2-01Kitsuto summons the mysterious Nueko and, by eating her flesh, the human-sacrifices transform from undead skulls to bodies of light. After taking the shape of birds, they fly to a distant island were they regain human forms and start their preparations for revenge.俺屍2_20140717_233304To assist them, Kitsuto picks a ferret, names her as Kochin and gives her the ability to take human form so she could work for the clan of heroes as their servant. She becomes an important asset in the fight against the Onis and their leader…俺屍2_20140721_144557Abeno Seimei is neither an Oni nor a God. He is a ventriloquist who is always together with Onigashira, his puppet. Seimei uses onmio techniques and was the criminal behind the stolen treasures and the curses placed upon the heroes. For reasons unknown, he has attained immortality and he easily reveals the only way to break the curse: Killing him. How to kill an immortal? Nueko might hold the key to solve this puzzle…

Gameplay

俺屍2_20140717_224507To help the clan of heroes fight against the curse’s effect, the gods agree to breed with them. Thanks to their divine lineage, they will grow and learn really fast. They will also become strong enough to fight even against Onis. This is the most important element in the game. You start by customizing your character. The customization features are plentiful and you are certain to create exactly what you want, but if you want the hero to have your face, you can use the PS Vita camera to take a photo and use it has reference.俺屍2_20140720_095016I made some tests and it’s nearly perfect! The only problems is when recognizing hair styles (I have long straight hair, and since the camera locks really close to the face, it doesn’t find the rest of my hair, which isn’t a problem, as you can still edit this later on), but aside from that, it works really well! It’s much better than the WiiU system to customize Miis through the control’s camera.俺屍2_20140721_134332Your character will come together with two younger siblings (I believe their gender depends on the protagonist you choose). Their appearance will be somewhat random, but they will share some features with your characters, such as the colors of eyes, hair and skin, but the rest will be decided by the game. You have to farm some “divine points” in order to choose stronger gods to bound with, which you get by defeating monsters in dungeons and clearing special conditions given by Kochin or the Gods.俺屍2_20140721_160940 There’s not much of a Dating-Sim element in this game, as you almost don’t even chat with your God-partner, and this makes sense with the plot, since they are doing for a greater good, and not for love. Those who got disgusted by the likes of Conception have no need to worry, since there’s nothing suggestive during the “breeding ceremony”. Sometimes, the child appearance will be really different from their parents, but most times they share many traits. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a personality to the heroes, except for their facial expressions (which is based on their parents) and their testaments, which are unique for each family member.俺屍2_20140731_090323Sometimes, the later generations will look really different from the founders, but suddenly, a new member can born to be the spitting image of the 1st generation leader! GENETICS!俺屍2_20140731_082819As mentioned above, Kochin will be a big help. She is like a Navy who you actually comes to like a lot (Midna?). Instead of reminding you about the same things over and over with a really annoying voice, she says only the essentials and let the boring and long explanations in a menu for you to read on your own leisure.俺屍2_20140728_101101She is also really helpful during battles, as she uses many spells randomly, giving many buffs to your warriors, but she will also shield a character who is about to die one time per fight and will even attack sometimes (although her attacks are really weak, being the only time she is useless).俺屍2_20140731_082447Starting every new month in the game, you can choose among many courses of action, such as rest (for the whole month! What an epic hero!), invest money on the nearby city, visit the shrine, have a child with a God of your choice, going to a dungeon to search for the sacred treasures and many other options. You can choose everything by yourself, but you can always count on Kochin for that! She can pick everything for you, but you can also only hear her suggestions, and you can say exactly what part of her plan you don’t want to do.俺屍2_20140721_144523There’s almost nothing special to be said about the battle system, aside from the Roulette at the beginning of each battle which picks the loots you will receive as long as you don’t let any enemy escape. The actual battles are you usual turn-based RPG system, but the many different jobs, magic skills and ultimate techniques are just the enough to keep you from getting bored.俺屍2_20140721_130510When exploring dungeons, the time is represented by flames lit in a circle in the down-right side of the screen. When all flames are extinguished, a month will pass. You can choose to stay in the dungeon for the next month (which will lit the flames for a new rotation) or to go back to your home. 俺屍2_20140728_093454Two snake tattoos on the head of a party member is the sign that his life is reaching its end. The tattoo will grow from the back of his head and, little by little, it will move to the face, moving more with the passage of each month. When the face is completely taken over by it, this person will pass away in a dramatic scene where Kochin morns this loss as an important friend. Those moments are sad, but are great as well, since it gives a feeling of importance to each family member.俺屍2_20140728_222813Many dungeons are affected with the passage of time, such was the level of the water going down and opening a new path. There’s also a Oni Festival, it’s by joining this event and going through the Ayakashi parade that you can find one of the treasures. Each Island has a different month for the festival. Kitsuto will be waiting for you at the entrance to the festival when it is closed and will give you the right month to participate, but even without doing that, Seimei will send a letter tied to an arrow right at the head of poor Kochin to invite you to the festival.俺屍2_20140721_150613

Themes

So, everything about this game feels so nice, magical, artistic and…tubular. Where’s the controversy stuff? Well, Nueko is it!oreshika2-05Many Japanese players complained about how Nueko is overly important to the plot, while you feel like a mere bodyguard for her. To be honest, this is not far from the truth, but I thought it would not be so complicated for Japanese players, who are pretty used to taking the “back-seat” when it’s about being the protagonist, usually leaving the job for another character who the player follows closely while giving support. This is a very common formula to Japanese gaming, but it happens that the first game was nothing like that, which is a good reason to get pissed.oreshika2-09I sincerely wouldn’t care as long as: 1- The story is really good. 2- The “body-guards” are treated with respect. While there’s absolutely no problem with the former, I can’t really say the same for the latter, as there’s a part where the villains blatantly say you have nothing to do with the main plot and even feels sorry for how pitiful and out-of-place you look! This scene was disgusting!家族写真_1But, aside for the scene above, you don’t feel as an unimportant trash, different from what most Japanese players are saying. There are key characters who talk directly to you and not Nueko. Like the Emperor’s daughter, who betrays her father to help you defeat Seimei (who is controlling the country from the shadows).oreshika2-07

Opening

The game opens with a intro movie that shows tragedy, despair, courage, adventure and the daily life of a family. Everything within less than two minutes. The animations and art-style are very close to what you would usually see in a 70’s-80’s anime, the same is true for the music used in this intro. Even the limited number of frames reflects on that. It feels cheesy, it feels even cheap in a way, but even so, it’s still feels nostalgic and beautiful!

Graphics

俺屍2_20140721_205918When you finally start the game, what you will have is one of the best graphics in the system. The effects used here are very similar to Okami’s way to make everything look like an old Japanese painting. It works really well in giving that feel of mysticism and beauty from the ancient Japan.俺屍2_20140728_093634Characters are all very decently animated. Some party members will choose to do some poses for their menu portraits and victory poses that have little to do with their classes, but those are all pretty interesting and unique (one of my female members had an amusing sumo victory pose). The lip-synch is not perfect, but it’s way better than most Japanese Games (I am looking to you GUST!!) The gestures during conversations have many variations and feel natural and cool (or cute, in the case of females).俺屍2_20140718_130901The only down side is with the dungeons designs. While most of them look gorgeous, it’s easy to notice how many assets are recycled through the playthrough. Hell, there are even entire dungeons that are just mirrored and shamelessly used again with a different palette color to change it from an element to another. This was something I have not seen since the SNES era, and it wasn’t nostalgic, good or anything like that. It was just lame!

Voices

俺屍2_20140728_105612The voice department is kinda limited when it comes to your playable characters, since they only grunt during attacks and when taking damage, but they do say something unique for the first and last time when they die, which is a sad scene and it is always well performed!俺屍2_20140720_100713It’s Kochin who you will be hearing most of the time. Knowing about how constant her voice would be during the game, the developers hired Fukuen Misato, who did a great performance! She can convey so many different emotions. This comes to show the power of a true pro seiyuu!俺屍2_20140718_131525Other than Kochin, you will also be hearing Nueko a lot during the important event scenes. But there’s no worries about her acting, since she is voiced by someone who has some skills in this job, it’s a seiyuu from my time who you might never have heard about, a certain someone known as Hayashibara Megumi…rings a bell? She was the most important and popular seiyuu during the 90’s and was everywhere. Maybe that’s why Nueko is so important after all!oreshika2-06

Music

The music is simply beautiful. One of the best soundtracks I’ve heard this year (it loses to Ao no Kiseki Evolution, though). It makes use of many traditional Japanese intruments, like flute, taiko and shamisen, but the soundtrack tends to be filled with up-beat tracks, rather than the calm rhythm you would normally hear from the compositions of that time. oreshika2-08Nevertheless, it fits the atmosphere perfectly and it gives a unique feel to the game. You are certain to remember many of the songs even for a long time after you finished playing it!

Conclusion

oreshika2-10This game is exceptionally great! I would refrain from saying it is a master piece because of the problem with Nueko. While it doesn’t bother me as much, the problem is very real and I understand how it can make many people pissed. Which is a shame, since the rest of the game is nearly perfect! With all said and done, I still strongly recommend this game for anyone who is a fan of traditional RPGs. This a fantastic title and I am glad to see the evolution of this franchise, instead of getting just another half-assed dungeon crawler with one-framed graphics and a lot of fan-service, which was becoming the norm for J-RPGs…

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5 responses to “Game Review – Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke 2 (PS VITA)

  1. Is this game coming to North America? I’m interested to get it due to the art style of the game. I was thinking what game looks the same and yeah Okami was the game I was looking for. Haha. Looks good and the gameplay aren’t that bad. I heard about the problem of Nueko too and i’m not really troubled about it. For someone who always takes things to consideration as long as the gameplay and the story is fine I don’t think there will be that much problem for me to enjoy this wonderful game.

    • Yes, this game will be coming to the U.S. but the release date is still to be announced. I am the same as you when it comes to this Nueko problem, and I find the story and the gameplay to be excellent. I hope you can enjoy it as much as I.

  2. As long as you haven’t played the original the Nueko fiasco shouldn’t bother you in the least. I’m sure if fans had known the game would be Nueko they would have readjusted their mentalities accordingly. It was just the surprise and the radical departure from the first game that sent everyone into despair.

  3. Pingback: Sun Rising Blog Weekly – Yokai Watch 2, SMT IV are This Week’s News Trenders | The Sun Rising Blog

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