Ever had that great feeling where you open up your wallet to find a completely forgotten 20 note tucked away in there? We got the same pleasant surprise when we played last year's Otogi - Myth of Demons (Issue 21, 8.0), a real sleeper hit that went woefully unnoticed by many gamers. Sega has done the righteous thing and released the sequel (which has gone done a storm in Japan) over here, and this mystical masterpiece has even more to offer than its predecessor.
Core gameplay remains exactly the same as the original, which is great news for Otogi fans. Demons have once again infested mythical China, and players are tasked with eradicating the problem. But forget the script, this is really just an excuse for some truly exhilarating hacking, slashing and all round destructive madness. This Morning's makeover team would be proud of the visual advancements of this sequel, as the environments look absolutely stunning, and gorgeous lighting effects create a beautiful, ethereal atmosphere. A new physics engine makes slicing your way through the scenery an absolute joy, and great particle effects make for some spectacular smashing.
Otogi 2 really goes to town on the destruction front, with tons of destructible scenery in every environment. Combat is simple and intuitive, and although limited to two buttons, it's possible to pull off massive, hugely satisfying combos. We knocked up a finger-burning total of 1043 on one level, but didn't mind the pain one bit thanks to the truly spectacular nature of the action. The lock-on function returns, though is only of use when unleashing one of your spectacular magic attacks.
Five new playable characters partner returning hero Raikoh in his quest. With their unique strengths and attributes, each is individually suited to particular stages. A fleet of ghoul ships attacking the mouth of a river must be dealt with swiftly, and although it may be tempting to use the brute force of Kintoki, the tight time limit means the weaker, yet more nimble Sadamitsu is of greater use. With warriors only available for one mission per stage, strategy plays an even greater role than before.
This typifies Otogi 2's migration towards a heavier emphasis on RPG elements, which is only a good thing. After each stage your performance is graded on the number of enemies and objects destroyed, maximum combos and time completed. Upgrade points are awarded, and your characters levelled up. New magic, weapons and accessories can be purchased in the all-encompassing shop, and specifically equipped before each mission. This adds considerable depth to such an action-heavy beat 'em up, and yet never detracts from the true nature of the game.
We really haven't got much to gripe about with Otogi 2. The camera can be a bit of an issue - it's painfully slow to fully rotate and occasionally gets stuck. Also, due to the sheer number of enemies players face, the action can get repetitive and suffer from the odd bit of slowdown. However, considering the sheer scale of mayhem and destruction going on at any one time, we can easily overlook this. Such a humble gem of a game deserves recognition on the scale of more publicised actioners on release, and any self respecting beat 'em up fan definitely needs this in their life.
Plays and looks far superior to its pioneering predecessor. An absolutely stunning, deceptively deep actioner.