Otogi: Myth of Demons

released on Dec 12, 2002

On a dark and gloomy bridge, suspended between the world of the living and the dead, lurks Raikoh, a skilled warrior from a cursed clan. Once tasked with ending the lives of others, Raikoh himself sits between life and death after the Great Seal was broken, spreading destruction and darkness across the land. A mysterious princess spares Raikoh's life so that he may rid the world of the grotesque demons and cleanse his soul of his past misdeeds. Raikoh must travel through desolate lands to fight hordes of fearsome, immortal creatures with 12 varieties of magic, more than 30 brutal weapons, and over 10 special demon-slaying items. Trees, walls, and even entire buildings are destroyed as Raikoh unleashes his skillful fury in order to purge both the world's demons and his own.

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The atmosphere is on point, the art direction is gorgeous, the mechanics are all interesting, but the level design and movement are just so imprecise and like, almost slapped together feeling that it's just endlessly frustrating

i remember buying an xbox for this game and it did not disappoint
where is the remaster/port

Of two minds on this: on one hand, the atmosphere of this game is incredible and might make it worth a look on that merit alone- the imagery fighting your rival in a moonlit cemetery or above an ocean of stars is going to stick with me for a while. On the other, it’s weighed down by some severe weaknesses in its gameplay; the game has an emphasis on aerial combat that brings to mind something like a much floatier version of Zone of the Enders, but enemies are easy to lose track of and lack telegraphing or sound cues for some of their most lethal attacks- found many of the later encounters to hilariously cruel with how quickly you can be killed. It never feels like the game is cheating on your behalf when you get hit, and so one moment of poor positioning can see your health bar depleted in an instant if you happen to get hit by an enemy attack.
It’s a strange pace, a glacial rhythm dictating the action. It almost works on the easier maps, the atmosphere making up for the combat’s relative simplicity, and combined with some impressive environmental destruction, even just hitting enemies comes with a really basic satisfaction, your attacks knocking them away with a cartoonish amount of force and sending them flying through objects in the stage. (Some other small, but appreciated nuances: you can instantly use your more powerful magic if you use it at the end of your combo strings, enemy projectiles can be knocked back with a melee attack, and you can gain some extra air time by attacking and dashing at the same time. Don’t make my mistake and go the entire game without knowing this.)
Its flaws are much more noticeable on the harder sections though, and it was never a game I felt like I had some deeper mastery of, but only really circumvented- finishing some of the bosses still had me questioning what I’d done right in comparison to all my prior failed attempts, and it really does seem up to luck as to whether or not you’ll get blindsided by stray bit of enemy magic or not. So, not something to seek out if you’re looking for some hidden action gem, but it might be essential Backloggd reading material regardless, the intangibles here are that strong.
A friend and I have talked about having the slow realization that FromSoft has been making some version of the same game (with the exception of Cookies and Cream (probably)) for the last twenty years, and Otogi is another example of that, honing in on the twilight haze their titles often occupy- never been as vividly aware of being a puppet controlled by unknown masters, killing gods at the end of time.

one of the more unique games From has ever produced, extremely strong art direction and experimental music that stuck with me

I was not familiar with Japanese mythology, history or music when I first played this game back in 2003. It was so different and striking that it felt, to a sheltered American kid, like it had come from another planet. Playing it again years later (so happy this and its sequel were finally made backwards compatible) renews my appreciation and the striking stylistic elements are still just as powerful. There's a tendency among gamers, I feel, to look at old FromSoft games and see the factors or elements that would eventually coalesce into Souls under Miyazaki's hand, and there's some of that here too but the game absolutely stands out on its own as one of the most unique and interesting action games of its time. The slight repetition in level design in the second half is the only thing that really brings it down. You'll be killing a lot of raven demons here, but boy will it look cool, sound cool and play cool. Really need to beat the sequel once Elden Ring is out and done.