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OKAGE

Developer: Zener Works | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/01/01 | Genre: RPG

Role Playing fans have been waiting for a good RPG title to hit the Playstation 2. Even though Dark Cloud is available, I consider it to be more of an action game than a straightforward RPG. While the US awaits the release of Final Fantasy X, Sony has delivered OKAGE: Shadow King-which translates roughly into: "Shadow" Shadow King. Why did Sony choose to give us a title with the first word repeated? Perhaps it is just the American way of doing things. Lets take 'The La Quinta Inn,' for example. This translates into The Inn Inn. Are we Americans so stupid that we need to be told twice what something is? Is this a new conspiracy against the public? Perhaps they don't realize that geeks, like me, will spend countless hours unraveling these heinous plots. The most famous plot I have uncovered is: 'Why can "they" put a man on the moon but nobody can get those stupid doughnut flakes off my shirt?' However, enough about conspiracies, I believe I was beginning to review OKAGE: Shadow King. Being a mere mortal, I am in no position to explain the game's story or main character, Stan. Please welcome Stan, as he will express what I am unable.

*Enter Stan*

Hi--my name is Stan and I am the Evil Lord of Darkness. Even though I am pure evil, I have a problem֠my powers have been stolen by imposter evil kings and I need to possess your shadow and force you onto a bizarre journey to regain my rightful place as the most evil being in the world. HA HA HA! I see you are cowering before me. My evil presence has completely overwhelmed you. From now on, you will be my slave and do exactly what I tell you. Listen to the words of this pathetic mortal game reviewer, as he will tell you why should buy OKAGE: Shadow King.
*Stan Leaves*

Thank you for the encouraging words, Stan. In OKAGE: Shadow King, you control a young boy who becomes the slave of the Evil King, Stan. How evil is Stan? In Japan this title is called Me and Satan King. Yup, you got it right֠you are the slave of Satan himself. I bet you didn't realize that Satan, er I mean Stan, was a cute shadow with big yellow eyes-did you? Being politically correct, Sony changed the title and transformed the main character, Satan, into Stan.

Sony did a great job localizing the title-creating one of the funniest scripts in an RPG ever. While the gameplay may not be as great as the Final Fantasy series, the dialogue is where the game shines. In the first thirty minutes alone, you will encounter an evil "Pig Latin" curse (elpehlae emlae), a shadow competition, a "pink" shadow, and the chance to join an Evil Shadow on a quest to destroy the world. As your quest begins, Stan, the Evil Shadow King, will pop up, from your shadow, and communicate with people as you speak to them. One thing is wrong֠the townspeople do not fear him. In fact, they find Stan to be funnier than Chris Rock. Like the townspeople, you too will be envious of the main character and want your own "trick shadow." (Sold Separately. Deal with Satan required for activation)

Graphically, OKAGE is stunning. The animation of the claylike characters is very good and the world is full of bright and "fun" colors that make everything feel lighthearted and less serious than your normal RPG. If you are looking for a deep Role Playing Game that asks philosophical questions, you are barking up the wrong tree. In order to play OKAGE: Shadow King, you must have a small sense of humor. However, something that really bothered me while playing is the pop up. While the graphics are really great, is there a reason why a powerful system like the Playstation 2 should have pop-up problems? Perhaps the developers were so busy laughing at the script that they didn't notice how bad the pop up problem is.

In order to help Stan on his evil quest, you are required to move around the game world through seven different quests. Controlling our hero through this story is very easy. You can choose to use the D-Pad or the analog control stick. While I found both to be very easy, the Analog provides more precise movement, which makes it better overall. Whenever our hero needs to interact with the game world, an exclamation point will appear over his head. When this happens, hit the "X" button. This will allow the main character to speak to other characters, open doors, walk up or down stairs, or open up treasure chests. X is also used to scroll through the hilariously funny dialogue and to navigate through menus.

Players can also control the camera angles by using R1 or L1 or by using the right analog stick. This control scheme was found in Dark Cloud and will probably become a standard in Playstation 2 games. However, I did find the camera system to be very frustrating. The default camera never followed me around corners very well and the angle always seemed to be to close to my character or to far away. After a short while of play, you will learn to control the camera to suit your tastes. It is a shame that Sony didn't spend a little extra time polishing up the default camera so players didn't have to mess with the angles very much-if any.

Combat in Role Playing Games comes in a few varieties: the Final Fantasy "random combat" flavor or the Chrono Trigger "run into enemies" method. OKAGE uses the latter. Magically, after walking on the world map for a short while, ghosts, or other monsters, will appear to attempt and attack your party. If you run into them, a battle will begin. Once in the battle, there is no way to "run away." You are forced to battle it out to the death. Most of the time in RPG's, this is a simple process. However in OKAGE, these battles can be extremely difficult at times. In fact, the boss fights can become so frustrating that it will take multiple attempts to beat even the first boss! Why is it so difficult? For starters, if your main character dies, it is GAME OVER! Worse yet, the monsters seem to know this and attack the main character every round, forcing him to heal virtually every round to avoid death. At random, Stan will attack enemies with a fearsome blow! There is no way to control this and it is a shame that you can't call on Stan to help out more often when you need him.

Up to three party members can join in on the action at one time. After you have more party members to choose from, you can go to an Inn and change your party, heal, and save the game. Don't forget to save and save often. If you don't, I promise you will regret it.

While at times it seems confusing where to go next or what you should do next, just keep playing through. While you may not figure out what to do for a while, you will run into many funny dialogues with all sorts of characters that have nothing to do with the plot at all. So what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favor, become a slave of Stan, and pick up OKAGE: Shadow King. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be fifty bucks poorer. For RPG fans, however, this will be the best 50 dollars spent on the PS2 thus far. Unfortunately, you won't find anything like OKAGE on the GameCube or Xbox. This title definitely belongs in the library of every PS2 owner with a love for RPG's.

By Kaleb Rutherford - 10/15/01
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Screenshots for OKAGE

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