Sunday, October 10, 2010

Artwork of Otogi

Along with a recent clear out of retro stuff, I also sold most of my items of vague rarity/value. After a fiasco with DHL which resulted in several items going missing (which I need to post about at some point – because DHL are bunch of incompetent, swine-suckling morons), the eternally patient eBayers received their stuff about 2 weeks after winning. One such item was a Japanese copy of Otogi for Xbox, along with an extremely rare artbook. I’ve scanned every page and make them available to you, the good readers of HG101

(warning: for those unable to discern when I use satire, after the subsequent colon I will be displaying a satire disclaimer: WARNING: this blog entry contains satire AND traces of nuts).

I first read about Otogi in that pathetic toilet-rag EDGE magazine, which gave it an 8 and said it would never be localised. With money to spare I purchased it on eBay factory sealed. It came with the art book, which the seller said was some kind of special pre-order bonus – he wasn’t very clear, but I’ve found absolutely zero information about it online. Supposedly it’s EXTREMELY rare. It was supplied outside of the game box (which was factory sealed), and has enough FROM SOFTWARE logos to convince me it’s genuine. Unfortunately I only made £10 for it on eBay, which is substantially less than I had hoped for. Rare does not always equal valuable.


As for Otogi, as soon as I started playing it, I loved it, and the pair of games released on the Xbox stand as my favourites for that system. In contrast I utterly despised Halo because compared to the heights of PC FPS gaming, with titles like System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, it was a rather pathetic little title, lacking in destructive environments and not even an inventory screen. An FPS without an inventory screen is like a blog entry of mine without a ranting tangent on some unrelated subject. Hell, even other console first-person shooters, such as Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the N64, outshine it in terms of weapon selection, the diversity of intricate mission objectives (Halo is merely a point A to B sprint with the mechanical complexity of Wolfenstein), the architecture of levels were better, they had destructible environments (you could blow plenty of stuff up in GE and PD), plus the stories were better and actually conclusive – which is saying something, seeing as Goldeneye was a film licence. Halo was a series of plastic corridors and courtyards masquerading as the outdoors, and not much else. God, I hated Halo and the gormless, mindless, unthinking parade of pimply faced, slack-jawed yokels who knelt before its trough of mediocrity to lap like swine on its slimy corpse before claiming it to be champagne. Woe on you and the insipid de-evolution of humanity that will occur should you ever discover how to use your loins and somehow find yourself in a situation to do so.

Anyway, back to Otogi. There were other great Xbox games, such as Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and Morrowind, but Otogi 1 and 2 stand as my favourites.

Visually they were exquisite, and even in light of the current gen are still respectable looking titles. They look better than most Wii games, for a start. Also, pretty much everything in their environments was destructible: walls, rocks, entire buildings, stone columns, and so on. One memorable battle was in a snowy field against a red hair demon. We tussled in the snow before I slammed him against a bridge which promptly shattered, plunging use into the frozen below, which also broke, revealing gushing water beneath. It was pure, unashamed spectacle of impressive pomp.

People complained the combat was too simple, but I say to hell with those comments. It as simple and fluid, and lots of fun. For depth I could buy different weapons and amulets. The sequel added different characters, each of which controlled drastically differently, and I feel this complicated things a little too much. Each could be levelled and, as is always the case with such things, I found myself controlling certain specific people purely to level them up, rather than for the fun of it. Though it was still pretty damn awesome, especially the guy who pick up enemies and fling them.

Special mention should also go to the story, which deals with ancient Heian era myths – which is not something I’ve ever come across before. Though the demons being fought, such as the giant centipede, bore a striking resemblance to those I saw in the film A Chinese Ghost Story II – which everyone should watch. It’s epic (excuse the AWFUL trailer, it's the best I could find on Youtube). Clearly there’s a common pool of Asian mythology which these and other works draw from. For someone from the west though, these things appear impossibly exotic, compared to your standard medieval dragon-based stories they tell children.
I’m drawn to the narrative NOT because of its Japanese aesthetic – since for the most part it doesn’t feel particularly Japanese. But rather because it is so wholly foreign to what I’ve seen in most places. It’s devoid of many of the expected Japanese steretypes people associate with the region, certainly all of those which a game such as Okami is resplendent in. The main hero looks strange and ethereal (more like a pale Egyptian deity than Japanese folklore hero), the demon enemies appear grotesque and bizarre, and the whole aesthetic style – beyond a few music tracks and some architecture - seems wholly unlike what you’d expect from Japan, unless you majored in ancient Japanese history. Okami and Muramasa feel distinctly Japanese, this doesn’t so much. I suppose it’s similar to the way some people might build up an image of ancient Europe as all appearing like some kind of clichéd Shakespearean play, when in reality it was a lot more diverse.

I’ve always been disappointed that they never garnered as much attention or praise as I would have liked them to receive, but for a long time the Xbox appeared to be something of a Halo-to-TV-adapter, and most people who bought the system seemed mainly interested in all those godamned army games. Trying explaining to your average Xbox Live slob that you control a Heian-era Fairy in ancient Japan, battling a giant, flying, electric centipede. No, it’s never going to work.

Anyway, enjoy the artwork and if you own an Xbox but not the Otogi games, pick them up! The English language versions are only around £5-10 and well worth it.

For a full list on original Xbox games, divided by region and exclusivity, check out NTSC-uk.


  1. You had me at From 'Demon's Souls' Software.

  2. Just wanna say I really appreciate you scanning and uploading the art, I'd never heard of Otogi before and I am now seriously considering buying a stupid Xbox thanks to this awesome post.

  3. Hey, don't knock the Xbox. Panzer Dragoon Orta, Jet Set Radio, Fatal Frame 1 & 2(DCs), it had many quality exclusives.

  4. I know right, my stereotypes about the system are basically shattering. I forgot it got a Shenmue and a Megaten game too.

  5. I know they could never be on PS2 and maintain the visual splendor, but I always wish they were. Otogi, Shenmue, and Ninja Gaiden most of all (the last being the most annoying since Itagaki only chose the Xbox for its better graphic power).

  6. Damn dude, you should have told me before selling it on eBay, I'd pay at least $30 for it.
    The art is amazing!
    And thanks for the info on A Chinese Ghost Story trilogy, looks very interesting.

  7. A Chinese Ghost Story


  8. This is one of my favorite games for the original Xbox. :) I'm glad to see someone else likes it. What makes me happier is I've been trying to find a bigger picture of the Crimson King's artwork and yours is the largest thus far. Thank you!