I say “early thoughts” because I’m only on my second in-game festival, but I’ve been playing for at least 10 hours. I am also well and truly stuck until I can take Nueko to the festival in June (it’s now March) so this is a good time to pause and dash off a few thoughts on OreShika: Tainted Bloodlines.
Both OreShika and the game it’s a sequel to have the same premise. They tell the story of a family burdened with two curses: one that makes them age five times as fast and live their entire lifespans in 24 months, and another that prevents them from having children with anyone except the gods or a similarly cursed family. Their only hope for release is to find the guy who put the curse on them and defeat him.
Unlike most Western players, I approached the game from the simultaneously enviable and unenviable position of one who had played the original Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke. “Enviable” because it’s an excellent game I had a wonderful time playing. “Unenviable” because I now have all these expectations and mental baggage weighing me down.
It’s especially bad because of my “first cut is the deepest” personality which sees me clinging to the first installment of whatever I play even when the second is clearly better (see also: Phantasy StarPortable), And from the hue and cry that erupted in Japan when OreShika came out, I knew I wasn’t alone. But just because someone’s a clinging whiner who can’t let go of the past doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
- You really can’t get the OreShika experience from anywhere else, so it’s good to have more of the same. The sequel is largely similar in concept and experience to the first game so I still get to do the breeding and fighting and exploring that drew me to the series in the first place.
- More of the same, but prettier! Really, really pretty. I’ve always liked watercolor art, and this works especially well with the old-timey feel of the game. The character portraits can look a little washed out and indistinct sometimes, but that’s all part of the charm.
- The music is stuck in my head! Especially the music from the Garden of Purrfection. But all the dungeon music is good, and the festival/red flame music gets my blood pumping.
Now on to the complaints. When OreShika came out, fans of the first game had two main issues: Nueko and limited progression. Nueko is a mysterious new character you’re forced to have in your party in order to progress the story. She was sprung on the original players as a surprise so their resentment is justified. Luckily I’ve had years to steel myself, so I’m too not bothered. Okay, it is a bit irksome to have this unpleasant outsider with her own agenda squatting in my family quarters and taking up a precious party slot. As I said when laying out the description, it’s supposed to be the story of your family. But it’s okay, I can share the spotlight.
The issue of limited progression, though, that I cannot forgive. It sucks. It would suck even if I hadn’t played the original. First, and suckily enough, you can’t just go straight through a dungeon. You have to find various keys and tags and other things to unlock doors and gates. This would be standard dungeon crawler fare except! the stuff you need is scattered all over the place, often not even in the same dungeon or the same land. The order you find them in is not logical, the places you find them in are not logical, and that’s if you even find them at all when you need them.
I’m stuck in almost all the dungeons right now because I need some kind of key at some point everywhere. I’m strong enough, my party is well-equipped, everything would be fine if they would just let me progress, but noooo~. I’ve been playing for hours and I haven’t finished a single dungeon not because I’m not strong enough but because OreShika just won’t let me. That’s not how games are supposed to work.
Second, and even more suckily, story progression is limited behind yearly “festivals” you have to attend. Miss a festival and you’re stuck until the next game year. Make it to the festival without the right character? Same problem. And since your characters only live 2 years, if you’re unlucky most of them will be hitting old age or dead before the next one rolls around.
That’s assuming you can even find the festival in the first place, since you’re only given vague guidelines about where to find it. It’s a huge comedown from the first game which turfed you out into the field and let you decide how quickly or slowly you wanted to take things. You could still get stuck sometimes, but it was stuckness of your own making, not imposed from above. That’s how I like my games.
Left to my own devices, I would rather not come down so hard on my first PSVITA game ever. I even delayed this post a day or two hoping to make a little progress so I could say something a little more upbeat. But, honestly, playing OreShika is tedious. My only hope right now is that stuff will open up further once I take Nueko to this dumb festival thing. I’ll keep playing till then and see what happens. If things don’t shape up, I’ll take a break and try Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Curry God instead. That’s my assignment for the weekend. See you guys next week.
Update already: Introducing Nueko to Seimei opened up two new dungeons, which I am busy exploring now. No new keys yet, but the next festival is only a few months away and my whole party is young and strong. Things are looking up!