Author Edith Wharton once wrote – “True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.” That quote has stuck with me in recent years because it is relative to many forms of digital media. I can’t count how many conversations I have heard where someone is waxing nostalgic about a game or movie and wishing there were more original concepts. However, we need to respect new visions, especially in gaming. This generation of developers have been inspired by games of our past and work towards creating a new vision based on these influences.
A great example is Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. I was hit with some major Legend of Zelda nostalgia the minute I started playing Oceanhorn. Is that a bad thing? To some, it is. But not for me. The Legend of Zelda holds a place near and dear to my heart. I have spent countless hours in Hyrule and have no problem trying out games that are influenced by this amazing franchise. Luckily, Oceanhorn is a great example of a game that can stand out on it’s own, even if you see a lot of similarities to a franchise that clearly inspired it.
The story in Oceanhorn plays a little too similar to a typical Zelda story for my liking. In Oceanhorn, you play a young man who’s father goes missing. You see in the beginning that your father has a mysterious connection to a horrible sea monster called Oceanhorn. Thanks to some information from a hermit, you set out on a quest to find answers using your father’s sword and shield. You must track down specific emblems that will help you on your quest to find answer and defeat this monster. Sound familiar? The start of the story plays a little too close to what you have seen in Zelda’s past, especially when both games use similar phrases. As you play through the 10+ hours of story, you will see bits and pieces that help Oceanhorn stand out on its own.
Oceanhorn has some classic adventure/puzzle aspects to the game. Throughout the game, you have the opportunity to explore over 10 unique islands. On these islands, you may find people to talk to that will help progress the story along. I would get new islands to explore depending on who I talk to. The islands have a variety of enemies and secrets to uncover. You will find treasure, gold, heart pieces, and other collectibles. You will also find weapons and items to help you on your quest. Some islands may have a big boss to fight in order to collect an emblem or item of importance. The enemies are not always easy, and you will need to use different tactics in order to defeat them. Spamming the attack button may leave you vulnerable to other attacks, so use your shield frequently. Also, conveniently placed jars and rocks can be used to throw at enemies to weaken them. You will also acquire magic spells throughout the game, so make sure to use a combination of weapons and magic to lay waste to the enemy!
The islands are really unique. They feel small, yet the developers did a great job of hiding secret caves and entrances so you can explore and find new things. There is a lot of depth for such a small space! You need to move boxes and statues to access major areas on each island while defending yourself from creatures and goblins. You will go up and down paths in order to access the many secrets on an island. My one issue with the islands? I wish it would be easier to drop down to lower paths or areas. For the most part, you need to follow the path to reach designated areas. It would save time if you can drop down from any edge. Of course, this could be intentional and force you to use your critical thinking skills to navigate the area.
I want to take a minute to talk about how great the art design and the music in Oceanhorn. The world looks very colorful. The animations are well done and the characters are fun to look at. One of the highlights of Oceanhorn is the music composition. Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito have developed a really beautiful soundtrack to go with the story and gameplay of Oceanhorn. Uematsu is known for his work on the Final Fantasy series and Ito has worked on music for the Mana series. Both have collaborated to make an amazing score.
You can’t deny the fact that you see the influence of the Zelda franchise while you play Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. But don’t let that keep you from trying this game! The puzzles and gameplay are engaging and enjoyable. The story, which is a little to familiar to the Zelda franchise, is still engaging. The 10+ hours of story is well worth the low price point. Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas is available on Xbox One and Playstation 4 for $14.99. If you are craving an adventure/puzzler, then pick it up now!
Beautiful Art Design
Story plays out a little too similar to the Zelda franchise
Paths/trails are very linear (no room to drop off to lower areas)