Back at the Tokyo Game Show last year, I got some hands-on time with Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines. At that time, I said it was the prettiest game I saw at the show. And now, as I play through the full version, I find myself loving the art style more and more.
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines is actually a sequel to 1999's Ore no Shikabane wo Koete Yuke — or, loosely translated, "Walk Over My Corpse". Walk Over My Corpse is one of those classic PS1 JRPGs that, while quite popular in Japan, never had a Western release. This is a shame because of one of its biggest selling points: its sumi-e-inspired art style.
Sumi-e, if you are not aware, is the traditional Japanese art style that uses nothing but brush, black ink, and rice paper to create a water colour of the "soul" of an object. And while Walk Over My Corpse added more than a little bit of colour — especially in the monster designs — the use of a sumi-e style gave the game a truly mystical and feudal Japan feel.
Fifteen years later, its sequel, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, also uses sumi-e's thick black ink outlines as a base for its art style. However, instead of using the muted colour palette of the original game, it often goes for a far more vibrant one — making the environments look like a beautiful collection of Japanese watercolors. Moreover, as you play and the seasons change, so do the levels — letting you see the scenery change between vibrant spring and barren winter.
Also of special note are the monster designs. The gods, demons, and yokai you battle all seem torn straight out of traditional Japanese paintings — so much so that they appear as flat 2D entities on the 3D plane where your characters stand. Effects like fire and water also share this 2D art-come-to-life style as well.
All in all, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines' art is wonderfully unique and makes it as much a joy to look at as it is to play — and with a "take screenshot" button as part of the on-screen interface, the game clearly knows it, too.
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines was released in Japan for the PlayStation Vita on July 17, 2014. It has been licensed for a Western release, but no specific date has been announced.