Let me start off by that like Okami this game is criminally underrated and despite it's minor flaws and should have been put on a pedestal.The story,for those who don't know, is about a boy named Kutaro who was kidnapped by a monster named the Moon Bear King,turned into a puppet and gets his head bitten off.He then has to find new heads along the way including four main head that give him new powers along the way while fighting his generals to get the Moonstone pieces to put the Queen of the moon back on her throne,save the moon citizens and get your soul back.
First of all the environments.They are extremely varied going from a sword fighting on a pirate ship to an undersea kingdom populated by sea creatures and mermaids to an abandoned pirate's cove where you fight a giant robot crab in a single level.I don't want to spoil anything else but it gets pretty wild.They are full of life with about a dozen things in each level going on in the background and foreground that you can interact with that gets you funny scenes,bonus levels and new heads.
The story and narration are top notch.Some impatient people will bring the score down saying the cut scenes are too long but they are actually very interesting to listen to.It is told in a very storybook like manner on a stage that constantly shifts to adapt to each new scene with the fourth wall being broken constantly as the cast of the game argue,insult and berate the narrator who responses in kind with weird stories and comments.The characters themselves especially Pikarina the 'Sun Princess' pixie who follows you around and talks and complains constantly about everything around her including things going on in the scenery,about herself and the characters,the narrator and even gives hints by pointing out oddities or observing things with funny comments that you can interact with.People who take the time to explore and wait are rewarded by many funny comments and scenes that you would miss if you didn't stop to listen.If the cut scenes really bother you however you can skip any scenes you want.
The gameplay centers around four things. Finding new heads,using your partners Pikarina and Ying Yang as 'cursors' to interact with everything around you,cutting and slicing with Calibrus your magical scissors and finding moons sparkles and Moonstone pieces. Only the four main heads can be used directly in battle or platforming. The other heads activate bonus stages, change the outcome of a boss battle,summon things that change a situation,give you moon sparkles or bring out random wheels that can spin and give you either something good or bad.The best part is finding the place where each head can be used and seeing the results.One of my latest finds is activating a horse race where you have to guess which horse will reach the finish line.Your partners are an important part of the game as they can interact with things which also cause effects,give you new heads and moon sparkles or even clear a path for you.Calibrus the magical scissors is used to cut through anything that gets in your way like enemies or obstacles or a way of transporting yourself upwards, over chasms and swamps or across pathways or finishing off bosses.It can cut through a variety of things even smoke,leaves,balloons,spiderwe bs,curtains,sails,vines etc to get on your way.
Replay value is good too.It will bother some impatient people to go back and explore the stages they defeated but new powers or head can be used in past stages.Not every head is found in the stages it is needed so you can reach Stage Three Level two for example and find a head you needed back in Stage Two Level One which means you have to go back and use it to see what it does many times giving you new heads,bonus stages,cool or strange occurrences,level changing events or moon sparkles.However you can only have three heads at a time(excluding the four main heads of the Guardians).
If the one you want or need gets knocked off and disappears or gets replaced by another head on your way to the place it is needed then your only hope is to get it back is randomly from one of the cauldrons you see floating above you head at certain points or to go back to the place you found the head and get another one.It adds a level of challenge to try to be careful and keep the heads you need for the level.It is worse the first play-through as you don't have a clue what head to replace or what head you will need for a level.I have had many fits of anger after replacing a head that I found out I would need a few scenes down or for the boss battle or bonus stage or for a new head.Even if you find all the secrets and heads you still have to free all the souls of the other captured children trapped in monsters called grubs and unlock all the story books about individual characters in the game.The grubs are not always in plain sight and many times have to be revealed to be cut or destroyed by your powers.
Okay minor gripes.They could have tweaked Kutaro's jumping and platforming a little.It works most of the time but every know and again it could have used a bit more precision especially when you are leaping over spikes and bottomless pits. I kind of wish that each head gave you abilities like the four main heads but there are so many heads I guess that would have made the game way too easy.Speaking of easy this game is not crushingly hard.It is challenging, especially the above mentioned task of keeping your head,but never overwhelmingly hard.Even the boss battles could have used a bit more challenge.This is made worse as the game suffers from 'Mario 1 Up syndrome' where you get more lives then the amount of times you die.You can get 99 lives easily as you get an extra life after every 100 moon sparkles which are not as rare as they should have been.Maybe less lives or a stiffer penalty for being killed was needed.Going back to past levels continuously can eventually get kind of tedious and not knowing what head you will need forcing you go get the head you need when you find out also can get tiresome.
So overall, awesome game, a lot of fun and laughs with a few minor hiccups but not enough to ruin this game in the least.If you don't love this game after playing it through then you should check to see if you are still alive.Trust me after racing a horse against a train,bouncing on a giant steak,watching a robot squid fight a angler fish and wearing a train for a head you will love it too.