Review By Maria Maximoff
Okami is without a doubt the best example of how a video game can be a work of art. From the moment you start your first playthrough you are introduced to a vibrant world inspired by Japanese culture. For anyone with a love for action adventure platformers this is the Capcom published classic is your dream come true, and it’s available in HD on PSN.
I should start out by explaining my history with this game:
Back in early 2006 I received my monthly edition of Official PlayStation Magazine in the mail, and to my delight it contained a demo disc. Am I showing my age yet? I loved demo discs. It was the easiest way for me to play games I otherwise would have never gotten the chance to. Okami was published by Capcom in 2006 and originally developed by the now defunct Clover Studio. I played the Okami demo for the rest of that year. When Christmas came around and I was asked what single game I would like I said “drum roll please” Bully for PS2. I had a short attention span. I have never regretted my choice, but I always wondered how great it would be to play the rest of the game. Thank the old gods for the trend of HD re-releases.
Okami’s narrative is strongly rooted in Shinto Mythology. Nearly every character is based on a figure from shintoism. The sheer amount of Japanese folklore packed into Okami would take countless articles to cover. From sun goddesses to wood spirits to eight headed demons, playing Okami will introduce you to the world of Japanese mythology in the most engaging way possible.
The basic plot of Okami is familiar enough – An ancient evil has returned to the land and it is up to the titular character to traverse a vast cell shaded world filled with memorable characters. You take on the role of the sun goddess Amaterasu who has been reincarnated as the heroic wolf Shiranui. 100 years have passed since Shiranui and the warrior Nagi defeated the monster Orochi to save Kamiki Village. You are joined by a Navi like comedic companion named Issun. Throughout the story you meet a wood spirit named Sakuya, a would be swordsman with a wooden sword named Nami, and Waka a mysterious character who can see into the future. All the characters are both endearing and compelling and ad to the overall narative of the game as well as adding in perfectly placed bits of humor. The stakes feel high as you are tasked with bringing life and color back to the world and to defeat evil. By the end of the game I found myself rooting for these characters to succeed and to grow, a feat many modern games fall short of.
One of the biggest draws of Okami is how it’s art design as the main focus of its game-play. Although like most action platformers you can use basic striking attacks you will spend most of your time using Okami’s unqiue celestial brush. The brush is used in almost every element of the gameplay – In some instances you will need to use the brush to complete objectives such as bringing trees back to life, fixing a water wheel, cutting barriers down that block your path and so on. In one charming instance you use the ink from the brush to obscure the sight of a farmer so you can dig up daikon radishes. As the game progresses you will encounter different spirits that will award you with different brush strokes that can be used in a variety of different ways. The amount of ink you get at the start of the game is very generous and your ink pots regenerate quite quickly. This will work to you benefit as the game’s difficulty curve can become daunting at times. I died a lot in the later portions of the games. Although the game will at points give you an directional arrow that leads you to an important objective, for the majority of the game you are left to figure out what you are supposed to be doing on your own. Nothing impossible, but trial and error is a must in this game. The open ended nature of the quests you are given allows for a tremendous amount of freedom.
The gameplay has not changed at all from the original PS2 version released a decade ago for this modern re-master, and the HD overhaul makes every color pop out at you. The HD version of without a doubt the definitive version. A PC release on Steam would be a welcome however as there are times when the precision needed to perform certain brush strokes would have been made easier with a mouse and keyboard. Overall the artistic aspects of the gameplay along with the cell shaded graphics inspired by Japanese watercolor paintings and woodcarvings are a joy to behold.
My time spent playing Okami was worth waiting ten years to play. The art style was candy for my eyes and the gameplay kept me on my toes and constantly thinking “What do I do now?”. It’s a shame that the game did not command high sales at the time of its release. Unfortunately Okami came out at a transitional time in gaming when First Person Shooters where in and platformers were on the way out.Without a doubt if Okami had been released in today’s market it would have been a smash hit for the now defunct developer. If you have a love for action platformers and an interest in Japanese mythology this is most definitely the game for you. Even if you don’t have an interest in the mythology then the game is still loads of fun to play and well worth the price of admission.
Okami HD was part of last month’s Humble Capcom PlayStation Bundle