To begin with, I never got around to playing Okami when it originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2006. When I heard the game had come out for the Wii with updated controls and enhanced graphics, I decided to check it out. For this reason I won’t be drawing any comparisons to the PS2′s analog stick-based controls and the Wii’s motion controls. There are also many comparisons that have been made between modern Zelda games and Okami, but I’ve decided to review the game on its own merits as opposed to drawing too many comparisons.
In the argument of video games as art, Okami stands out as one of the strongest examples of truly artistic graphics in gaming. Pulling inspiration from Japanese ink paintings, Okami’s vibrant visuals flood the screen immediately upon beginning the game. Bold, black lines frame every color splashed object in the game, from each lotus petal to tongue of flame. The protagonist, celestial wolf Amaterasu, sprints through green fields as a wake of flowers and fresh grass trail behind her.
The beautiful presentation of the game will have you glued to the opening storyline like you’re a toddler again, having a storybook read to you. The story concerns an ancient 8-headed dragon being slain by a legendary warrior with the help of wolf god Amaterasu. It is this wolf and its miniature bug-like companion that then embark on a quest filled with flora, fauna, foes, and favors.
Okami is very much an adventure game, having you switch steadily between mingling with townsfolk and exploring the open world. The towns play host to dozens of memorable characters, including a bumbling descendent of a legendary hero, a busty priestess, and shape shifting warriors. The game’s NPCs interact through the mute Amaterasu’s outspoken miniature companion Issun, providing the quirky humor that sharply contrasts the game’s classic Japanese folk tale feel. Some of the jokes feel out of place (lots of boob jokes), but it will grow on you in a charming way.
The game’s signature mechanic is the “Celestial Brush,” which allows you to use the Wiimote like a virtual paint brush. Acquiring new brush techniques throughout the game will allow you to alter combat and the game world by drawing a quick line for a slash attack, a cherry bomb to plant a deadly bomb, or a loop for a gust of wind. Interacting with such a beautiful world so directly is akin to using a light-gun for the first time; it is remarkably immersive, but takes actual skill to pull off. You’ll need to practice steadying your hand to draw straight lines and consistent circles, or the game will punish you in the form of Issun berating your skills or the demons beating you down. However, despite all your newfound skill the brush mechanic is not perfect. You will find yourself drawing a circle around a dead tree five times in an attempt to rejuvenate it, seemingly succeeding at random. Pulling on the Wiimote strap may be a good idea here, because you may be tempted to launch it towards your uncooperative television.
When you’re not struggling to draw shapes with an imprecise Wiimote, you’ll find yourself crawling dungeons and fighting demons. Most of the game’s enemies can be seen wandering around the world and unless they chase after you, you are free to pick and choose your battles. Combating common foes consists of a circular border fencing you in as the monsters materialize. Fighting is accomplished by waggling the Wiimote to string together attack combos and shooting projectiles out of Amaterasu’s barking mouth. Many of the enemies have weaknesses to particular brush techniques, creating an element of strategy to the otherwise repetitive battles. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself avoiding most enemies and only fighting the scripted attacks. There are some memorable and innovative boss battles throughout the game, but later in the game you will experience some Capcom induced boss amnesia (wink), which for some can be more annoying than anything.
One of my favorite aspects of the game has to be the early quests that involve entering a “cursed zone,” and purging the land of darkness. Searching around the world for the saplings of “guardian trees” and then encouraging them to flourish with the celestial brush is incredibly satisfying. Watching your work cause torrents of flowers and fresh grass flood the decrepit land offers a nice sense of accomplishment, not to mention it’s pretty.
If you see the game to completion, with a few side quests thrown in, you are looking at a thirty-five plus hour game. This is a remarkably long playtime considering the game fools you into thinking it is complete at least twice, but it somehow keeps on finding more for you to do. Much like the final installation of the Lord of the Rings movies, despite the quality, you’ll simply want things to wrap up at a certain point. I found myself yearning to simply see the end credits about 3/4 into the game. The game sticks to a pretty steady pattern despite these faux-endings, so don’t expect too many gameplay deviations towards the end to spice things up.
Okami is a great game that you will not regret playing. I would recommend a purchase because this game takes awhile to complete, and you get some fun goodies for clearing the game (alternate costumes, music, videos, etc), if you’re into that sort of thing. Additionally, this is a good game to have in your library so that you can share the experience of the beautiful graphics and interesting story with those you know that never got around to it. If you are looking for a memorable adventure game with quirky Japanese humor and stunning visuals, Okami is for you.
Reviewer’s note: The Wii version was tested for this review
The vivacious visuals of Okami will have leaving you looking like you opened the Arc of the Covenant. This game is a living Japanese ink painting.
|How does our scoring system work?|
The wiimote paintbrush functions can be frustratingly imprecise at times, but it is not game-breaking. The melee combat is solid, but leaves something to be desired.
There is no voiceover work in Okami, but instead of silence the characters' voices consist of garbled mumbles that reminds me of Banjo Kazooie. The music is quality, but most of it is forgettable save for a couple triumphant tracks.
Besides a few unlockable clear game goodies (bonus costumes, music, and video), there isn't much here worth playing through the game again right away. Only the most hardcore fans will find the extra content completely worthwhile.
Overall Summary: Okami's gorgeous graphics and unique look is enough to draw anyone in, but only true adventurers need apply.