Inspiring, beautiful and peerless. Capcom’s innovative rerelease breaks the mould of modern gaming.
In the modern world of gaming there’s little that is ever unique. The popularity of samey games churned out each year worsens this enforcement of the ‘typical’ game in any genre, and knock offs aplenty always seem to make their way to the shelves. However Okami is something that can truly be called it’s own, and while it will never reach the dizzying commercial heights of other games, it’s innovative outlook is something that can and should be influential. Okami being rereleased was probably somewhat of a shock to most fans of the game. While being critically successful, it had disappointing sales of 600,000 for the PS2 and Wii versions, and remains the least commercially successful game to win a game of the year award. You could argue why bother? However, no matter the sales previously, it deserves releasing. It single handedly brings back the joys of the great action-adventure games of the 90s and every part oozes innovation and beauty.
You play as Amaterasu- the game’s depiction of the sun goddess in the form of a white wolf, who has power over nature. This begins as a weaker power, having measly restoration and cutting abilities but the progression of your character goes on, absorbing other godly abilities from celestial gods inspired by the animals of the zodiac. Your character grows from weakling mutt to all-powerful god with control over tornadoes, fire, and pretty much everything in between. The way you develop is representative of your character’s role, receiving experience from doing things that help nature. Restoring trees and areas to their natural state, defeating certain evil oni and even feeding animals. You are rewarded for restoring nature and this is central to the game’s concept.
The whole game itself is centered around this single idea and the method you use to have power over nature- the celestial brush. You draw symbols and bombs, fire and waterspouts all appear. This even extends into the combat where you can use the brush to sprout trees or even slow time to defeat your foes in addition to the weapons you use. Each enemy is different and has weaknesses you utilise to defeat them and the epic boss battles you encounter also follow a similar trend. The combat overall is well thought out, fast paced and falls in well with the games concept, though the transition of battles from real to the spiritual world- an enclosed space while causing dodging and use of the brush to become more important, it can also have a detrimental effect halt the flow of gameplay.
The nature concept does not merely stop there.The calligraphy inspired idea extends into the incredible art style of the game and takes on a cel-shaded cartoon style. The whole world looks like it’s a masterpiece painted on canvas with detail and colour everywhere. On occasion you restore entire areas from darkness to their original beauty, and the transformation is one of the visual highlights of the game, the spreading natural power really draws the player in and makes you appreciate the graphical design all the more as you run around the open world eradicating darkness and helping the population of the land. The HD remastering is incredible to behold and even looks better than any number of mediocre high budget games released each year.
The story is well thought out and the characters are well created, though the sidekick Issun, much like the infamous Navi from Ocarina of Time can move from helpful friend and comic relief into annoyance rapidly. Other characters also have interesting stories and interactions with the protagonist and create a flushed out world. The sound is also a great touch with all the effects of flame and rushing water mixed in with a Japanese influenced music backing that builds up the immersing experience and fits with the relaxed travel of the world to the dramatic cutscenes, though admittedly the music is the most westernised aspect of the game and perhaps allowing the Japanese aspect to have an even greater effect would improve the sound.
Overall, this game in stark contrast to its commercial record is completely unmissable. Every aspect of the game fits together like the puzzles you encounter throughout and builds what is a stunning and inspiring work. It’s genuinely a great shame that so many will miss out on this because it’s so different and relatively unknown. The worst criticism I can level at it other than tedious nitpicking is the sad fact I don’t get a disc. Go on PSN and buy Okami right now, it’ll be among the best 16 pounds you’ll ever spend.
Okami HD is available to download for the Playstation 3.