Developer: Ready at Dawn Studios
Release Date: April 15, 2008 (NA), June 12, 2008 (AUS) June 13, 2008 (EU), October 15, 2009 (JP)
In 2006, a small, independent company named Clover Studio developed and released an instant classic on the Playstation 2 named Okami. Despite receiving praise from nearly all major publications, Okami's sales were lackluster and disappointing. When the Wii was released later that year, many fans were calling on Capcom to port Okami to Nintendo's new console due to the motion controls being a seemingly perfect match for the gameplay. In 2008, Capcom granted the wishes of fans and published the Playstation 2 classic on the Nintendo Wii. Did Okami work as well as people thought it would on the Wii, or did the motion controls ruin an exceptional game?
Okami takes place in a fictional Japan based on ancient Japanese history and mythology, providing the game a lot of material to build an interesting and compelling world on. You play as the goddess of the sun, Amaterasu, who takes the form of a white wolf in the game. One hundred years prior to the start of Okami, a legendary duo of a man named Nagi and a white wolf named Shiranui battled and sealed away a powerful demon known as Orochi. In the game's present time, it is revealed that someone has broken the seal on Orochi and the demon has cursed the land across the entire world, sapping its life. Sakuya, a wood sprite, then calls on Amaterasu to defeat Orochi and restore life to the land of Japan.
The story is exceptionally well written and will have your attention for all thirty to forty hours of the game. It is an epic tale with twists and turns around every corner, and you never know what to expect in each new location you enter. Despite being a serious story that touches on the rich history of Japan, Okami has a great sense of humor. Certain characters and scenarios will have you laughing out loud when you come across them, and you'll always have a smile on your face.
Not only are the characters humorous, they're also some of the most memorable video game characters out there. Every new character you meet has their own unique personality that you'll fall in love with. Even the villains of the game are written so well that you'll love to hate them, and you'll want to see more of them.
However, there is a lot of text to read in Okami, especially in the beginning when you're first starting out. There isn't any voice acting per se to help ease the long cutscenes either, just mindless jabbering similar to the Banjo-Kazooie series. Luckily, you can skip cutscenes if you don't want to read long winded conversations when major events occur. You will be missing out on major story details and great characters though, so be warned.
|Each and every character in Okami has their own unique|
Moving into the actual gameplay of Okami, you'll quickly discover that it's very Zelda like in its structure if you have ever played a Zelda game. The game has a focus on exploration and will have you going from fields to towns to dungeons collecting new abilities and items in each new location, but Okami does this so seamlessly that you never really notice that you're in a dungeon until you've visited multiple maze-like rooms. It's wonderful take on the traditional Zelda structure that breathes life into a formula that you may have gotten tired of over the years.
While the general structure of the game is great on its own, Okami really shines because of its central gameplay mechanic -- the Celestial Brush. At any point in time during the game, you can press and hold the B button on the Wii Remote and start to draw on the scenery. If you draw certain symbols on the scenery, you can change the actual landscape to help solve puzzles or defeat enemies. For example, if you draw a circle on the sky, a bright and shining sun appears, lighting up and drying anything under its glow. As you progress through the game, you learn more brush techniques that progressively become more complex and more powerful, and open up areas in the game that you couldn't access before. These brush techniques basically act like items in the Zelda series in the sense that they open up new puzzles and areas that you couldn't complete or reach before.
You can't abuse the powers of the Celestial Brush though, as there is an ink meter that limits the number of times you can use the brush in succession. Each time you use a brush technique, one section of the ink meter completely depletes, and you have to wait a few seconds for that section to refill. If you use the Celestial Brush too much and took quickly, you lose all powers you had for a short period of time while you wait for the ink meter to refill. As you move along in the game, you can expand the ink meter to let you use the brush more often than you would normally be allowed. You can do this by gaining praise, which act similarly to experience points in other games.
To gain praise, you have to go around the world helping various characters out, feeding animals, and restoring the environment to its pre-cursed state. The larger a task, the more praise you earn from performing that task. When you've saved up enough praise, you can spend it on expanding your ink meter like mentioned before, or you can expand your health bar, money pouch, or your astral pouch, which will revive you when you die if it's completely full of food. While it's not necessary to collect any praise throughout the game, you will find yourself doing anything possible to gain some, not because you want to improve your health or ink bar, but because it's genuinely fun to restore environments, help characters out, and feed animals.
Even though receiving praise is a fun distraction from the game, battling enemies on the overworld is not, and that's because of the battle controls in the game. In order to attack using your weapons and not your Celestial Brush, you have to shake the Wii Remote in a kind of rhythmic fashion. Often times you'll find yourself shaking the Wii Remote, but the game not picking up on your movements. It is frustrating, because you'll often take damage in battle because of it. Dodging, which is mapped to the nunchuck's motion controls, also doesn't work very well. You'll try to dodge to the left, but the game will think you moved the nunchuck in a completely different direction. The dodging mechanics are also rather sensitive, and you'll find yourself running through Okami's overworld only to accidentally move your nunchuck a few centimeters, causing Amaterasu to abruptly dodge in a random direction.
|As you play through Okami, you can receive praise.|
Luckily Okami allows you to avoid battles with minor enemies on the overworld, as they aren't present in the same sense as other action adventure games. Instead of monsters roaming the fields and dungeons of ancient Japan, there are floating scrolls that slowly move around. If you come into contact with one of these scrolls, a battle starts. There isn't any major reward for participating in battles, so you'll often find yourself avoiding these scrolls because of the wonky battle controls.
While the main story of Okami has more than enough to keep you entertained throughout, there are countless extra sidequests for you to partake in if you need a distraction from the game. Like mentioned before, there's praise for you to collect, but there are also stray beads, demon fangs, and sun fragments for you to find. In addition to collectibles scattered across the world, there are various missions, such as fishing, learning new attacks and brush techniques not found in the normal story mode, and hunting down wanted monsters. The sidequests listed are just scratching the surface, and there are many more to discover as you play through the game. Nearly all of the sidequests are extremely fun, and even if you're invested in the story of Okami, you'll find yourself going out of your way to finish some of them.
In addition to the outstanding gameplay Okami provides, it also has one of the most memorable and stunning soundtracks in gaming. Every track fits each scenario to a tee and they give you the feeling that you truly are in an ancient Japan filled with demons and gods. Even after the game is turned off, you'll be humming tunes from dungeons and fields to yourself, reliving each and every moment of the game in your head.
The art style and graphics of the game are just as perfect as the music. It's stylized in such a way that every environment you enter looks like a painting and every new location will take your breath away. Despite being originally made for hardware that's now over ten years old, Okami is still one of the best looking games out there, proving that while polygons and lighting are important, art direction trumps all.
Okami is a must have for any Wii owner. While there are some minor complaints about controls and long winded dialogues, the rest of the game is so outstanding that you never notice those small flaws. Okami takes a tried and true formula from the Zelda series, but changes it around enough to seem fresh and fun even to players who have become tired of Zelda games. Couple that with the outstanding soundtrack and magnificent art style, and you get one of the best games on both the Playstation 2 and the Wii.