Review of Okami
Do you ever look at nature and marvel at the color and beauty it holds? All the while wishing you could capture it and spread it everywhere you go? Do primal instincts tell you right from wrong and urge you to make a difference? Can your artistry release your inner passion for the world? Do you have the stuff it takes to be a hero of the people? Then Okami may just be the game of your dreams.
Okami is a unique, colorful adventure game from Clover Studios/Capcom. A mix of traditional Japanese folklore and watercolor art, it is a stunningly beautiful game. Like it jumped right off an ancient scroll, this game is a piece of art. In a world that has been crushed by darkness, a lone white wolf rises to defeat evil. A grand adventure ensues as you embark to restore harmony and beauty to the world.
The story of Okami is universal. Good versus evil. One hundred years ago, the Sun God Shiranui and a hero named Nagi defeated an evil eight headed serpent named Orochi. Using a powerful Saki and their combined powers, they slayed the evil beast. Now, a century later, the evil has returned. Spreading darkness and squashing the beauty of nature, Orochi once more rules the land. As the Sun God reborn, you must once again must fight this evil.
The basic idea behind Okami is adventuring through the land. In this single player game, you'll be playing as the white wolf Amaterasu as you travel through different areas of the game. Along the way you meet characters and perform various acts to help them out. You can explore as you like but some areas are unreachable without certain powers. Those powers are gained by completing tasks usually given by people you meet. There are enemies wandering the land so sometimes you'll have to fight. There are plenty of smaller things to keep you busy as you explore. Though there are no actual difficulty levels, the game becomes harder and more complex as you progress.
The greatest feature of Okami is the celestial brush strokes. These are essential to the game and come into play in every aspect of the game. You start off with a calligraphy ink brush as your primary tool in the game. As you learn new strokes, more powers become available. Basically, you are manipulating the environment by "painting" what you want. For example, if a bridge is broken you simply paint a new one and it appears! Say you need to blow up something. Paint a cherry bomb and BOOM! These techniques are learned gradually as you progress throughout the game. Learning how to use them and when to use them is the fun part of the game.
Nature is a common theme and restoring beauty is a must. Use your celestial brush to stamp out darkness by simply painting nature in. This is one of the more stunningly beautiful features of the game. There is nothing quite like creating a full blooming tree with just one stroke. When you've restored a sapling, the explosive growth of beauty washes over the land like a tidal wave of color. Even small patches of evil can be brushed out with an eruption of colored flowers.
Doing battle with the enemies is another necessary task. Sometimes a fight can be avoided, but often you have no choice. A battle must be completed sometimes to progress into an area. There are weapons at your disposal like shields, beads and swords. But your greatest weapon is often your celestial brush. Power strokes come into play during battle too. It's a great feeling when you stun an enemy then slice them in half with a power brush stroke. Or painting bullet holes on your foe and watch them writhe in pain.
There are plenty of memorable characters that you meet during the game. The most prominent and also the peskiest, is Issun the wandering artist. This sprite like little "bug" becomes your guide in the game. Often the source of comic relief, Issun does all the talking because you don't speak. Every once in a while you almost wish he's shut his little mouth. Susano is also a great character as the reluctant hero and town drunk. Often found hiding, feigning bravery, he shows up when you least expect him. But most of the time, it's you who ends up helping him without his knowledge. He's a bumbling, stumbling loveable hero at the least. There are plenty of other characters but Susano is one of the best.
Besides the main story, there are dozens of things to do. Digging for treasure and four leaf clovers or feeding the local wildlife. Feeding animals earns praise and praise will allow you to increase your stats. It's a simple task and interesting to see the different wildlife. There are also plenty of items which you'll have to pass up and come back later to get. This extends the game somewhat, if you are the type who likes to get everything. These are not absolutely necessary but a fun side venture if you choose.
The menus are full of content and very easy to access and read. It will catalog the goodies you pick up as you venture along. A log book journal guides your journey so even if you get confused it will give you an idea what to do. There is also a travelers guide that has chapters with helpful tips about playing the game. Another nice feature is the Bestiary (monster guide) that gives background on the enemy and strategy to defeat them. With tons of little bonus items packed into this game, you'll be checking into the menus frequently.
Once the game is complete, you'll have the option to replay the game from the start. Based on how well you did the first time, Issun will give you some unique rewards. This time you will have all the items you've collected from the first time through and can go back to pick up what you missed. You will also be able to skip scenes using the start button, cutting down on replay time. Several bonus features are also unlocked including hundreds of pages of game art, a music jukebox and promo trailers.
Control during game play is comfortable since your actions are usually simple. The celestial brush techniques are especially elegant. The R1 button enters brush mode and painting is done with the analog stick. The strokes are fairly easy to master, even to the point of being repetitive. Some strokes even have colorful leads that will actually help guide your brush when needed. Every once in awhile you'll get a breeze when trying to bloom a tree but with practice this is easily handled. Rarely, if ever, will this actually cause you any harm. There was also some problem getting fire and water spouts to rise on the first try, but persistance pays off in these cases.
The battle system has some uncomplimentary camera angles that make tracking your opponent difficult at times. Sometimes the enemy is actually off screen as it launches an attack. Another problem sometimes develops when using the brush system in a battle scene. It's easy enough to switch back and reset the camera angle but sometimes it requires that you change your stance. Once you know how to use the brush and where to apply it, these problems are easily avoided.
Although the graphics are cartoonish, it is by design. Make no mistake, they are exceptional. The mix of cell shading and watercoloring make this a visually striking and vibrant game. The animation is especially brilliant when it comes to the celestial brush. The way growth and action spring forth from the brush is absolutely flawless.
The environments are expansive and are fairly detailed. Each location has a unique look to it and new wonders to observe. The monster gallery is even more impressive and wonderfully diverse. The bosses are particularly spectacular and mesmerizing to the point of almost being a distraction to your purpose.
One thing I was not impressed with were the feeding scenes. They seem a bit gratuitous and need be seen only once. Fortunately you can skip those scenes once they've started with a push of a button. On occasion the graphics have a see through effect in some places. This is most noticable in tight quarters but never really poses a problem.
There is comfortably familiar background music as you travel through the land and appropriately drummed up tempo during dramatic sequences. The gentle strumming when new growth springs forth is reminiscent of traditional Japanese string instruments. There are some clever sounds like steam whistling when someone gets mad and the faint giggles and moans of certain ladies are sure to catch some ears.
I have an issue with the mumbling electronic chatter that represents character speech. Even though it does add some depth to otherwise bland character text, it also gets annoying. Especially Issun, who unfortunately does the majority of the talking. But overall the sound is done well and compliments the action.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Okami' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Chris Strang © Absolute PlayStation
Click here to view our 47 Okami in-game screenshot slideshow
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