Okami may be old, but it is still a gem worth playing
Okami is one of those finds that take a little digging to uncover. By 2009 it was reported the game had a total of under 300,000 units moved, despite critical acclaim and IGN’s Game of the Year award in 2006. The game has, however, developed a strong following in those who have explored the world of Nippon (Japan) as the goddess Amaterasu.
If you are on the fence about it, or are even new to Okami, here are a few reasons you should consider playing the original, or its Wii or PlayStation 3 port:
Graphics do not always make the game. While they are an added bonus, there are still games, such as Pokémon Gold, Silver and Crystal that still hold nostalgia and enjoyment for us even with their low-grade graphics. Okami is another story. The scenery, especially the black inked lines that define objects like trees and the wind, seem like the work of an artist that has painted the world in a stunning selection of watercolors.
This is to be expected, however; Okami's graphics are based on traditional Japanese artwork. Other games have used handpainted styles since, but none have emulated the stylized, sumi-e painting type graphics. The graphics also have aged incredibly well over time and fit the game well, given the style of play. Speaking of play styles...
A unique style of game play
The world of Nippon is rendered in such a way largely due to the primary game mechanic: a brush, which the player uses to alter the world. The celestial brush allows Amaterasu (the main character) to defeat monsters and change the world around her.
A screenshot of Okami HD of a player using the power slash technique on a wooden gate barring the way. From Pixel Perfect Gaming.
When pressing the proper button (R2 on the PlayStation 2 or 3, and B on the Wii) the game will create a canvas of your current view of the world.From there, you can literally draw into the world new things, such as lilypads, and even cherry bombs.
How Amaterasu may change the world is only limited by the brush techniques she knows, and available inkpots, and she regains them both slowly over the course of the game. Some brush techniques change the time of day, or may cause trees and flowers that are not cursed to bloom.
This power to change, and ultimately rejuvenate and heal the world is woven into the story...
Lovable Characters and Story
Amaterasu is reborn in the form of a white wolf in Okami HD. From Gematsu.
Amaterasu, the Shinto Japanese sun goddess, is incarnated in the form of a white wolf when the tree-spirit Sakuya awakens her. The world is being cursed by an unknown force, entire swaths of land left lifeless and uninhabitable. Sakuya gives the goddess the task of freeing Nippon from the curse and bringing justice to those who would do its inhabitants harm.
As you endeavor to save Nippon you soon discover few believe in the gods anymore. Most will see Amaterasu only as a white wolf...while a rare few will see Amaterasu for what she truly is.
Amaterasu finds the bumbling warrior Susano in his house, taking a nap. PlayStation 2 screenshot from Moby Games.
In your travels you meet an extensive cast of characters, ranging from the tiny, amusing, yet rather perverted wandering artist Issun, and the incomptetent warrior Susano. Many of the characters, and even enemies, are based off of gods and demons from Shinto folklore.
Minigames, Sidequests and Upgrades
As you travel throughout the land of Nippon, you will find many people in need of aid. Sometimes it is a simple fetch quest and sometimes it leads to a minigame.
In the digging minigame, you help protect a human companion and dig deeper into the earth as they search for a source of water. From Okami Wiki.
There are tangible rewards to going out of your way on sidequests, minigames and such, rejuvenating leftover patches of cursed land, and even feeding local animals. You gain praise, the faith of humanity in the gods, and can spend it on upgrades. Upgrades include health, inkpots (how much you can draw with the celestial brush before waiting), astral pouches (when filled, save you from death once), and the amount of yen you can carry.
There are also collectibles in the form of stray beads, of which there are 100, and sun fragments (3 to a unit of health and 15 in all). and Some of the beads are rather challenging to obtain. However, should you find them all you are rewarded with an absurdly powerful item.
As such, there is much more to do in Nippon than follow the plotline. In a sense, this makes the game quite like the Zelda series. The populace can save themselves, right?
An amazing soundtrack
A lot of older games have synthesized soundtracks. This is not so with Okami. The game is fully orchestrated, with tracks that evoke thoughts of traditional Japanese music. And if you do not think traditional music can be epic, check out this track:
Just so you know, the context for this one is getting a giant serpent demon drunk and killing it.
The music ranges from uplifting to creepy, saddening to heartfelt, and are composed by Rei Kondo, Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Akari Groves, and arranged by Yoshinobu Takeshita. Just to get the point across, here is another worthy piece:
Ryoshima Coast is one of the many outdoor areas in Okami.
Okami is a well made game and deserving of your attention, although it has its flaws
There are, admittedly, some flaws to the game. The battles with regular demons can become tedious, though many are avoidable (there is the occasional ambush, which cannot be escaped, and monster hunting quests). The first time playing through the game can also be a little confusing if you are not willing to do a little exploration, as well.
However, great deal of time and love was put into building the world of Nippon in-game. From the hellscapes of demon-infested Oni island, to the quaint fields of Kamiki village, there are many places to explore and much to do.
Amaterasu poses and howls in celebration of her victory over a boss.
And despite praise by critics, few have experienced Amaterasu's grand adventure. Fame, or perhaps, units sold, however, are not always a good indicator of quality. The mere mention of books is bound to bring up visions of some best sellers that probably, given the quality of the storyline and writing, should not have been best sellers. Okami is on the opposite end of the spectrum: high quality, but litte known.
Regardless, the game is a fitting tribute to Japanese culture, and is an experience that I have not seen replicated since (except perhaps by Okamiden, but I am not a fan). If you choose to make the investment, you will not regret your choice.