A certain portly movie critic made the comment that video games are not worthy to be considered as art. More then just a few of us got a wee bit ticked at the statement as it was made with almost no thought or research of video games in general. It’s a pity as he misses one the great Playstation2 games of this year.
Okami is one of the last two titles released by Clover Studios (Viewtiful Joe series) following the folding of the studio by Capcom. Originally intended with realistic graphics this was shelved in place of Cel Shading and we are better off for it.
The story of Okami is based on the Japanese religion Shinto which parallels some indigenous people’s in the sense that it’s animalistic and that everything, even the rock on the ground has a soul. It’s not a literal interpretation but does use characters and the general gist of the religion as the basis for the game. You play the part of Amaterasu a white wolf (In fact the Sun God in Shinto) who along with Issun your trusty side kick must unlock the 13 brush strokes each held by a guardian or kami of Shinto mythos, so you’ll be able to defeat the mighty Orochi who’s responsible for the whole mess and restore peace and harmony to the land of Nippon.
This sets the game up nicely following Zelda’s lead with numerous side quests and hidden areas to unlock once you’ve acquired the correct brush stroke. It’s the brush stroke technique that truly adds something different and fresh to just the average run and fetch quest. Holding down the R1 button to brings up your canvas and enables to you to use your brush to “draw” upon the screen: need to melt a large chunk of ice blocking you path ? paint a line from the flame to the ice. You’ll get more complicated ones allowing you to turn night into day and vice versa, create windstorms, stop time etc.The brush technique is VERY forgiving and only a few times did it fail to recognize my stroke even then it made a strong wind rather then light wind. Along with the Celestial Brush you’ll get three types of weapons Glaive, Rosaries and Mirrors these are interchangeable with each other and help provide the right fit for your type of play.
As you travel the land you’ll encounter various enemies which to duel and cleanse from the land. Once you start a battle your weapons will only get you so far and you have to use your brush techniques to compliment them. There are also animals to feed which gives you a tick in the collection box and a moment in which the camera pans around Ami and the animal in question with some nice reflective music. You can skip these scenes but more often than not I let them play out in their entirety. Gathering Praise is another aspect of the game play by drawing a circle over a dead tree you are able to restore it to full bloom which rewards you with Praise points which you can then use to increase your health, ink supply, the amount of coins you carryâ€¦ you get the idea. There is just a ton of stuff to do and most of it isn’t necessary to finish the game but for those who have to feed every animal and catch every type of fish you’ll have a fun time doing so.
The graphics really the star of the game and I doubt we’ll see cel-shading more polished then this on the current platforms. Whereas games like Jet Set Radio went for and achieved an incredible comic book look and Zelda:WW went for achieved a unique take on the visuals for a Zelda game Okami raises the bar by recreating the ancient watercolour prints of the 17-20th century Japan know as Ukiyo-e. This flawless re-creation is amazing to see, and if you look hard enough you’ll see the texture of paper underneath certain characters namely Amaterasu.
As you progress and fight the various creatures, all of which are drawn in a traditional Asian style, your monster library will grow from a few panels to a long continuous scroll. Some nice touches to the game play include inactive loading screens in which you’ll play one of two mini-games too unlock Demon Fangs which are used for rare items this is something that more games need to employ as loading times get longer. The other is how the game will adapt itself to you style of play in certain areas. There’s a race sequence which gets slower and slower till you can beat it — a nice touch and it kills any chance of frustration.
There are few negatives to Okami but they are few and far between. The big one is that it’s just too darn easy ! By the time you reach the final boss your weapons and health will be so charged up that it’s not much of a challenge. Another problem is that when a new enemy for the first time you haven’t a clue how to take it down it’s only after that you can check your monster gallery for the clue, it’s a pain for boss battles too but because it’s so easy you can get away with trying just about everything as I did with the some of the final bosses. The last one is that there may be just too much to do others have expressed this point as well, if you were to go after every single thing there is I suspect you would find very laborious after awhile.
In short this game is my RPG of the year and it’s a pity younger ones can’t enjoy it too. Issun has quite the dialogue of double entendres which are riot but not suitable for younger ears, well eyes as all the dialogue is just mumbling with text shown underneath. The appearance of monsters in an Asian style may frighten as well. You’ve never seen fish like this. This game is a must have both for it’s incredible art and engaging game play. It’s something a certain portly movie critic should investigate before speaking out of turn.
- Overall: 8.5
- Finally the PS2 gets a worthy Zelda-esque game, with jaw dropping cel-shaded goodness — even if itâ€™s a bit on the easy side.
— Phillip Vollmer