I try hard not to sound like a raving lunatic when I review games…I like trying to be unbiased as possible…but for Okami, that’s not going to be easy and for that, I apologize in advance. Simply put, this is probably the best game in the action-adventure genre. That’s right. I said it. It’s better than Zelda. At long last, Sony has found a trump card to Link. And Okami rivals the epic Nintendo staple.
The premise is simple. Forces of evil are encroaching upon the beautiful land of Nippon (old Japan). To push them back, you play as Amaretsu, a reincarnation of the wolf god, Shiranui, who died after defeating the evil Orochi 100 years ago. Shortly thereafter meet your semi-obnoxious fairy…er, traveling companion named Navi…er, Tatl…no, wait, Issun. Yeah, Issun, a womanizing wandering artist, tags along with Amaterasu (who he affectionately nicknames Ammy, to the glee of English-speaking gamers, since Okami Amaterasu is a mouthful). All of the characters in Okami eventually grow on you (with the exception of the forces of evil). Okami has the innate charm to draw you into its crazy little word and spur empathy with the large cast of characters. The storyline is an interesting balancing act between happy, cutesy moments and hopeless it’s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it dramas. The seasoned gamer will see plot elements from every adventure they’ve played surgically removed from past games and spliced into one interesting saga. You explore the cursed forests (Ocarina of Time), shrink to ant-sized proportions (Minish Cap), sail the ocean blue (Wind Waker), go fishing, rescue various damsels in distress, and do your fair share of side-questing. This all ends up becoming one of the most diverse gaming experiences around, and leads to a great, character-driven story that will certainly be enjoyable.
The gameplay is simply astound astounding. The camera rarely falters, and the controls work very smoothly. Ammy’s versatile weapon, the Celestial Brush, is used to summon spells and attack enemies, and it just flows with the analog stick with ease, easily beating out the conventional RPG weapon. The core of Ammy’s adventure is a pan-Nippon search for the lost 13 techniques from the gods. The techniques range from a simple line that will cut down obstacles and enemies in your path to a circular spell that will materialize a bomb. As you recover more abilities, it becomes easier to restore the land to its former glory. Along the way, Amaretsu will get praise orbs. These allow you to boost stat points and upgrade various skills, for instance, you will gain a praise orb from a task like banishing evil auras from zones, or using Bloom spells to make flowers flourish (which nets a lot of praise). After, you can use Praise to bolster your life meter, or increase your supply of ink for the Celestial brush. Like any action-adventure, skill in battle is key, and is your main source of revenue throughout the game. After each battle you receive a sort of report card that rates Ammy’s performance and determines the amount of bonus Yen doled out. Although some key items in the
Okami economy seem overly expensive, it’s always easy to replenish your funds after going broke and almost always worth the money (Unlike the PS3…oh, SNAP! And I say I try to be unbiased!).
The main place Okami exceeds where Wind Waker failed to some is in the graphics department. The stylish sumi-stroke graphics are eye-candy through and through and provide a masterful representation of a more animated style, and add to the overall greatness of the game, rather than being a side-note like in Wind Waker. The game is just enjoyable to watch, much less play. It would be great to see more games follow this artistic style. The background music is incredible, and as with everything else in the game, it is tinged with a Japanese influence, and melds nicely with the game’s events while being easy to appreciate on its own. Capcom deserves a great deal of credit for the transition from Japanese to English, with no major bumps in the localization. The dialogue is interesting to read and often comical. Even though some cut-scenes are surprisingly text-heavy, the game caters to short attention spans by breaking up the scene into segments. Usually, the NPCs will cease their explanation and a green arrow will appear above their head, indicating they have more info. This way, you can proceed through the cut scene at your own leisure, which is a very nice touch. NPC voices are peculiar themselves. While Okami doesn’t have voiceovers, characters do speak in a strange language that is similar to Animalese from Animal Crossing. Except Okami’s version of Animalese is a little more whispery and less neurotic (thank God). Again, your senses have to adjust a bit to the oddities of Okami, but this is an acquired taste from Japan I think everyone can enjoy.
All-in-all, no PS2 library should be without this. It has a great story that, though clichéd, will mesmerize you and will effectively pull you into the narrative. The replay value for this game is immense as the storyline, sidequesting, and searches for those really rare items just never gets old. This game can probably be played for years. There’s just something about Okami that’s just so fresh. This game gets an extra gold star because not only did it make me laugh, but it was the first game that actually made me cry. You know you’re in deep when a game evokes that kind of emotion. So if you’ve been on the fence about this title, go buy it. And then start praying for a sequel.