Okami Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 8.5
Gameplay : 8.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 8.5
Review by Chris Matel
It’s a port, but it’s still a great game…

In 2006 Clover Studios, the same group that brought Viewtiful Joe to the Playstation 2, came up with the ever-colorful, stylistic, calligraphic title of Okami. Shortly following the game’s PS2 debut, however, the studio shut its doors; but Okami’s story doesn’t end there. The watercolor-infused title has been re-commissioned for the Wii by Ready at Dawn Studios, and integrates the full functionality of the system’s hardware. Not much has changed since the original code, but a new control scheme makes for more fluid gameplay, and is a welcomed third-party title for the casual-centric platform.

If you take a look at the Wii’s library of games, you might be hard-pressed to find a handful of games which deviate from the casual nature of the system. Similarly, a majority (if not all) of the highest-regarded titles are bore from Nintendo’s own studios. With that in mind, the Wii is calling for quality, third-party properties: Consider Okami an answer to that call.

When released for the Playstation 2, those who had a chance to play the game got a taste of ancient Japanese lore, told in a visually-stimulating way; and now, with a port of the game, Wii owners get a chance to play as the reanimated wolf, Amaterasu.

Finally, you can feel like Van Gogh, when really, you can’t even hold a paintbrush…

Right from the start you’re going to notice the art direction. And although the game isn’t pushing any boundaries in terms of photorealistic graphics, the extreme amounts of color and cel-shading offer a unique, hyper-stylized canvas to play on. A noticeable difference from the original version of the game, are more intense colors, including deeper blacks and richer greens. Another difference, you might only notice if you played the PS2 version, is the subtle filter which makes the world look as-if it was being played on a piece of parchment paper. It’s a bit disappointing, however, that this unique filter is only really noticeable during certain cutscenes.

Normally, the story is the main concern of a game, but the rich, vibrant colors creates an experience which overshadows a game that plays out like the ever-popular Zelda series.

Link would be proud…

As the story goes, the abominable eight-headed dragon demon, Orochi, tormented the village of Kamiki, forcing a ritualistic maiden sacrifice once every year. However, on a particular anniversary, the warrior Nagi, with the help of the wolf Shinarui, banished the creature. 100 years have passed and Orochi has been released, sapping Nippon of its life and color. Shinarui is reincarnated with the sun goddess Amaterasu, and sets out to defeat the evil force by collecting thirteen of her powers scattered throughout the realm.

The game is a story-driven experience, and lucky, the story is on-par with its Hyrulian inspiration. By interacting with characters, completing side-quests, and triumphing over dungeon-like elements, it’s entirely possible to get sucked into the story as you battle to restore Nippon. On the whole, the game is fairly child-friendly, but don’t let the colorful style fool you: It’s rated T for a reason. Every now and then, don’t be surprised to find a busty maiden or sexual innuendo. However, the dialogue is harmless and is full of humor that is appropriate for any age.

Ultimately, the story works, but the game turns out to be divided into two different portions. To say that you’re going to fight Orochi, is giving nothing away; however, you’re battle only marks the halfway point of the game. Once you’ve taken care of the eight-headed beast, you learn there is a greater evil abound. Such a revelation makes for extended gameplay, but there’s a strange feeling after celebrating your victory; the game builds to the big fight, but once it’s over, there’s little exposition of new threat. What should feel like an organic transition, feels more episodic.

You’re going need a longer attention-span than five minutes…

With both a compelling story and unique visuals, there’s little left to nitpick—and that’s just about all you can do with the game. Okami is a classic adventure title that will stretch into the 30-plus hours mark. There are plenty of side missions for accumulating new weapons, increasing your attributes, and gaining new items. Thankfully, battles can be initiated when you want as floating scrolls create an arena whereupon defeating enemies yields you a score and money to spend at merchant locations. Also, you’re going to want to do some backtracking to reach different places as you unlock new powers. For the person who needs to get and do everything in a game, Okami will last you awhile.

The thing to keep in mind, however, is that this is the same game that was released back in 2006. There aren’t any added bosses, areas, missions, or items; the content remains the same, but the gameplay is what separates this port from the original.

Fighting and puzzle elements are handled by using the Celestial Brush, via the Wii-mote. While you still waggle the mote for basic attacks, holding the trigger causes the screen to turn into a canvas whereon you paint different actions. Although the mechanic worked on the PS2 with analog controls, the motion controls of the Wii-mote make for a more intuitive experience. Not all is perfect with the new controls—drawing a straight line for a slash is a bit harder than you would think, and the nunchuck-dodge is lacking—but having a virtual brush translate your sweeping motions makes for a more immersive experience.

Ever wanted to know what an inch-high painter-samurai looks like? Play the game and find out…

When all is said and done, Okami is a game that shows it’s possible for a third-party title to be successful on the Nintendo hardware. There are a few technical hiccups with dipping framerates, minor clipping and objects popping in, but these are barely noticeable and don’t affect gameplay in the slightest. Composed of an engaging story, immersive controls, beautiful art direction, not-overly-simple puzzles, and a musical score that enjoyably emulates the emotion on-screen, Okami is the perfect addition to the Wii’s overly-casual library—it just would have been nice to see some extra, special content for a two year old port.

Hell yeah:
+ Beautiful, artistic visuals
+ Improved Celestial Brush mechanic
+ Great length, with plenty to do

Oh, hell no:
- No new content
- Not all of the brush techniques work flawlessly
- Some nitpicky technical issues