One of my fondest gaming memory was playing Okami on the PS2. The game took me with complete surprise as someone who never played most of the 3D Zelda games, or had any interest in them, I was surprisingly addicted to the gameplay design of Okami. It was the series that perhaps introduced me to the The Legend of Zelda series and to date, it remains the only game that manages to come close to the quality offered by it.
Okami was the brainchild of Hideki Kamiya when he worked at Clover Studios. Kamiya was still well known back then for starting the Devil May Cry series but perhaps not as well known as he is now after the success of Bayonetta. Okami was sold on its visuals which oozed a certain cel-shaded charm thanks in part to their incredible art style that presented a Japanese folklore. It was essentially a Japanese mythology that was brought to life in the form of a game and one of the reason why it worked so well was because of the excellent localization efforts that preserved the experience of the story intact. Stories like these can typically end up being boring if there is no interesting character to follow, which certainly is not the case with Okami.
Okami story is inspired from many of the classical Japanese myths and folklore. It is centered around Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who takes the form a white wolf to help the resident of a small Japanese village who are plagued by a curse from the eight-headed demon Orochi. The villagers were forced to sacrifice a beautiful girl to the beast in order to appease the demon however when the girl that was selected for sacrifice ended up being Swordsman Nagi’s beloved maiden Nami, he decided to take it upon himself to kill the beast. As he attempts to kill Orochi, he finds out that his sword attacks are useless until Amaterasu appears and helps him defeat and seal Orochi in the cave.
100 years pass and the village is now at peace until someone mistakenly unleashes the evil Orochi and basically puts the world in darkness by letting evil roam free. Amaterasu is brought back by a wood sprite and guardian of the village who asks the sun goddess for helping the world get rid of evil. Amaterasu will be accompanied by Issun, an insect sized artist which also serves as a travelling companion and basically gives advice to the wolf as they start their journey of clearing the land from evil. The story is full of references to Japanese myths but even if you have never heard of them, it is possible to enjoy most of it. The game explains each of the story beat in detail through narrations even if the main protagonist doesn’t speak a single word.
Make no mistake, Okami is not a short game and it is choke full of dialogue. You will have to sit through lengthy story cutscenes that detail the plot as you wait for the actual gameplay to start. Even if we talk purely about completing the main story, you are looking at close to 50 hours of play time, so it is not a short game either. You are literally controlling a god in Okami and the game never stops short of making you feel this way. This is made possible through the use of a Celestial Brush that works on a gesture-based system.
You can draw some specific gestures to trigger certain actions. As an example, if you want to cut a rock, you can draw a straight line with the brush on the rock and it will get cut easily. Of course, you Celestial Brush won’t have all of the amazing powers that you might have expected at the start. There are more than a dozen of these powers that you will be able gradually learn through your journey by finding and drawing the missing Constellations using your Celestial Brush.
Exploration in the game relies on full 3D movement where Amaterasu can jump or perform a variety of attacks. You can also use your Celestial Brush powers either in combat or during exploration but of course some of these will only work at key points. Combat is mostly a mixture of chaining physical attacks and utilizing the powers offered by the Celestial Brush. You will also have to go through some boss battles that will require you to exploit their weakness using your Celestial Brush, however the fun part here is learning about the effects of each power and then maximizing their effectiveness in battle.
Okami HD is still an incredible adventure that shines with the latest remaster. The game supports 4K resolution on PS4 Pro, Xbox One and PC although the frame rate is still locked to 30 fps. The port is flawless and I didn’t notice any major issues. The camera was perhaps the only one which felt a little dated to me, but it is easy to get used to it once you spend some time with the game. Even on a 4K screen, Okami HD still shines gorgeously with a vibrant color palette, although you can also spot low resolution textures at some places. It is easy to ignore them since they blend in rather nicely with the cel-shaded art style.
Okami HD Review (PS4)
Game description: Ōkami HD is an action-adventure video game originally developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom. Set sometime in classical Japanese history, the game combines several Japanese myths, legends and folklore to tell the story of how the land was saved from darkness by the Shinto sun goddess, named Amaterasu, who took the form of a white wolf.
Okami HD has proven to be a worthy port of this beloved classic with crisp and clear visuals backed by solid performance. It is an experience that shouldn't be missed especially if you have never played the original game.