I don’t think any game has come close to the greatness offered in Okami, especially not those focused on a Japanese folklore. There is a reason Okami is still so well-regarded today even though it was originally considered a clone of The Legend of Zelda with its open world, the celestial paintbrush focused gameplay and combat have made it a unique experience that stands the test of time.
Okami was originally released for the PS2 and it was one of the most visually striking games of its generation. The transition to HD platforms has made now made it even better proving that it is a timeless game. Okami finally received a proper HD remaster treatment last year with the release of the PC, PS4 and Xbox One version. Standing next to them, the Nintendo Switch version will naturally feel inferior, but this is absolutely not the case here.
I have played the game on the PS2, PS3 and I also checked it out last year on the PS4. However, the most fun for me was the Nintendo Switch version. Not only are the enhanced visuals kept with their full quality on the Switch hardware, both in portable and docked mode, there are also 2 important changes made to the controls with support for both touchscreen and motion controls. This seems to mix in well with the Celestial Brush techniques offered in the game.
The game has a rather lengthy introduction that establishes the basic story elements. The prologue begins like a folklore tale that goes through the events surrounding the eight-headed demon Orochi that terrorized a place called Kamiki Village. The only one who stands against his threat is a brave swordsman Nagi along with his white wolf Shiranui. Together they join forces to get him sealed inside a cave.
After the prologue, the story flashes forward 100 years to the present as the evil of Orochi gets unleashed again into the world due to a mistake made by Nagi’s descendant Susano, putting a curse on Kamiki Village and slowly succumbing the world into darkness. This prompts the guardian of Kamiki Village to bring forth the sun goddess, Amaterasu, who takes the form of the white wolf Shiranui. Amaterasu will have to defeat the evil of Orochi again to save the world and the Kamiki Village.
Okami worked well because it took a lot of time to set up each character in this mythical world. Take Issun as an example, he is a side-kick to Amaterasu and manages to steal most of the story scenes with his sense of humor. The writing is pretty solid and even though it is essentially a Japanese folklore with references that will only make sense for native Japanese users, the localization does a great job of translating it for the Western audience.
Okami is mainly an adventure game with a lot of dialogue. There are plenty of cutscenes in the game where you will do a lot of reading, however, they are all mostly entertaining thanks to Issun. The story can take a long time to finish and I am not talking about a meager 20 hours or so, it can take you close to 80 hours just to finish the game so be ready to go on this epic journey for a while. It is not a short game and the story keeps offering multiple twists, introducing new interesting characters, while the combat is kept fresh with different abilities.
There is a hint of metroidvania elements in Okami with the abilities that you will gradually unlock. These will let you reach new locations that were inaccessible. The combat and abilities both use the Celestial Brush, which is a unique gameplay mechanic that works best on the touchscreen. You basically have to draw a set of special strokes with the brush on the screen to activate the abilities offered by it. Want to create a water river? Draw a line as required. Want to cut enemies or objects? Draw a straight line in the middle of objects to cut them. There are many types of abilities all depending on the brush strokes. These will be gradually unlocked as you make your progress in the story.
The Celestial Brush was usually controlled through the analog stick but this changed with the Nintendo Wii version and its implementation of motion controls. It is finally possible to experience them again with the Switch version offering both touchscreen support in portable mode and motion controls when playing it docked on the big screen. The touchscreen implementation is great and makes the combat and abilities flow smoothly since you can simply touch to trigger the Celestial Brush, but sadly the motion controls are not as fluid. There is a lack of precision compared to the Nintendo Wii version making them less ideal in the long run.
This is a lengthy adventure game offering a great story, a memorable cast of characters and a unique battle system. The price for it compared to the value it offers is a steal. Even if you have played Okami on the PS2, this is an easy recommendation either way.
Okami HD Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Take the role of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess who inhabits the form of a legendary white wolf Shiranui. Use magical abilities, attacks, and Celestial Brush techniques to restore the land of Nippon to its previous glory full of life and color.
There has never been a better time to experience the tale of Amaterasu than with the release of the Nintendo Switch version of Okami HD. It offers multiple ways to experience the game and features enhanced visuals that were a part of the recent HD remaster for Okami.