Ōkami PlayStation 2
Published by Capcom
Developed by Clover Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Awards what do they really mean? Well after reading that the AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences) awards snubbed Capcom because they didn't hand over the cash it's obvious that some of them don't mean very much at all. For the last couple of years Capcom have blazed a trail of originality and excellence. Resident Evil 4 on the GameCube has to be one of the best games we've seen and it sticks out like a sore thumb compared with many of the mediocre titles that appeared on the console. Viewtiful Joe was another game that deserved high praise for its original style. Xbox 360 gamers have also been benefitting from some of Capcom's high quality work with Dead Rising and Lost Planet. Just when we think the standard of Capcom's work can't get any better a game called Ōkami arrives for review and offers levels of excellence that's seldom seen in the game industry.
The game begins in the tiny cherry blossom shrouded hamlet of Kamiki. Kamiki looks picturesque and peaceful but is plagued by a horrible Hydra named Orochi. In order to pacify Orochi the people of Kamiki offer a human sacrifice every year. The people had also noticed that a white wolf, who they dubbed Shiranui, appeared to keep a watch on them. They initially believed Shiranui to be a familiar of Orochi although this wasn't the case. Peace was maintained until a young maiden by the name of Nami was chosen as the annual sacrifice. Nami's love, Nagi, was determined not to lose Nami and headed off to Orochi's lair (in Moon Cave) to slay Orochi. Unfortunately Nagi was powerless against Orochi and would have been killed if not for the intervention of Shiranui. With Shiranui's assistance Nagi defeated Orochi. However, Shiranui died from Orochi's poisonous attacks that it had received in the battle. A shrine was erected to honour the wolf and Nagi's sword (known as the Tsukuyomi) was placed in the Moon Cave. With the removal of Orochi, Kamiki enjoyed peace but it was not to last. One hundred years later someone removed the Tsukuyomi from the Moon Cave and evil was once again unleashed. In an effort to save Kamiki a wood sprite named Sakuya called forth Ōkami Amaterasu the white wolf and god of nature.
Naturally you'll play as Ōkami Amaterasu and essentially you'll not only have to protect Kamiki but also restore order to the whole of Nippon which has been ravaged by the forces of evil. A bug named Issun accompanies you on your quest and provides tutorial messages and general advice (as well as sassy comments). As you expect from an action adventure game there are battles to be fought (although the game isn't combat heavy and the focus is squarely on providing an enjoyable storyline) and a fair amount of puzzles to be solve but the game is far from ordinary. Ōkami Amaterasu has special abilities most of which are carried out with the Celestial Brush. These abilities allow Ōkami Amaterasu to slice enemies in two, draw the sun in the sky to banish darkness, restore rivers and many more things. The Celestial Brush is not just a weapon it's a device to help you solve puzzles and is one of the key ingredients in making Ōkami one of the most original games we've played.
In total there are over a dozen special powers that the Celestial Brush bestows although you'll earn them gradually as you progress through the game. To use the Celestial Brush you simply hold down the R1 button which causes the screen to change to a parchment and the Celestial Brush to appear. You'll simply draw the required object with the left analogue stick (whilst holding down the square button or triangle button if you want a thicker stroke). If you want the sun in the sky you simply draw a circle. Likewise if you want to cut through an object you'll draw a fairly straight line through it. The game pauses whilst you are using the Celestial Brush so it's possible to daze your enemies and then slice through them with the Celestial Brush to finish them off.
Ōkami isn't just about using the Celestial Brush however (although it's certainly a key part of the game). Ōkami Amaterasu can acquire health upgrades, ink upgrades (the ink being for the Celestial Brush) and fighting abilities. There are a fair amount of platform game elements here too. You'll have to feed creatures you encounter, restore the land to its former glory and earn praise from the people. Restoring Nippon to its natural beauty is no quick task and the game lasts 30-40 hours at least. In fact there is much more to Ōkami than we've mentioned here but suffice to say it's all excellent stuff. The game even has plenty of replay value and allows you to play through the game again with most of the items you collected the first time around.
Ōkami is one of the most visually spectacular games you'll see on the PlayStation 2. The game has adopted a look that replicates Japanese brush painting and has the appearance of being painted on textured paper. The result is stunning. From a stylistic point of view it's the most impressive looking game since The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Even the artwork you see on the in-game menus is beautiful. The screenshots don't really do the game justice as you have to see the game in motion to appreciate all of its visual splendour. There's such an attention to detail in regards to the visual quality of the game that it's hard not to be impressed. The frame rate is excellent throughout and the load times are kept to minimum.
With the level of excellence that Ōkami has it would be devastating if Ōkami wasn't subtitled. Mercifully the game hasn't disappointed in any other department and it's not about to start doing so in regards to its deaf gamer friendliness. The speech in Ōkami is simply gibberish and therefore all dialogue is shown in text. All information is shown in text too and deaf gamers will have no problems at all in both following and enjoying the game which is excellent. Character dialogue displays both character portraits and names alongside the text so it's always crystal clear who is saying what.
It's all too easy to look at games and pick out aspects that really impress. What a review can't do is convey the overall feel of the game. It's difficult to put into words the quality of the experience you have when playing a game. Certain games just ooze quality, The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy titles readily spring to mind, and even though they might have areas that could be better their overall excellence takes the experience to a whole new level. Ōkami is such a game. It's the most impressive game I've played in a long time. I've been thoroughly enjoying The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii but I've been even more impressed with Ōkami. The game is a work of art in more ways than one and represents the pinnacle of gaming on the PlayStation 2.
Ōkami is quite simply one of the greatest games you'll ever play. No self-respecting gamer should miss out on this masterpiece.