Published by: Capcom
Developed by: Ready At Dawn Studios
Release Date: Out Now
When the PlayStation 2 finally disappears from the gaming scene it's inevitable that there will be discussions about what the best games were on the system. Most will come up with titles in the GTA, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid series (as well as a host of other offerings) but for our money it's difficult to see how any of those games could claim to be superior to Ōkami. The game was pure creative excellence. The fact that the game didn't sell as well as some of the mediocre titles, which don't have a shred of originality and which get shovelled out on a regular basis was quite frankly an insult. In retrospect however Ōkami is a game that is perfectly suited to the Wii and its unique control system. Thank goodness Capcom thinks so too.
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 would 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 solved 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. Using the Celestial Brush in the Wii version of Ōkami feels much more natural than it did in the PlayStation 2 version. You'll hold down the B button to activate the Celestial Brush and you'll paint with it by holding down the A button and moving the Wii remote. By moving the Wii remote closer to the screen you'll thicken the line that you're painting. 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.
For the most part the Wii version of Ōkami is excellent. However, one area of the game that doesn't feel quite as good as the PlayStation 2 version of the game is the combat which initially feels a little awkward. Combat is essentially handled by swinging the remote (you'll swing the nunchuk to sidestep attacks). This does feel rather awkward to begin with and in boss fights you'll certainly wish for a control scheme that was more accurate. Stringing combos together with these controls is fiddly. Thankfully combat isn't a large part of the game so the combat controls aren't as big a problem as they could have been and it's a shame that the combat hadn't been handled a little differently.
Ōkami might have originally been a PlayStation 2 game but it's easily one of the most visually impressive games on the Wii to date, at least in terms of its visual style. 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. If anything the Wii version looks a little sharper than the PlayStation 2 version, particularly when played in 480p. The load times also seem a little shorter too.
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 which is identical to the PlayStation 2 version of the game. 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.
Combat controls aside, Ōkami on the Wii is a superb game and arguable the best Wii game to date. Those who didn't experience the game on the PlayStation 2 owe it to themselves to experience the Wii version of the game, especially if you're the kind of gamer who appreciates games such as Zelda titles. Those who have played the PlayStation 2 version won't find anything different other than the control scheme in all honesty and whilst the Celestial Brush controls feel like a natural fit for the Wii remote, the combat controls were definitely better in the PlayStation 2 version. Both versions of Ōkami are masterpieces in our opinion and it's almost a certainty to be the best game you'll see on the Wii this year.