I was rifling through my PS2 titles the other day and there were quite a few that had me smiling: Dog’s Life, Soul Calibur 2, Dragon Quest VIII, I could go on. However, there was one title in particular that stirred something fuzzy in my heart.
The PS2 game Okami which was originally released in 2006 brought art and video gaming together in one beautiful product. The Clover Studios title which was later rereleased on the Nintendo Wii in 2006, then once more in 2012 on the PS3 as an HD edition was one of the most sadly underrated games of that time.
This game created hours of entertainment and happiness for me, so seeing it become so overlooked actually kinda upsets me. So, I’m going to do my best to do this game justice and explain why it shouldn’t have been shoved to the back of the pile like it did.
Despite it receiving over 30 awards, Okami was never really a common word on anyones lips. It’s fantastic art style which paid homage to Japanese brush art. You play the Sun God, Amaterasu, on a journey to cleanse the world around her of darkness.
The game is a mixture of combat, problem solving, and exploration. You could say it’s similar to The Legend of Zelda in terms of gameplay but it brings a completely different atmosphere and art style. You’ll quickly find yourself immersed in its gorgeous word, charming characters and engrossing plot.
The storyline is pretty linear; you have an overarching goal that you have to accomplish. However, there are plenty of little sidequests and optional goals you can also accomplish. On the whole the game provides everything you’d expect from it and just that little bit extra.
Going into a bit more depth, Okami gives you a very gradual and patient growth curve. You start off with a modest amount of heatlh and ink which I’ll explain in a bit. Unlike other games, you don’t increase your health through battling bosses although they do contribute.
When you do something to benefit the environment, be that defeating enemies, reviving the trees or feeding the animals, you earn Praise. Praise can be spent on ink, weapon or health upgrades. You also earn Yen from battles and sidequests which can be used to purchase various other upgrades or items from vendors throughout the in-game world.
Now, the ink I’ve been talking about are the Ink Pots for your Celestial Brush. The Celestial Brush is a brush you use for all of your non-physical attacks and restoration abilities. When you hold down the button to use it, the whole screen freezes like it’s a piece of parchment and you can use the analogue stick (or wiimote ) to draw patterns specific to the patterns you want to use.
This can either fix the environment around you, perform special abilities, or strike enemies. You earn more and more of these techniques throughout the game, but you can’t spam them because of these Ink Pots. Every time you successfully use a technique, this uses one of your Ink Pots.
When you run out, you are unable to use them again until all of them are replenished. It’s probably better to just wait on your last pot and have them regenerate slowly.This is just a brief overview as well. The game goes into more depth than I ever could so its down to you to play it and understand it fully.
I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I’m gushing, so buckle up because I’m about to continue. I’ve already mentioned the art and I’m going to mention it again. The whole game is cell-shaded and animated in such a smooth, incredible way. Everything looks incredibly natural.
Clover pay homage to Okami‘s Japanese origins (as Amaterasu the Sun God is actually a god in the Japanese religion of Shinto) in both the art style of the environment and the clothing and style of the people who inhabit said environment.
A lot of Japanese myths and lore are incorporated into this beautifully and there are so many different references you’d need to delve in for yourself. I mean hell, even all of the enemies have their own codex-like entries of how they came to be. Granted, some of them are quite dark for such a colourful game.
So, overall this could well have been considered Clover Studios best work but it just didn’t get the recognition that it should have done. I could go on about that all day, but that wouldn’t convince anyone.
There are so many different things I could go on about when it comes to this gem of a game but I don’t want to talk about anything that might lessen the experience for any of you. Instead, I implore you pick up a copy on any of the platforms it was released on and try it for yourself.
You won’t regret embarking upon an adventure as charming, emotive and – on many occasions – funny as this. I don’t want this game to gather dust on anyones shelf as there’s no reason for it. The game is a good length as well, so you certainly won’t be finished too quickly.
What do you have to lose? Give it a try.
If you’d like to take a look at screencaps, videos and character information about this you can find it on the Okami HD website here: http://www.okami-game.com/