Amaterasu's grand adventure inspired and influenced by Japanese folklore is now available on modern consoles.
Despite being over a decade old, hearing that Okami HD was coming to current gen consoles was still one of the most exciting announcements of the year for me. Okami started life on PlayStation 2 back in 2006 but ended up being somewhat overlooked as it was released just a few months before the launch of PlayStation 3. Fortunately, Capcom didn't give up on Okami and instead ported it to the Nintendo Wii and later, PlayStation 3. Since the start of this current console generation, Capcom has become extremely reliant on porting their older games and it's finally Okami's turn to get the remaster treatment.
Okami tells the grand story of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun in the form of a powerful white wolf. She is tasked with rejuvenating the lands of Nippon which have been plagued with a dark curse and are filled with demons that are wreaking havoc on the lives of Nippon's citizens. One of Okami's most interesting gameplay components is the Celestial Brush, a player-controlled paintbrush that appears onscreen when you hold the right shoulder button. All action freezes while using it thus allowing you to draw symbols on the screen. There are 13 unique brushstrokes that are learned throughout the campaign, each one allowing you to unlock new areas and progress through the story.
Visually, Okami is one of the most charming games that I've ever played. The cel-shaded art style is perfectly suited for the world and it's filled with color and packed with influences from Japanese language and history. Slowly rejuvenating the world using the Celestial Brush is always satisfying and even the smallest things like watching the flowers grow behind Amaterasu as she runs just puts a smile on your face. The cel-shaded art style isn't terribly detailed or meticulous so the upgraded current gen visuals aren't all that obvious. Still, the game looks fantastic thanks to its amazing style.
Combat in Okami is smooth and enjoyable and there are dozens of enemy types with different attack abilities, patterns, and weaknesses. Amaterasu can use both her physical melee attacks as well as her Celestial Brush while fighting enemies and she'll regularly have to alternate between the two. Enemies attack in swarms and usually lock you into a specified battle area until you kill all of them. Each battle is scored based on how long it takes and how much damage you receive and this determines how much Yen you're awarded.
Yen is used as currency to purchase items as well as new attacks from the local dojo and that's just one of the ways you can make Amaterasu more powerful. You'll also acquire Praise from completing objectives, rejuvenating the world around you, and feeding the small animals you come across. Praise functions as experience and allows you to upgrade Amaterasu's health, inkwell, wallet, and astral pouch (which revives you when you die). Between learning new brushstrokes, new moves from the dojo, acquiring new weapons and equipment, and leveling up abilities using Praise, you'll constantly be improving and progressing as you play.
If I was forced to nitpick at the gloriousness that is Okami, there are two quibbles that I have with it. The first is the pacing. Specifically, at the beginning and the end of the campaign because Okami takes too long to get going and set you free on your adventure and then it takes too long wrapping everything up. The other small annoyance is Issun, Amaterasu's little buddy that tags along for the entire adventure. He has way too much dialog and his helpful "nudges" appear too frequently, giving the impression that the game won't let go of your hand. Obviously, these two issues are incredibly minor in the grand scheme of things.
Okami is a massive and remarkable game and is on the short list of my favorite games of all time. It's also the closest thing to The Legend of Zelda that PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gamers will ever get. If you've never had the joy of experiencing Okami before, picking up this newest version will likely be your smartest gaming purchase of the year.
- + Top-notch action-adventure gameplay
- + Glorious visuals with an amazing Japanese folklore influence
- + Sprawling world with tons of content
- - Pacing issues at the start and end
- - Issun is a bit too hand-holdy