When Throwback Thursday began here I know I’d end up talking about Okami at some point. Let’s stop chasing our tails and dive into, what I deem, the most beautiful game I’ve experienced.
Okami is without a doubt one of the most beautiful video games of all time, and is a definite example of video games as an art form as well as entertainment.
Nowadays it might not look like anything special, especially to gamers who’ve grown up with indie games growing bigger and bigger.
The reason I mention indie games is that’s usually a unique selling point of an indie title, the art style and look of it.
That’s not a surprise, in order to compete with games developers with budgets bigger than EA’s trophy room of all the companies it’s hunted down over the years, it makes sense to make something artsy to catch peoples eye.
The problem for me is that now a lot of indie games go for an artsy style over something like gameplay and it doesn’t really hook me in as it used to.
It’s the problem of over saturation. There are so many good looking things around now that it’s hard for me to tell, in my own mind, which ones look the best.
Okami came out in a time when that problem wasn’t as bad.
The PlayStation 2 was the console on top back in those days. The GameCube and the Xbox could only dream of catching the number of units sold and match the sheer number of games on the system. Of course Nintendo and Microsoft had their own exclusive titles, and admittedly Nintendo dominated that front as it always had, but Sony were still riding high.
But with great quantity comes lack of control and many bad games were released in that time. Many of them were shown off in such a way that you’d never expect them to be bad, the box art seemed good but you’d get home and it’d be like opening a box full of rotten cheese, it’d stink.
Okami was a game I’d never even heard of until seeing it in the store. Some friends had compared it to Twilight Princess, though I know nothing about that.
I got home, put the disc in and was blown away forever. Immediately it immersed me totally in the lore and the story, told through art and traditional Japanese style drawings.
The story of a warrior and a deity in wolf form taking on a serpent demon takes inspiration from many myths in Japanese culture, and it was a great way to get into the mythology by telling a somewhat abridged and slightly altered version of this tale.
Our protagonist, Amaterasu, is a wolf. She is the reborn god of the sun and is resurrected once the dreaded eight-headed serpent, Orochi, is revived.
From here it’s up to the god of the sun to rescue the land of Nippon from evil and restore people’s faith in the gods.
The story seems simple but I couldn’t do it justice, it’s the kind of game you have to play to get the full depth of the narrative.
The characters presented in the game are memorable, funny and incredibly well written, despite the fact they speak through subtitles and text at the bottom of the screen. This makes more sense though as it does contain a fair few wordy parts to the story and characters can talk for very long periods of time. Having text at the bottom of the screen is good if you don’t feel like sitting through the pace the game sets out and you just want to skip forward a few lines while skimming for the important stuff.
Gameplay wise I can see why people began to equate it with Twilight Princess, or Zelda games in general. It’s an action adventure game where you gather treasures to improve you abilities, some basic skills can be upgraded and you save the world from a great evil.
Okami features a few things which set it apart, one of them being the brilliant and superb art style. The other being the celestial brush, the means of accessing most of Amaterasu’s god-like powers.
With the celestial brush Amaterasu can turn the world in front of her into a canvas and paint on it with her brush. Drawing certain symbols can summon powers, such as a straight line will cause a slash which can cut through enemies. Over the course of the game Amaterasu regains her godly powers and the brush becomes more powerful. It was an interesting and unique concept at the time, and one I’ve not seen implemented so well when other games try to be unique.
The thing which people most talk about is the wolf element, but Amaterasu isn’t like Link’s wolf form, indeed she is a wolf for the whole game. Link just has to bear with it a few times before it’s removed.
To compare it to a Zelda game is fair though, but then again you could compare it to any action adventure game in that case and the comparison would still be just as valid.
Okami doesn’t need a comparison to other games, it stands up and shines all on it’s own.
Did you love Okami? Did you play it until the wolves howled? Let us know in the comments below.