I am torn between either loving or hating this game. Why? Because I hate the fact that it’s not a sequel, yet I love it because even if the game is eleven years old, it can still compete with modern triple-A games; that’s just how good Okami is. Not to mention this, for me, is the second-best Zelda-like game next to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for 2017.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Developer: Clover Studios, HexaDrive (PS4, PC, Xbox One ports)
Release Date: December 12, 2017
This review is based on a review copy provided by Capcom.
Developed by Clover Studio and published by Capcom in 2006 exclusively for PS2, the remastered Okami HD for 2017 is also playable on the PC and Xbox One. This is the second HD remaster for the game as the first one was for the PS3. With this improved remastered version, it can now render 4K resolution with the help of the PS4 Pro, Xbox One X, and a high-end PC. Playing this game again after 11 years still brings out the inner child in me.
Okami was known to be a Zelda clone, but instead of playing with a human main protagonist, you instead play as a wolf. Even though it has many similarities with the Zelda franchise, Okami holds its own unique style when it all comes down to its core gameplay. It follows a Japanese setting alongside the country’s rich history and mythology. But what makes Okami unique is its watercolor themed gameplay. This is the reason why the visuals in this game are still beautiful even by today’s standards.
Okami tells a story about a village overrun by an evil beast. A wolf god who goes of the name of Shirunai and his partner Nagi the warrior both battled the beast just to save the village; in which they succeeded their mission. A hundred years after the battle, the beast has arisen yet again to cover the world in darkness. Suddenly, another wolf who goes by the name of Ameterasu emerges to stop the beast’s foul intent. The people from the village sees Ameterasu as the reincarnation of the wolf God Shiranui. They believe that Ameterasu will save them as Shiranui once did in order to bring peace back to the land. It’s a story that’s full of surprises, sacrifice, and humor. Although the story may start slow, how it progresses will make you wish that it will never end.
Playing it again brings back a lot of great memories since its initial release back in 2006. I never thought that its gameplay would still hold to today’s standards and that its gameplay style is able to accommodate both old and new players while retaining all the fun. Discovering its world is as enjoyable as playing semi-open world games. You are given freedom to wander around the village and find side quests that should keep you busy for a while. Ameterasu is not alone, she is accompanied by a snarky but wise partner named Issun. With the help of Issun, Ameterasu can talk to the villagers and he’ll be the one to respond instead of the main protagonist.
The combat in Okami is fast-paced; You can dash to your enemies and slash your way out of trouble. Once in awhile the battle background changes and places you right at the center, making this title somewhat similar to Kingdom Hearts where you can’t progress unless you defeated the enemies or manage to escape. The battle system is simple, but as you progress there are different enemies that emerge, forcing you to be more careful during battles. You have to defeat your enemies by finishing them off with a celestial brush. Now, this is the mechanic of Okami that’s most memorable and unique. In battle, the brush serves as a finishing move where you press a certain button, pausing the battle and allowing you to draw certain strokes with the celestial brush to finish off your enemies.
This is an awesome gimmick that adds more fun to the game. The celestial brush is not only for battles, but it also serves a lot of other purposes. An example of which is that it has the added benefit of fixing certain objects that are needed to finish certain puzzles in the game. As you progress, a lot of celestial strokes will be unlocked to help you in your journey to save the world. The brush also has its flaws and annoyances. One of them is that some puzzles are hard to finish because you need to find and use the right stroke for the right puzzle. The exact placement of the brush is also a little tricky as it can be hard to be accurate(Making a simple circle never has never felt so hard), so this means that you need to be as efficient as possible.
Visually, Okami holds up to today’s standards. Its water color paint brush design makes the game look so beautiful. However, with today’s technology, Okami can now render 4K with even better colors and smoother gameplay. This was already a gorgeous experience back when the game was on the PS2, Wii and the PS3, but it’s an even a better experience with the latest HD version. While this version only runs at around 30 frames per second, it didn’t really bother me that much.
Music is definitely on point. The woodland instruments really mesh with the Japanese theme and it captures the old Japanese culture that the game is invested to really well. Its soundtrack is so relaxing whether you’re listening to it in-game or if you’re not even playing it. Voice acting may not be there, but it really doesn’t hurt the game. Okami shows that it doesn’t need a voice actor for you to understand the story. The subtitles are well written and easy to read, the only problem being that the text speed is a bit slow.
Overall, this is a classic worthy to be remastered once again. The additional features like the 4K resolution and the port to the platforms make the game much more promising. The core gameplay is the highlight of Okami. Even if the game is already more than a decade old, it will still give both old and newcomers to the game an excellent experience. People who weren’t able to play the original version before should definitely try this. I hope that after a year or 2, Capcom will finally make a sequel. I’ve been waiting long enough to see Ameterasu again, and with this, I’ll still be kept waiting.