Okami Review
Okami Box Art
System: PS2 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Clover Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Capcom 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept 2006 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
Review by Cole 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
One of the year's best and most unique gaming experiences, and I'm not crying wolf this time.
by Cole Smith

Did you know that dog spelled backwards is God? And did you know that Okami spelled backwards is Imako? Okay, okay, but at least the first part is interesting…

Okami screenshot

Yes, there is some significance attached to my usual lame introduction. In Okami you play as the female Japanese Sun God that turns herself into a dog…I mean wolf – isn’t that a bitch? She makes this transformation to bring all life back to the world by defeating the various monsters that are keeping it from blooming and performing a variety of missions that range from collecting to puzzle solving. Set in ancient Japan, this action adventure game looks like a traditional Japanese woodcut painting come to life. It has incredible style and substance. It’s a fascinating game that will immerse you in its enchanting world. This is the kind of game you won’t forget long after you’ve completed it. I expect this game to show up on many reviewers’ top picks of the year.

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Controlling Amaterasu is incredibly easy. As a wolf she is nimble, lithe, powerful and fast. You can go in virtually any direction and the world will stay open for you in the event that you want to backtrack. There are so many things to collect and so many side-missions to perform that you shouldn’t even concern yourself with all of these the first time through. You may have to play the game a number of times before you find everything in it.

Okami screenshot

As a God, Amaterasu has a few tricks up her sleeve, the most prominent one being the Celestial Brush which you use to paint shapes that affect the environment and those in the immediate area. The brush takes a little bit of practice but the CPU is very forgiving. The main shape that you have to master is nothing more than a circle. As long as it’s a closed shape with rounded edges it will suffice. The other shapes that you’ll be concerned with are slashes and straight lines. The slashes are used to slash things such as objects and enemies. Things can be joined with a straight line. Some of this joining will be context-sensitive, such as drawing a line between ledges or over a chasm which will cause a bridge to appear. Unlike some DS games where you use the stylus to draw more intricate icons, the brush is quicker and much more intuitive, though it ultimately lacks depth because of such simple shapes and applications.

The dual analog sticks are used in tandem to control the brush; one stick moves the direction of the stroke while the other acts as a camera angle controller, moving the environment. By pressing the square button you will be able to draw a straight line. The triangle button allows the brush to become pressure-sensitive so that you can draw thicker lines to cover more area faster, or thinner lines for greater precision. Some of the effects that you can create with the brush include changing dark to light, controlling the elements such as wind and rain, clearing the forest of trees and attacking enemies.

Okami screenshot

Traveling from town to town you will find it surprisingly easy to avoid random battles. They are a good source of money and occasionally you will get some interesting unlockables but for the most part you don’t really need to take on every enemy you spot; flags will indicate their location. It’s pretty easy money mind you, the enemies don’t stand much of a chance against you. Since you’re a God, your character is basically leveled-up to the max. The bosses are another story. They will definitely kick your ass. They require a mix of puzzle-solving, painting and maneuverability. At the outset of the game you won’t find the bosses as much as a challenge as later in the game when things do pick up. The difficulty level is always just out of reach so you won’t be tempted to throw a frustration-induced tantrum.

Side quests will be your best source of income and other goodies. You will find these by conversing with the locals at each town you visit. Most of these side quests play out like mini-games. They seem somewhat unrelated to the main quest but they are fun and lucrative. The commodity that you will be after is Praise. The more good you do for the people the more Praise that you get which helps to restore your health and increase the effects of your powers. An arrow will indicate what characters hold vital information for you. At times you will need to talk to them to find out where you should be going next. It’s easy to miss the arrows since they are small and the green hue can sometimes blend into the background scenery. When this happens it’s easy to get lost. Often you’ll have to engage the character in the same conversation more than a couple of times before they will give you a clue. This can be very disconcerting as it seems to be a flaw with the game. After a few tries most people would just give up and look elsewhere for direction. This doesn’t happen all the time which makes it that much more frustrating since you don’t expect this to be the case. But now that you’re warned you know that this game is not without its flaws.

Okami screenshot

I can’t say enough about the graphics. This is true art - yet it doesn’t look stodgy. It’s almost what you would expect an ancient cartoon to look like. Even though each frame looks like a watercolor painting, the colors are vibrant and not washed out. Amaterasu does not speak. Her intentions are communicated through the actions and expressions of the wolf which, though mute, come across loud and clear. The dialog is great, with quirky humor and eclectic personalities. The main characters are fully developed. It’s impossible not to identify with them.

Okami is the kind of game that can be proudly recommended to all gamers. Once you enter into Amaterasu’s world it’s impossible not to be impressed.

Features:

  • Intriguing and alluring main character. Assume the role of the sun god, Amaterasu, who descends upon the earth in the form of a wolf. The Japanese translation of the word wolf is " kami".
  • Original visuals and revolutionary design Rich stylized 3D graphics reminiscent of traditional Japanese art created on paper scrolls produce a large variety of stages with a watercolor appearance.
  • Epic tale that combines folklore and mysticism kami uses folklore to bring forth an immersive experience.
  • Eclectic and diverse enemies Diverse lineup of enemies based on Japanese folklore and myths.
  • Diversified gameplay. Defeating monsters requires the usage of not only physical attacks, but Amaterasu's own unique abilities.

    By Cole Smith
    CCC Senior Writer

    Rating out of 5
    Rating Description

    5.0

    Graphics
    Incredibly original. Every frame looks like an ancient Japanese watercolor painting come to life.

    4.5

    Control
    Smooth animation and responsive controls makes this game feel like a Cadillac.

    4.3

    Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    The music is married to the graphics but the voices are indistinct and somewhat annoying.

    4.4

    Play Value
    Tons of unlockable items and side-missions guarantee that you won't get them all the first time through - maybe even the second or third time.

    4.8

    Overall Rating - Must Buy
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
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    Okami is a work of art in progress. by Devin Dinardo

    Ever since I began my journey down the path of video game journalism, my taste in games has broadened. By playing games that I normally would not have played, I have been treated to a new array of tastes. And when it came to previewing games, I would have immediately written off titles such as Death Jr or any other of those fun kinds of simple games, and not giving them a chance in hell. Until now. This change is good though, as my newfound interest in fun and innovative games has lead me to E3 2005's sleeper hit Okami.

    Okami is Clover Studio's latest creation, coming hot off the heels of two excellent Viewtiful Joe games. In Okami you take on the role of Amaterasu, a Japanese god who has been reawakened in the form of a white wolf. Your goal as Amaterasu is to rid Japan of its plaguing evils and return the country to its former glory. The graphical world of Okami is very similar to Viewtiful Joe's cell-shaded graphics. However, Okami does differ and takes a giant leap into artistic vision by way of watercolor paintings on a paper-textured background. It may sound a bit like a cop out to creating a full 3D world, but it is quite a brave leap to ask for the gaming masses to accept what may seem like a simple graphic vision. Once you see the art direction in Okami you will hopefully appreciate just how gorgeous this game looks.

    The beautiful watercolor graphics featured in Okami tie into the game play in the most unique way. Amaterasu wouldn't be much of a god if he/she (apparently some gods in Japanese culture were represented as both males and females depending on what time period they are depicted in) didn't have abilities in magic. This is where Clover Studio steps away from the familiar feel of the action RPG. To cast magic, such as a creation spell where you can create a bridge (common tasks like this will be handed down to you quite often in game) or stars in the sky (for puzzles), you will enter calligraphy mode with the touch of a button. The screen turns to a sepia tone, a brown tone if you will, and a calligraphy brush comes on screen. With the left analog stick, and the square button to apply pressure onto the paper, you will be able to draw calligraphy characters which will represent spells. This mode can also be used in combat as a regular attack or a finishing move of sorts. To do so, simply enter calligraphy mode and draw a slash across your target or targets and voila, calligraphy death. The pen must truly be mightier than the sword.

    Okami is only about 30% done, which is surprising due to how much hype this game has received since E3, with many sources giving Okami the "Game of Show" title. The graphics and artistic style are unparalleled, which are some of the most beautiful I have seen, and will hopefully blow away even the "realism" hardened gamer. The addition of the calligraphy brush as a tool/weapon is one of the coolest features I've seen in a long time. Clover Studio has opened up the floodgates with this title, creating both art and game play that will not only draw in new players, like myself, but also keep gamers coming back for more.

    By Devin Dinardo
    CCC Freelance Writer

    Screenshots / Images
    Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge
    Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge
    Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge Okami screenshot – click to enlarge

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